Friday, February 25, 2005

TPS schools a sinking ship?

From the outset, let me say that I have nothing, absolutely nothing personal against Dr. David E. Sawyer, the Superintendent of TPS. He is a friendly, articulate, and intelligent man. Heck, he even plays a banjo! The position he holds is a public one and as such open to public scrutiny. I have personally met Dr. Sawyer on several occasions and he seems to be open to ideas and truly trying to steer a course for his ship (TPS) that has and is taking on water and is sinking fast.

On the yellow school buses that traverse T-Town during the weekdays, they proudly declare TPS as the "district of choice". Here is an interesting article about Dr. David E. Sawyer during his days as "super" of Brevard County, Florida Schools. He embraced choice in public education.

In 2000, he came to Tulsa and brought his ideas with him. To his credit, he has embraced school choice, as long as it was his choice. One of those choices were charter schools. Before he got settled into his new position, three charter schools opened in Tulsa. They are: Deborah Brown Community School, Dove Science Academy, and Tulsa School of Arts and Science. In the interim, several other charters tried to gain sponsorship. One had its charter revoked and another denied by the TPS district, both gained a lot of negative publicity for the district.

My problem is that now Dr. Sawyer and the TPS Board will not sponsor any more charter schools. This flies in the face of his public rhetoric about supporting "choice". The three current charter schools have had amazing performance, far outstripping the traditional schools in the district. A majority of the middle schools, a super-majority of the high schools, and a number of elementary schools are on the "needs improvement" list as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act. Here is a link to Dr. Sawyer's comments. By stark contrast, the three charter schools not only not make the list, but have consistently far out performed their counterparts in the district. No doubt, for a variety of reasons. More on that later....

Scroll down to the "needs improvement" schools section. It's not too far down the page. Also, check here for a snapshot of the total number of schools in the district. You do the math, regarding the traditional public schools, 7 of 9 high schools (77.8%), 9 of 15 middle schools (60%) and 21 of 57 elementary schools (36.8%) are on the needs improvement list. Overall, 58.7% of the district's schools are on the list. That's deplorable! And the number are growing. Remember, it takes two years of underperformance to make the list. And I hear absolutely no public outcry! There are no squeaking rats, or cries from the helpless crew and passengers from this sinking ship. I will speak the the morality of the situation in a later blog.

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