I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

16 February 2013

Maybe Alum Rock Was On to Something

Way back in 2007, Alum Rock Elementary USD denied a charter to ACE Middle School, citing a number of concerns with their proposal for a middle school.

The San Jose Mercury News was very, very disappointed.  Apparently Alum Rock did not want its students exposed to rigorous education.  However, the Santa Clara County Board of Education was willing to overturn Alum Rock and provide reform to its students; ACE now has two middle schools and a high school in San Jose.

The Mercury recently visited the high school, which opened in August.  This article doesn't merit a link on ACE's own site, perhaps because all that rigor isn't going so well.  A plan for "blended learning" has been missing key ingredients since the school became internet-ready five months after opening.  Students don't have textbooks and two-thirds of the teachers do not have full credentials (I guess Williams complaints don't apply to charter schools even if they are located in Williams districts?)  The students are not going to graduate college-ready, given the lack of required courses offered, their teacher's lack of materials and skills, and their purportedly low level of skills on entry (this is based on a standardized test from the MAP people and ACE reported it; I have to wonder about its accuracy.  It appears that most if not all of the students are English Language Learners; this can mean that the test materials are exposing more of a lack of English rather than a lack of skill).

Perhaps the ugliest news item is that in October, most of the school's staff found their jobs posted on EdJoin.  The school's founder explained to the Mercury that this was merely an inspirational technique intended to raise expectations for staff commitment and student progress.  Indeed, those pesky union contracts do block motivational techniques like this one.

Even the Mercury concedes that these students are being badly failed, and that it is unlikely the months of education they've missed at ACE will be ameliorated (although I am sure the educators at Independence HS, where former ACE students are turning up, will do their best even without having their jobs posted on EdJoin).

Whether this will cause the Mercury to rethink its ardor for all charter schools, especially those in Alum Rock, remains to be seen.  I suspect the editorial board will decide that this is an anomaly, and that you've got to fail some kids on the path to innovation.

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