|MNPS Director's echo bouncing off a reporter and then off the charter CEO|
Rather than asking difficult questions of Metro Nashville Public School Director Jesse Register and LEAD founder Jeremy Kane (who is also an alumnus of local elite private school, Montgomery Bell Academy), the news media is reporting plans for a new LEAD charter school at Brick Church Middle School with the typical double standards:
The conversion is already taking place at Cameron Middle School. Like Brick Church, students struggled academically. The statistics are not from a lack of trying, but Metro and State leaders stress the turnaround has to come faster.
At Cameron College Prep, the new school created as part of the conversion, every student is expected to graduate from high school and attend at a four year College or University. Located on the top floor of Cameron Middle School, for now, LEAD is taking over the fifth grade and will add an additional grade every year.
"Our fifth graders this year were the lowest performing fifth graders to come into any district school," Jeremy Kane, founder of LEAD Public [sic] Schools said.
To achieve the high expectations the fifth graders at Cameron spend an average of six more hours a week in class.
"They're really trying hard," Social Studies teacher Declan Tansey said. "They're thinking through questions. And they're showing they're committed to getting those questions correct."
The early success at Cameron and LEAD's other schools is what Dr. Register and state leaders hope to achieve at Brick Church Middle School.
The double standard is clear: judgment passed against Cameron Middle School because of low test scores, while Cameron College Prep is said to be succeeding without reference to any test scores at all. In its former generation, Cameron failed based on hard statistics that do not apply to the "converted" Cameron (quasi-evangelical language noted). The new LEAD school's "success" is based on squishy, malleable, interpretive categories like setting high expectations and graduating and on personal anecdotes like the students are "trying hard" and "showing they're committed."
If we applied the same unrealistic expectations to charter schools as we do to bona fide public schools (which are obligated to accept and to educate everyone, even those who resist education) they would probably crack under the same pressure.
But reporters do not want to ask the hard questions of the school district's PR machine, backed by beaucoup private donations and federal dollars.
Kane told another reporter that with LEAD (backed by the fiat of State of Tennessee and Mayor Karl Dean, who is a Montgomery Bell Academy parent) he has discovered "a secret sauce for a win-win" in public education with no losers. I agree that privatization is a huge win-win for corporate elites and the politicians who love them. In other words, everyone with money and power wins in the equation.
But there are losers: kids who don't get accepted to LEAD academies because those institutions can do exactly what Mr. Kane's alma mater does (pick and choose its students); students, teachers, and parents at bona fide public schools who enjoy fewer resources as government money is diverted to charters; and the bona fide public schools themselves who lose balance as their best students are skimmed off and away. It is a zero-sum game with clear-cut losses.
What brings me the most sadness is that the news media fails to cut through the PR to call this what it is: institutionalized and engineered social Darwinism that is judged by an entirely different and favorable set of rules than truly public education is.