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O Canada, So Inglorious and Untrue

Norm makes an excellent point: Let's not confuse Canada's educational vision, which I would think we want for all our kids, with his craven political attempts to vilify teachers and the unions.

by Norm Scott

Hey, I get to sing the Canadian national anthem at hockey games when a Canadian team is in town. Now it has new meaning.

How interesting that the two big heroes in Waiting for Superman -- Michelle Rhee and Geoffrey Canada -- have had their reps seriously tarnished since the release of the film. Rhee of course was the iceberg hitting the bad ship Fenty, as she proved she could take down entire political careers with a single bound. Superwoman indeed.

What is there to say about a guy who distorts -- and I'll even go so far as to say lies -- about the reasons for the his claimed success for his school? Nothing reveals that Geoffrey Canada's has a political and not an educational agenda than this statement: "Successful charters have demonstrated that a longer school day and year, increased accountability and a reliance on data to drive instruction can help children who have fallen behind."

So, O Canada, who makes outrageous claims the Harlem Children's Zone "success" is due to his ability to fire any teacher he wants when in fact the major success is his concept of cradle to grave services to the kids - health, social work, etc. And those low class sizes? And that second teacher in the room? Fagetaboutit.

We should all be celebrating the concept of increased services to the kids and Canada himself for having raised money to be able to do it. But when he then goes and negates that achievement - fagetabouthim.

Now that his test scores are not what they should be considering creaming and services, the edubusiness crowd is raising doubts. We shouldn't be cheering that these services would be questioned because of questionable test scores. But bottom liners are bottom liners. It's like saying if you don't get a month of cloudy days and no sun tan to show for it you might as well turn off the sun.

Now Canada is being hoisted on his own petard.

I'm not sad for him. Instead of making the case that all students should receive these services and fighting for them, he joined in the attack on public schools, their teachers and their unions, claiming it wasn't the fact that he had so much money at his disposal but because there was no union in his schools.

The New York Times' Sharon Otterman has an interesting piece on Canada's HCZ. Don't you love this one:

Last week, Mr. Canada was in Birmingham, England, addressing Prime Minister David Cameron and members of his Conservative Party about improving schools.

England? Aren't there problems here to solve? POLITICAL AGENDA!!!!

Now, here he actually contradicts his other message with something we can support as Otterman writes:

A drop-off occurred, in spite of private donations that keep class sizes small, allow for an extended school day and an 11-month school year, and offer students incentives for good performance like trips to the Galapagos Islands or Disney World.

The parent organization of the schools, the Harlem Children’s Zone, enjoys substantial largess, much of it from Wall Street. While its cradle-to-college approach, which seeks to break the cycle of poverty for all 10,000 children in a 97-block zone of Harlem, may be breathtaking in scope, the jury is still out on its overall impact. And its cost — around $16,000 per student in the classroom each year, as well as thousands of dollars in out-of-class spending — has raised questions about its utility as a nationwide model.

Mr. Canada, 58, who began putting his ideas into practice on a single block, on West 119th Street, in the mid-1990s, does not apologize for the cost of his model, saying his goals are wider than just fixing a school or two. His hope is to prove that if money is spent in a concentrated way to give poor children the things middle-class children take for granted — like high-quality schooling, a safe neighborhood, parents who read to them, and good medical care — they will not pass on the patterns of poverty to another generation.

"You could, in theory, figure out a less costly way of working with a small number of kids, and providing them with an education," Mr. Canada said. "But that is not what we are attempting to do. We are attempting to save a community and its kids all at the same time."

I would say bravo to this last statement. So why try to make it seem like something else when talking out of the other side of his mouth?

Accountable Talk gets into this in his post: Superman Gets Riddled With Bullets

the Harlem Children's Zone schools didn't fare so well with the recalibrated ELA and math tests. They also didn't score well on the city's report card, with one school scoring a C and the other a B. Remember, these are the schools touted ad nauseum by Waiting for Superman and the Oprah show as the model we all should follow. Here's some reporting by the Times that makes the point a bit sharper:

But most of the seventh graders, now starting their third year in the school, are still struggling. Just 15 percent passed the 2010 state English test, a number that Mr. Canada said was "unacceptably low" but not out of line with the school's experience in lifting student performance over time. Several teachers have been fired as a result of the low scores, and others were reassigned, he said.

Even more shocking than these pitiful results is the fact that these schools are blessed with advantages that city public school teachers can only dream of, to wit:

In the tiny high school of the zone's Promise Academy I, which teaches 66 sophomores and 65 juniors (it grows by one grade per year), the average class size is under 15, generally with two licensed teachers in every room. There are three student advocates to provide guidance and advice, as well as a social worker, a guidance counselor and a college counselor, and one-on-one tutoring after school.

I remember reading that O Canada responded with the same "At least we're better than Rochester" excuse BloomKlein have been using to defend their test scores as being better than the rest of the state. The New York Post even made this point again the other day in it's confused meandering over the test score issue, running around like headless chickens trying to attack everyone but BloomKlein. Oh, Canada said that his school did better than the surrounding public schools, giving me a stitch in my side from laughing too hard.

Mr. Talk is also astounded:

Are you kidding me? Two teachers in a class? Class sizes of 15? And you get those dismal results? This is a disgrace. THIS is the solution to all our educational problems? This is the model the entire nation is supposed to follow? And let's not forget that in order to get even these awful results, Canada dismissed an entire grade that wasn't meeting his "standards".

In my school, we have class sizes that range from 28 to 35, with just one teacher per room. We don't have any huge grants from billionaires or backing from Oprah, but our passing percentage was over four times higher than the results posted by the Times. And yes--we are those dreaded public school teachers who must be gotten rid of in favor of the charter school teachers that Mr. Canada prefers.

I left this comment at AT's Blog:

Let's not confuse Canada's educational vision, which I would think we want for all our kids, with his craven political attempts to vilify teachers and the unions. On the NBC Education Nation Harlem teacher Brian Jones went straight at Canada and he got real nasty - attributing his "results" to his ability to fire teachers instead of providing cradle to grave support. I don't care if his results are crappy -- support for teachers and kids is what we want and if the scores don't show it right away we still should be fighting the bottom liners who want "results." Shame on Canada for playing this game and getting hoisted on his own petard.

Make sure to read the Amsterdam News take down of O Canada.

Leonie posted this: Canada rebuts NY Times in Daily News.

Boy, the corporate reformers have a steady (and immediate!) pipeline into the oped page on the Daily News. They should rename the page in their honor.

Oh, Canada has the nerve to say: "Successful charters have demonstrated that a longer school day and year, increased accountability and a reliance on data to drive instruction can help children who have fallen behind."

Right, It's not the smaller class sizes or the 2nd teacher in the room. Nothing exposes Oh, C as a political operator rather than an educator than his blatant attempt to disguise what is really working in his own schools. "You see, we can get poor kids to do well with the same money," is the major refrain of the ed deformers. But I am repeating myself.

— Norm Scott
Education Notes Online





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