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January 3, 2014 1:42 PM   Subscribe

A School With a Sense of Place
posted by paleyellowwithorange (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've read this article and I'm genuinely not trying to be snarky when I say that I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of writing it was; it describes a really great, kind of idyllic school situation, but I don't completely know what it's proposing or suggesting. At the end it says:
The road to the Grove’s success has come with some controversy. This fall, the school filed for the fourth renewal of its charter, which expires next summer. A complicated and somewhat fraught back-and-forth has ensued among the school, San Bernardino County, and the Redlands Unified School District, which holds the charter and is responsible for its finances and student achievement.
Which implies that perhaps the point of this article is to make us think "what an amazing school! What a horrible shame that their charter is being held up!" which, on the one hand, I kind of get; it does sound like an amazing school with amazing opportunities, and that's awesome. On the other hand, this is a charter school attached to a private Montessori school and admissions priority is given to families who helped found the school and those with siblings there. To me, that makes it sound like there are people who sent their kids to private school and then decided "Oh, hey, we'd like to KEEP sending our kids to a super sweet, high-resources private school...is there some way we could do this but ALSO have it a PUBLIC school so we are using general resources instead of just paying for it ourselves?"

There was a tone of wide-eyed optimism (and, to my mind, really poor writing) in this article and the sort of "gee whiz, these kids do so much, even the legit edgy ones talk openly about how they love their school and love learning" (not an actual quote) kind of grated on me. Charter schools are a really, really tricky and challenging issue no matter what and, while this one does indeed seem awesome, it also seems like, in many ways, it is probably taking up a lot of public money and is benefiting people who are already pretty well benefited in other ways.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:00 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


Yeah. On the one hand, this is sort of like Steve Martin's plan for how to make a million dollars ("First you start with a million dollars") and any article this one-sided and hagiograghic raises my hackles. On the other hand, the best argument for charter schools is as a test case for concepts which could be widespread if they appear fruitful, and The Grove seems to be doing well. Whether the lessons learned from taking these "already probably gonna do fine" kids and making their education more of their own accomplishment are applicable to the greater question of improving educational opportunities for impoverished kids is another matter, but hopefully there's something there.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:17 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Actually, the issue is whether the success of the school is more due to its structure or selection bias.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:21 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


the best argument for charter schools is as a test case for concepts which could be widespread if they appear fruitful

I see that point, definitely. Unfortunately, in this case, I would think the answer might well be no because it's in a pretty specific environment with a lot of space and physical resources and, because of that, it seems potentially very expensive to run. Also, the "Praxis" idea they talk about sounds like it requires a pretty strong educational background coming out of middle school and, while I absolutely understand the importance of high standards for kids in difficult educational situations, it also seems like, without a TON of support and understanding, this could set them up for even more academic failure which is the last thing they need.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:31 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Redlands is a bit of a strange case and I wish the author had more fully fleshed out some of those demographic details.

For one thing, it's a college town where the university and city are heavily, heavily involved with each other. I would expect a decent chunk of the teachers at this school to have been educated at U of R (Redlands is a bit parochial in that respect) and they are likely to benefit from the School of Education, its student teachers, and its prominence in the area. On the other hand, I have a friend who's a teacher in Yucaipa (next door) and his graduate degree is not coming cheap. U of R is also known for its non-traditional college, Johnston, which may itself impact how educators in the area perceive alternate education like Montessori.

For another, Redlands still perceives itself to be a largely white, largely well-off oasis in the middle of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, both of which were decimated in the Great Recession when housing prices went through the floor there (and employment followed) and which historically were rather browner and poorer than Redlands in any case. So schools which require a significant monetary investment to educate students are not something I see Redlands flinching from (once they got over the idea of paying higher taxes, anyway) and the rest of the county can hang.

It seems like the author wrote a nostalgic, glowing piece to build up a town she has fond memories of and a school she unexpectedly enjoyed visiting (but which is in some need of boosters at the moment). Nothing wrong with that goal but I am a little surprised the Atlantic published it. Then again, it is slow season. I don't think you should take it as a piece on scalable education reform, though!

Oh Redlands. Bit of a kick to see it mentioned on the blue.
posted by librarylis at 2:44 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


I sometimes just like to read about something interesting and say "Hm. That's pretty neat. I didn't know about that." It doesn't always have to have a point.
posted by michellenoel at 2:44 PM on January 3


Oh Redlands. Bit of a kick to see it mentioned on the blue. Totally my response to this posting.

I also graduated high school in Redlands when there was only one Redlands Senior High School. I remember the day the AP English teacher took the required demographic survey of her classroom--by calling out a race/ethnicity and having people who identified as such stand. There was total shock when the teacher called out "Hispanic-nonCaucasion/Latino" and one girl in the class stood up, despite the girl having a name along the order of "Rita Moreno" (obvs. not her real name); most of the class had no idea a Latina was in our midst (mock horror there, folks).

I remember that my friends all lived on The Hill and only deigned to talk to two of us who did not (both me and my best friend ). I remember my closest girl friend's mother telling my mother than she did not think it appropriate the her daughter be my friend because they never associated with people who lived in that part of town. (Really? All of Redlands was middle to upper middle class mostly white America). We owned two cars, had a swimming pool, and both of us ended up at private universities, but because we did not live in the "expensive" homes overlooking the canyon, we were not the Right Sort of People for most of Redlands.

Redlands had an enormous problem with class, privilege and race. This article does nothing to convince me that it does not still.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:57 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


the best argument for charter schools is as a test case for concepts which could be widespread if they appear fruitful

The best argument for charters schools is as a means to open up a little diversity in the education business.

Not all schools are right for all children, and fruitfulness is going to mean seriously different things for different students. That's why New York City has a high school for science and one for performing arts. I would have been a total washout in either one, so would my child - but I'm glad they exist.

And I could wish that a lot more existed; another word for Widespread is Mediocre.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:13 PM on January 3


Good for them. Nice little school. I would be pissed as hell if my tax dollars were funding this.

I could say more but I'm up to my ears ensuring that my teacher's lesson plans are all aligned with Common Core standards as well as putting out the typical amount of principal-related fires (and one is actually about one of my kids arrested for arson!) for about 11 kids at my therapeutic high school.

So I will say this: Grove and other charter schools do not have to accept students with disabilities.

This makes them wildly skewed and not at all representative of typical public schools, who have to accept kids who require tremendous resources to function.
posted by kinetic at 4:44 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Anybody else find that article kind of strange in how abruptly it ended?
posted by jayder at 5:08 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


The best argument for charters schools is as a means to open up a little diversity in the education business.

Not all schools are right for all children, and fruitfulness is going to mean seriously different things for different students. That's why New York City has a high school for science and one for performing arts. I would have been a total washout in either one, so would my child - but I'm glad they exist.


Those are magnet schools, not charter schools, the difference being that they fall under the auspices of the school system and the school board, and have to do things like have special ed and free school lunch, which charters are excused from. Magnet schools have existed a long time, unlike charters. In many jurisdictions, they were created to encourage ethnic and socio-economic integration. In other words, wealthy kids want to go to Bronx Science because it's a really good school with a specialized program, and they don't care what neighborhood it's in.

None of that has anything to do with charter schools, which are intentionally operated outside of all of the requirements of a regular public school, but with public money.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:52 PM on January 3


None of that has anything to do with charter schools, which are intentionally operated outside of all of the requirements of a regular public school, but with public money.

This really differs by state and depends on whether or not the charter school accepts federal funding. In Texas, we have many publicly funded charter schools that still must meet the assessment and highly qualified teacher requirements, among others, of NCLB because they accept federal funding.

Also, requirements for magnet schools vary by state and district. The highly touted, award-winning Debakey High School in Houston does not accept students with disabilities, meaning special ed; or at least it didn't about four years ago when I visited there. They also have total authority to revoke the enrollment of any student that isn't meeting the school's high standards. This school reminded me very much of Debakey, a wonderful place for those students lucky enough to go there, whether through their own motivation or their parents', but also a very exclusive place.
posted by tamitang at 6:54 PM on January 3


but I am a little surprised the Atlantic published it.

Although credentialed and with her own career, in terms of the Atlantic the author is Mrs James Fallows -- this piece did not get stuck at the bottom of the slush pile. It might have come out of this trip in their private airplane? (And not a cheap small airplane, either. The Atlantic must pay better than I thought.)
posted by Dip Flash at 7:12 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Although credentialed and with her own career, in terms of the Atlantic the author is Mrs James Fallows

Whoops! Established my feminist cred there, Dip Flash. Thanks for filling that one in.

As for the Fallows' plane trip article, hahahahahaha. It mentions that the Fallows are using Esri as part of their trip, which is hilarious because Esri is basically the only other thing Redlands could conceivably be famous for (the first thing being UofR for longevity if nothing else).

Of course a Redlands native would use Esri software. The only way I could come up with a better encapsulation of Redlands would be if I contextualized the Yahoo! story.
posted by librarylis at 8:44 PM on January 3


Asking Mr. rai, "You know that Montessori school in Redlands So-and-so's kids go to? It is on metafilter and the Atlantic."
"It is? Why?"
"I don't know," (and I read the article), "but did you know the middle and high school and the elementary school are totally separate schools?"
"They are?"
"And the high school is a charter, which gives preference to kids 'previously been in the Montessori system' the article says. Is there a Montessori school in Redlands other than the adjacent private one?"

So-and-so's kid No. 1 goes to 'the Farm', kid No. 2 goes to the Montessori elementary. No. 1 used to go to the elementary. And James Fallows went to Redlands High?
posted by rai at 12:04 AM on January 4


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