Posted by Alan Gottlieb Apr 8th, 2011.
That’s apparently what Michael Hancock wants…
Popularity: 34% [?]
So, Michael Hancock would rather run from his kid’s neighborhood school than get involved and help fix it. Those of us who have made our neighborhood schools work know that it is possible for the community to turn around a school, which is beneficial to more kids than just one’s own. That is a sad statement from a person who has as much clout as he does. If he can’t “roll up his sleeves” and get to work, joining us in the trenches, then why should we vote for him for mayor??
When I moved to Park Hill more than 15 years ago, there were a group of women who came from financially advantaged situations that allowed them to send their kids anywhere, including the Kents and Graylands. Instead, they chose to put their time into the neighborhood schools–first Park Hill Elementary, where they created an art program using local artists to fill in the hole left when DPS wouldn’t pay for art teachers, and then when their kids were middle schoolers, they transformed Smiley into a pre-IB program. One of these women, Barb McKee (who founded the Art Garage on 23rd, another community resource) once told me that she looked at driving her kids across town to St Annes, but then thought that the hours a day she would spend doing that could be put into the local school to help improve it. Our community is richer for her decision to put her time and resources into helping improve what was here.
Michael Hancock’s open admittance that he spends more time driving his child across town to another school than he spends in the local school trying to improve it, tells me two things. First, he’s not solution-oriented, since running from a problem is not a solution. Second, he’s not community-oriented, since he’s only giving lip service to the reality of those families left behind while he’s making sure his son is elevated from it. Those two things tell me he has no business in a position of community trust, especially that of mayor.
So Michael Hancock is having a David Guggenheim moment here. It’s a political ad that tries to mimic Waiting for Superman’s “call” to action (as well as its lighting, music, and voice over) but at the same time exposes his desire to do what’s best for HIS kids. It’s a tough situation to be in. What’s best for my kids or what’s best for my community? Or is it that simple? Perhaps choice is to blame here; if Michael Hancock did not have the choice to drive his son across town, would it have forced him to deal with the local, under performing school? At least his son goes to a public school as opposed to Chris Romer where one of his children goes to a private school. Does it matter? I always admired Jimmy Carter for placing his daughter in a D.C. public school.
I saw this commercial last night for the first time and I smiled. Both Micki and Kristin are spot on, but that is not why I smiled.
I smiled because of the amount of money Michael Hancock has taken from people and businesses associated with Oakwood Homes. Some of these include business that no longer exist in the state of Colorado. Some of them listed the same address, located at the intersection of Green Valley Ranch Blvd and Tower Road (I assumed the businesses must be located at the Wendy’s) and clearly do not exist. Then there is the track coach at Montbello High School, who was listed as the corporate agent for two of the companies contributing to Hancock’s campaign, John Trahan. According to Colorado record’s Trahan’s company, America’s Children Dental Management ,was desolved in 2004. His other company, P.O.W.E.R Construction and Landscape, has not filed the required corporate documents with the state of Colorado during the past 6 years. Both live to on, however, to donate to Hancock’s mayoral campaign.
Taken together, there is little wonder Hancock drives his kid to some school 18 miles from the community where he lives in a home built by his major contributors, who also gave Hancock a membership in the local golf club. I smiled because Michael Hancock cannot get away quickly enough from those he represents in far northeast Denver. He has no commitment to that community.
Hancock’s commitment is to the political powers that be and to nothing else, greater or smaller. Trust me, Hancock will live on or near 7th Avenue within a year of finishing his term representing far northeast Denver. In his mind, while he’s driving his son to school in his Lexus, he lives there now. It’s only 15 miles away to 7th Avenue and York…
Why should anyone, rich or poor, have to sacrifice the quality of their child’s education for the sake of the local school? It takes much more to improve schools than sending your kids to the closest school. Why shouldn’t everyone have the right of school choice that middle and wealthy Americans have….we can buy a house near a good school or drive our kid to one. On top of all of that, Scott has the audacity to call out Hancock for sending his kid to a better school when I understand Scott does exactly the same thing. He sends one of his kids to DSA, the same school my kid attends. DSA is a very good school but it is the least “public” of any of the schools in Denver because of it’s design, admissions and demographics. i wonder why Scott doesn’t have his kid go to one of the middle schools near him and then force the poor kid to go to North? Probably because Scott is a better parent than potential school board member.
Van, it appears you will never understand why kids attend DSA. In the my daughter’s case, she loves theater. DSA allows her to be immersed in what she loves. Were she to attend Skinner, our home school, that would not be available to her. So, when she asked my wife and me if she could try out for DSA, we said, If you get in, we will support you. She asked us this when she was in 3rd grade, after attending a band concert and reading about the theater department on line.
But the fact that my daughter attends DSA has not decreased my commitment to Skinner. I just finished volunteering as part of the school’s enrichment programs, during which I and another teacher taught band. In 7 seeks, 8 students were able to play a melody, take a solo, and wrap up a song artfully, if completely out of tune. I loved every minute of the classes and was very proud of the kids for taking the risk of performing in front of their peers.
The kids at Skinner warm my heart every time I am in the building, which, sadly, is not frequently enough. The principal is a wonderful educator, committed to her kids. She has assembled a great team of teachers. Every parent I know whose child attends Skinner loves the school. I would be proud to send my 7th grader to Skinner.
Instead, through her talent and hard work, my daughter was able to gain admittance to the most challenging arts school in the state, if not the western region. She was one of ~20 kids out of over 250 who auditioned who was selected for the 2009/2010 6th grade class in theater. I am proud of her. She works hard so she can do the things she dreams of doing. She is lucky, in that her family can pay for things like voice lessons and acting coaching, which helps her gain the experience necessary to succeed at the things she loves.
In your world of education, however, Van, you would rob the kids less fortunate than our kids of any arts experience. You would have them prepare to take standardized tests in reading, writing and math. The model you have promoted is failing all across the country, and why? It is simple, really: reading, writing, and math are skills developed in service to larger subjects, like history, physics, literature, biology, social science, and the arts. No one reads to take a test. They read to learn about a subject or for entertainment. They write about a subject to communicate. They use math to support their understanding of the world, even about little things like poetry.
The simpletons who are labeled “reformers” by our press corp and the politicians who control the corp either (1) don’t understand that reading, writing, and math skills develop in support of something larger because learning was never important to them or (2) because they do not believe kids need to know the broader subjects of the world. I count you among these types of reformers, Van.
Sadly, this simple leap in understanding would have helped you avoid destroying every school you ever touched while at the Piton Foundation, Van. It might even have helped you to avoid becoming a catfish noising around the political bottom looking for handouts from those who succeeded in their line of work. Alas, however, it is hard to overcome a person’s character. This last may be too great a leap of faith.
As much as I do enjoy some bottom feeding creatures, love crab, I preferred it when you called me Pope Gregory XV (I had never been called a Pope). The Popes today are nothing like they used to be.
For the record, I thought I’d remind you that while I was at Piton Foundation there were a number of schools and initiatives that we supported that have had very positive impacts on Denver and Colorado kids. Many of them having rich arts or science programs. Prior to being at Piton, I was at the Colorado Children’s Campaign were I worked with Piton as the Gates Foundation intermediary supporting a number of existing and new schools.
I’ll be the first to admit that not all of our investments worked, some like those at West, Pueblo Central or the Big Picture Schools failed to deliver student results. But most of the investment dollars that I managed related to school improvement or new school development resulted in more kids staying in school, achieving at higher levels and going on to college. Some investments like Manual have made some progress (particularly under Rob Stein’s leadership) but the jury is out whether the school and district can create a high quality school there.
Here are a few examples of the schools that I’m proud to have supported and been involved with over the years-
• Arrupe Jesuit High School (Independent)
• Beach Court (District)
• Bruce Randolph (District)
• Denver Inner City Parish (Independent)
• Denver School for International Studies (District)
• Denver School of Science and Technology (Charter)
• A number of Mapleton schools including Mapleton Expeditionary Learning through the Arts, MESA (District)
• KIPP (Charter)
• Odyssey (Charter)
• West Denver Prep (Charter)
• William Smith High (District)
• Wyatt Edison (Charter)
It’s very simple, Van. DSA is the only quality arts program in Denver or anywhere in Colorado. Our youngest daughter, attended DSA when it was at Cole to dance and graduated from Manual High School Arts for the creative and serious arts students (painting, sculpting, music, creative writing, etc.) simply no longer exist elsewhere in Denver Public Schools. More to the point, Michael Hancock should be questioned whether or not his single mother, raising he and all his siblilngs, would have been able to transport his to a school 15 miles from his home? He didn’t have to make that choice because his neighborhood school, Manual High, that he attended was integrated, had a great faculty and adequate instructional materials. When I taught there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, classes were reasonably small but instructional materials were frequently inadequate. Often, there weren’t enough history, government, sociology texts, etc. for me to check out one per student. Thus, our students already in a racially segregated setting, were further handicapped without the necessary tools to learn. You’re right about one thing. No parent should have to send their children to a school that lacks qualified teachers, adequate learning tools, sensible class sizes, etc. But, “choice” is an empty word to those who, unlike Michael Hancock’s son, lack transportation. Research by Harvard University, for example, asserts that neighborhood schools should provide a quality education to all in that attendance area and that students thrive best in that setting. “Choice” may well be a synonym for “hardship.”
Ed, I do agree with you that Denver and most communities need many more high quality arts programs and schools. DSA is rare in its quality and commitment to kids. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t support more kids to read, write and compute.
Van, how does choice impact the students of families that do not, for whatever reason, choice into other schools? Are we placing these students on the path to failure because they could have choiced out of the “bad” school but didn’t? Choice relies on the parent’s of families to “make the right decision.” At what point do we say, as a society, it shouldn’t matter if you choiced into a school as to whether or not our children get a good education?
Mark, I’m not up to speed on all of the recent data regarding your question but will check into it. I do know that there is in general little evidence that achievement in any community is a zero sum game, meaning that when kids choice out, the kids left behind end up doing worse than before. I’m not aware of any schools in Denver that have gotten worse because of a high performing charter taking their “best” kids. This has always been the main reason not to support choice but seems not have happened much with the charter movement. If anything high performing charters in cities have caused other schools to try some new things even if it takes a long time for schools to adopt these practices. There was an interesting cover article in the NYT magazine Sunday that showed all the benefits of what high performing charters have done for a “regular” middle school in the Bronx. Many of this district school’s practices were taken from high performing charters. While the principal of the Bronx school was critical of charters and the district it sounded as if he was adopting many of their practices.
Van, charter schools, as currently structured and administered, exist to serve the few students who can gain admission. The overwhelming majority of public students in Colorado and the nation still attend neighborhood schools. DPS, since busing ended in 1995, has returned to segregated housing patterns. I know of no action by the DPS board of education or administration that has alleviated the disadvantages that low income students have attending schools that are both ethnically and socioeconomically segregated. In fact, according to the 2006 Harvard Civil Rights Study Project, “Denver Public Schools: Re-segregation, Latino Style,” DPS has perpetuated that trend. Before asking poor students to endure further hardship, the time is now to demand equity and justice for the disadvantaged, not just for those privileged or lucky enough to attend a Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) or some other high quality school. Research shows that’s best accomplished in integrated neighborhood schools with qualified teachers, essential learning materials, etc.
Van, I do not think anyone has researched the impact on schools when the “best” kids leave. I think it goes without saying that if students were achieving at high levels at their local school, and then left to another school, this would have a negative impact on the school the student left. No?
My bigger concern is that if choice is the only alternative to a better education for students in urban schools then how do we ensure all students take advantage of this? Wasn’t a study just released about the income levels of students’ families who took advantage of school choice? I believe it showed that an overwhelming majority of students who took advantage of choice were form middle-income families.
Maybe Paul Teske can join in here and bring some academic research to this conversation?
Sorry to not have been clear that “choice” is not the only answer for school improvement but I do think it is necessary given the variety of student and family needs. While having more integrated schools makes a difference, I know having started one of them, Odyssey. Parents must have the freedom to choose a school, not be forced to attend one because of income or some artificial boundary. By the way there are a variety of other things that have to be redesigned, developed or improved for most schools to work, e.g. teacher and principal quality, data, district operations, etc
What Michael Hancock is not saying about his neighborhood school is that yes it was failing, however it failed because the Administration failed to hire math Teachers leaving the children with substitute teachers who were not qualified to teach Math for a solid year. the school failed because Teachers had 50 students in a classroom with out any relief from the Administration. Montbello hired 7-8 aministrators who were stumbling over each and not one of them knew what their responsabilites were on a given day. We had riots in the hallways and the Principals stood with their arms folded, watching 2 Deans, 2 police take care of the problems. Yes Montbello was failing, however it was do to neglect brought on by the higher ups and not the teachers. Teachers do not make policies, nor do they hire, fire staff. They only teach, if the monies are there to provide books and lets not forget that the students were not allowed to have any text books. I know this and more, because I was at Montbello from 2004-2010.
My personal favorite is the fly-fishing principal from Aurora. For all the teacher bashing, how on earth are you going to evaluate, coach and/or mentor any teacher if you have 8 principals in 10 years? They don’t stay around long enough to evaluate anyone!
It might be hard to disprove with available data Mr Schoales’ assertion that charters don’t skim the best students and leave the worst behind, but anecdotally, it’s not difficult at all to prove.
Ask anyone who sends their kids to private school why, and the first thing they will say is class size. The second thing they will talk about is all the opportunities available at the school like the extracurricular or the arts or the class sailing expedition. The thing they will never say, but it’s all over their face, is the relief that they can afford to put their kids somewhere with a good class of people. Sometimes the euphemism is that the school is “safe.” You will never hear the reason they are spending all this money is for better teaching. They are there for superior learning conditions (and the experienced teachers it attracts)—which can be bought by people with means.
The kids who get into the magnets and the better charters come from families that have the wherewithal to do the legwork—spend the time and money for gifted testing, or for the dance or music lessons, put up with the horrorshow of lotteries, or who can simply afford the time and gas to commute their kids. It’s a cheap alternative to the privates, but still gentrified away from the learning environment problems associated with poverty. People elbow each other to get their kids into a Polaris or a DSA, or falsify an address to get into Cherry Creek, because it’s a better class of student. They make no secret of it. It’s not about better teachers—you’ll never hear that. It’s about better classmates. Class warfare doesn’t make nice soundbites for the “reformers” but it’s voiced on the playground loud and clear.
It stands to reason that if a school is deemed bad—not by scores, but by the behaviors associated with the school–parents who can will move their kids. It’s self-evident that much of what gets left behind are the very students that fleeing parents intend to leave behind. You just have to listen to the conversations: the decision to leave will be about getting their children away from the ones that frighten their kids or disrupt and delay their learning. The worse the school, the worse the stories. You can’t blame them for leaving, and therein lies the buzzword and emotional appeal of the “reform” movement: Choice. Choice does not mean better teachers and test scores to those who choose. It means away from “those kids” who bring down a school.
The big lie in the reform movement is that learning conditions don’t matter, and that the encouragement of choicing out of an undesirable school will not leave a worsening situation behind. You just have to look at what Mr Schoales got from that NYTimes article to see that he either disingenuous or blind about this. He thinks it was about a middle school that is succeeding because it has aped charter ideas (which, in that article, consisted of college pennants and white dress shirts). In fact, the article was subtitled to point out the fragility of what has been achieved with superhuman efforts in a school that (unlike charters) can’t sift it’s population, can’t exit problem kids, can’t avoid taking the IEPs and ELLs and children whose parents can’t ever put in a volunteer minute or find a foundation dollar. Even the NYC reform-minded administration doesn’t count the school as a success and plans to shove a charter in it’s place.
I love that Mr Schoales suggests that public schools should take on charter practices. That would be great. Then, the failing schools could limit class size, cherry-pick their students to fit a niche curriculum, and shove all their problem families out the door…maybe to foundation-funded “reform” schools. Oh, wait. That would be a reformatory. Maybe there’s a free-market model for that when it’s all that’s left of the public schools.
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