Category Archives: Not so great things going on

Grrr. SF charter school counsels out child with mild-moderate disabilities

I got an email today that is really setting me off. I am redacting identifying details to protect the family, and because I believe this happens all the time: in many ways the specific school doesn’t matter. Read:

I did some research to see what would be the best option for my child. I really liked the idea of [redacted], and I thought it would work for my child with the right support. [redacted} charter school was one of my choices, so I spoke with its resource specialist. [redacted] was very fair and kind, but . . . told me that children with [disability] are typically not a good fit for [charter school]. This school is recommended for children who are independent and are able to learn without much of adults intervention. [emphasis added] I sent [redacted] my child’s last IEP in advance, and [redacted] thinks [redacted] disability is too severe that [school] may not be able to support [child] as it is a charter school with limited resources.

Wow. The parent who wrote me describes the child as having a speech delay and lacking social skills compared to peers. She wrote: the child is  “advanced academically and is able to follow directions. . . I would not call [child]’s’ disability ‘severe.'”

So here’s my question. Would the same charter school tell parents of typical children that it serves children who are able to learn without much adult intervention? I really doubt it, since that wouldn’t be a very good selling point.

This is a hot button for me because the practice of “counseling out” children who are more difficult and time-intensive to educate (read: expensive) is a common complaint about charter schools. Charters are particularly notorious for failing to serve students with disabilities — and parents of students with profound intellectual or physical disabilities often don’t even try to enroll their children at charter schools because it’s so rare that their kids are actually served at these institutions, even though Federal laws governing the education of students with disabilities apply to charter schools in the same way they apply to district-managed public schools.

I want to believe what the leaders of our district’s charter schools tell me — I really do. Every school talks about its commitment to serving all students, particularly those with challenges, how they want to increase opportunity for all students and how they are just struggling, underfunded public schools just like district-managed schools. And then I hear things like this parent’s story.

Tonight I did talk to a parent whose child with autism was served well at this particular charter school, and she urged me to get a fuller account before judging. Indeed, it appears that the professional that the original parent who wrote me talked to might be an SFUSD employee and not an employee of the charter school. So there is more fact-finding to do about this particular situation. On the other hand, in response to a Facebook post this evening I got an email from a different parent who experienced a similar situation a year or two ago:

My child is visually-impaired and when we were applying to SFUSD high schools, I called the head of special ed at each of the schools we were looking into, [redacted], [redacted], [redacted] and [charter].  I was really, really interested in [charter].  I’d heard that it was great . . .  When I spoke to the RSP, that was not my impression.  I was told no students with visual impairments had attended [charter], they don’t offer as many special education services as most of the schools in district. They didn’t have any special day classes.  I was told that because they were a charter school, [child’s] IEP didn’t really apply. 

To be fair, the parent also said that a highly-selective district-managed comprehensive high school was similarly discouraging. Her child is now in another district-managed high school and doing great. She isn’t looking to rock the boat, but was interested in sharing a perspective because I raised the topic.

I want all public schools, whether they are privately-managed charter schools or district-managed traditional schools, to be very thoughtful about their obligations to students with disabilities and to remember that their charge is to serve ALL, without barriers. Tonight’s communications have reminded me that we aren’t there yet and need to do much, much better by our students with disabilities.

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Rape, privilege and justice. (Off-topic).

Tonight I’m going to write about something that isn’t directly San Francisco-related, or education-related, but it’s of importance to men, to women, and to people who have sons or daughters.

In early 2015, a young woman went to a party at Stanford University and got drunk. Very drunk. A few hours later, two cyclists saw a man on top of a body behind a dumpster. They yelled. He ran. They followed, apprehended him, and held him down until the police came. The young woman was taken to a hospital where she was found to have been raped. Here’s her blisteringly honest perspective on that evening and what happened next (taken from a letter she read her attacker, a star swimmer named Brock Allen Turner, on the day he was sentenced in court).

Brock Allen Turner, or Brock Turner depending on how formal you want to be, was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault. Judge Aaron Persky, a Stanford alum and onetime lacrosse coach at the university, decided he should serve only six months in county jail with probation, even though the offenses could have landed him in state prison for up to 14 years (prosecutors recommended six years).

In his decision, Judge Persky said that “prison would have a severe impact” on Brock Turner, and that he doubted Brock Allen Turner would be “a danger to others.” This is  not the first time Judge Persky has issued a lenient decision in a campus rape case.

I have teenage daughters, and I fear for their safety always in situations where drugs and alcohol are involved. Still, I think my anger in this case is related to the fact that, like many women, I was raped by an acquaintance in college after a night of drinking. I never reported it, because the situation was consensual up to a point, until it wasn’t. I was confused enough, and drunk enough, that I could never completely make sense of what happened, even though I felt violated and ashamed after he left. I never spoke to him again.

How is OK for one person to violate another, just because alcohol is involved? How is it OK for a judge to essentially slap a convicted rapist on the wrist, because of the “severe impact” of laws we’ve put in place to deter just this kind of predatory behavior? And if the circumstances were the same, but the attacker had been a young black man from East Palo Alto rather than a white, star Stanford swimmer named Brock Allen Turner, would the sentence have been the same? I think it would have been far harsher.

Judge Aaron Persky took class and privilege into account. He looked into the future, at the future a young, affluent, white, Olympic-hopeful athlete from Stanford could have, and he felt empathy. He thought, “well, one bad decision shouldn’t derail a bright future.” He could even have thought back to his own college experiences and bad decisions, and thought “boys will be boys,” because even at my own elite women’s college in the mid-1980s, that was the prevailing view. I didn’t tell my friends about my experience because I thought they would judge me for choosing to put myself in a vulnerable situation.

Anyway, I wish Judge Persky had felt the same empathy for the victim, who is still dealing with the consequences of that night in January almost 18 months ago. She’ll never shed it completely, especially since Judge Aaron Persky looked at her, and looked at her attacker, Brock Allen Turner, and decided it was more important to protect his future than uphold justice for her.

Brock Allen Turner of Ohio was convicted of three counts of sexual assault, carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years in state prison under California law. Judge Aaron Persky of Santa Clara County Superior Court decided his offense, over the heartfelt pleas of the victim and strenuous objections from prosecutors, deserved just six months and probation. Let’s remember this injustice.

TAKING ACTION: I don’t recommend filling out change.org petitions because the change.org business model is essentially to generate leads for nonprofit and advocacy organizations that want to solicit those leads for donations (i.e., they sell your information to others). Still, there is some good information in this petition on how to lodge a complaint against the judge.

Oh. P.S.: In a letter to Judge Persky, Brock Allen Turner’s dad, Dan A. Turner of Dayton Ohio, called the rape “20 minutes of action” and says therefore that justifies a very lenient sentence. SMH. (full letter here in case it gets taken down).

P.P.S. Columnist Scott Herold of the San Jose Mercury News thinks we should all be OK with a lenient sentence, because, you know, campus drinking culture. Yay Brock Allen Turner for increasing awareness!

 

I hate this: State bungles CAHSEE policy, hurting students

UPDATE: Here’s the California Department of Education’s response: “Our hope is that the few students who find themselves in this situation will only have to defer their dreams of attending the college of their choice for one semester,” said Keric Ashley, deputy superintendent at the state Department of Education. “In the meantime, there are other options available to these students, including our California Community Colleges. I received excellent preparation at my local community college before attending university.”

Last night, several students from International High School, along with their principal and several teachers, came to talk to us about a really confounding and desperate problem. Details are in tomorrow’s San Francisco Chronicle, but essentially, here’s the story:

Last spring the state Legislature eliminated the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) as a graduation requirement. It wasn’t aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Anyway, the CAHSEE was never good education policy, unless you believe that one standardized test is a better gauge of high school academic achievement than four years of requirements and alignment with the UC/CSU’s required A-G course sequence for admission. Most members of the class of 2015 had already passed the CAHSEE, so for them the elimination of the test as a requirement was a moot, if somewhat annoying, development. But for newcomer students — those who came to the United States after being educated (or not) in other countries for most of their lives, the English Language portion of the CAHSEE represents a major barrier.

In San Francisco Unified, there are about 45 members of the would-be class of 2015 who had not passed the English language portion of the CAHSEE by graduation day. Per regulations from the State Board of Education, SFUSD (or any other district in California) is not allowed to issue a diploma without evidence that a student had passed the CAHSEE, even though the state legislature voted in June to dump the CAHSEE altogether.

There was supposed to be a July administration of the test, which our 45 students were counting on as their last chance to pass the CAHSEE and receive a diploma. But because the state isn’t recognizing the test, the July administration was canceled. And, because it went on vacation or otherwise decided to stop paying attention, the State Board neglected to update its direction to school districts to allow us to use our discretion — and rigorous graduation requirements–to issue diplomas to this group of students.

Watch the heart-rending testimony of our students here:

They’ve passed their classes. They’ve applied to college and been admitted. Their teachers, and their principal, agree they are ready to succeed. And yet the state, through either a bureaucratic bungle or a lack of concern, is saying that the San Francisco Unified School District may not issue a diploma.

I think we should defy the state and issue a diploma. What do you think?

You can help sway officials on this situation by contacting Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. His telephone number is 916-319-0800; or you can reach him on Twitter at @TomTorlakson . His email address is: superintendent “at” cde.ca.gov, or you can post a message for Superintendent Torlakson on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/torlakson . Finally,  you can write him a letter here:

The Honorable Tom Torlakson
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
1430 N Street, Suite 5602
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

URGENT: SFUSD schools will be closed TOMORROW Dec 11

Due to forecasts for a very strong winter storm tomorrow, Thursday Dec. 11, the Superintendent has decided to close the schools for the day. Please visit sfusd.edu for further updates.

Gateway HS’ velvet rope

Another update: I am shutting down comments on this post as they are getting out of hand on all sides. Suffice it to say that some people are very angry at Gateway and some people are very angry with me for calling out Gateway in the way I did. I had a very good, frank discussion with Sharon Olken this morning and apologized to her for questioning her integrity and motives. She graciously accepted my apology and explained what Gateway is trying to accomplish. I credit the school for having the best of intentions but I still strongly disagree with the policy — I don’t think it will accomplish what they want it to. We agreed to disagree on this issue for now, and I am coming to visit the HS for the first time in a while in a few weeks. I will write a longer post later when I have more time.

Update: I just spoke to Jill Tucker of the Chronicle, who is writing about this issue for tonight. She confirms that Gateway will hold two lotteries: one after Oct. 4 and one (assuming there are any seats unfilled) after the regular January deadline. Gateway HS has not yet responded to my emails so that’s all I know — I’ll be waiting to read Jill’s reporting. 

In the past I’ve been an admirer of Gateway Public Schools, a charter school operator that runs Gateway HS and Gateway MS here in SFUSD. Gateway MS’ charter barely squeaked through in 2010 on a 4-3 vote — I was in the majority.

Tonight, I’m sorry I voted for them. I learned today that Gateway HS has set up an “early application deadline” of October 4, 2013 for the 2014-15 school year. Yeah, this Oct. 4– as in 25 days from today.  The only reason that makes sense is because when we approved the middle school’s charter three years ago, the Board made very clear that Gateway MS students would not have priority enrollment into Gateway HS. Now, the first class of Gateway middle-schoolers is ready to enter high school, so the schools have quietly set up a two-tier enrollment system with an insanely early deadline that was only publicized to current Gateway MS students.

Gateway HS is very small, and incredibly popular. Someone (I can’t remember who) told me last year that they had crunched the numbers and based on the ratio of applications to seats, that Gateway is more selective than Harvard. So giving the MS students a leg up is no laughing matter — it’s a serious advantage over the rest of students across San Francisco who are interested in attending Gateway HS. What’s worse, we know that the earlier you set an application deadline, the more you disadvantage families who are not connected to the Internet or parent networks and/or who don’t speak English. So setting an earlier deadline isn’t just advantaging current MS students — it’s advantaging families who are savvy enough to check the Gateway web site in September.

How Gateway has gone about it is seriously sneaky. I never would have approved their charter if I’d thought this was the way they would honor their commitments. I’m ashamed of them and hope they will change this misguided admissions policy.

Scarier than Halloween . . .

Tonight the Superintendent sent a memo to the Board listing the effects if Prop. 30 and/or Prop. 38 don’t pass. It’s not good, and includes $10 million in additional forced closure (furlough) days this school year — school would end with a half day on Thursday, May 23 instead of a half-day on Friday, May 27–as well as $6.5 million in additional mid-year cuts. And then there’s 2013-14.

Though many school advocates feel Prop. 38 is better for schools in the long run (here is a more detailed comparison of the two measures as well as a fact sheet), the measure has never polled above 50 percent. Prop. 30 had polled above 50 percent until recently, but because of negative advertising the measure is now supported by less than a majority according to polls.  Though I have long advocated a “yes/yes” position on the two measures, with the reasoning that asking voters to choose between the two dooms both to failure, I think now during the stretch it is imperative that education advocates impress on voters who care about our schools that Prop. 30 must pass.   In other words, do whatever you want with Prop. 38 (I’m voting yes) but please, whatever you do, vote YES on 30. 

Student assignment and unintended consequences

Did you know that the district has acknowledged making a mistake in the way it has handled 6th and 9th grade assignments for 2012-13? To catch it, you would have had to be listening very closely last Tuesday evening (June 26) as the Superintendent read his Thoughts for the Evening. Here is an excerpt from Carlos’ prepared remarks on the issue: Continue reading