Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Sorry for the paltry post, but I am in Las Vegas with a friend I have not seen in 13 years. She was a foreign exchange student from Spain in my high school in New Hampshire. Then when I studied abroad in Spain in 1998, she and her family look me places I otherwise would not have known.

We met in Arizona at her friend’s house, hopped over to Las Vegas, and will return together to California tomorrow. This is her first time in the southwestern part of the United States, my first time in Arizona, which initially was riddled with all kinds of reservations. Okay, SB 1070. I will talk about that and more later. Stay tuned for pics…

In the meantime, here are a couple of stories that caught my attention: one in five American children, or 14.7 million children, live in poverty. That is 2.5 million more children than in 2000, according to the Associated Press. The federal poverty level is $22,350 a year for a family of four, although child advocates say that figure should be higher.

The New York Times ran a scathing review of Steve Brill’s pro-charter and anti-teachers’ union book, Class Warfare.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Do Charter Schools Cherry-Pick Students?

Here is an interesting New York Times story about a student “counseled out” of a charter school in the city.

In 2008, when Katherine Sprowal’s son, Matthew, was selected in a lottery to attend the Harlem Success Academy 3 charter school, she was thrilled. “I felt like we were getting the best private school, and we didn’t have to pay for it,” she recalled….

Matthew is bright but can be disruptive and easily distracted. It was not a natural fit for the Success charters, which are known for discipline and long school days. From Day 1 of kindergarten, Ms. Sprowal said, he was punished for acting out….

Five days later, Ms. Sprowal got an e-mail from Ms. Moskowitz that she took as a veiled message to leave. “Am not familiar with the issue,” Ms. Moskowitz wrote, “but it is extremely important that children feel successful and a nine-hour day with more than 23 children (and that’s our small class size!) where they are constantly being asked to focus and concentrate can overwhelm children and be a bad environment.“

The next week, the school psychologist evaluated Matthew and concluded he would be better suited elsewhere: “He may need a smaller classroom than his current school has available.”

By then, Matthew was throwing up most mornings and asking his mother if he was going to be fired from school. Worn down, Ms. Sprowal requested help finding her son another school, and Success officials were delighted to refer him to Public School 75 on the Upper West Side.

As it turns out, P.S. 75 taught Matthew, who was diagnosed with attention disorder, how to calm himself. He has received top marks with teacher comments such as, “Matthew is a sweet boy who is a joy to have in the classroom.” It just shows that there is no such thing as the “perfect school,” but the best fit for individual students.

But the most interesting aspect of this story is how the charter school was allowed to easily push out Matthew to the traditional public school. Should charters, which receive public financing, be allowed to do this?

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Health care has been on my mind lately. I know of a baby and a young adult — 22 — who require(d) major surgeries that are not fully covered by private health insurance. In the baby’s case, he received a cochlear implant because he is deaf. The cost of the surgery was $150,000, of which the parents must pay $1,800. Sure, $1,800 is a bargain compared to the actual cost of the surgery. But as I told my husband, basically, only people with $1,800 to spare could actually get their child a cochlear implant — never mind the uninsured.

The young adult’s case really worries me. Our dear friend’s daughter needs open heart surgery, and thankfully, she is on her mother’s health insurance plan until she is 26. (Thank you, healthcare reform!) But recently the mom and I were wondering what is going to happen when she is 27? She has a lifelong heart condition that is probably going to require surgery in the future, and she can’t work.

Then I read this story in the New York Times about how health insurance premiums are going up as hospitalizations are going down and the industry is raking in the profits. Healthcare reform is a good first step, but we really need to fix our broken healthcare system!

Also in the New York Times: John King, one of the original fathers of the charter school movement, was named education commissioner of New York’s public schools. King, who is the first African-American and Puerto Rican in the position, “was part of a circle of idealistic charter-school founders in Boston who experimented with longer school days, strict rules to guide student behavior and ways to hold teachers accountable for student performance. They raised expectations for poor students, and sought to form close relationships with children while reshaping teaching into a more quantifiable science,” according to the Times. He sounds like he has an incredible personal story as he was an orphan at 12 who eventually went on to Harvard and Yale.

In reading this story, one of the things that popped in my head was the lack of debate over a longer school day and/or school year in raising student achievement. It seems to me that there has been a lot of focus on teaching, when in fact, many low-income students lack reinforcement in the home, especially in the summertime.

Remember the fabulous book review and Q&A our brave had with mother of 9 and author Melissa Faye Green? The Progressive Reader just interviewed her about her life and new memoir, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet. I loved There Is No Me Without You, which was about her adopting children from Ethiopia, which means I will have to add her memoir to my reading list! Have you read it?

I can’t say that I am totally surprised by this, but Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to fathering a child with a household staff member who worked for the family for 20 years, according to Slate.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

 

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Detroit Public Schools and Teacher Pay

Here is a story for education geeks everywhere. The beleaguered Detroit school system has lowered teachers’ pay – which is already lower than the suburbs, by the way — and has as many charter schools as traditional public schools. Yet the district is hemorrhaging students and money, according to a story in the New York Times.

These stats were especially discouraging:

Since (Emergency Financial Manager) Mr. Bobb arrived, the $200 million deficit has risen to $327 million. While he has made substantial cuts to save money — including $16 million by firing hundreds of administrators — any gains have been overshadowed by the exodus of the 8,000 students a year. For each student who departs, $7,300 in state money gets subtracted from the Detroit budget — an annual loss of $58.4 million.

Nor have charters been the answer. Charter school students score about the same on state tests as Detroit district students, even though charters have fewer special education students (8 percent versus 17 percent in the district) and fewer poor children (65 percent get subsidized lunches versus 82 percent at district schools). It’s hard to know whether children are better off under these “reforms“ or they’re just being moved around more.

Even though Bobb’s efforts don’t appear to be paying off, the Republican-controlled legislature just approved a bill to give emergency managers like him the power to void contracts of public workers, including teachers. Also, there is talk of converting the entire school district into charters, which could generate significant savings since charter schools typically hire young and non-union teachers for less pay and no pensions.  

But considering the results so far, I’d like to delve into this discussion: why are teachers respected so little in this country? The bias against teachers couldn’t be anymore obvious than this good food for thought posed by Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times:



Until a few decades ago, employment discrimination perversely strengthened our teaching force. Brilliant women became elementary school teachers, because better jobs weren’t open to them. It was profoundly unfair, but the discrimination did benefit America’s children.

These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers — and 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores). The figure is from a study by McKinsey & Company, “Closing the Talent Gap.“

Changes in relative pay have reinforced the problem. In 1970, in New York City, a newly minted teacher at a public school earned about $2,000 less in salary than a starting lawyer at a prominent law firm. These days the lawyer takes home, including bonus, $115,000 more than the teacher, the McKinsey study found.

Before crying out that teachers are less important than lawyers or doctors, read this:

One Los Angeles study found that having a teacher from the 25 percent most effective group of teachers for four years in a row would be enough to eliminate the black-white achievement gap.

Recent scholarship suggests that good teachers, even kindergarten teachers, increase their students’ earnings many years later. Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University found that an excellent teacher (one a standard deviation better than average, or better than 84 percent of teachers) raises each student’s lifetime earnings by $20,000. If there are 20 students in the class, that is an extra $400,000 generated, compared with a teacher who is merely average.

A teacher better than 93 percent of other teachers would add $640,000 to lifetime pay of a class of 20, the study found.

Kristof said he is no fan of the teachers union for the reasons some of us have expressed here. It is difficult to fire an ineffective teacher with tenure, and come layoff time, usually younger and enthusiastic teachers are the first to go.

And yes, unionized teachers do receive more generous pension plans than other employees, but that’s because they have practically foregone pay increases. Countries with high-achieving students recognize the importance of strong teachers and compensate them accordingly.

Consider three other countries renowned for their educational performance: Singapore, South Korea and Finland. In each country, teachers are drawn from the top third of their cohort, are hugely respected and are paid well (although that’s less true in Finland). In South Korea and Singapore, teachers on average earn more than lawyers and engineers, the McKinsey study found….

Starting teacher pay, which now averages $39,000 (in the U.S.), would have to rise to $65,000 to fill most new teaching positions in high-needs schools with graduates from the top third of their classes, the McKinsey study found. That would be a bargain.

Indeed, it makes sense to cut corners elsewhere to boost teacher salaries. Research suggests that students would benefit from a tradeoff of better teachers but worse teacher-student ratios. Thus there are growing calls for a Japanese model of larger classes, but with outstanding, respected, well-paid teachers.

Teaching is unusual among the professions in that it pays poorly but has strong union protections and lockstep wage increases. It’s a factory model of compensation, and critics are right to fault it. But the bottom line is that we should pay teachers more, not less — and that politicians who falsely lambaste teachers as greedy are simply making it more difficult to attract the kind of above-average teachers our above-average children deserve.

I am sure that this essay won Kristof no friends in either the teachers unions or among education reformers. For that, I thank him. What say you?

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Yet Another Study of Our Schools…

This time, New York state officials just released statistics on the state’s schools and they weren’t pretty. From the New York Times:

The new statistics, part of a push to realign state standards with college performance, show that only 23 percent of students in New York City graduated ready for college or careers in 2009, not counting special-education students. That is well under half the current graduation rate of 64 percent, a number often promoted by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as evidence that his education policies are working.

But New York City is still doing better than the state’s other large urban districts. In Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers, less than 17 percent of students met the proposed standards, including just 5 percent in Rochester.

The Board of Regents, which sets the state’s education policies, met on Monday to begin discussing what to do with this data, and will most likely issue a decision in March. One option is to make schools and districts place an asterisk next to the current graduation rate, or have them report both the current graduation rate and the college ready rate, said Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the Board of Regents.

The move parallels a decision by the Regents last year to make standardized tests for third through eighth graders more difficult to pass, saying that the old passing rates did not correlate to high school success.


This emphasis on testing reminded me of one of the most poignant statistics I learned from the documentary Race to Nowhere: that there is no correlation between improving scores on standardized tests and higher student achievement. Just like there is no correlation between homework in elementary school and academic success.

There were other interesting tidbits in this article, like, the not so shocking revelation that the more affluent school districts outperformed their lower-income peers. Also, it isn’t clear that charter schools are doing a better job of preparing students for college than traditional public schools.

Statewide, only 10 percent of students at charters graduated in 2009 at college-ready standards, though 49 percent received diplomas. The state has not yet calculated results for every district and school.

State officials have also begun a series of meetings in local districts to introduce this data and ask local officials what they want to do about it. A common reaction, Dr. Tisch said, is shock and hesitancy. There are fears of plummeting real estate values, as well as disagreement, particularly in rural areas, with the idea that all students need to be prepared for college.

That’s the thing. As I have mentioned here before, I still think high schools need to define their goals. Is it to make sure every single student goes to college? Is it to make sure that those who don’t want or can’t go to college still attain a decent job? Both? Personally, I think a sense of community is important in any school, and I have seen parents over and over choose schools not because of their superior test scores — but because they like the families and teachers.

All this emphasis on testing and charter schools makes me wonder if we are barking up the wrong tree. I often think of our Shenanigans’s proposal to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to measure student achievement by how much vacation parents have.

We don’t know, which is why I think schools should focus on well-rounded students as opposed to expert test takers.

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Review: Why Great Teachers Quit

Over the break, I had the pleasure of reading a book by our very own Katy Farber. I always get a thrill reading books by people who I know and admire.

Katy, who not only parents two girls and writes for MotherTalkers and Non-Toxic Kids, but she is also an elementary school science teacher. (Where do you find the time, girl?)

In her first book, Why Great Teachers Quit And How We Might Stop the Exodus, Katy examines just that: why are so many young, smart and idealistic people exiting the field in droves within the first five years? While she did examine the obvious reasons of low pay and crazy hours, which left me convinced that teaching is not a family-friendly profession, her answer was much more nuanced.

For example, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the No. 1 reason teachers left high poverty, urban public schools was because of poor administrative support (50 percent) and not poor salary (26.9 percent). A lack of faculty influence (42.5 percent) was the second biggest reason teachers left poor urban public schools. As for teachers in low poverty, suburban public schools, they left due to poor salary (51 percent) followed by poor administrative support (30 percent). Notice that their reasons for leaving had nothing to do with the students.

Which leads me to one of the biggest factors driving out teachers: politics. Legislation like No Child Left Behind and standardized testing is decreasing student morale and forcing out teachers, who must take even more time from their busy schedules to supervise students during the test rather than teach or grade papers. Also, they have not been trained to supervise such tests in a way that would please legislators, often non-educators, mandating such testing.

What surprised me was that, while well-intentioned, these tests have not increased student achievement.

In some cases, when it looks as though test scores are going up, one must read the back story to understand whether all students were assessed, how the dropout rate plays into it, and how much quality teaching is happening. Houston, Texas, was touted nationally as a success story for raising the test scores of all of its students. The district claimed a low 1.5 percent dropout rate, but at Sharpston High School, 463 of 1,700 students left during the school year; none were reported as dropping out. Instead, they were assigned a code that meant they had changed schools, gone back to a native country, or gone for their GED, when many of them never reported these reasons to the school (Meier et al., 2004). The real story is that a new correlation has arisen from frequent standardized testing: falling graduation rates as standardized testing increases (Meier et al., 2004).

Interesting, eh? Another aspect of Katy’s book that I liked was that it wasn’t simply a whiny tome on the state of education today, rather it offered educators solutions to implement best practices. She visited schools all across the country and interviewed dozens of teachers both online and offline. She gave examples of schools that were actually implementing these practices, like, the Sherman Oaks Community Charter School in California, which allows teachers and staff 90 minutes daily of uninterrupted time to collaborate.

Here is a great example of how parents can partner with teachers to give children the best possible education:



In an era of dwindling budgets and jam-packed agendas, this may seem impossible. Not so, says Principal Peggy Bryan (Curtis, 2000). At Sherman Oaks, “Teachers meet while students have lunch, study hall, and a recreation period. Paraprofessionals — usually parents — come in during that time and oversee the children. ‘It’s simple, inexpensive, and it makes all the difference’” (para. 8), she said.

While the format is always under revision, teachers use this time for planning, grade-level meetings, cross-grade meetings, and problem solving. This lends itself to a feeling of professionalism, colleagueship, and support…By providing built-in opportunities like this, Sherman Oaks fosters a collaborative community that works together to support every child, and every teacher as they constantly hone and learn their craft.

Katy’s book is a quick and delightful read, a mere 156 pages. But one area I would have loved to see her dedicate a chapter to is that of “education reform.” So-called education reformers like Teach for America, charter school proponents, and DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, have rankled some in the teaching profession because they are non-union. But I am interested to see what success, if any, they have had.

There are a few ideas that I am especially curious as to whether they would work. One is year-round schooling as practiced by charter schools like KIPP in Texas. It makes sense that three-month summer vacations are not compatible with a working parent’s schedule, especially one who cannot afford day camps. Of course, I would rather parents receive vacation, too, but it doesn’t seem realistic in an era of fewer full-time jobs and people working multiple part-time jobs.  

The other, as proposed by Rhee, is more money in lieu of tenure. I wonder how many teachers would go for it?

Finally, I am wondering how the three-year teaching cycles as dictated by Teach for America is working for them. On the one hand, I am sad that children in high risk areas are experiencing such high staff turnover. But a part of me also wonders if some schools are so tough that it is better for a teacher to remain there only three years to avoid burnout — like the military, another tough job. I don’t know, which is why I’d like more research on this. What do you all think?

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Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I just got back from a weekend trip to Orange County to see BFF Erika and her gorgeous family. As you can see, my honorary nephew Alex is adorable AND an A’s fan to boot.

I also had some one-on-one time with Maya. We watched Sponge Bob The Movie. One of my all-time favorite phrases, courtesy of Ms. Maya: “A’s rule, Angels drool!” You go, girl!

Erika, who looks amazingly put together in spite of some chaotic months, and our good college friend, Courtney, went to the mall and the spa — two of my favorite pastimes (along with the A’s). We got to go to the movies and see an excellent film, which I highly recommend: The Kids Are All Right. It is about a lesbian couple (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore) and their two teenaged children (Mia Waskowska, Josh Hutcherson) who then meet their sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo). The writing and acting are superb in that all these characters are authentic and deep. I was engaged the whole way through and even managed to stay awake in the theater until midnight. (That tells you something!)

In other MT news: Let’s wish our Lisa in Austin a very happy birthday. I hope the hubby and kids treat you like queen for a day!

The Dallas Morning News ran a thoughtful editorial on a Texas Board of Education decision to help fund facilities for charter schools. The editorial board did so with the caveats that poorly performing charters be shut down, and the education board look into other ways for charters to gain facilities such as sharing space with traditional public schools.

Here is a fascinating article in Wired about how we are typically attracted to people who look like ourselves or our parents. There was an actual study, in which people picked out photographs that had their own faces morphed into the image.

MomsRising posted a blog carnival advocating for paid sick days.

The Washington Post ran an article about breastfeeding mix-ups.

In celebrity gossip break: Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres “resigned” as judges on American Idol and will be replaced by Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, according to that bastion of journalistic integrity TMZ.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Q&A With NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen

While I was at Netroots Nation last week, I had the privilege of meeting Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the powerful National Education Association teachers union. Honestly, all I know of teachers unions, in general, is what I read in the press and it is not good. They are often locking horns with their non-union counterparts like Teach for America and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee — all who I trust are in education to help children. (Michelle Rhee, by the way, made headlines last week for firing 241 teachers, or 6 percent of all D.C. teachers, according to the Wall Street Journal, which celebrated the move.)

At NN, I got to see a bigger picture, as Eskelsen is anything but incompetent. She is one of the highest-ranking labor leaders in the country and one of the most influential Hispanic educators with decades of classroom experience teaching our most vulnerable youth. At NN, she recalled a year, in which she taught 39 fifth-graders, and another year, in which she had 12 special education students in a class of 35. She has taught both gifted children and children who were homeless. In 1989, after only nine years in the classroom, she was named Teacher of the Year in Utah. Her accomplishments exceed beyond the classroom, as you can see in her online biography.

I got to ask her a few questions and was impressed by her breadth of knowledge. Check it out:

I want to ask you about the student achievement gap. Right now there is a disparity between minority and white students, and the high school dropout rates for African American and Latino men are abysmal. Is there anything that teachers and school staff can do to help narrow the achievement gap in public schools?

Eskelsen: And (the achievement gap is) growing. Absolutely. What Child Left Behind assumes is what you do is teach to the test. You cram for the test, and you practice for the test, and it is having a negative effect on every other aspect of student achievement. What has to happen you have to make learning relevant. You have to make it exciting. You have to make students want to learn. When you drill and drill for the test, you have the opposite effect.

Can you briefly summarzie a way to fairly evaluate teachers? Almost all schools have, usually, principal observations. They also keep track of whether there are parents who have complaints. That will affect your evaluation as well. In my district back in the ’80s, we experimented with something that was cool. The legislature gave (additional funding to) all the districts who came up with an evaluation system that looked at more than what (teachers) teach. It was voluntary…(Legislators) said, “Here is a menu of up to 10 different ways to demonstrate your effectiveness as a teacher.” One way was an anonymous survey of parents. You could have your peers evaluate you. You could use your students’ test scores, if you had chemistry AP students who passed the AP tests. They gave us a whole menu, including things like a principal evaluation. You could also pick an evaluation of peers where a team of teachers from another school came in and evaluated you.

Elisa’s note: Unfortunately, we ran out of time. But she encouraged everyone to contact their senator — NEA has a convenient link — to support a bill that promises to save more than 138,000 teaching jobs due to budget cuts.

Also, I did ask her about union antagonism towards charter schools at the education caucus. She said there were good public schools and bad public schools as there were good charter schools and “very bad” charter schools. Also, she said some charter schools were unionized, and in her opinion, the best ones were formed by educators and accounted for quality. Her two reservations about charter schools had to do with accountability, and also the “for-profit” motivation by landlords leasing buildings to charters.

Because our time was cut short — she had a jam-packed schedule at NN — she offered to answer any other questions we may have. Feel free to drop them here or in an e-mail at elisa at mothertalkers dot com.

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Thursday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

This is sad. Thirty-two U.S. soldiers killed themselves last month, the highest number in a single month since the Vietnam era, according to CNN. Also in CNN: some parents in Helena, Montana, are peeved at a proposed health education curriculum they say are teaching their children about sex too young. I was proud of this mom defending it: “It sounds like they are teaching body parts and things that are facts of life,” (Cathy) Areu said. “I feel more comfortable with my daughter learning about this in a classroom than from a boy in the hallway.” Amen.

This is brave. Unlike their parents’ generation, undocumented college students are standing up, protesting and letting everyone (including the police) know that they are undocumented, according to the Washington Post. They are drawing awareness to the proposed Dream Act, which would give undocumented students — brought to this country as babies or young children — a temporary work visa.

The Texas Board of Education will decide this week whether to allot money for charter school facilities, according to the Austin American-Statesman. And whoa: four in 10 Texas teachers held second jobs to make ends meet, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Doctors in the UK are trying to link childhood obesity with neglect, according to the Guardian.

Sorry I have been quiet in the threads lately. But I have been preparing for the Parents Caucus, which is tomorrow, by the way, at 10:30 a.m. in the Miranda 5 room of the Rio Hotel & Casino.

Also, DH and I have had some much-needed alone time. What did we do with our time? We went to lots of restaurants, went to the movies and fit in a show, Jersey Boys, which was incredible.

I admit, that initially Jersey Boys was a back-up as we couldn’t find anything better. I wanted to see Cher and DH wanted to see Jerry Seinfeld — but they are off right now. So Jersey Boys it was, and I was enthralled. I found myself bobbing my head, kicking my leg and eventually standing up to cheer for the actors who played Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It was great music, good plot, excellent acting that I didn’t even notice the time go by. Afterwards, I had to google “Frankie Valli” and the other members of the group to see what they were up to nowadays and find out their reaction to the musical. (They actually helped promote it.)

Now it’s time for work, although I always enjoy Netroots Nation because it is basically a reunion of friends. I will definitely keep you guys in the loop on what’s happening.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Update on Charter Schools

Newsweek ran an alarming story on how charter schools do not outperform their traditional public school counterparts despite public demand. However, taking a glance at the study from which Newsweek’s article was based, paints a much more nuanced picture.

Like any other school, public or private, some charter schools are stronger than others while the success of a charter school is based on a number of factors, including funding, where the school is in its history, and the policies of the state it is in.

From the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University:

While the report recognized a robust national demand for more charter schools from parents and local communities, it found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference.  

The report found that the academic success of students in charter schools was affected by the individual state policy environment. States with caps limiting the number of charter schools reported significantly lower academic results than states without caps limiting charter growth. States that have the presence of multiple charter school authorizers also reported lower academic results than states with fewer authorizers in place. Finally, states with charter legislation allowing for appeals of previously denied charter school applications saw a small but significant increase in student performance.

Here were the ways that charter schools fared better than their traditional school counterparts:

The report found several key positive findings regarding the academic performance of students attending charter schools. For students that are low income, charter schools had a larger and more positive effect than for similar students in traditional public schools. English Language Learner students also reported significantly better gains in charter schools, while special education students showed similar results to their traditional public school peers.  

The report also found that students do better in charter schools over time. While first year charter school students on average experienced a decline in learning, students in their second and third years in charter schools saw a significant reversal, experiencing positive achievement gains.  

The report found that achievement results varied by states that reported individual data. States with reading and math gains that were significantly higher for charter school students than would have occurred in traditional schools included: Arkansas, Colorado (Denver), Illinois (Chicago), Louisiana and Missouri.    

States with reading and math gains that were either mixed or were not different than their peers in the traditional public school system included: California, the District of Columbia, Georgia and North Carolina.

Where charter schools come up short:

“The issue of quality is the most pressing problem that the charter school movement faces,“ said Dr. Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO at Stanford University. “The charter school movement continues to work hard to remove barriers to charter school entry into the market, making notable strides to level the playing field and improve access to facilities funding, but now it needs to equally focus on removing the barriers to exit, which means closing underperforming schools.“

….States with reading and math gains that were significantly below their peers in the traditional public school system included: Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas.  

“If the supporters of charter schools fail to address the quality challenge, they run the risk of having it addressed for them,” said Dr. Raymond.  ”If the charter school movement is to flourish, a deliberate and sustained effort to increase the proportion of high quality schools is essential. The replication of successful charter school models is one important element of this effort. On the other side of the equation, however, authorizers, charter school advocates and policymakers must be willing and able to fulfill their end of the original charter school bargain, which is accountability in exchange for flexibility.”

 


In defense of anyone who is brave enough to start a school — any school, including a charter — I did feel that both the Newsweek article and Stanford’s study underplayed the commitment of families to start a school. Getting the public to accept a charter, securing facilities and resources that are often inferior to that of traditional public schools, hiring staff and getting a school up and running the first few years — is NO easy feat. I do think it is unfair to compare a start-up charter with a school that has been in operation for years. If anything, the fact that some of these charters are even outperforming established schools is pretty damn impressive.

Which leads me to my final point: oftentimes, the key to a successful school is not its history, its test scores, its class sizes, or facilities — it is the commitment of parents. There is something to be said of a devoted parent and study body in a struggling school as opposed to uninvolved families at a more established school with better test scores. In fact, this study by a public schools website actually lists “parental involvement is key to student success.”

I would love for Stanford to study parent involvement at a new charter school with that of families at more established schools.

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