The Racial Divide in Charters

directory-281476_1280Today’s New York Times delves into the divide within communities over charter schools.  The NAACP is calling for a moratorium on charters because they are increasing not only the racial divide but also the economic divide.   Charters in some cities, particularly cities with fewer charter schools as in Newark, Boston or Washington tend to do better than in cities with many charters, but as the number of charters increases, achievement decreases.  The reasons become clear:

Charters are viewed by some parents as an ‘escape’ from schools that must serve children with discipline and other emotional problems.  Charter educational programs may be no better than in traditional schools, but ‘problem’ students are either screened out or suspended.  Suspension rates are higher in charters and disproportionately impact minority students.  Achievement for those who remain may rise giving the appearance of being better.

Continue reading

When is Poor Really Poor?

raccoon-1510501_640Which children do charter schools serve?   Students are identified based on their demographics including free and reduced lunch (FRL) status.  Yet, half the student population in Florida qualifies.  FRL status may just mask what is really happening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children who qualify for FRL are not all alike.  Nearly half of the FRL children, about 950,000 live in deep poverty.  The difference is between families of four earning about $47, 000 vs. about $24,000 i.e. those who qualify for reduced cost lunch and those who qualify for free lunch.  How many truly poor children attend charters?

Remember the post about Duval County charters?  Between  2013 and 2014, the percentage of students classified as economically disadvantaged dropped in most cases about  30%.  The reason was a change in the definition of economically disadvantaged by their charters.  Skewed enrollment in charters has become a civil rights issue.

In  a report from the August 14th New York Times, 14% of all children persistently qualify for free lunch (not reduced cost lunch) over time.   A University of Michigan study shows the achievement gap of the persistently poor is a third larger than generally reported by NAEP and other measures.  Grouping children in FRL together masks the real achievement gap between lower and higher income groups.

In Florida, 24% of all children fall below  the federal poverty level. This includes about 950,000 children below the age of 18. Another 25% qualify for reduced lunch.  These are not just statistics.  They are real children with lives complicated by the trappings of poverty.    If charters are ‘skimming’ students from the public schools, their percentage of students who qualify for free lunch not just for reduced cost lunch, will be much lower.

Charters are supposed to find innovative ways to solve academic problems.  They may just be masking them. It is time to take the mask off and see which children are being served.

 

,

Take “Public” out of charter school language

shield-123080_640What makes a public school ‘public’?  It is more than how schools are governed and funded.  It is also a matter of the ethical and legal obligation to serve all students.

In Valerie Strauss’ latest Washington Post article, she reports on former New York principal, Carol Burris’ study of the sort and select enrollment practices in New York charter schools.

These are charters that are so often held up as success stories, so to speak.  Are they?

 

 

 

Continue reading

Charters are Lopsided in Whom They Serve

directory-281476_1280Hernando and Hillsborough charters have the lowest ratios of low income and minority students.  In Pasco county, 58.2% of students in traditional public schools qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch while only 36.2% of charter students qualify.  Charters in high income areas do well academically, charters with higher percentages of low income students receive lower school grades.  This is not a surprise.  Income and academic achievement are known to go together.  What is of concern John Romano columnist for the Tampa Bay Times article is:

 

 

Continue reading

KIPP Keeps A Secret

top-secret-1076813_1280In this repost from Diane Ravitch, one of the most troubling aspects of privatizing our schools is underscored…we do not know what is going on.  The business practices on charter management companies have always been hidden in a cloak of secrecy.  Why this is so in many states raises alarms.  Incidences of charter fraud, waste and abuse have been documented across the country.

Now we learn that the federal government is complicit in hiding information that most public schools must disclose.  Ravitch cites a report from the Center for Media and Democracy about disclosure protection for KIPP schools.  Under an arrangement with the U.S. Department of Education, KIPP does not have to report its student attrition and graduation rates.  Why not?  Based on older reports, the data are too revealing.  KIPP lost 40% of its students between middle school and high school graduation.

You can read more on KIPP in this blog.  KIPP is one of the largest charter chains.  A member of the Florida State Board of Education has brought two KIPP charters to Duval County.

Are KIPP Charters the Answer?  Depends upon the question…

Toeing the Line at KIPP?

 

Enrollment Chaos Already in Hernando

school-295210_1280Open enrollment in Florida is here.  Your child can attend any public school anywhere, if there is space.  Hernando opened up all 5, 8, 11 and 12th grades so children could switch to a school outside their zoned school.  Once those grades were filled, they would open up 10th grades as well as others where demand exists.

It was a big shuffle even though parents had to arrange transportation for their children.  Not everyone was satisfied.  Five schools were overcrowded and could not accept over 500 students who applied.

Open enrollment may not impact some counties too much.  They already have allowed students to transfer.  Movement across county lines could increase especially where parents work in one county and live in another. Unfortunately, when students leave a school, they take their state funding with them.  As a result, schools with declining enrollments have even more problems providing a quality education.

There are cities that try to organize choice in order to balance the school population.  In Minneapolis, for example, all students are enrolled in an area lottery.  A child may apply to one of three schools that are relatively nearby.  The assignment of students and teachers as well as special programs is planned to allow high quality programs at each school. It is a way to balance socio-economic characteristics to ensure there are advanced classes as well as extra support in every school.

Rural schools do not have much choice.  Leon county schools does enroll children from neighboring counties, but those rural schools that remain have problems not only with funding, but also with teacher recruitment.  The long term answer may be technology, but that too is in scarce supply.

The Education Train HB 7029: Car by Car

 

locomotive-60539_1280The final version of SB 7029, the charter school bill, took awhile to locate.  Here it is!  There is along list of provisions, some minor and some major.  The highlights follow.  They are easy to scan.  Most do little damage.  Some good things happened.  Considering what could have been, we can put our energies toward making good things happen next year.

 

Continue reading

The Legislature’s Education Train

by Paula Dockery

locomotive-60539_1280Paula is a syndicated columnist and member of the Florida LWV Board.  She wrote a column summarizing the Florida legislative session.  I extracted her description of the process in developing education policy this year.  I personally thought of it as a ping pong match.  She uses the analogy of a train.  This train kept criss crossing the tracks.  Enjoy her description.

Continue reading