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Education The Almighty Buck Government Microsoft Politics

Tech Billionaire-Backed Charter School Under Fire In Chicago 326

Posted by timothy
from the at-least-the-old-system-was-perfect dept.
theodp writes "'As a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm,' boasts the billionaire-backed NewSchools Venture Fund, 'we raise philanthropic capital from both individual and institutional investors, and then use those funds to support education entrepreneurs who are transforming public education.' One recipient of the NewSchools' largesse is The Noble Network of Charter Schools, which received a $5,300,000 NewSchools 'investment', as well as a $1,425,000 grant from NewSchools donor Bill Gates. One way that Noble Street College Prep has been transforming education, reports the Chicago Tribune, is by making students pay the price — literally — for breaking the smallest of rules (sample infractions). Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended Noble after a FOIA filing revealed the charter collected almost $190,000 in discipline 'fees' — not 'fines' — last year from its mostly low-income students, saying the ironically exempt-from-most-district-rules charter school gets 'incredible' results and parents don't have to send their children there. Beyond the Noble case, some are asking a bigger question: Should billionaires rule our schools?"
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Tech Billionaire-Backed Charter School Under Fire In Chicago

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:35AM (#39110299)

    Should billionaires rule our schools?

    No, but I don't think they are (well, at least no more than they rule everything else). The summary makes two HUGE jumps here. It starts by saying that the NewSchools Venture Fund is giving grants to charter schools. Then it attempts to smear the very idea by criticizing one particular practice of one particular group of charter schools in Chicago. Then it makes an even bigger jump by equating this with billionaires "ruling" our schools (as if individual donors to this fund created this one controversial policy, or even had any idea that it existed). I think that whoever wrote this summary is being unfairly critical of charter schools, and even more unfair to those rich donors who are actually *trying* to help (as opposed to those who just hoard their money and or just their wealth to buy new Ferraris).

    In an era where the rich are able to get by paying so few taxes in the U.S., I think that those who still CHOOSE to help our ailing schools should be praised, not chastised, for the policies of one particular charter school (and I don't even find their policy that egregious in the first place). It's nice to know that not *all* rich people are just greedy pricks who would say "fuck all" to the poor.

    Ideally, the U.S. would have a system where this kind of charity isn't necessary in the first place. But until that day, I don't think we should turn away any help just because it comes from Bill Gates.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:52AM (#39110525) Homepage
      Yeah... and I don't know if I trust "billionaires", but I don't know if I trust City Hall a whole lot more, either. Especially when the existing teachers unions are making campaign contributions.
      • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:25AM (#39111121) Journal

        Exactly. Billionaire/corporate greed is easy to understand, rooted in money. Political greed is the scary one. Rooted in the domination and megalomania of ruling over other people because they are smaller than me and I know better than them.

      • Yeah... and I don't know if I trust "billionaires", but I don't know if I trust City Hall a whole lot more, either. Especially when the existing teachers unions are making campaign contributions.

        Why hate the teachers unions so much? They aren't perfect, but most of the things they are asking for correlate to giving students a better education (smaller classrooms, more pay so they don't need a 2nd or 3rd job, etc).

        All of the focus is on the teachers unions, but no one looks at the administrators who enjoy the same benefits (or more) while spending most of their career trying to not rock the boat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ultranova (717540)

      In an era where the rich are able to get by paying so few taxes in the U.S., I think that those who still CHOOSE to help our ailing schools should be praised, not chastised, for the policies of one particular charter school (and I don't even find their policy that egregious in the first place).

      So you're fine with private organizations imposing fines on a whim? And that a school teaches its students to submit to such arbitrary authority?

      And the rich pay less than their fair share of taxes because they have

      • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:15AM (#39110907) Homepage

        So you're fine with private organizations imposing fines on a whim? And that a school teaches its students to submit to such arbitrary authority?

        They're not imposing fines on a whim. You sent your kids to their school, their rules were agreed to. I disagree with some of the rules (they get fined for hot chips? really?), but if I chose to send my kids to that school, I chose to make it so that every bag of chips my kid brings is expensive. Any organization can impose fees and fines on member who agree to abide by certain rules. You can avoid those fees and fines by severing your affiliation with the group. In this case by enrolling your kid in a normal public school.

        And the rich pay less than their fair share of taxes because they have used the power their riches bring to bring it about. They deserve no more praise than a mugger who calls an ambulance for his victim would.

        You're making several assumptions here. The first and most important is that every rich person agrees with what every other rich person does. Let's say you and I are both billionaires. I spend a lot of money lobbying to make sure that the fourth jet purchased by any single person is tax deductible. You buy a fourth jet and your accountant deducts it from this year's taxes. Does that make you culpable? Maybe in some ways, but in all probability you didn't even know the damned thing was deductible when you bought it. You might have been perfectly fine just paying the extra taxes. Warren Buffet has been rather vocal that he feels he should be paying more taxes than he is. Does that make him culpable for a tax rate he didn't have anything to do with setting?

        The rich are like politicians or lawyers: there might be a few who are honest or even decent, but as a group, they have earned their reputation.

        But again, does that mean we shouldn't reward positive behavior? Maybe if enough rich people receive enough positive feedback, more of them will be more willing to help. Even one billionaire parting with even 5% of his/her fortune is able to make more of a difference than I could if I gave away everything I ever made.

        • by Mitreya (579078)

          They're not imposing fines on a whim. You sent your kids to their school, their rules were agreed to.

          They are posing as and comparing themselves to a public school! And they are lobbying to replace more public schools. This "miracle" system will break down if they are unable to charge money and then scare off poor and undisciplined students. Public schools don't get to filter their students to focus on the good ones only.

      • just wow (Score:4, Insightful)

        by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:20AM (#39110977) Homepage

        So you're fine with private organizations imposing fines on a whim?

        It is troubling that we have to get to this to impose discipline, and it sure raises a few eyebrows. But on a whim? They aren't. These are infractions. Yes, not having your shirt buttoned or chewing gum, those are behavioral infractions. Fining over them can be argued to be questionable, but flagging these kind of things as infractions is perfectly reasonable. You need to get off your cornbread boundaries and visit other countries with more successful education systems than ours - wearing a proper school uniform is typically one of their common features. There are many reasons why this is so, and it is not rocket science why it works and why it is necessary.

        And that a school teaches its students to submit to such arbitrary authority?

        It's called discipline, something that apparently you were never exposed to during your primary and secondary education.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber. -Robert Fulghum

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arpad1 (458649)

        Fortunately, that day will never come.

        It's impossible to "fully fund" public education because however much funding public education gets the result will be that it's not enough. The proof is in this question: how much money constitutes "all the money they need"?

        The answer, never given explicitly, is always "more".

        • by tompaulco (629533)
          The answer, never given explicitly, is always "more".
          I disagree. i think the education system needs less money. Why? Because they were able to get by just fine when the tax rate was lower and the household income was lower. The fact that they are now struggling to get by is not an indication to me that they need more money, but rather that they are not allocating the money they have properly.
          There are a number of things we can point to where education systems spend money that buys no additional education
      • by bdenton42 (1313735) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @11:40AM (#39112343)

        Schools already got all the money they need but they just used it to hire more administrators and other staff. I don't think throwing even more money at them will help without some fundamental changes in the way they operate.

        In 1955, teachers constituted about 65% of local education workers; today, despite years of rapid gains in teacher ranks, they amount to only about 40% of the eight million local education workers. Per-pupil spending in public schools has grown to $10,500 today from $2,831 (in 2010 dollars) in 1961.

        From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204531404577052194234235910.html?mod=ITP_opinion_0 [wsj.com] (paywalled)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Orne (144925)

      > In an era where the rich are able to get by paying so few taxes in the U.S., ...

      What, as opposed to the 47% of citizens that now net zero federal taxes [nytimes.com] at all? That the top 1% already pays 40% of the national tax burden? I'm not in either group, but even I can see that's not exactly "fair"...

      • by gutnor (872759)

        Wow, those are misleading numbers. You cannot have any idea of fairness from those numbers at all. At the very least you need to compare the tax burden of the top 1% relative to their wealth and income. Simplistic example: if I rent my car to 99%, I will assume 100% of the tax burden related to the ownership of the car, and the 99 other nothing. But that would be very misleading to say the 1% pay 100% of the tax burden.

        Also, a fair system is not necessarily linear with wealth and income. It is not unacce

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        > In an era where the rich are able to get by paying so few taxes in the U.S., ...

        What, as opposed to the 47% of citizens that now net zero federal taxes [nytimes.com] at all? That the top 1% already pays 40% of the national tax burden? I'm not in either group, but even I can see that's not exactly "fair"...

        Of course that 47% includes the retired on Social Security, students, unemployed people, etc. Also, those numbers do not include social security taxes which are a federal tax.

        Real data suggests that the working poor - those who work 32 hours or more a week do indeed pay taxes. Of course, if they are making minimum wage and have a child or two, it is very possible that their standard deduction may negate the taxes except for social security. But then, if you want the minimum wage workers to pay more in ta

      • What, as opposed to the 47% of citizens that now net zero federal taxes [nytimes.com] at all? That the top 1% already pays 40% of the national tax burden?

        That's exactly the opposite of what the article said. Did you actually read the article you are linking to? If so, then you're deliberately misrepresenting it.

        The actual headline is:

        "Yes, 47% of Households Owe No Taxes. Look Closer."

        The article says that's true only if you define "taxes" to exclude payroll taxes. It says:

        "About three-quarters of households pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes."

        I really get pissed off when people try to have an intelligent, informed conversation and you have to spe

      • by tbannist (230135) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @12:33PM (#39113157)

        I agree, any group that receives 80% of the profits from society should pay 80% of the costs of society. The fact they get away with 40% seems more than a little "unfair". The proportion of wealth in the hands of the rich is increasing, that seems like clear proof that they aren't paying their fair share.

    • Then it makes an even bigger jump by equating this with billionaires "ruling" our schools (as if individual donors to this fund created this one controversial policy, or even had any idea that it existed).

      And then it attempts to act as if the financial status of someone has any relevance when evaluating the worth of a school, or their ability to run it.

      If Bill Gates opened up a university that started churning out top-notch MBAs who by and large ended up successful entrepeneurs, who the heck cares that Gates himself is successful?

      Class warfare indeed: Aparently where it was once the practice to discriminate on other inherent characteristics, we have moved beyond that kind of prejudice to one based on someon

  • There's a good video [vimeo.com] of a talk by public school teacher on this subject which is worth watching.
    • by sideslash (1865434) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:52AM (#39110515)
      Certainly to the teacher's unions, any movement toward charter schools, homeschooling, vouchers, etc. is an "attack on public education". Fortunately, many people (read: parents) have the best interests of the students at heart and recognize when either public institutions or individuals within public institutions are failing to serve that prime objective. The cries of "racism" are typical of the left whenever the money isn't flowing their way, whether or not it has anything to do with race intrinsically.
      • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:16AM (#39110927)

        Actual, better pretty much any group than Public Sector Unions.

        Fix the System:

        1. Triple every teacher's salary
        2. Eliminate Collective Bargaining and Tenure, replacing with individually negotiated Employment Contracts with a maximum 3-year term.
        3. Teachers without Employment Contracts have their salaries available for merit-based increase biennially.
        3. Eliminate Pensions.

        In short, make teachers' jobs like most every other valued job for which you want constant strong competition among skilled employees and potential employees.

        • by greap (1925302) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:26AM (#39111139)
          This was tried in DC with Rhee. The teachers were offered a contract which would have seen their starting salary rise from $32k to $72k with performance related bonuses capable of taking it up to $185k (previously the cap was $79k and was based on seniority). In exchange tenure, rubber rooms and seniority pay had to go and there has to be a process for firing underperforming teachers that didn't take a year. They rejected the contract, apparently keeping bad teachers is more important to them then good pay.
          • by Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:43AM (#39111391)

            The problem with Rhee's "plan" was that it was all based on test scores. The teachers were basically being asked to agree that they could be instantly fired if their kids didn't do well on a standardized test that they had no part in creating. If you aren't a teacher, you wouldn't know that sometimes no matter how hard you work and how well you teach, you get a bunch of kids that doesn't score well on tests. This is because the main factor in a student's performance in parental engagement and involvement. Rhee's plan was to fire all these "bad teachers" and hire shiny new ones, who she would then fire the next year. How about instead, do what good teachers do and look at what works and what doesn't and use that to improve next year?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by greap (1925302)
              The performance related bonuses were related to test scores, the firing would have been up to the principals so problems with bad students would have been part of the consideration. This is no different to what occurs in the real world, if you have a legitimate reason why you can't meet targets then you generally won't be fired for not meeting those targets, if you don't meet those targets because you were slacking or are incompetent then you get fired.
            • by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @11:19AM (#39111983) Journal

              My SO works in the DC office responsible for training the evaluators who assess teachers in the classroom. I don't know exactly how it worked under Rhee, but I do know the way it works now... about half of teacher evaluations are based on standardized test scores, and the other half is based on in-class observation by professional evaluators.

              No one is going to argue that teachers can overcome the strong influences of parental involvement and other exogenous factors. However, of the things that can be dealt with in the school, teacher quality is likely the most important. If year after year you have a teacher whose students show no improvement at all and there are other teachers in the same school (and even same subject) who students do show improvement, what do you do?

              There are in fact efforts to identify high quality teachers and disseminate their practices to the rest of the teaching population (this was my SO's last work project), so it's not as if there are no resources going into actually improving the quality of teachers in the classroom. However, the fact remains that in many cases you have teachers who may very well be veterans of the classroom but who frankly aren't all that good at their job. Tenure for primary and secondary teachers in this day and age doesn't make sense - you need to be able to fire poor performers.

            • by stdarg (456557) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @11:19AM (#39111985)

              The teachers were basically being asked to agree that they could be instantly fired if their kids didn't do well on a standardized test that they had no part in creating.

              The school administrators also have no part in creating the standardized tests. It's a neutral test made by a third party.

              I agree that parental involvement is the most important factor, but teachers are fighting the wrong battle by pitting themselves against standardized tests. They will not win because their position defies common sense. Everybody understands the need to measure outcomes and the need to compare those measurements.

              The fight should be about who bears responsibility for low scores. If parents are the biggest factor, then parents should suffer for their underperforming children. If you extended this school's idea of fines for breaking rules to fines for getting bad grades, would teachers still have the same loathing of standardized tests?

              • I don't "loathe" standardized tests. They are a useful tool, but they only measure what they measure. They need to be one tool in the toolbox of assessing teachers. We also need better training of teachers, better pay for teachers to attract better new teachers, better administrative observation and assessment of teachers, a shift in focus from lecture to project and problem-based learning and more.

                And don't be so enamored of those "neutral third parties" who are making these tests. They are in it for money

              • by nbauman (624611)

                It's a neutral test made by a third party.

                I agree that parental involvement is the most important factor, but teachers are fighting the wrong battle by pitting themselves against standardized tests. They will not win because their position defies common sense. Everybody understands the need to measure outcomes and the need to compare those measurements.

                These "neutral" tests are also invalid tests. As TFA http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=3781 [dissentmagazine.org] mentioned in passing, the National Academy of Sciences and other organizations reviewed the current tests and found out that they don't do what they're supposed to do: They don't tell you whether a teacher is good or bad.

                The New York City department of education was using a test to determine whether new teachers would continue on the job. The test had a complicated formula that (literally) no one could

            • This may sound harsh to you, but I'd rather all publicly employed teachers be fired and rehired every year, than the current system where they can't be fired at all and are sent to "rubber rooms" whenever they can't be trusted around the kids. It's my money, and they are my kids. If a teacher can't compete, he/she chose the wrong career.
        • Fine, some of those are good ideas. They would get rid of the small percentage of egregious teachers. But how do you measure the merit-based increases when so much of a student's performance depends on their parents? Teachers can only work with the material they get.

          Also, why would you want to encourage competition among teachers. The Finns don't do that. Instead the foster cooperation and it works.

        • Having gone to a good public school let me retort.

          1 Teachers with some years in make a good pay for a job with a short day and a short year. According to there web site average first year teacher salary is not great at 40-46k and once they have put there time in (14 years) it's 83k. Mind you the towns median household income is 87.5k so yearly for a married couple they are on par with average to start. Lets not forget they have a couple months to pick up summer school and other gigs. Yes every industry

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Pft. Considering the state of public education these days, fuck'em. And I say that in the nicest way possible. About 3/4's of the kids in the neighborhood where the wife and I are are either home schooled or go to a private school, simply because parents don't believe that they're being taught correctly. Then again this is Ontario, no the US. But the more flappyheadeness that comes from a teacher and unions over 'attacks on public education' the further I come to believe that there's something fundamen

    • by greap (1925302)
      There is also http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/ [waitingforsuperman.com] and http://thelotteryfilm.com/ [thelotteryfilm.com] which is a look at charter schools in DC & NYC as well as the problems in the system itself.

      Part of the problem is that people (such as yourself) keep framing the charter/voucher issue as an "attack" on public education when its nothing of the sort, people are not advocating for shutting down public schools and the only way charters & vouchers will "take money away" from public schools is if they perform better. What
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:40AM (#39110365)

    Chewing gum.

      Carrying visible “flaming or hot chips.’’

      Tardy to class more than 3 minutes.

      Forgetting your belt.

      Carrying a Sharpie or other permanent marker.

      Forgetting to place quotation marks around another writer’s words.

      Having visible Red Bull, other energy drinks or pop.

      Not wearing dress pants or the school shirt.

    What's the problem here? These seem pretty straightforward and hard to fuck up, less the Tardy to class one, but you know what? A lot of workplaces aren't cool with that either. I think it's not a bad thing.

    • Maybe it's have a rule saying no food in class.

      As for gum make the fine about if you make a mess

      Now maybe in a few classes you may need a permanent marker so maybe retool that rule.

      the dress code rules are fine as well as being late.

    • by EasyTarget (43516)

      Problem is, consider two groups: The Popular Jocks. Us Geeks.

      Now.. which group do you think freely flouts the rules but hardly ever gets 'charged' (in the most literal sense) for it. ...and which group gets all the 'enforcement' attention.

    • by Noughmad (1044096) <miha.cancula@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:50AM (#39110499) Homepage

      What's the problem here?

      1. Children who think they can do anything.
      2. Parents who make sure their children are not wrong.

      • by PlatyPaul (690601)
        Attendance of non-public schools is not a right. Failure to comply with rules can (and, I would argue, should) result in punishment for failure to obey known policies and rules.
    • by zill (1690130) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:54AM (#39110545)

      Forgetting to place quotation marks around another writer’s words.

      These seem pretty straightforward and hard to fuck up

      Oh, the irony.

    • by firex726 (1188453)

      The problem is some of these do not normally warrant a detention.

      Forgetting to use quote marks, is an academic issue which should be dealt with in class, at most by a deduction of points from the grade. If it gets to the point of plagiarism then that is a different matter and should be dealt with accordingly, but there is no qualifier to that extent.

      What wrong with possessing those food items?
      Often time backpacks are required now to be mesh or clear, so even if you kept it in your bag the whole day and neve

      • by PlatyPaul (690601) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:24AM (#39111055) Homepage Journal
        If these are the rules, then they do warrant a detention, by definition. You disagree with these detentions. I disagree with your disagreeing. Regardless of our opinion, these are the rules.

        I strongly encourage bans on junk food in schools, and harsh punishment of potential plagiarism. If you want good behavior later, you have to encourage it.
        • by firex726 (1188453)

          And if breaking the rules meant that the student should be expelled on their first offense? Will you defend that by saying "Dems' the rules".

          I have no issue with the rules themselves, just the severity of the punishment.
          Paying real money and spending time in detention for what could have easily been a typo does not "fit the crime" by any stretch of the imagination.

          I assume you work. What if every time you made a typo in an email or here on /. your boss deducted money from your check? Based on your previous

    • They missed off:

      1. smelling of foreign food
      2. walking in a loud shirt in a built-up area
      3. looking at me in a funny way
      4. coughing without due care and attention
      5. possession of curly black hair and thick lips
    • by tompaulco (629533)
      My kids go to public school, but we have hosted international students that have gone to local private schools. Many of them had these same types of rules, including the chewing gum rule. So this is not just one particular school run by rich people that does this. It is common practice for schools both public an private to not want to scrape gum off the bottom of desks. However, in the public schools, they are not allowed to discipline children anymore, whereas they are still allowed to in private schools.
  • by stiggle (649614) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:41AM (#39110369)

    If paying these fines is a problem, then make sure you don't get hit with them.
    If you don't want your kid to be educated with a strict set of rules in the school, then choose a different school.

  • I notice one example of a bad apple... and then a question about the whole bunch at the end. Without more examples, it's hard to say anything about the bunch.

    What's wrong with rich people giving money to an already privatised school system? The US is the most capitalistic (large) economy in the world. You guys chose to have this system. You chose to have privatised schools. You chose to have a relatively small group of people who are relatively wealthy. Given all those democratic choices, if I were you, I'd

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      What's wrong with rich people giving money to an already privatised school system? The US is the most capitalistic (large) economy in the world. You guys chose to have this system. You chose to have privatised schools

      No, the US has a public school system, very much so. It just sucks, quite badly, so people who want their kids to have a decent education are forced to found and fund private schools so their (and other) kids can graduate high school knowing how to write and do basic math.

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:48AM (#39110455) Homepage

    First off, are these fines working?

    Seriously, gum chewing in schools is a big problem. It is disgusting finding your pants stuck to a desk because someone stuck their gum there.

    What's wrong with teaching about plagiarism with a fine. In the real world, fine's are much more.

    What are the penalties of not paying a fine? (Can it be sent to collection and ruin your credit rating? That might be too much.)

    Are the kids learning? Is the learning environment better than the comparable city schools thanks to the discipline?

    OH MY GOD!!!!!

    Disciplining children. I mean we removed spanking. We removed yelling. Now we're having issue with financial penalties.

    Would someone like to propose an alternative for keeping out classrooms from being like zoos?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Step 1: Give schools millions so they can provide inexpensive education to poor kids and so indirectly give millions to poor kids
      Step 2: Impose trivial fines sufficient to get parents attention focused on educational problems
      Step 3: Smarter and more responsible kids with involved parents.

      Works for me.

    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:04AM (#39110697)

      In the real world, fine's are much more.

      Improper use of an apostrophe. $50 fine and 20 points from Gryffindor.

    • by jank1887 (815982)

      What are the penalties of not paying a fine?

      According to TFA, they make you repeat the year, regardless of academic performance.

    • by metlin (258108) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @11:26AM (#39112121) Journal

      I agree with the gist of what you are saying.

      Growing up, I studied in schools which were fairly strict (including uniforms), where you'd be punished if your shoe was not polished well. Looking back, that sense of discipline has served me well in everything I do.

      I think parenting also plays a role, but it's more of a case of values: good parents imbibe their children with fundamental values around work ethics, integrity, honesty, the value of hard work, good education and ambition. To an extent, friends and family also play a role in how children perceive this.

      Both my parents are extremely well educated, but my Mom decided to stay at home to take care of me when I was born, dropping her doctoral studies. In a way, that sense of parental responsibility speaks volumes and it is hard not to be raised with a similar sense of responsibility when your parents continuously demonstrate it.

      Now, I am sure there is also an element of nature vs. nurture, but those seem few and far between.

      I find that education today has become largely impersonal, and the vast majority of the teachers and the parents don't seem to have a personal, vested interest in individuals. They both look to the system, and the system as a whole is a joke.

      I've heard that one of the reasons kids from Asian families do well in education is because culturally, the family and friends push education, and those values get absorbed. You see this to an extent with a lot of Jewish families, as well, where education and achievement is pushed. But you only mostly see it in immigrant and first generation families -- once they get acclimatized, those values slowly fade away.

      Things like financial penalties are basically an attempt at getting parents involved and interested in a child's education, but that is clearly not working well enough. Unless people take a genuine interest in education all around (including family, friends, and lastly, the teachers), this problem is not going to be fixed.

  • by El Torico (732160) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:48AM (#39110467)
    This is from the article and explains the fines/fees,

    Students at Noble schools receive demerits for various infractions -- four for having a cellphone or one for untied shoelaces. Four demerits within a two-week period earn them a detention and $5 fine. Students who get 12 detentions in a year must attend a summer behavior class that costs $140.

    Five dollars for four demerits appears reasonable. Do the students get a warning and then a demerit?

    • by Dhalka226 (559740)
      Yeah, the amounts don't bother me. I would take exception to something as silly as untied shoelaces being demerit-worthy, and thus I would wonder about the application of even more reasonable-sounding rules, but that's really just a minor quibble overall. It's still good enough to see if it seems to work.
      • by PlatyPaul (690601)
        Untied shoes increase the risk of tripping and falling. Private schools have to worry about the cost of insurance against injury claims, and want to maximize students' ability to attend class (as opposed to being in the infirmary/hospital).
    • by Talderas (1212466)

      12 Detention @ $5 a pop
      1 Mandatory Summer Course @ $140 for 12 Detentions

      $200 total cost from 12 Detentions which requires you to earn 2 demerits every week for 24 weeks.

  • As the Fact Sheet we have provided shows, when students receive more than 12 detentions, they have to pay $140 to attend a “behavior class.” And if they receive more detentions, they have to take two discipline classes, costing a whopping $280.

    A $140 fine for 12 detentions? Really? Why is the student not simply suspended after 5 detentions in one year and expelled after 7-8 detentions?

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Bad for business?
    • Generally it's better to keep the child in school learning, however imperfectly, than having them running around the streets on suspension. You have to ensure that disruptive pupils don't impact on other children's learning, but the principle is a good one.
  • On Rules (Score:5, Informative)

    by bobaferret (513897) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:50AM (#39110505)

    I went to Missouri Military Academy. Although we didn't have to pay fines, sorry fees, there were a ton of different rules that would get you in trouble. Some demerits were worth more than others. For each point we got the joy and pleasure of marching in a square for 15 min/per demerit. Or 30 min of study hall, depending on the day, or holding an 8 lbs rife straight out for 5 min. The only thing we had to pay with was our free time. In a non boarding school situation money is the only thing you've got to work with, and it has the effect of getting the parent involved as well, since they are paying. I'm sure life isn't good for the kids when mom and dad get a bill for $X and the kid get to spend his time at home working it off. It's looks like the cost of the demerits are fairly cheap, less than a pack of off brand smokes. So it's not like people are getting saddled with huge costs. Sure the list of demerits seems pretty nit picky, but I've experienced worse. "Not sitting up straight, Running in front of the admin building, Gigline not straight." I'm glad some schools out there are trying something different, esp if it seems to be working.

  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:51AM (#39110507)

    I dislike the fines, but this is EXACTLY the way things like this should be tried out. Try things at relatively small scale and on a population that volunteers for it. This is exactly the way medical research is carried out. If you want the cancer treatment that looks promising, but might not actually work, you have to volunteer to get it and it's available to a limited number of people.

    Contrast this with what we usually do: entire school districts, or worse, entire states, or MUCH worse, the whole country tries some harebrained scheme, or even some halfway decent sounding scheme, which turns out to have real problems. Take No Child Left Behind, for example. Testing to measure performance sounds like a really good idea. Could we perhaps have tried it out on a smaller group than the whole country in order to find out it doesn't work?

    *I* don't like the idea, but my kids aren't going there. Leave them alone unless there's sufficient data to prove this performs worse than the default.

    • Re:A few things (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spopepro (1302967) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @12:27PM (#39113067)

      I think you're sort of on the right track. The problem is how much do we respect the students' ability and right to informed consent? Do the students' have a voice at all, do they deserve one, and for that matter, how informed are the parents going into these experiments? This is true of both large and small project, and solutions are hard to come by, which is part of the issue with the snails pace of educational reform.

      NCLB isn't a new idea, in fact, that isn't even the real name. It is actually a set of additional rules for Title 1 funding from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from 1965. Title 1 federal funds have had various stipulations through the years, and the current AYP goals on annual tests are just the latest. There are other sections, also, like Title 3, which deals with funds for language learners. The federal government can't influence educational policy directly, so they gather up as much money as they can, and then attach as many strings as they can, so that eventually federal policy becomes mandated at the local level. Who does this affect the most? The least funded schools in low socioeconomic areas. Wealthy school districts don't need Title 1 money, and have always been able to just tell the feds to screw off.

      But since not all schools are funded the same way (in California, look at the "Basic aid" vs. "Revenue Limited" issue which ensures the disparity) the federal money is very, very important to some districts. In fact, my current position is funded entirely through federal funding sources. Some here (actually many, having read through the comments) would say I'm exactly the kind of person who is part of the problem with public education and spending. I work out of the district office as a technology coach for integration with curriculum and teacher training, as well as a bulk of the data collection and analysis for student performance. Here's a quick hint: if you make test scores and data more and more important to schools, they will hire more and more statisticians and administrative analysts.

      Anyway, sorry for the rant. I get that people all over aren't happy with what schools are doing and how much they cost, but I also don't think people understand how complicated it all is, and how impossible it is to deliver on all the expectations with a fraction of the money. It wears me out a bit.

  • by Eponymous Coward (6097) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:51AM (#39110509)

    Incredibly good, I assume.

    In evaluating the school, I think you have to first judge how well it is serving the students and families. Then things like the welfare of the teachers and the quality of the facilities. The billionaire connection is rather far down the list of things that I would be concerned about.

  • Should billionaires rule our schools?

    First answer these questions:

    1) Will the Billionaires try to make more people like themselves, or more worker drones?

    2) If the Billionaires will freely give us the secrets to being Billionaires, do we want our kids to become Billionaires?

    If my child grew up to be Warren Buffet, I wouldn't be too upset, but I don't want my kids to be or marry a Don Trump.

    A side question is "Do the Billionaires really know how they got where they are, and can they teach it?" (If they inherited their initial money

    • by PPH (736903)

      Should college dropouts rule our schools?

      FTFY

      • well college does not tech all the skills you need for the job and in some jobs you need a TECH SCHOOL / apprenticeships.

        Part of why schools are bad is the TEACH THE TEST IDEA and College as to many classes that you pass by just cramming for the test.

      • Should college dropouts rule our schools?

        Why not have a few college dropouts teach at schools? (Assuming they are successful in some aspect of their lives)

        The people who teach and lead in the school system, did well in the school system. Getting people for whom the current system works to teach and run the schools leads to a system just like it was before.

        If you have a system that is running at 100% efficiency, as well as it can, then it makes sense to put the same kind of people in charge year after year. But if it isn't, then perhaps

  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:01AM (#39110641)
    The best correlation of student success is parental interest in their kids education. I come from immigrant family were this was a factor. I and my brothers all received at least one ivy league degree. I've seen poor immigrants from east Europe and Asia do well even when the family did not have a lot of money. Unfortunately the two largest minority groups in the USA do not have lots of family interest in education. They dont do as well even when their schools are well funded.
  • by jejones (115979) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:03AM (#39110679) Journal

    At least these schools give one a choice. Unfortunately, I bet that everybody still has to fund public schools whether their children go there or not--and while that's precisely analogous to the "Microsoft tax", I bet there will be slashdotters who will defend it.

    • Look at it like a toll road versus a freeway. You pay for the public roadways regardless of whether or not you choose to take the toll road. If you take the free roads to work you may forego certain benefits but at least you're getting something for your money. If you take the toll road you pay extra for whatever benefits you feel you get. Either way, it's your choice. Would you advocate a refund of the money paid out in taxes for the miles you traveled on the toll road? If so, expect lots more traffic on t

  • Billionaires are the people who (in general) rose above their competition and found great success. Why wouldn't you want them to control schools? Does it really make more sense to have schools controlled by mediocre individuals?
  • Barretta quotes aside, this is something that public schools are no longer able to do.

    You can't "punish" Johnny for fear of reprisal from a variety of sources, and make no mistake, with the levels of parental non-involvement, Johnny *needs* some reining in.

    Now, does the school need to keep $190K of "fees"? No. They need to make an effort to do something visible and positive with that money, preferably involving the students, in their communities. That would be a lesson everyone could get behind.

  • ... it all really avoids the main issue. Not all students can be expected to do well or even like school. School is work and if schools want to see results kids should be paid to get high marks. "Learning" masks what learning really is - a lot of work. Now some of us like/love learning but statistically speaking most people don't like learning, especially things they think are hard or tedious.

    Learning in the modern world is a means to an end, lets face this fact. Many societies in the past got by witho

  • "Should billionaires rule our schools?"

    To that question, I answer NO! At least to schools that receive ANY public money. If it is an ENTIRELY private schools, OK. Most charter schools (at least in my state) receive a voucher from the parents which, in my opinion, is the same as getting state money.

    On another front, which I find extremely troubling, is universities accepting Koch Foundation funds. The money coming from this foundation comes with BIG strings attached. The university has to agree to allow

  • by kenh (9056) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @11:30AM (#39112185) Homepage Journal

    Chicago has how many public schools in it? And this is ONE private school you have a problem with? As noted, sending your children there is a choice - something the vast majority of parents lack for their children.

    BTW, Chicago teachers, after being forced to forgo this year's 4% pay raise are trying to negotiate a 25% raise next year, with another 4.5% the following year [chicagotribune.com] - based, in large part, on the extension of the school day. Apparently the teachers that used to argue they were salaried professionals are now arguing they are hourly workers.

    This is also Chicago, where TVs are falling and killing small children [usatoday.com] at alarming rates.

    This is Chicago, the city that was recently ranked the most corrupt city in America. [chicagotribune.com]

    This is Chicago, where nearly 40% of all students dropped out [k12.il.us] before graduation LAST YEAR.

    This is Chicago where almost 31% of students either meet or exceed standards on the PSAE examinations. [k12.il.us]

    Did parents know about these "fees" when they enrolled? Were the reasons for them explained to the parents when they enrolled their children?

    There must have been some reason these parents choose to enroll their children in this school.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @01:19PM (#39113871)

    OK here's what perhaps people are missing about this scheme and what's really insidious

    Researchers know that paying someone money to learn (or the reverse of this, fining them for not learning) has the effect of making learning uninteresting to the learner unless money is involved as an incentive / disincentive.

    http://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V72N6/0401_feature1.html [rochester.edu]

    This of course perfectly describes the mind set known as "greedy" where all expenditure of mental effort is evaluated first and foremost on a transactional basis and is never its own reward.

    The people who most fit the above description are of course just those billionaires funding these schemes.

    So these schools become narcissistic projections of the funder's own egos and value systems.

    But these personalities don't invent, they aren't creative, they aren't the source of technological progress.

    Rather they're the specific personalities that fill the role of monopolist winners within a system that is guaranteed to produce such winners in any event. Given our system of deregulatory capitalism and pliable legislators and courts, someone was going to be Bill Gates and someone was going to be Larry Ellison. They're not unique in that sense.

    Ellison himself characterized the early buggy database as a "roach motel for for information- data goes in, but it never comes out..." which is not surprising since he invented none of it and barely understood E F Codd's relational model to begin with. Nevertheless he's a business winner.

    Gates famously invented nothing of note; he was good in his capacity as a narcissistic leader and good at surrounding himself with co-dependents who could be relied on to fiercely buy into the cult of personality and do actual work.

    This is in marked contrast to the mindset of the lowly researcher who actually invents new technology and makes actual discoveries. This type of person is curious for curiosity's sake and feels wonder at things that motivates her towards knowledge for knowledge's sake. Some of them become entrepreneurs it's true but they're two different personality types- one is mercantile and transactional and fundamentally disinterested in anything that won't make her money and the other is more likely to seek out a position in life which will let her pursue her interests and be comfortable. All of academia is built on this basic fact.

"No job too big; no fee too big!" -- Dr. Peter Venkman, "Ghost-busters"

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