John Fensterwald in The Educated Guess
April 27th, 2010 -- A former Los Angeles Unified District B superintendent who has gone on to found and lead one of the state’s most successful group of charter schools will be one six Californians to receive this year’s James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award tomorrow in Sacramento.
Judy Burton, president and CEO of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, will receive the $125,000 award, and her charter organization will get additional support from the Irvine Foundation. Burton is the only public school educator among the recipients this year.
The Alliance consists of 16 charter schools – 11 high schools and five middle schools – serving primarily Hispanic and African-American students in low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods. It will open four more schools this fall with an eventual goal of 50 schools.
Last year, API scores of five Alliance schools ranked among the top dozen high schools in Los Angeles. As of this month, in six of the high schools, 80 percent of the seniors have been accepted to two or more four-year colleges, Burton said.
Burton attributes success of the Alliance schools to more instructional time (an extra hour each day and 10 more days each year); small personalized schools (500-student high schools, 375-400 student middle schools; well-qualified teachers, and excellent leadership ( the ability to find and train good principals).
The Alliance is one of five charter groups that will share a $60 million teacher effectiveness grant from the Gates Foundation. Burton says that the groups will redesign the classroom environment and create new ways to assess and reward teachers.
Some critics – author and historian Diane Ravitch is the latest and loudest — dismiss charter schools as part of a campaign by foundations and pedagogically illiterate CEOs to “privatize” education. Burton, however, worked for Los Angeles Unified for 30 years as a teacher, principal, district superintendent of an area covering 80,000 students in North and Northeast San Fernando Valley and and assistant superintendent in charge of school reform. It was the freedom from state regulations and restrictions of the collective bargaining agreements that led her to establish charters, where she can focus on instructional priorities, she said.
Burton said she will commit $100,000 of the Irvine award to college scholarships, with $25,000 to professional development for teachers.
Burton and fellow recipients will be honored on the floor of the Assembly. She said she would use the opportunity to press legislators for a fairer shake for funding facilities for charter schools.
By John Fensterwald on April 27th, 2010
Comments on Charter leader receives big award
CarolineSF: agreed. That's why I stated that more instructional time is only one of the lessons from charters. But that strategy does seem to be a necessary ingredient when parents can't compensate for the current amount of instruction in traditional public schools. And the reason why I focused on additional instructional time is that I see it as the primary difficult issue to resolve. It seems natural that additional instruction will require additional government funding and demands on teachers' lifestyles, hence the primary difficulty. Curriculum can also be a difficult issue, but Ravitch seems to say in her book that we already know how to reach good compromises on curriculum. She sites the longevity of her work on the California History curriculum as a case in point.
- Paul Muench
The Irvine Foundation has leaned heavily toward charter insiders in its awards -- I think if you look at the recipients over the years, you'll find them heavily represented. ... Regarding Paul's comment, it's not as simple as longer school hours/days/years' being the automatic solution. Edison Schools, and the few remaining tattered shreds thereof, relied heavily on extended school time, with no consistent success to show for it. I know that Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" claimed miracle success for extended school time, but education is an area where Gladwell is uncharacteristically lacking in comprehension. ... Also, of course, the issue with teachers' unions and extended school time amounts to pushing teachers to work considerably longer hours for no extra pay, otherwise known as taking a big pay cut. Even the most hostile teacher-basher would at least understand why that would be controversial and would tend to make the teaching profession even less attractive as a career.
Actually Dianne Ravitch states in her book that she supports charters as experimental schools. She claims that the term charter was originally used for this purpose. And Judy Burton is exactly the type of person that Ravitch would have run a charter school. This is clearly stated in Ravitch's book. The issue that I think Ravitch side steps is how to work with teachers unions to bring the lessons of charters to scale in the traditional public schools. And if you think that teachers unions are the problem, then this avoidance on Ravitch's part may appear as simply being against charters. Given that one of the lessons of every successful charter school is extending instructional times (hours, days, weeks), how to work with teachers unions to use this strategy seems critical to improving the traditional public schools.
- Paul Muench