Maybe, Belief Gap is one of those magical places, like Brigadoon? It appears long enough to take on the ASD's shortcomings, poor achievement scores, and lack of accountability then "poof" all those things just disappear into thin air. All you have to do is simply believe.
"During this season of hope, please know that we at the ASD believe —and we partner with school leaders, teachers and parents who also believe—that every single student can realize their full potential, regardless of ZIP code or circumstance. We believe that our schools have both the ability and responsibility to unlock this potential," says Barbic. But an on-line review of Gestalt Community School, an ASD charter school in Memphis indicates that at least one teacher isn't a believer. The former GCS teacher claims that:
"Actual company practices are not aligned with mission that is portrayed to the public. [Gestalt Community] School is actually run and operated like a company with no regard for students and their well-being. Inconsistencies between charter management office and school leadership causes a great deal of confusion for teachers who do not know whose directives to follow. Teachers are not provided any support or feedback to help improve instruction and quality of lessons. Teachers are also not respected by school leadership or charter management office. Most teachers fear reporting concerns to human resources due to lack of confidentiality and fear of retaliation. Teachers have extremely long work days with no flexibility or concern for personal obligations i.e doctor appointments, leaving for lunch, parental obligations, etc."
The ASD could dismiss the negative review on glassdoor.com as just sour grapes from a former employee. But its doesn't explain this scathing review from a current teacher:
"Leadership is ill-equipped and ill-prepared for their roles in a turnaround school, specifically at Humes Preparatory Academy. When members of the CMO are on campus, the lines of authority are blurred, leading to mass confusion. Teachers are terminated without regard to consistency from school-year to school-year. Teaching positions receive permanent substitutes for more than 50% of the school-year (7th grade science, 8th grade social studies - 2013-2014) leading to low-scores on state tests in traditionally "easier" core subjects. Teachers are not given autonomy in their classrooms and the school-wide behavior/consequence matrix is not implemented. Scholars are suspended without cause or allowed back into class when they should be suspended, contrary to network policy. For the 2013-2014 school year, Humes Preparatory Academy was rated a level 5 school; however, 90% of the teachers were non-renewed, with a handful choosing to leave the school."
Another review warns: "AVOID AT ALL COSTS"
"Constant top down reform implementation without consideration to feasibility of implementation, inconsistent and hypocritical implementation from charter and admin as to school and charter policies, no respect for teachers, extremely long work day."
Then, there is this laundry list of criticisms from someone who worked at Gestalt Community Schools full-time (more than 3 years):
- The roadmap is constantly changing and never properly communicated to essential stakeholders in the process for fear of leaking to the media.
- The leadership play ping pong with who managed what depending on how they feel about the project at hand and do the same thing with the blame if something falls apart.
- So much time in the CMO office is left to petty banter and gossip about competition and name dropping as a way of one upsmanship while the organization continues to suffer from the bottom up as no one in the CMO office has a grasp on the pulse of the schools.
- Prioritiziation of work that's spread amongst a minimal team is non-existant as leadership changes priorities on the tasks to be completed on a day to day or (legitimately) hour to hour basis throughout the day.
- Leadership is only honed in on what they specifically find interesting and if something falls outside of that scope it will not be taken seriously or invested in even if it's seen as a necessary evil. This has consistently been the case with technology in the schools.
The reviewer adds, "The current structure that GCS maintains on a leadership level requires those who want to have opportunities for growth to become YES men and women and to sacrifice their talent in order to avoid making leadership uncomfortable or to feel like their perceived understanding of an area of the organization is not as informed as they believe it to be."
Speaking of YES people, they are coming to Memphis. The ASD's website has news of adding three more charter school operators for the 2015-2016 school year including Yes Prep which was co-founded by Chris Barbic in Houston, Texas.
So, what do teachers have to say about Yes Prep in Texas?
The glassdoor reviews started off with high ratings in 2012 and 2013. But by 2014, the bloom was off the rose and the reviews turned ugly:
- District-wide micromanagement.
- Inexperienced school leadership and instructional coaches - 2 years of classroom experience does not make a "great" teacher, despite what I was once told.
- Lack of teacher recognition outside of the almighty "continuum" and no respect for content knowledge.
- Lack of professionally-developed curricula.
Chris Barbic says, "The Belief Gap is the persistent and deep divide between what parents believe their children are capable of and what some elected leadership, through word and deed, believe the very same kids can do." But while Barbic insists that elected officials give the ASD a break, the reviews indicate that Yes Prep does not extend that same courtesy to their teachers:
"The responsibility of learning is on the teacher, not the student, so expect to blamed if a student isn't performing or passing your class. Also expect to work 60+ a week and give up weeknights for variety of school functions that aren't "required" but "recommended" strongly."
"Unrealistic expectations lead to high rates of burnout/turnover; baited reviews in order to collect employee satisfaction information to make decisions upon retention/advancement; the organization states the continuum for advancement is based on objective grading, however, it is completely subjective and counterintuitive; management frowns upon employees with family or religious obligations."
Rather than blaming teachers for the lack of success, maybe Yes Prep should just believe more in their students?
If only it were that simple.
But for those of us who live in reality and not in a make-believe world, we know that no matter how much Supt. Barbic would like us to believe otherwise, things aren't going so well for him and the ASD. You can read the details on the protests against the ASD in both Nashville and Memphis; rats and moldy food in a Memphis ASD school cafeteria, the ASD using Happy Hours to recruit teachers, and much more in our recent blogs.
Who Loves Ya, Baby
Everybody Hates Chris
You Dirty Rat
If Only the ASD came with a Money Back Guarantee
Once a Rat, Always a Rat