02-19-2017  6:22 am      •     

UPDATE: REAL Prep Charter Falls Apart Leaving Students and Parents Stunned
About 12 years ago, a group of citizens in Minneapolis, Minnesota opened a public charter school like no other in the city. Beginning with 15 students, the High School of Recording Arts centered its curriculum around a recording studio.
Enrollment is now at about 200 students, and two other schools have opened in New York and Los Angeles. The model has become an icon of success for disaffected, urban youth.
Now, community leaders, educators and musicians are working to create a similar school here in Portland. They are currently gathering community support and will presenting their charter school proposal to the Portland School Board in July with the hope of opening the High School of Recording Arts Portland in the fall of 2010.
"It's hard to explain what a high school for recording arts looks like," said Imani Muhammad, community partnership coordinator for the project and organizer of the annual Youth Summit. "To actually be in the midst of the students interacting and see the day to day operations is amazing."
Muhammad, Project Director Erica Jayasuriya and several other team members recently traveled to tour the very first High School of Recording Arts in Minneapolis. What they found was a school with a 100 percent graduation rate with a student body largely from low-income families. A professional record company based in the Los Angeles school helps make the school and students money for their recordings.
"At the core is the studio. For the youth, that is their goal," she said. "They also have the design lab, for the student who isn't interested in recording, to design the album covers and promotional material."
Muhammad sees the Portland model expanding on what has already been proven to work for artistic students who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
"When you add the recording arts, you're documenting life, you can have videography, dance," she says. "Recording arts is keeping up to date with technology and what the new trends are and staying in line with what's out there."
The educational practice at the center of the program is the national Coalition of Essential Schools program and project-based learning, says Jayasuriya.
"Students are lead through initial guidance and then either the whole class, small groups or individuals work on a project," she said. "Or it is individual driven. Each student has an advisor and creates a one-on-one plan."
Mostly, though, it's about teaching students to ask questions and learn on their own with a teacher's guidance.
"We're going to work at meeting you at your strength and interest and over our time together help you expand your skills," Jayasuriya said.
Local hip-hop artists have also gotten behind the project, including Mic Crenshaw and Cool Nutz.
Crenshaw, who is currently teaching hip hop spoken word classes at Mt. Scott Learning Center, says he sees the music providing strength to students who might have otherwise given up on traditional learning structures. Indeed, the school's founder, David Ellis, believes in a "whatever works" strategy when trying to educate students.
Crenshaw has worked for years as an independent artist who taught himself nearly everything he knows. This school would equip budding artists with a set of skills before setting out on their own.
"What it does for youth is it equips them to be successful and self-sufficient," he said. "It's almost like a technical college."
He says the current public school system is not preparing some children, especially poor, urban youth, to be successful adults.
"The system is failing in a myriad of ways," he said. "There always needs to be alternatives."

Charter Application
Most charter schools take a year before they even attempt to apply for a charter license from the school board, which is allowed only once a year in the summer. The High School of Recording Arts Portland is hoping to have their school open in that same amount of time.
"The nice thing about working with a model that's got great research and data and statistics and is going into its 12th year, is that we get to start at the place they've grown to," Jayasuriya said.
She says potential charter schools are given a short window of time for initial funding – three years beginning in the springtime. That includes a year of planning, another year to prepare the building and curriculum for students and less than a year to finance the school's operation, before having to rely on funding from the local school district.
The project's planners want to cut the amount of time they spend officially planning – which they've already been doing for the past year — increasing the amount of time they will have grant funding with students in the building.
Currently, Jayasuriya and Muhammad are looking for parents of students 6th grade and up to contact the Portland Public Schools Board to voice their interest in the project. Students who are currently enrolled or who have left school (before graduating) can also contact the board, as the charter will allow the school to take students up to age 21.
"Believe in this, believe in giving the youth what they need," Muhammad said. "When I heard that Portland Public Schools had a Black graduation rate of 38 percent, that's a serious crisis, that moves me. When I look at something that will challenge the mainstream education and a new way to look at education, if we take this approach and go towards career paths and exploration of arts, music and culture that have been taken out of public schools because of funding or misallocation of funds, when we get back to essence that created civilization, it is a fabric of life. This model is going back to the essence of what makes us who we are as individuals and human beings."

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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