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.

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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.

 

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ESSA: What does Pam Stewart think?

accounting-761599_640The U.S. Department of Education wants input to its rules to implement the Every Student Succeed Act.  State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote them a letter, a long one.  In it she lists her concerns.  Her first concern had a familiar ring; under the proposed timeline, it would not be possible to implement the new rules by the beginning of the 2017-18 year.  One has to smile, Ms. Stewart is right.  She has learned from experience when district superintendents voiced similar complaints about the timeline for  implementing the Florida Student Assessment accountability measures two years ago.  Stewart’s other concerns are more problematic.

I list them below.

 

 

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NAACP Drafts Resolution for Moratorium on Charter Schools

clause-1462955_640If this resolution passed at the NAACP convention last week in Cincinnati is approved by the National Board in the fall of 2016, it will be a major event.  In this repost of the Cloaking Inequity blog, you can read the resolution.  It deals with racial resegregation, funding inequity, charter school mismanagement, lack of charter oversight, and the resolution calls for greater transparency in charter school management.

The NAACP views charter school policies and practices as a civil rights issue.  It is.

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:

 

 

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Democratic Education Platform: Too Good to be True?

ballot-32201_1280It is an election year.  Which way is the wind blowing?  Judging by the rift over the Democratic Party Platform, testing, accountability, and charter school management could see significant changes….or not.

The draft platform opposed for-profit charter schools.  The amended platform added even many more changes:

 

 

 

 

 

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Teacher Bonuses Challenge Under Review

justiceFlorida’s Best and Brightest teacher bonus program is under review by a federal agency.  The Florida Education Association filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last December.  In the complaint, the FEA argued that the program discriminated against teachers whose ACT or SAT tests, on which the bonuses are based, are unfairly excluded.  Teachers who sat the SAT or ACT before 1973 have no qualified scores.  These teachers are referred to DOE guidelines which seem to be strangely absent on the FDOE website.  According to the Naples News article today, a decision by the EEOC has not been reached, but the complaint is still under review.  If the EEOC finds reason to proceed with the complaint, the FEA will file a lawsuit.