A great day to be outside | Arkansas Blog

A great day to be outside

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Here's tonight's open line.

A suggestion: You could do worse this crisp evening than to join the crowd on Kavanaugh Boulevard for music at the annual Hillcrest Harvest Fest Above are some of the Arkansas Times crew there earlier today. Lots of vendors, a few political entries (it's a measure of Tim Griffin's comprehenensively structured campaign that he had a booth on the midway; whatever else happens in November he won't carry this neighborhood, but he'll get some votes) and a stage for music tonight. Alicia's rolling taqueria had not arrived by the time we left in early afternoon, but organizers promised she was en route.

Below is a Brian Chilson photo of the visiting USA Jump Rope team that put on a smashing display at the Clinton Library. Here's a link to video.

FINALLY AN ARTICLE OF NOTE: Brent Staples wrote a column in today's New York Times about charter schools. It's all there. And I mean all, for once. He turned up a most interesting omission in the widely acclaimed documentary, "Waiting for Superman," about families hoping for entrance in some of the acclaimed charter schools.

Nationally, most charter schools do no better in terms of student achievement, and far too many do worse. Green Dot is one of the stars of this movement.

Despite the fact that many of its 17 schools serve desperately poor, minority neighborhoods, its students significantly outperform their traditional school counterparts, on just about every academic measure, including the percentage of children who go on to four-year colleges.

Public schools generally do a horrendous job of screening and evaluating teachers, which means that they typically end up hiring and granting tenure to any warm body that comes along. Like other high-performing charter operations, Green Dot screens teachers closely — which means they get higher-quality teachers to start — and evaluates them frequently, with the aim of making them better at what they do.

The hard work pays off, including in staff stability. Despite rules that make it easier to fire staff members, last year Green Dot administrators terminated only 7 of more than 420 employees.

The film’s director, Davis Guggenheim, gives Green Dot a cameo shout-out in “Waiting for Superman.” But he did the story a serious disservice by not pointing out that these high-performing charter schools are fully unionized.

The 16 schools in California are affiliated with the National Education Association. The one recently started in the Bronx was put together by Green Dot and the New York affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. By rushing by this wrinkle, he sustained the sexy-but-mistaken impression that the country’s schools can’t move forward unless the unions are broken.

The real story is far more hopeful and more nuanced.

Copy, please, to Luke Gordy, Randy Zook, the Billionaire Boys Club and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Don't waste the postage on the DOG editorial page.

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