To the Editor:
In response to L. Durand's Letter; He wrote ....."The fact that the district can support the soccer program is BECAUSE of the football program. The revenues taken in by the football program is given to the ASB. This revenue pays for the soccer program, swimming program, track program and basketball program etc. Without the funds raised by the football program her child and many others would probably have to pay a large amount of money so that the high school could have a soccer program."
Don’t try to take all the credit Mr. Durand! Our soccer kids pay for their share, sell their share of shirts, sell their share of dinner tickets and still have to pay money to be involved in soccer! Please don’t make it seem like the football team carries all the sports! Contributions come from everywhere, especially our sponsors, which have nothing to do with the football team!
How tacky is looked for us to be playing on a field that was shorter than we normally play on! How tacky it looked that we had a perfectly good field behind us and we couldn’t even use it! How tacky that we had to sit on the ground or stand! Let’s just hope we didn’t have a person in a wheel chair show up! Where in the world would we have placed them! Also, how inconvenient it was to find a restroom. Thus the reason for us having access to the field! All those problems would have been taken care of. So you see it has more to do with the football team needing to practice on the field!
That’s wonderful that the football Flashes made it (at the time) to the next round but the soccer team is also representing our school! Please don’t make it seem like the coaches didn’t know about the game, they knew, they did have access to schedules and they could have turned to their right and see the two teams warming up and obviously getting ready for a game!
I think all our Flashes teams/sports matter, but if it comes to hosting a game, let us give that team/sport priority! Flashes Football does not come first... The Flashes do!!!!
I also want to add a thank you to the Girls Flashes Soccer team, they have been out there on most of the home games cheering on the Boys Flashes Soccer team!!! Way to support your fellow soccer players!!! Good luck Flashes!!!! :)
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To the editor:
Ashamed FUSD employee has struck again! Ashamed employee wrote a lengthy letter last week, directly criticizing me, by name. But, once again, ashamed employee neglected to sign his or her own name. Since I am not privy to ashamed employee’s secret identity, the only way to communicate seems to be through the pages of the Gazette. So, here it goes:
Attention Ashamed Employee:
Thank you for the compliment at the end of your recent letter. I do take exception however, to the rest of your letter. You claim that my opening argument is that “there just aren’t that many charter schools in Ventura County.” You characterize this argument as too dumb to waste time on. Since you don’t explain exactly what makes this argument too dumb to waste time on, it is a little hard to respond to, but I’ll try.
To begin with, you have misrepresented my argument. Here is an exact quote from my article: “Of the eleven charter schools in the county, only four are elementary schools with site based instruction. Two of them are in Camarillo, one is in Thousand Oaks, and one is in Ventura. “
I further note that each of the four charter elementary schools is one option among many, in relatively large communities. Three of the four elementary charter schools in Ventura County were start ups. That is to say, they started in facilities that were not currently in use. The fourth elementary charter (Meadow Arts, in Thousand Oaks) took over a school site that had been slated to be closed due to under-enrollment.
My point was that Piru would be the only elementary charter school in the entire county of Ventura to take over an existing successful running school site. This is more than unusual. It is unprecedented. It is unprecedented because it is a really bad idea.
It is a bad idea for multiple reasons. To begin with, conversions simply don’t perform as well as start-ups. A 2003 RAND Corporation study of charter schools in California (Charter School Operations and Performance: Evidence From California) found different results for charters schools depending on whether they were start ups or conversions. Start up charters had better results than conversions. In this study, charters that were conversions from conventional schools (which is what the Piru petitioners intend to do) did not improve student achievement.
In addition, charter schools are not intended to replace (or in this case displace) the local elementary school; and certainly not when the overwhelming majority of parents have indicated they oppose the charter. Successful charter schools find an appropriate site, and garner significant parental support for their project. The Piru petitioners have done neither.
Charter schools are supposed to be opt-in programs, that parents may choose to send their children too. Placing a charter in Piru, taking over the only neighborhood school in a small community, makes it an opt-out program, completely counter to the whole idea of charter schools. Of all the elementary schools in FUSD, Piru is the worst site for a charter school for this reason. It is the only site where students who do not wish to attend a charter would have to be bussed down the highway to attend a non-charter school, rather than finding a relatively close alternative school in town.
In regards to the Stanford CREDO National Charter School Report (2009) I cited, you are absolutely correct that you can find differences in achievement among various sub-groups. For example, on page 6 of the full report you find this statement: “Charter schools have different impacts on students based on their family backgrounds. For Blacks and Hispanics, their learning gains are significantly worse than that of their traditional school twins.” Since 91% of Piru’s students are classified as Hispanic, you would think this is would be an important bit of information. But, I guess the charter school petitioners forgot to mention it in their presentation to the school board.
You are also correct that charter schools have had relatively better results for children in poverty and English language learners. For example, on page 27 the report states “We see positive results for charter school students in poverty – these students realized statistically superior learning gains in reading compared to their TPS (traditional public school) peers… The magnitude of the difference was about the same as was seen for the overall reading effect, .01 standard deviations, though here the sign is positive. While significant, the effect is small.”
In the context of this quote the word “significant” means statistically significant. That means the results are not likely to be due to chance. It does not necessarily indicate that the results are practically important, since, as noted, the positive effects for those particular subgroups is small. And since there is enormous variation in results among charter schools, there is no guarantee that these results would be replicated at Piru.
According to Piru School’s 2007-2008 School Accountability Report Card, non-English learning Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites, Asians and African Americans combined make up 52% of Piru’s students. All of those sub-groups tend to perform, on average, either more poorly in charter schools or no better in charter schools.
The Stanford report also noted that “the effectiveness of charter schools was found to vary widely by state. The variation was over and above existing differences among states in their academic results.” California is cited as one of four states that had mixed results or were no different than the gains for traditional school peers. Obviously, 100% of Piru’s students live in California.
Also according to the Stanford report, “students generally experience a significant negative impact on learning in reading in their first year of charter enrollment, in the range of -.06 standard deviations.” While this negative impact tends to disappear over time, that would be cold comfort to the families of Piru whose children are currently enrolled, and would likely experience this decline.
On page 9 of the report we read this conclusion: “This analysis shows that in the aggregate charter schools are not advancing the learning gains of their students as much as traditional public schools.”
Another important study, by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), titled “A Closer Look at Charter Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling” (2006), and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reached this conclusion: “After adjusting for student characteristics, charter school mean scores in reading and mathematics were lower, on average, than those for public noncharter schools.”
In 2009 the Center for Education Reform published a report on accountability in charter schools. They found that 13% of all charter schools ever opened have subsequently closed. 41% of those closures were due to financial difficulties, often due to declining enrollment (a distinct possibility in the case of Piru, since dozens of parents have already indicated their intent to un-enroll their children if Piru becomes a charter school.) 27% of the closures were due to mismanagement. 14% of the closures were due to poor academic performance.
Charter advocates routinely overstate the effectiveness of charter schools, cite only the data that supports their case, while rationalizing or ignoring data that undercuts their case. They like to cite only the studies or even just portions of studies (as you did in your last letter) that support their position, while ignoring the overall picture.
I argued that “the body of research on charter schools is less than impressive,” and I absolutely stand behind that statement. The research on charter schools does not justify a radical change of governance and personnel in a school that is making solid academic gains. Piru charter advocates like to speak of converting Piru to a charter school as “the next step of school reform.” Variations of this phrase are repeated no less than seven times in their petition. Unfortunately, there is no compelling evidence that this next step would necessarily be an improvement.
Incidentally, a group of parents and teachers from Piru recently visited Fenton Avenue Charter School in San Ferndando Valley. Fenton is characterized as “one of the oldest and most successful charter schools in the state of California” in a recent Gazette article about the trip. Now, I am sure Fenton is a nice school, but between 2007 and 2009 Fenton’s API scores rose by exactly zero points. In fact, between 2007 and 2008 its score dropped seven points. The next year Fenton (“one of the most successful charter schools in the state”) regained those same seven points for a grand total of zero improvement. Over the same time frame, Piru (as a non charter school) saw its API scores climb by 71 points.
As noted in the Gazette article, Fenton has high percentages of students from Hispanic families, second language learners, and students receiving free or reduced lunch. This is likewise true of all the schools of Fillmore, including Sespe. Last school year, on the 2009 API test Sespe scored 770 points. Fenton’s score was 747.
There is an even closer match between the demographics of Fenton and Piru. In the words of Chris Pavik’s article on their trip, Fenton has demographics that “almost exactly mirror those of Piru School: 87% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, 54% are in the English as a Second Language program, and come from a primarily Hispanic community.” The two schools also have almost identical API scores. Fenton last year achieved an API score only eight points higher than Piru’s (747 for Fenton, compared to 739 for Piru.)
My point about district administration is that Fillmore is at almost exactly the median for a district of its size in both the number of administrators in the district, and the portion of district money allotted to administrative services. The claim, made by representatives of our teachers’ union, was that Fillmore is uniquely overstaffed compared to comparable districts, and that district administrators have given themselves huge raises, up to 48%. This is completely untrue.
In the penultimate paragraph of your letter you credit me with saying that Piru is the most successful campus in the district. Unfortunately, you have habit of misquoting me. I never said Piru is the most successful campus in the district.
Here is an exact quote of what I said in that regard: “Charter schools are typically started for one of two reasons. 1.) The charter embodies a distinct educational vision, for example a commitment to open education, or an emphasis on technology or the arts; or 2.) the charter replaces a failing school. It is hard to see for which of these reasons the Piru charter is being proposed. The philosophy and approaches to education articulated by the charter team seem perfectly fine, but not at all out of the mainstream of educational practice. And they have seen three years of solid growth in their state testing scores, so the school, in its present configuration and personnel could hardly be considered failing.”
The jump from “three years of solid growth” and “hardly considered failing” to “the most successful campus in the district” is, I am afraid, a product of your still rather active imagination. (I won’t even discuss your odd penchant for conspiracy theories concerning John Garnica.)
In terms of API test scores, the most successful elementary school in FUSD is Sespe. It has seen greater growth overall, and has achieved higher scores than any other elementary school in the district. Since the start of API testing in 1999, Sespe’s scores have climbed by 243 points. Piru, over the same time, improved by 197 points. Last year Piru and Sespe improved by almost identical amounts (fifty-two points for Piru; fifty-one for Sespe), but Sespe’s API score last year was also 31 points higher than Piru’s. Sespe had a score of 770, while Piru’s score was 739.
I did not say, and do not agree, that Piru is the most successful school in FUSD. All the schools in FUSD are excellent, with terrific dedicated staffs. My point was that Piru has been experiencing success as part of Fillmore Unified. Your theory seems to be that if a school has been experiencing success, the best way to continue that success is to radically change the governance and personnel.
In fact, your point about Los Angeles Unified converting schools into charter schools due to, as you say in your letter, “declining student achievement”, makes my point for me. Piru has not seen declining student achievement, but rather the reverse, as a part of FUSD. There is every expectation that it would continue to do so as part of FUSD. On the other hand, breaking apart a successful team of teachers and experimenting with a charter is a much riskier proposition.
One last comment: It is unusual for any newspaper to publish anonymous letters. You have submitted two, and in both instances you harshly criticize me. You misquote me and mischaracterize my arguments. You accuse me of being a “hired gun” for the district, and “a true champion of the status quo.” You call my arguments “ridiculous” and “dumb.” And you have done all this from the safety of anonymity.
This hardly seems fair. There are basic principles of fair play, and you are breaking them. I don’t mind being disagreed with. That is certainly your right in a democracy. But if you feel compelled to write another letter mentioning me, please have the courtesy and the courage to sign your name.
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To the Editor:
Response to Spaulding:
Yes. I do think some of your arguments are “ridiculous” and “dumb”, you do act like a “hired gun” for the district, and you do support the “status quo”. And yes, “I’ve done all this from the safety of anonymity.” It has nothing to do with “fair play”, “courtesy” or “courage” Greg. The newspaper is protecting my identity in order to prevent retaliation from my employer. Fillmore Unified administrators have a track record of unethical behavior targeting individuals who speak out against them. Conversely, you routinely rise in support of district policies and have nothing to worry about. Being good friends with the Garnica’s doesn’t hurt either.
You continue to use selective evidence to back your anti-charter position and hypocritically accuse charter-supporters of doing the same. For example, from page 6 of the CREDO study you cite, “For Blacks and Hispanics, their learning gains are significantly worse than that of their traditional school twins.” You leave it there and attack Piru charter founders. These findings are contradicted in the more accurate NYC Charter Schools Report, “On average, a student who attended a charter school for all of grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86 percent of the Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap in math and 66 percent of the achievement gap in English.” This is just one example of Blacks and Hispanics outperforming traditional public schools. Regrettably, the data you cite in most of your recent letter is flawed. The Hoxby report, also from Stanford University, found the CREDO report, “contains a statistical mistake that causes a biased estimate of how charter schools affect achievement.” And, “the CREDO study violates four rules for the empirically sound use of matching methods to evaluate charter schools' effects.” In other words, the CREDO data and conclusions are faulty. Regardless, I challenge you to convince one NYC charter school parent to pull out based on your analysis their child would do better in a traditional public school. Good luck!
Despite countless studies with contradictory conclusions, one thing is clear. Fenton Charter, Piru Charter, the 250 new charter schools in Los Angeles, the state of California, New York State, the Presidents’ Bill promoting charter schools (I could go on and on) all indicate policymakers, parents and educators want out of the public school rut. Then again, this could all be part of my “rather active imagination.”
The point of my original letter (which Sweeney and Board Members failed to directly respond to) was not to get into a charter debate. It was to point out a pattern of poor ethics, poor management, and poor decisions by Sweeney, Bush and Townend. Board Members routinely prefer a tall glass of Sweeney Kool-Aid to thinking for themselves. It’s not only embarrassing, it’s harmful.
I disagree with you Greg, and as you said, in a democracy, that is my right to do so. My criticisms were never intended to target you personally, and if you felt attacked or harmed by my remakes, I sincerely apologize.
We need more Geoffrey Canada's and fewer Jeffery Sweeney's. See http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5914322n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnAre...
An Ashamed FUSD employee