The community advisory board of the Little Rock School District, toothless window dressing for the state-run district, will get a look tonight at plan for the district to exit state control.
It was prepared by the state Education Department, so I’m wary. The state has failed at the supervision of the district and has often demonstrated since the takeover in January 2015 an animus that began with unhappiness over leadership of the majority-black school board that the state Board of Education ousted.
Hard-working and amiable Superintendent Mike Poore today fell on his sword for the man who appointed him, Education czar Johnny Key, in a bit of PR puffery. From the Democrat-Gazette account this morning:
“I like the fact that they are trying to bring this to the public first and the state board second,” Poore said about the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, which produced the draft. “I think that is kind of cool, and I think people are going to be very pleased when they get a chance to peruse the document.”
As if the state staff would push something the board wouldn’t approve. As if what district parents want matters. The state Board of Education has had police oust school supporters from meetings for trying to be heard.
Yes, the plan departs from the previous blind adherence to standardized test scores, which resulted in a takeover of a 48-school district on account of a handful of “failing” (read impoverished) schools. Having seen the state Board of Education in action, I’m not ready to trust them in applying subjective measures outlined in the so-called exit plan. What, for example, is evidence of “Development of essential standards identified for literacy and math”? Answer: Whatever Board Chair Diane Zook, or her hoped-for successor, says it is.
The most uncool thing in the draft plan, which you can read by scrolling down the agenda of tonight’s meeting is a very simple thing:
Evaluations of key parts of the measurements aren’t due until June 1, 2021, almost 6.5 years after the state takeover. And then there will have to be consideration by the state board, right? And who’s to say the district won’t again be plagued by the thinking that led the state Board to give the district an elected school board back, a year late, but with restrictions on hiring the superintendent, bargaining with teachers, filing lawsuits and (ASTERISK) anything else that might catch its attention, including Poore’s choice of a principal for a high school or even the name of that high school. I’m surprised Madame Zook didn’t meddle with lunch menus.
The state has given little reason to trust their good intentions when it comes to Little Rock public schools. (Think a blind eye to failing charter schools even as they sap the district of better students.)
We are about to embark on a potential disaster of a school year. It will follow a virus-truncated year in which those most in need were most harmed despite valiant efforts by many to continue education. It will be a year of still-uncertain shape in which we already being told to prepare for “blended” instruction — some real classrooms maybe, some virtual work otherwise.
Work continues putting computers in the hands of poor kids, not to mention food in hungry mouths. The cars in which some homeless live rarely have WiFi connections, however.
And did I mention this exit plan seems to give three years of budget approval to none other than Education Czar Key, including specific approval of the 2021-22 budget?
An exit for LRSD?
It is hard from this “exit plan” to see a future that doesn’t extend state hegemony over Little Rock for at least seven years and maybe much longer. The only hope for relief is in two pending lawsuits challenging the state’s lawless continuing control of the district.
PS: The jargon and education acronyms in this plan are something to behold. A couple:
Feedback loops created to allow for authentic stakeholder input.
TESS/EdReflect training for novice teachers and included in onboarding plan