pawns in a bureacratic game

Byline: | Category: Uncategorized | Posted at: Friday, 22 September 2006

Over at the Nashville Scene’s blog, Liz Garrigan takes on the Nashville educational establishment which in this case, is acting as a barrier to educational improvement.  At issue was the threatened disenrollment of students from the highly successful KIPP Academy (Knowledge is Power Program).

State laws regarding the establishment of charter schools are highly restrictive about who can attend a charter school.  Rules allow children zoned for a school classified as “failing” to attend a charter school.  However, the law is non-specific about what happens once that failing school improves to a higher classification. 

Three failing schools (Bailey, Gra-Mar and JFK) were notified recently that they improved their rating.  Metro Nashville Public Schools then informed KIPP that the 17 children who were zoned for those schools now needed to leave KIPP, even though they were already nearly two months into the school year.

Luckily for the 17 children threatened with upheaval, the State Board of Education reported that the reclassification of the zoned schools has “no retroactive effect” on the children already enrolled at KIPP.

That report breaks the impasse . . . for now.  Left unreported is whether or not those 17 children will be allowed to return to KIPP next year.  Given MNPS’ already expressed desire to remove children from their current school mid-year, I’m not hopeful that they will not also try to fight reenrollment next summer.

This story illustrates two obstacles that stand in the way of educational reform in Tennessee:

The first obstacle is structural.  Tennessee law creates a system too risky for many charter schools to even consider establishment here.  Because children are often permitted to attend a charter school only if their zoned school is deemed failing, the year-to-year continuance of a charter school is always in doubt.  Current law, therefore, discourages charter schools from investing in our children’s future because there is no assurance that there will be any children in their future.

The second obstacle is bureacratic–perhaps even personal.  Ms. Garrigan expressed it very well already:

There’s a kind of antagonism, rooted in a sort of territorial instinct, that pervades the relationship between public school educators and reform educators.

It is my belief that where children receive an education is less important than the fact that they actually receive one.  If charter schools demonstrate an ability (as KIPP has) to educate some children better than their regular public schools can, then I’m all for charter schools.  However, the recent rift between MNPS and KIPP exposes an apparent attitude among some in MNPS that their first priority is more territorial than educational.

As a legislator, I can help to fix the first problem.  I will support laws that give parents greater flexibility and more options regarding their children’s education.

However, the second problem is beyond my ability to fix.  That requires the continuous involvement of citizens, and especially parents, to remove from educational leadership positions those who view children more as pawns in a bureaucratic game than as students to be educated.

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3 Responses to “pawns in a bureacratic game”

  1. Bob Krumm » the issues: education Says:

    […] Pawns in a Bureaucratic Game […]

  2. Bob Krumm » educators win one over the bureaucrats Says:

    […] Liz Garrigan follows up her earlier blog entry about the KIPP charter school controversy in the Nashville Scene’s print edition today. She again defends KIPP in its struggle to educate some of Nashville’s under-served children, all the while Nashville’s public school system appears to be more concerned with securing its bureaucratic turf. . . . there is no school in Nashville doing more to close the performance gap between black students and white, rich and poor, than KIPP. This rigorous academic bastion, which is transforming underperforming students into high-achieving, college-bound learners, struggles six long days a week . . . to accomplish some pretty heady goals. It shouldn’t have to wear body armor when it is arguably the best school in the Metro system, when its motivations are unimpeachable, and when it’s on the right side of the law to boot. […]

  3. Bob Krumm » more school choices soon? Says:

    […] Let’s hope that Metro Schools more willingly embraces school choice than they have recently. […]