If You Can Make It There

by Robert Pondiscio
September 16th, 2008

Babe Ruth, Pedro Martinez and…Brett Peiser?  Top ballplayers aren’t the only ones defecting to rivals in New York City.  Boston “has quietly lost some of its top educators to the Big Apple,” writes James A. Peyser, a partner with NewSchools Venture Fund, in the Boston Globe.  After years as a hot spot of education reform, especially in the charter school movement, “Boston is losing some of its best players, raising fears that public education may suffer its own curse of the Bambino.”

A little over three years ago, the founders of three nationally recognized Boston charter schools – Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, Academy of the Pacific Rim, and Boston Collegiate – helped to create an ambitious network of charter schools in New York and New Jersey. Last year, the head of City on a Hill Charter School, which has helped 100 percent of its graduates gain admission to college, moved to New York City to become Chancellor Joel Klein’s charter schools chief. And this fall, the founder of East Boston’s Excel Academy, which ranks among the state’s top five middle schools in eighth-grade math, is stepping down to explore new school reform opportunities in the New York metropolitan area.

“Massachusetts has distinguished itself as one of the nation’s leaders in school reform, and an important part of that success story has been its charter schools,” Peyser writes. “Nevertheless, as the charter movement has taken off in other states and cities, our leadership position has waned.”

Alive and Kicking?

by Robert Pondiscio
September 16th, 2008

The Center for Public Education reviewed several data sources to find out if recess is becoming a vestige of a bygone age, as accountability ratchets up the pressure on schools. “To borrow from Mark Twain,” CPE notes, “reports of recess’s death seem to have been grossly exaggerated.”

Even so, the pressure on schools to find more instructional time is real, and it seems to be leading many districts to shave minutes from the recess time they provide. In addition, children who attend high-poverty, high-minority, or urban schools are far more likely than their peers in other locations to get no recess at all—a definite “recess gap” that commands our attention.

Eighteen percent of elementary schools with a poverty rate over 75 percent do not provide first graders with recess, compared to 4 percent of schools with less than 35 percent poverty rate. These patterns “persist through sixth grade: 24 percent of sixth graders in high-minority schools, 28 percent in high-poverty schools, and 24 percent in urban schools do not get recess, compared to 13 percent of sixth graders overall,” the CPE reports.

Understood, we’re talking about recess here, but it’s curious to conclude as CPE and at least one major paper did, that the problem of eliminating recess in the name of greater accountability is “overblown.”  It’s unlikely that if 18% of patients taking a drug had adverse reactions that anyone would argue the danger of the drug was overstated.  Lawyers would be lining up around the block.