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You didn't get the memo about The Oxford Foundation? Bill and Tony's Math Academy on the way

Memo to Parents and Taxpayers: The Oxford Foundation presents top rated Districts with a false choice

TO: Parents and Taxpayers interested in maintaining the top rated schools in the state and the property values that are tied to those districts

FROM: A BHSD parent of two selfishly interested in maintaining his kids’ top rated schools and the property value of his recently purchased home.

RE: You get to choose nothing and risk everything if you follow The Oxford Foundation.

Governor Snyder’s Oxford Foundation Group is not interested in having a debate about curriculum or what kind of schools work best in the state.

They are interested, first, in providing a political screen for pending House Bill (5923) that could be taken up in the "lame duck" session after Thanksgiving. Ask friend of the local schools Chuck Moss. They provide that screen by “assuming” said school code will be rewritten to include language like this:

“Within available resources, the parent or legal guardian of each child is entitled to choose among available public or non-public schools for some or all of the education necessary to develop the child’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment.”

If so amended your top rated and highly functioning District – Birmingham, Bloomfield, Troy, etc. – will be obligated to spend some of their per pupil allocation on whatever educational business venture comes down the pike.

Your District won’t get any more of the state’s 14.6 billion total education budget than it does now. There is, after all, only one chunk of change and we aren't going to cough up anymore state tax mone. But you will have to give some of what your District already gets to, for example, Bill and Tony’s Math Academy.

Why? Because The Oxford Foundation thinks you should have a “choice.”

Get it?

In moving to Birmingham, BHSD, etc. you didn't make a REAL choice. The Governor wants to help with that. So do Bill and Tony.

If you choose to send your kid to Bill and Tony’s Math Academy instead of Seaholm or the new Bloomfield High School and Bill and Tony’s Math Academy – like a lot of new restaurants – goes under in a year or two scuttling your kids’ chance at a good university? Well, you done plain made a bad business choice. The assorted contractors and office supply folks that got state money to get Bill and Tony’s up and running? They made a good business choice. Mom bad at business; contractor good at business (insert Tim Allen in Detroit Lion's jersey grunting).

Will your District get back the money that went to fund Bill and Tony’s and caused your District to cut a program (it is always art and music to start so let’s assume huge cuts in arts and music – we want to be “career-ready” in Michigan and who has a career in the arts or music in a global economy in a digital age)?

No money goes back to the District but there will be some consequences. Since your District’s funds were cut its “performance” dropped. Since its performance dropped your District will get less per pupil allocation because the governor and his folk want to reward the winners (yay! Winners! Boo losers!).

Now, when Tina and Mary’s Science Academy opens up your District will have less to give them because of poor performance cuts, but your district will still have to ante up so that there can be “choice” and competition.

Get it?

Don’t worry, though, Tina and Mary won’t need as much. Tina and Mary’s Science Academy is on line and therefore less expensive. They don’t know anything about science but they are very energetic and excited so you shouldn’t be a hater and plus they always so wanted to open a business. They went to school, right? Degreessmegees. Courses will be taught by “adjuncts” at local community colleges who are willing to do what used to be called “piece” work for ridiculously low sums (The Oxford Foundation loves adjuncts!). Adjuncts are a fairly demoralized group, moving from spot to spot so don’t expect terribly encouraging parent teacher conferences.

Sorry: the plug gets pulled on Tina and Mary’s Science Academy after 6 months. Tina married a dentist, one of the adjuncts got a tenure-track job in Alabama where higher education funding exceeds Michigan's, and the other one was hospitalized for depression and anxiety trying to meet the demands of “24/7 education" while being paid 4k per term.

Surely your District will get compensated? No, no, no, no.

In Governor Snyder’s Michigan we demand transparency and accountability of schools. What happened was this: When the money to pay staffers at your District to help manage the 25 page monthly teacher evaluation forms didn’t get turned in on time you took a “penalty” from the state.

The state was that accurate in its record keeping to assess a penalty/late fee for tardy teacher evaluations?

Oh yes. You see another part of the 14 billion went to create the massive Database system that will monitor and manage these start –ups and how well the “District of Enrollment” – that is, the District you used to know as Birmingham, BHSD, Troy – handles the massive administrative work of “seamless” education. Think the DMV, only for your kids’ education. How much will that take out of the 14 billion? Let's worry about that after we amend the law and open up the budget so there can be "choice."

You follow?

Good. We can move on to either Al and Bill’s Physics Academy or John’s Jamboree of Genius Junior Engineers.

You choose.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mike Reno November 19, 2012 at 08:09 PM
"The current legislation seeks to address real problems in real places. But it won't address the sorts of things you (seem) upset about..." But this will: ??? "Want to run a bad teacher out of town? Call me. A bad administrator? Text me. I assure you you want find a school cheerleader. " Curious how this gets written in legislation? Is this service only available in Birmingham? It sounds like it didn't work for you... have you now perfected the process? This will address her concerns in what way? It's unclear what that even means. I think many of us would prefer to do this in a much less confrontational way. If the education process is not working, then talk to the teacher. If there is pushback, talk to the principal. At that point, you should have the option to move on. No battles in the boardroom... no battles at the ballot box. The current process has no escape mechanism, other than fighting. If you get a poor teacher... it becomes "the lost year". You get a bad principal... you have limited options. You get a bad district... (and are not wealthy)... you have almost no options. You do seem to care about this, and sincerely seem to be trying to protect what you believe is an effective means of educating children. So what do you propose for people like Linda, me, Joshua, and even yourself who have had ineffective experiences with schools? We have years of experience trying to work within the system. It's just not working.
Joe Pedagogy December 02, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Joshua, I am a teacher in Troy and my children are students in Troy. When I taught 5th and Troy had its PACE program (G/T), my PACE students would request that they be allowed to drop PACE and be able to participate in our classroom. They felt like they missed too much. I found it was really the parents who wanted their kids in PACE, it was status for the parents. Differentiation is a much better model for the regular school day. After-school G/T would be better for kids. My sons are talented artists, so I have had them in after-school art programs. My one son loves soccer. He plays on a travel soccer team. Students get many more benefits for being in differentiated classrooms and having opportunities, such as Science Olympiad and Lego League, outside of the regular school.
Joshua Raymond December 02, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Joe, I am not a fan of pull-out gifted programs for many reasons. One is the reason you mention of missing too much of the class. Most pull-out programs require the students to do homework for the classes they missed. Gifted students don't need "more", they need academics aligned to their skills. Second, gifted learners aren't just gifted a few hours a week. They may be only gifted in one area, but that typically isn't addressed in a pull-out program. They shouldn't be slowed for the rest of the week and only have a few hours that they feel is time they can be themselves. Third, pull-out programs often lead to resentment. Many seem to be based on around fun activities that most kids would like to do. The worst that I ever heard of was a gifted pull-out program that did a Disney trip at the end of the year. Of course everyone else was mad. It isn't about g/t kids getting to do more fun stuff, but about the right education. Fourth, pull-out programs are often used to placate parents. The parents feel that at least their children are getting a bit more attention. Are pull-out programs better than nothing? Usually. For a couple of hours, g/t kids don't feel out-of-place and are with similar minds. For a couple of hours, they get to work at a natural pace.
Joshua Raymond December 02, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Sometimes it is the parents who need to make the decisions. Some g/t kids want to take school easy and score A's instead of being challenged to work hard. However, that hurts them when they don't learn to work hard or overcome obstacles. Some kids would choose hiding their talents to fit in and let peer pressure run their lives. In one of my daughter's classes, she has a significantly harder math packet than most kids. The other kids are competing to see who can do the most math packets, so the g/t kids want to do the easy packets too. An adult is needed to have them do the packets at their level. Kids may want things that are not good or appropriate for them. While kids have talents in many areas, sports and, to a certain extent, art and music, are not the domain of elementary schools. Math, reading, writing, science, social studies, history, and academics are. Would you enroll your sons, who are talented artists, in a program that required them to spend the majority of their time working at the level of other children their age and charged even more if they wanted to come back for another hour or two to work at their talent level? Or would you want their entire art program to be their level? I'm not going to be happy if my daughters' piano teacher requires them to also play songs that the average student their age could play. I'm going to put them in a program where they play songs at *their* level.
Joshua Raymond December 02, 2012 at 08:31 PM
As a society, we have chosen to provide free public education. To tell people that if they want their g/t children to learn they need to put them in a separate pay program goes against the principals of free public education. We have not guaranteed free arts, music, and sports programs. Oddly, though, even at the public level, those do a significantly better job of providing options for those with talents in them. Something is amiss.

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