Jonathon Raymond left Sacramento last December for personal reasons. It must gall him that since his departure, Sacramento City Unified School District has declined to continue with one of his professional goals--participation in the California Office to Reform Education waiver from NCLB. After all it's the professional goal of Broad Academy graduates to privatize public education. Raymond used the opinion pages of the Sunday Sacramento Bee to bemoan the losses and outline the consequences that the district will face without the waiver. Aside from the loss of flexibility in the 20% of Title 1 money that will once again have to be set aside for tutoring by non-district vendors, the district isn't missing out on anything.
Sacrament City Unified will once again have schools labeled has failures--No Child Left Behind doesn't label schools as failures. It places them in Program Improvement. It is the media that has portrayed these schools as failures. The CORE waiver ranks schools from reward to focus. Woe to those labeled focus schools--if they fail to raise test scores in two to four years they face "turn around" regimes, conversion to charter schools or closure. If the district had failed to follow those prescriptions, it could have been sanctioned by the appointed oversight commission, which is the arbiter of compliance with the waiver. The district, however, will have more options for schools in Program Improvement under NCLB.
Sacramento City Unified will lose the ability to evaluate schools with meaningful measures of success-- it's questionable how meaningful it is to measure a student's "social and emotional" learning, if that can even be done. What the waiver created was new jobs for consultants in "social and emotional" learning. It also depended on squishy measures of "school climate and culture" through surveys. The money necessary to implement these "meaningful measures" can now be spent on the classroom.
Sacramento City Unified will lose its partnership with other large urban districts--this partnership required that schools in Sacramento be paired with demographically similar schools across that state. The idea being that a school would either learn from a Sacramento school's success or help a Sacramento school be more successful (in raising test scores). These partnerships required monthly travel and necessitated the hiring of substitute teachers. The travel not only cost the district money (from the Title 1 money that was "freed up"), it disrupted classrooms. There was also the concern that these similar schools would not be all that similar, so that what worked at one school in one part of the state would not necessarily transfer to another.
Sacramento City will lose its intangible benefit of being viewed as a leader in public education--this is definitely an intangible; smoke and mirrors would be a better description. If Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and others whose goal is to privatize public education and profit off children are now disappointed, then so be it. Money that comes from business and philanthropy with strings attached should be viewed with caution, not accepted on any terms.
Sacramento City Unified's motto under Jonathan Raymond was "Putting Students First". In reality that meant putting some students first. Title 1 money was shifted from some schools to benefit others, and schools were closed in high minority neighborhoods, supposedly to save money. In fact, SCUSD's poor financial outlook was in part due to Raymond's discretionary spending of district funds on educational consultants and other supposed methods of raising test scores. The district's cost cutting measures of schools closures and increasing class sizes have been driving students and parents away. Hopefully, with the district's withdrawal from the CORE waiver and new leadership, the Sacramento City Unified will return to the mission of providing access and equity for all students. For those who value public education and believe that all children should receive a quality education this is indeed a victory.
Viewpoints: What Sac City schools lose