.

The Case against a Senior Academy at Drew Charter

Drew stakeholders’ aim to extend into high school also manifests what fairly may be called the “Success to the Successful” trap.

Certainly, laud Drew Charter School’s record of outstanding success. Still, because it is implicit in their intention, one must ask why are Drew stakeholders more self-circumscribed and less systemically open in their thinking and behavior toward wanting to contribute to improving the whole of public education in City of Atlanta?

One must also ask why Drew stakeholders have not the intention to foster achievement for everyone within the newly formed Jackson Cluster and, more importantly, for everyone within our Atlanta Public Schools (APS) system, if indeed lessons APS might learn from Drew’s outstanding success have a chance of benefiting the whole district, systemically.

Instead, by their wanting no more than to extend Drew Charter School to include a 9-12 high school, or senior academy, Drew stakeholders are saying they intend to tightly hold to their collective chest knowledge that, if shared, could compromise them at the expense of benefitting APS, systemically. 

Knowingly or unwittingly, Drew stakeholders simply manifest free-market “Choice” proponents’ belief that charter schools must be competition for regular public schools.  It is a belief that leads quite naturally to behaving as if Drew must win and APS must lose.

'By their wanting no more than to extend Drew Charter School to include a 9-12 high school, or senior academy, Drew stakeholders are saying they intend to tightly hold to their collective chest knowledge that, if shared, could compromise them at the expense of benefitting APS, systemically.'

Drew stakeholders’ aim to extend into high school also manifests what fairly may be called the “Success to the Successful” trap.  The trap is one that stimulates believing if one was successful once, then one naturally deserves to be successful again, and again, and again, and so on.

However, the more the Success to the Successful trap plays out, the more it becomes a vicious cycle to achieve two goals: (1) to limit success to those judged superior, hence deserving of even more success; and, (2) to deny success to those judged inferior, hence undeserving of success.  In effect, the trap is a definition of competition.

And who judges who is deserving of success and who is not?  Why, the ever fewer successful do, of course.  And they will compete to do so.
 
The trap is so common as to be believed a fact of life; for example, the superintendent that invites valedictorians into his or her presence so as to learn from them, yet never extends any such invitation to dropouts or to students likely to drop out because they aren’t the successful students, that as the unsuccessful ones they have nothing to say worth listening to, let alone learning from.

Thus the Success to the Successful trap poses being a highly effective and efficient means by which to dismantle public education and/or to limit learning how to improve it.  In any case, the Success to the Successful trap effectively attacks the sustainability of democratic ideals in service to the common good, as well.

Atlanta Board of Education (ABE) is free to assume Drew Charter School exemplifies the quality of teaching and learning the board desires for all APS schools.  If this be their assumption, then ABE also must assume it is their obligation to go learn why Drew’s success happened and how it happened.

Having thusly learned, ABE must then extend their obligation to coming back to the public to articulate why and how lessons learned from Drew’s outstanding success can serve to improve teaching and learning throughout APS and their leadership of the same.

But if for some reason ABE will not take responsibility for carrying through with the totality of their obligation – be it be deemed impossible, impractical, ineffable, too costly, too politically risky, whatever the reason – that reason will be an inescapably necessary and sufficient signal that ABE wants to allow Drew Charter School to, at best, remain a non-value adding proposition for APS, systemically, and, at worse, lay a trap guaranteed to limit outstanding teaching and learning success to a relatively few.

Would ABE really do that?  Why would they?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Don Edwards July 05, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Hey Ed there is no great secret at Drew. Or actually there is a secret but it is not anything special. Parental involvement. That's it. You can't just show up at Drew and send your kid to school...the parents have to apply to send their kids to Drew...and then the parents have to commit to helping at the school. Parental involvement is proven over and over to be the key to a students success. If Drew wants to have a high school then let them. Good for those parents for being involved in their children's education. I would submit that most of those students would perform well in any school, no matter where they went. I would also submit that just because those kids 'performed' well on a standardized test it is no indication that they will be productive people or do well in college. They just happened to do well on a test one day. A persons IQ goes up and down their whole life and just because a person performs well on standardized tests does not mean that they will be 'successful'. Or the administration is teaching the children the answers to the crappy standardized tests that we use to 'grade' kids. I doubt that's what is happening though. This is APS so the possibility exsists because the Atlanta board of education is more interested in getting into pissing contests with each other than the welfare of children. I know that was a low blow...but it is still true. =\
Alice Jonsson July 05, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Charters may have tiered priority zones, but kids don't get accepted or not accepted. They are public schools. If they have room and you are in the most broad sense eligible to attend, they must take you. They can't force parental involvement. They can talk about involvement and encourage it, but they can't force it. Most schools encourage involvement. I would argue Drew is successful in part because where the parent can't or won't get involved, Drew steps in and takes the bull by the horns. They get it done. That's in part why they are successful with students who come from challenging home environments. They also get them at a younger age, try to keep them, and have a longer school day. These all add up to make a large impact. The folks at Drew are also terrifically adept at getting the resources to provide kids with all kinds of 'enrichment' experiences. I don't like the word 'enrichment' because I would argue they are really too important to be seen as extras.
Anjin-san July 05, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Ed Johnson, I have some questions for you: -Who are you & what is your stake in the high school decision? -Do you live in the Jackson cluster? -Have you been to any meetings (such as the BOE meeting on 6/4) or seen any presentations given by Drew concerning the high school proposal? -Are you aware that Drew has specifically proposed partnerships and learning opportunities with APS? -Are you aware of demographic capacity studies done by a local parent (not from Drew) that shows that if projections are correct Jackson would be overcrowded in the future and that the Drew high school would be needed? -Are you or any of your relatives employed by APS? -Are you aware of APS dreadful high school graduation rates? -As far as charter school advocacy, are you for / against / indifferent? -Are you aware that APS, even with adequate timing and promises of strong support from Mr. Davis, did not hire a replacement principal for Jackson High, and only recently named an interim principal? -Are you aware of some of the publicly presentented arguments that APS has given for being against a Drew high school? -Are you aware that most of the behind the scenes opposition to a Drew high school is related to elementary & middle school capacity? (those things that APS/BOE didn't properly address during the recent redistricting)
Anjin-san July 05, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Mr. Johnson, I've been knee-deep in this hoopla for quite some time, and my first reaction is that you are either grossly misinformed or have an agenda to push. Please prove me wrong. We cannot continue the status quo that has permeated APS for so long. The soft bigotry of low expectations has got to end, and we must realize that there should not be just one-model for education our children. Both APS and the Jackson cluster can support many different elementary, middle, AND high school models. Our children deserve it.
Ed Johnson July 05, 2012 at 08:02 PM
-Who are you & what is your stake in the high school decision? A: I am someone unwilling to trade children and their education to President Obama’s corporatists and financiers in exchange for instant pudding solutions for improving K-12 public education and the subsequent undermining of democratic ideals in service to the common good. I am someone who, as early as 2002, warned of the damage Beverly Hall was doing to APS. I am someone who continually tries to expose the ABE members and top APS administrators to learning about and bringing into play quality principles and methods for improving systems, such as APS. To this end, at times I put up my own dime to purchase and give to the ABE members and top APS administrators relevant learning resources and offers to them to participate in relevant conferences. Although they generally remain non-responsive, a few of them do take notice, I am told. That any of them do, I take as progress. Most recently, because they did not respond, a dime of mine went instead to sponsoring a DeKalb County parent’s participation in the “2012 Systems Thinking and Dynamic Modeling Conference for K-12 Education” that was held last week at Babson College in the Boston, Mass., area. I am also an Atlanta taxpayer, known by many as “Advocate for Quality in Public Education,” and I am a former ABE candidate… http://www.edjohnsoninseat9.com/
Ed Johnson July 05, 2012 at 08:12 PM
-Do you live in the Jackson cluster? A: No. However, the Jackson Cluster lives in me, as does every cluster, school, administrator, teacher, student, parent, and child. All of it lives in me and it cannot possibly be otherwise. -Have you been to any meetings (such as the BOE meeting on 6/4) or seen any presentations given by Drew concerning the high school proposal? A: Yes. Frankly, the presentation was a very good case against itself. That’s the irony. -Are you aware that Drew has specifically proposed partnerships and learning opportunities with APS? A: Yes. Still, such a bone does not make the case for Drew to extend into high school. -Are you aware of demographic capacity studies done by a local parent (not from Drew) that shows that if projections are correct Jackson would be overcrowded in the future and that the Drew high school would be needed? A: I’ve heard this. Still, that would simply help make the case to expand Jackson. -Are you or any of your relatives employed by APS? A: No. However, a cousin who died recently was employed by APS at the time of death. -Are you aware of APS dreadful high school graduation rates? A: Yes. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Ed Johnson July 05, 2012 at 08:13 PM
-As far as charter school advocacy, are you for / against / indifferent? A: Against, unequivocally, but never for compromising the education of children already in a charter school. You see, charter schools cannot possibly operate fundamentally differently than so-called regular public schools, and that’s the rub that is difficult for some folk to get. My statement to the ABE in a recent Community Meeting on the question of more APS charter schools? “Hell no!” -Are you aware that APS, even with adequate timing and promises of strong support from Mr. Davis, did not hire a replacement principal for Jackson High, and only recently named an interim principal? A: Yes. -Are you aware of some of the publicly presentented arguments that APS has given for being against a Drew high school? A: Yes. -Are you aware that most of the behind the scenes opposition to a Drew high school is related to elementary & middle school capacity? (those things that APS/BOE didn't properly address during the recent redistricting) A: Yes.
Ed Johnson July 05, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Sorry, but I have an agenda to push. What is it? The continually improvement Atlanta Public Schools, specifically, and K-12 public education, in general, as systems of teaching and learning for the sake of sustaining democratic ideals in service to the common good.
Anjin-san July 05, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Mr. Johnson, thanks for your responses. While I disagree with about everything you have written, that is the beauty of America -- you can (still) freely speak your mind and co-exist with those who do not think the same. Best of luck to you.
Anjin-san July 05, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Oh hell, who am I kidding! I can't leave it that nice and tidy... Seriously?? Still against it after what you know about APS? Man, please. Talking to you about Drew would be like clapping with one hand.... So do you hate on all the charters, or just Drew? ANCS? Wesley? KIPP? If you are into improving education as much as you say, then you would ride APS' ass a little harder and demand of them what are they doing to learn from the charter schools. Drew doesn't have all the answers, but they have enough. Go Senior Academy! Proud parent of a Drew Eagle.
Chris Murphy July 06, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Drew has no more parental involvement than most other schools in SE ATL. Since the low-income residents of the Villages at East Lake were/are the focus of the Cousins Foundation, Drew has worked to give the children of those families the support they do not get at home. That is why their model has been successful, and why they want to continue those programs through high school for that population.
Tris Sicignano July 06, 2012 at 06:40 PM
First, thank you Alice and Chris for your points. Well said. Ed attends almost all of the APS meetings and his anti-charter position is well known. If you have heard him speak his agenda is loud and clear. He wants to stop ALL charters. I am not going to try and change your mind as your stance is firm. But as you are not involved in education in South East Atlanta I would like to clarify that Drew parents and stakeholders are engaged in education in our communities outside of Drew. We all care deeply for all of our children regardless of educational choices made. I expect to see more collaboration in the SEACS cluster in the future now that we have a cohesive cluster. Lastly, your comments are not only misinformed but divisive.
Ed Johnson July 06, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Anyone thinking I want to “STOP all charters” is simply grabbing at straws. My concern isn’t with charter schools, per se. My concern, again, is with improving our K-12 public education systems for the sake of sustaining democratic ideals in service to the common good, and charter schools, per se, cannot possibly do that. Why? Because charter schools, by definition and taken in total, can only contribute to fragmenting our country more than it already is. Charter schools, by definition and taken in total, are the “divisive” element. Charter schools, taken in total, are much like the proverbial “fly in the soup.” Of course this wasn’t Albert Shanker’s idea for charter schools, but this is what a lot of opportunistic, self-serving interests have made of his idea. Today, competitive spirits of economics rather than a collective spirit of societal responsibility determine the comings and goings of charter schools, and children be damned when the economics don’t work out.
Ed Johnson July 06, 2012 at 11:22 PM
As president of the Atlanta Area Deming Study Group for six years, the group met monthly or quarterly on the Georgia Tech campus offering programs specifically aimed at introducing quality principles and methods for improving K-12 public education systems. Guest presenters ranged from then UGA Chancellor Stephen Porch, a Deming proponent, to two APS Therrell High School students who made the case for Beverly Hall to not “reconstitute” their school. Beverly Hall did it, anyway. We generally had participation from throughout the metro Atlanta area, frequently from various parts of Georgia, and sometimes from out of state. When before my time as president we hosted W. Edwards Deming to conduct his famous “Four Day Seminar,” we had folks from out of country, Russia and a few other places. Now, guess how many times someone from APS attended one of our meetings. Once! That’s right, one time. I relate this in case someone gets it stuck in their head that I am all cozy with and non-critical of APS. Not at all. However, it is not my desire to make APS a loser on account my self-interests, so toward that aim I will always first seek cooperation over competition, something charter schools cannot do, inherently.
Chris Murphy July 07, 2012 at 02:21 PM
It's not the system used that is of utmost importance, it is the individuals involved. That APS is staffed from top to bottom with those who look forward more to a paycheck and pension than to the success of the student body, the charters provide an alternative. Those employees of APS with integrity- and competence- hang on by their fingernails. Democracy doesn't require that all suffer the decisions of a few; democracy means that citizens have a stake in the decisions they make. Charter schools have allowed parents to take an active part in their kids' educations, rather than just show up for APS PR Nights. When someone claims to want "cooperation over competition," yet constantly demogogues and lectures, you have to ask what their real aim is- personal recognition? This isn't a 'voice in the wilderness,' it's a semi-coherent rant of someone who- despite all indications to the contrary- wants to be seen as the smartest person in the room.
Tris Sicignano July 07, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I apologize. Clearly you are not anti charter."Charter schools, by definition and taken in total, are the “divisive” element. Charter schools, taken in total, are much like the proverbial “fly in the soup.” " Your stance is clearly a case by case stance on education. One question. How can you in one breath state that Drew's intention is to "hold to their collective chest knowledge" when you yourself with the sole intention and purpose of improving all schools could not get APS interested in partaking in the knowledge base that you gathered for them? "Now, guess how many times someone from APS attended one of our meetings. Once! That’s right, one time.". It appears that your focus should be on APS. Ask APS why they have not gone to successful schools around the world, country or even within the city limits to learn about what is working. We in Atlanta have various school models (both traditional and charter) successfully serving multiple demographics. Please ask APS and the board what THEY have done to learn from these successful models. You appear to want to blame successful models for not forcing their knowledge onto APS. This knowledge is ready to be shared APS need only ask and open its mind to collaboration.
Roger K. July 07, 2012 at 03:39 PM
The biggest reason Drew is a success is because they find creative ways to develop their staff and they find ways to get the resources into the classroom as opposed to some bloated administrative overhead. That's one BIG lesson that APS could learn.

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