FINALLY! U.S. OIG Issues Charter Management Problems Alert

cash-burningThe U.S. Inspector General has recognized the serious nature of the charter management problems.  The League of Women Voters has been calling for  better transparency and management oversight for several years.  Now, the federal government has joined us—-well, a part of the federal government.

It is one step toward better accountability for our tax dollars.

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Suspension Happy Charter Schools

childrenCharter schools represent 7% of New York City’s school population  but 42% of all student suspensions.  Of the top 50 schools with high suspension rates, 48 were charters.  These schools are clustered in the heart of black communities in Harlem, Crown Heights, Brownsville and Brooklyn.  The problem extends far beyond New York.  Parents are pushing back.

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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?

 

 

 

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VAM Scores Eliminated in Some States

teacher-23304_1280Performance evaluation are a tricky business.   Arbitrary data systems based on student test scores turn excellent teachers into mediocre ones and vice versa.  Individual judgments can also be wrong, but systems that have multiple components can be reasonably fair.

Some states are dropping student achievement gain scores and are returning to human judgment systems for teacher evaluations.  Which are these forward thinking states?

 

 

 

 

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Attacking Tenure: Why?

teacher-403004_1280 (1)

What are these anti tenure cases really about?  Are reformers convinced the workforce has more than its share of ineffective teachers?   Or, are they concerned many teachers prefer to work in traditional schools where they can earn higher salaries and benefits?  Thus, charters and private schools struggle to compete for high quality teachers.

There is a general anti union undercurrent, but I am continually surprised how few Floridians seem to know that tenure in Florida is a thing of the past.  Why are other states filing law suits?

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Florida Gets an ‘F’ Again

FAILED1Which states get it right?  Not Florida.  It was one of eight states that received an overall grade of ‘F’ when its grades were averaged across the categories studied.   The Network for Public Education rated states based on six criteria.

For each category, I combined the percentages of A, B and C grades received across states.  I was surprised at the results.  Relatively few states (11) use test scores to punish students and teachers, but Florida is one of those that do.  You can see the combined percentages (think of them as passing scores) at the end of each of the criteria.

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Charter ‘Got to Go’ Lists in New York Success Schools

http://www.prwatch.org/files/new_charter_school_black_hole_report_oct_21_2015.pdf

Since expelling students is difficult in New York City, Success charters drive parents to withdraw their children.  The suspension rates are reported to be between 4 and 23 percent at least once.  Most schools suspend at least ten percent while public schools have a three percent suspension rate within a school year.  Suspensions start as early as kindergarten.

The charters use other strategies to encourage some parents to withdraw children who find it difficult to adapt to rigid rules.  Schools repeatedly call parents  to pick up their children early.  They may be counseled that the school is not a ‘good fit’ for their child.  Staff may tell parents that students needed special education that the school could not provide.  Some schools use 911 calls as a threat for children who misbehaves.  One mother whose child was on the list said she did not know about it.  She said, “He doesn’t hit kids, he doesn’t  knock kids over, he doesn’t scream, he just talks too much.”

This whole notion that parents should be able to choose schools that ‘fit their children’ has serious consequences.  The whole idea of a school where some children do not belong does not sound like a ‘public’ school.  When schools become exclusionary communities, the sense of community is lost.  With that loss, the problem is not contained just in a school.

 

NAEP 2015: Should we worry or celebrate?

dmbtestYes, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) average scores are slightly down overall in 2015 from 2013.  The grade four reading scores did go up from 217 in 2002 to 221 in 2015.  This is a one point increase from 2007  Average eighth grade math and reading as well as fourth grade math scores declined.

  • Math grade four scores dropped one point and grade eight dropped 3 points.
  • Reading grade four was the same and grade eight dropped two points.

Do changes of a point or two have any significance?  Not really.  It is comforting when scores tend to rise, but they often fluctuate some.  It is more meaningful to look at scores over time.  This is a very revealing exercise.

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Florida Education Funding: Holding the Purse Strings

taxes-646512_1280Does Florida short change its students?  Where does the education funding come from and where does it go?  Answers to such questions require some ‘tax literacy’.  Florida is one of seven states with no income tax.  As a percentage of personal income, Florida has the fourth lowest tax rate in the country.  Corporate taxes currently are 2.9% of Florida’s revenue.  Yet, Florida is not a poor state; some areas are quite wealthy.
Now there is a legislative proposal to eliminate property taxes.  What are the implications of such an idea?  Clearly, sales taxes would have to go up.  The question prompted me to put together Florida’s funding stream for education.  I asked some questions:
  • How much of its budget does Florida allocate for education?
  • How does Florida’s education funding compare to other states?
  • How much of the education budget is funded from states sales tax, the lottery, local property taxes and the federal government?
  • How much is diverted from the education budget by corporate tax rebates for private school scholarships?
  • How much money is diverted from school districts to charter schools?
The answers to these questions explain a lot.  We can understand the power of the federal purse when we oppose federal mandates on testing and accountability programs.  We can understand public school districts’ concerns about the attempts to privatize the educational system.  We can evaluate the impact of proposals to reduce taxes.  Most of all, we can examine our state’s priorities.

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