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October 08, 2013


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I agree with most of what you said. I am married to a member of the Phoenix Elementary governing board. One thing you got wrong, though: Arizona charters can't cherry pick the best students. They take students on a space available basis.

And, as the north Snottsdale types proudly say, "Phoenix is the Mexican Detroit."

I never cease to be amazed at the venal cruelty and stupidity of the so-called "upper class" around here.

Tanner Colby's book Some of My Best Friends Are Black is another interesting discussion of the failures of integration (including the results of busing in the Birmingham suburbs). And the Kindle version is on sale for $8 this week, because capitalism loves you and wants you to be happy.

Like your comments about the mixing of different socioeconomic groups. Another mistake is the moving away from the "one-room schoolhouse," in the sense that it is better for development to have mixed ages mingled as well.

Of course, you can't blame that one on the boomers. :)

One room school houses offer a lot more than class room teaching. My rural, (went there in the mid forties) school still stands as an Iowa, Warren County community center. One out house is left but the horse barns are gone. Anti, Anti Over. My current education includes a look at black author and expatriate Chester Himes. PBS is running a piece on Lincoln and Eleanor Ragsdale. Arizona once had some good stuff going on. Arizona desegregated schools the year before Brown vs. the Board of Education.
Scottsdale, is that like South Africa, 1940.
“Arizona charters can't cherry pick the best students. They take students on a space available basis.” On the surface that may be the appearance but I don’t buy that and will wait for more information.
I may be a 1961 registered Republican but I have opposed Charter Schools from the get go. They are cesspools of bigotry, religious fanaticism and dark corridors of stifled narrow learning, whereas public schools resemble the world we live in. The better to survive.
I don’t buy anything from Amazon and very seldom anything on line. And I don’t have a debit card.

U.S. News and World Report ranks two Arizona charter schools in the top 10 nationally for 2013:


According to the BASIS website, "BASIS schools are open-enrollment public charter schools which do not administer entrance examinations and do not charge tuition. Any student can attend if there is space available; a registration lottery determines admissions if there are more students interested than the school can accommodate."

So, there doesn't seem to be cherry-picking per se, or if so it is of a particularly subtle variety.

Regarding racial diversity, 47% of BASIS Tucson's students are minorities: 53% White, 22% Hispanic, 19% Asian, 3% Black and 2% Native American, according to the website:


What does show up in the demographics for Tucson BASIS is the complete absence of economically disadvantaged students: of 670 students not one qualifies for either a free or a reduced-price lunch. (See link above.)

Surprisingly, BASIS Scottsdale shows similar racial variety, but more heavily weighted toward Asians, who make up 38% of the student body and nearly all of the minority students. There are no economically disadvantaged students there either, according to the BASIS Scottsdale website.

More information forthcoming, Cal, when my comment is rescued from the spam-trap.

I knew I could count on you, Emil.

Good for Andre.

I had the pleasure of meeting him once. His grandparents were the original occupants of a Craftsman Bungalow home that my wife and I lived in for nine years. The house is across the street from the Kenilworth playground on Culver. He stopped by one afternoon to pick up an old photo of his grandmother that my wife had found behind a baseboard.

We eventually sold the house not long after his visit. We do miss sitting on the porch swing and being entertained by the school kids playing softball or football.

Cal, I think you had charter schools confused with parochial schools. The latter are private and affiliated with a religious institution.

Great article about the disadvantages of Latino youth. What is interesting to note however, is that dropout rates and certain measure like college preparedness are slowly on the rise in the Phoenix Union High School District. It is also important to note that many Latinos start out further behind due to unique circumstances:

"Only half of the Latino student population takes advantage of early childhood education. Many are language minority [emphasis added]. Nationally, only half of Hispanic students graduate from high school on time and those who make it to college often find themselves underprepared or unable to afford the skyrocketing costs of college tuition."

Despite these issues, PUHSD has seen many positives in the last decade:

"Thankfully, graduation rates and dropout rates in Phoenix Union do not look like those of struggling urban districts. Our graduation rate has climbed 25 percentage points in the past 10 years. Honors and advanced placement course-taking has doubled while general curriculum has been aligned to state, national and international standards. We have instituted college-preparatory programs that provide students with the skills, strategies and guidance necessary to experience post-secondary success. In 2008, only 340 students voluntarily took the ACT College Exam. Today, every junior (over 4,500) takes the test at no cost to the students or families. We have now instituted ACT, EXPLORE and PLAN exams for ninth and 10th graders, to monitor college and career interest and readiness earlier in their high school career. Still, it is not enough."


One thing that is not so clear cut is how to address the issue of segregation. No one can force White families to send their children to school with Latinos and other minorities. However, I do believe that if schools in Phoenix continue to improve we will see more of a mix, especially in terms of socioeconomics. This is an important issue due to the fact that more young White couples continue moving into Central Phoenix neighborhoods. As the couples begin having children they will be interested in good schools. Phoenix school districts must improve so that these families have the real option of staying put and can consider public education over private or even charter.

Madison Rose Lane is a great example of what a school in Central Phoenix (or near the Central City) can become. The school is constantly improving and it has a diverse student body: 46% of students are White, 35% Latino, 9% Native American, and 9% Black. I also believe that attitudes regarding education are changing within Latino families. In the past many parents failed to emphasize the importance of education. Family matters, often tied to finances, overrode graduating from high school, instead making employment a priority. These attitudes are changing and those changes can be seen on university, community college, and vocational school campuses.

More Latinos are enrolling, and finishing, than ever before. Freshman retention rates, especially at Arizona State University, are growing at a fast clip. In the mid-90s retention rates at ASU were in the 68-69% range and inched above 70% in the late 90s and early 2000s. Beginning in 2010 those numbers surpassed 83% and retention and graduation rates continue to improve. This type of improvement is attributed to resources available to students in high school and at the university. Resources such as tutoring for math and writing are critical for many students coming out of high schools in underserved districts. Improving schools start with improved representation and electing better leaders.

So many of the shortcomings in Arizona can be attributed to the backward thinking Republicans in the statehouse. Latino participation in school and in voting will begin to change the regressive state of politics in Arizona.

"It is cruelly interesting that many baby boomers, who benefited from the zenith of both the American middle class and the public school systems, allowed both to slip away." -Rogue

That statement reminded me of this video:

We Millennials are a sarcastic bunch.

While the more elite charter schools may not have a selection process other than a lottery, I don't think you will find that they make much attempt to recruit students from anywhere but middle and upper income, educated households. Transportation is not available so that can be a huge obstacle for the working poor. Doubt that you see lunch programs. Advertisements and promotional materials available in Spanish for BASIS or Great Hearts schools? Don't think so. Guess you could call it "cherry-picking" with a small "c".

AzDrj, I agree. And I think there are more subtle attempts made to insure segregation from the undesirables.

Phxsunfan, I know the difference in "Private School's, Charter Schools and religious schools." I have been reading of these concepts since I read Summerhill and Montessori 40 plus years ago. Charter schools in my opinion are just another attempt by the bigoted to keep the trash away. I have always opposed the tax exemption. All should be taxed for public schools and if U want to send your kid to something different U can pay the cost.

My wife teaches in PUHSD. The graduation rates are up and dropout rates are down, but I am not entirely convinced this is due to increasing levels of academic achievement. Rather, the admin at her school refuses to allow teachers to fail students. Students who fail end up getting kicked out of school (or dropping out), and that affects funding (students are also leaving for charters because charters promise things like free iPads if you enroll). So instead, she is forced (over her constant objection) to pass students regardless of merit. It is not uncommon for her students to miss 75% of the annual class days. So yeah, the students graduate. They don't even drop out because why would you? You don't have to show up and do the work. But the consequence is seen when the relative few who do try to go to community college or Grand Canyon University (which apparently does a great job marketing the Hispanic community) and drop out after a semester. It's the first time they've been expected to show up to class and do work. After dropping out, most of her students seem to end up working at the Amazon fulfillment center.

By the time a student is in high school in PUHSD, it's too late. My wife teaches English. There is no reason why a 10th grader cannot write a complete sentence. I'd say half of them cannot. Those who can write still write at about a 7th grade level. The reasons are as much cultural (I was shocked to find out how many never went to elementary school before immigrating to the US and even more shocked to find out how many spend more time caring for siblings than in school) as they are institutional (it's not unusual to hear about the teacher who just plays books on tape rather than having students read). And finally, the changes in the ELL requirements have been so extreme that, once you can say a few things as simple as "My name is ____," AZ considers you fluent enough to go to a normal classroom. So kids who really cannot speak English are forced to sit in classes where they obviously do not understand what is being taught. If you are barely conversant in English, there's really no way you can be expected to read a novel.

As much as many teachers hate the "teaching to the test" methodology and the new Common CORE principles, it at least makes sure teachers are teaching something. In a perfect world, a student would have some fundamental understanding of basic concepts so some higher level thinking could happen at high school. But when 85% of my wife's students think Martin Luther King freed the slaves (that was this year's actual count), I'm not sure it's a bad thing to make sure some very basic things are being taught.

westbev, are you sure that information about merely passing students in classes in order for them to graduate is accurate? I know you say your wife teaches at a PUHS, but then you surely know that in order to earn a degree from a high school in Arizona, "State statute and State Board of Education Rules establish AIMS HS Writing, Reading, and Mathematics as the competency tests students must pass for graduation from an Arizona public high school. This requirement was first effective for the graduating class of 2006."

Just passing a student along does not earn them a degree.

"They are cesspools of bigotry, religious fanaticism and dark corridors of stifled narrow learning, whereas public schools resemble the world we live in."

Some charter schools fit that definition, I am sure, but many don't. Our son graduated from Arizona School for the Arts, which is located near the Burton Barr central library. Easy access for city kids. When he applied he had an audition (classical guitar). I assumed that the audition was a filtering mechanism to weed out the untalented. The administrator explained that they couldn't do that, that if there was room, he was in. The small student population was quite diverse. His history class used Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" as the primary text. Everyone in his small graduating class was accepted to some college or university. My son ended up at Berkeley. ASA is accredited as a College Prep school which puts it in the company of Phoenix Country Day and Xavier/Brophy but with no tuition.

We need to do whatever we can to improve the city schools, but painting all charters with the same uninformed brush does not help.

Sorry for being confusing, sunsfan. Yes, students still have to pass AIMS (at least for the next few years until the State switches the test after having spent a boatload of money developing AIMS, which will end up lining the pockets of someone's friends who are selling the new test). But the fact that students are virtually unable to actually fail out of school is certainly helping graduation rates in that district. While the students still have to pass the AIMS test, the more problematic hurdle for many, which is going to school and doing work, is basically non-existent (at least at some of the PUHSD schools).

I will add to Paul Benjamin's statement and also point out that charter schools are public schools. I would also add that I am not a proponent of many charters and believe that better regulations should be in place. ASA is an example of a charter school that should serve as a model for similar schools. It is not a traditional college prep school since it does focus on the arts. However, it provides a well-rounded education which is not something that can be said of all charters.


I will also note that enrollment at ASA is 70% White and 30% minority (14% Latino). I do believe that one problem with enrolling more minorities at charters like ASA is that families would need a few more resources in order to send their children to the school. Younger students would need to be taken to school by a parent or relative. I don't think too many 5th and 6th graders would take public transportation alone. Therefore, enrolling early at ASA becomes more problematic for those without a car or in households in which all adults work and cannot drop off and pick up students. It is more difficult to enroll students if they are not in the 4th and 5th grades since there are less spaces available at the 6th grade level and above.

This theory seems to be supported by the fact that Phoenix Union Bioscience High School, which is not far from ASA, enrolls mostly Latino students (57%) and only 21% of students are White. Even though it is not a charter school it has the same GreatSchools rating as ASA (10 out of 10) and is rated nationally by US News. Phoenix Bioscience is open enrollment so any student in the district can attend. I also believe that transportation is not provided which means many of the older students (9th through 12the graders) take public transportation.

"But the fact that students are virtually unable to actually fail out of school is certainly helping graduation rates in that district." -westbev

I'm not so sure that is a fact more so than it is conjecture. I don't think you are completely wrong but I think you may be inflating the situation. If a student wants to dropout, they will do so. There also is a rise in enrollment in IB and advanced placement classes at PUHSD (and other districts) which coincides with rising retention and graduation rates from community colleges and state universities. ASU has partnered with many school districts (especially Mesa and PUHSD) to increase rates of matriculation through Educational Outreach and Student Services (e.g. Earn to Learn).

I do know that more than a few educators are concerned with the new standards after the AIMS requirement is replaced. The new PARCC (Common Core) exam raises the bar and is more difficult since it tests critical-thinking skills (less memorization and more essay writing requirements). I do think it is a letigimate concern since many more students are likely to fail the exam when it first rolls out. However, I would like to point out that when AIMS was first instituted and required for graduation the pass-rate was also terrible. The validity of AIMS was also questioned; change isn't always welcomed.

I used to blame all of the world's problems on the WWII generation -- mainly because of their social, historical, and political ignorance and naïveté -- not to mention their brutal, heartless racism.

But then Tom Brokaw rebranded them as the greatest generation EVER and they suddenly became something altogether different in the public eye.

I have watched at least half of my own boomer generation devolve into the social, historical, racist, and political ignoramuses that I had previously thought the province of the WWII generation.

Where's Tom Brokaw when you need him?

westbev -- "As much as many teachers hate the "teaching to the test" methodology and the new Common CORE principles, it at least makes sure teachers are teaching something."

I agree with you 100% -- and I taught high school in AZ for 7 years and 2 years in WA State -- so I have a little firsthand experience.

Looking at the list of states that are participating in developing the PARCC exam, it has to make some doubters a little less reluctant if states such as Massachusetts, Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the 19 states developing the new program. Each of those states rank in the top 20-25 in educational attainment and other measures of success in public education. Arkansas, Maryland and New York are also among the "PARCC States" and they have been rated in the top 5 based on policy, standards, and progress in K-12 education.

From my phone. My outlandish statements drew the anticipated results.
I do not consider charter schools, public.
More later.

The non transparent nature of some Charter Schools make them ripe for ripping off the taxpayers. The trail of money through them are murky and can easily be used. I see Charter School classes doing course work at the Burton Barr library on a regular basis. A free resource for profitable businesses. As long as you can get the students to come, there is a lot of money to be made in the Charter School business.....

A great bunch of information from people in the know.

A question from the business world:

Why do you keep sending us wave after wave of your graduates who can't do math?

Fractions? Percentages? They can't even grasp the concepts.

What's the deal?

Reb, maybe they are just pulling your chain so that your company will invest in some computers and Excel-based software.

What's that you say? 1/2 = 50% and 3/4 = 75%? Ima have to run those calculations through this new app I just downloaded. ;-)

Mr. Talton wrote:

"Meanwhile, it was reported that enrollment in the Phoenix Union High School District reached a 36-year high. The district is 80 percent Hispanic and only 5 percent Anglo. As recently as 1990, the demographics were 41 percent Anglo and 40 percent Hispanic."

That's a very high percentage of Hispanic students. However, bear in mind that Arizona saw a 39 percent increase in child population from 1990 to 2010, largely from Hispanics with higher fertility rates (presumably the Roman Catholic tradition of Mexico at work). See Table A2 and Appendix B:

Statewide, Hispanics under 18 made up 43.2 percent of those under 18 as of the 2010 Census. Phoenix saw an even larger concentration in Hispanic population over this period than did the state becuse metropolitan Phoenix is where most of the jobs are and thus where most Hispanic migrants settled. Within Phoenix, some areas show still higher concentrations of Hispanic residents.

Here's a map showing school districts by zip-code:


Here's a table showing percentage of Hispanic residents by zip-code:


I don't have time to tabulate results for all zip-codes, but taking two large ones contained by the City of Phoenix, 85041 (74.25% Hispanic) and 85009 (76.4% Hispanic) one can see how the PUHSD figures might be explainable; even with zip-codes higher north in the district, the heavily Hispanic weighted child population in other zip-codes might explain the districtwide average of 80 percent Hispanic students without assuming that the district's White residents' children are commuting en masse to private or charter schools.

Ok, there are some charter schools that are cool. But are they in it because they love kids or for the buck.
Charter schools in Arizona may fit the legal definition (created by kooks) of public schools but I have my own definition and charter schools are not public schools. Vouchers and tax right offs allow the bigots to keep their kids out of real public schools where everyone goes. For kids with specific problems the public schools should accommodate them. If your kid has a special talent and you want her or him to focus on that issue, fine send them to private school and U pay, no tax break and no voucher. Again real public schools are a microcosm of the real universe and some of the most valuable survival lessons are to be found in (my) public schools.

Emil, ok on your anglo and Hispanic data. Move to the profit research on charters!

"Ok, there are some charter schools that are cool. But are they in it because they love kids or for the buck."

For the ones like ASA which are nonprofit, one would assume the former.

That would be a good thing!
For the ones like ASA which are nonprofit, one would assume the former.

At the age of three until five I learned to read from my mother a one room country school teacher and my grandmother. I cannot remember a single thing from first grade to 12th grade that I learned in a school class room, except that I hated school. I never learned how to write script and I print really poorly. Thank someone for typing. I did learn from my fellow students how to survive. I didn’t know it at the time but my interaction with my peers was a real advantage in being a cop. One year after I became a police officer I was making more than the HS councilor that told my mom I was retarded. I am not saying all cops are retarded. In my late twenties I took some junior college philosophy classes and found school could be cool. However once again the real learning was outside the class room. Those informal meetings with the professors on the steps at Phoenix College and the writing poetry in a circle on a napkin at the Wine Burger with Ken and Shirley the commies and that conservative red headed woman who I never knew her name. And the Nun that taught creative writing. I firmly believe that on the whole the best education is living in that big microcosm called the public.

Considering the rake off nonprofits these days, that may not be altruism.

Nice comment on your early days, Cal. I've read a lot of Inspector Maigret detective novels by the Belgian author Georges Simenon who lived most of his life in Paris but also traveled extensively in the United States. (He's written a ton of them and about half are good; most of the Maigret novels (good and bad) have been translated into English language paperback editions.)

I mention this because he wrote over a period of decades and we got to see the changes in the French police force (where Inspector Maigret works). In the early novels there were a number of poorly educated (even illiterate) but street savvy men who joined the police force, some of them making the detective ranks. The police were fairly autonomous and, whereas Maigret himself was fairly scrupulous, investigations and treatment of suspects was somewhat uneven within the department.

In the later novels, the accumulation of a series of police abuses/scandals as well as a changing political climate result in considerable reforms which include not only the (sometimes interfering, capricious and unwise, sometimes prudent) oversight of magistrates in every case of significance; the standardization of departmental norms and the bureaucracy and paperwork this brings; and the gradual replacement of the experienced police leadership (who rose through the ranks) with appointees with university degrees but generally wet behind the ears. These changes result in a number of tensions and inconveniences.

Simenon also takes a very "human" approach to crime and criminals, at least in the Maigret novels. Though I do occasionally find myself exasperated by bits of psychobabble that worm their way in, in large part Maigret is simply a seasoned man of experience who regards garden variety criminals with a somewhat tempered attitude without identifying with them. His investigatory style is very much old school and you won't find much of the technical side of modern law enforcement there.

"...in large part Maigret is simply a seasoned man of experience who regards garden variety criminals with a somewhat tempered attitude without identifying with them."

For example, common prostitutes.

P.S. Simenon's non-Maigret novels are quite a different kettle of fish. Supposedly he was shooting for a kind of unflinching, brutal realism but I find the characters and their motivations alien and incomprehensible. I recall reading in a biographical tidbit that in order to write these less conventional novels, he would drink heavily during the writing process and throw up afterward. Obviously, anything you have to drink yourself into (to please the nihilistic literary critics of the time, I suppose) goes against your better judgment and will violate the reader's as well. Though there are a few exceptions among these works, caveat emptor.

Thanks Emil. I will take a look at Simenon.

Although, I favor "public schools," I am a poor example of such.

Education the hard way:
Chester Himes was the 4th most brilliant student in the university that he attended his freshmen year. But he soon got tossed out for his views and went onto get his education in street crime and then in prison for seven years. Some consider him a great novelist in the mystery genre.

“Some regard Chester Himes as the literary equal of Dashiell Hammett[citation needed] and Raymond Chandler[citation needed]. Ishmael Reed says "[Himes] taught me the difference between a black detective and Sherlock Holmes" and it would be more than 30 years until another Black mystery writer, Walter Mosley and his Easy Rawlins and Mouse series, had even a similar effect.[4] Himes was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[5]”
“Himes also wrote a series of Harlem Detective novels featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, New York City police detectives in Harlem. The novels feature a mordant emotional timbre and a fatalistic approach to street situations. Funeral homes are often part of the story, and funeral director H. Exodus Clay is a recurring character in these books.”

Himes anger and frustration finally caused him to leave the US .

“Chester Bomar Himes was an American writer. His works include If He Hollers Let Him Go and a series of Harlem Detective novels. In 1958 he won France's Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. Wikipedia

A DCM at an eastern European US embassy is an impressive accomplishment but the Ivy League has not had a lock on the Foreign Service in a long time. The English part of the foreign service exam had been designed to protect the foreign service positions from infiltration by those whose parents were not college educated. Under Condoleezaa Rice the English part was redesigned to give the unwashed a shot at the service. Ivy League graduates however have been choosing Wall Street over the Foreign Service at least since the Reagan Administration.

As far as the genre of detective novels goes, I am partial to the series of books written by author Chaim Potok under the pen name Stinky McGurk. It’s an interesting departure for Potok from his usual Jewish themes to the Irish Catholic milieu of Boston, just a few hours north of Manhattan by train.

The hero of the novels is a half Irish/half Mohawk gumshoe by the name of Bones McGillicuddy, who had started out his professional life as a guitar player after having learned the ropes from fellow Mohawk, Robby Robertson. McGillicuddy loses the tips of his fingers on his left hand, a la Tony Iommi, and tries to replace them with handmade tips made of birch bark – in deference to his Native American roots. The birch bark tips fuzzle the strings so much that Bones is, naturally, forced to become a private dick.

Hard-boiled? Who you tryin’ ta kid?

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