Choosing schools: What D.C. parents value

In a survey of parent choice, parents would be willing to transport their children to schools farther away if 50% (rather than 40%) of the students in a school were similar to their own. While schools close to home are ranked first, other factors enter into decisions according to a Mathematica review.  Districts respond but solutions are elusive.  The tale of Minneapolis is one such example.

 

 

 

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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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Proving the Point: Two are not better than one

face-25508_1280The Washington Post, posted a letter that tells it like it is in Washington D.C.  I could feel the heart break.  I will tell you about the data, but this is not about numbers.  You can read the real story below.
In 1965, there were 147,000 students in D.C. There were 46 schools with an average of 750 students per school.  in 2014, the school population dropped to 85,000 in 213 schools with 329 students per school.  You know what happened.  Suburbs happened.
Choice in D.C. is not a cost effective system.  Yet, it is the poster child for charter schools that work with poor and minority students.  The test score gains are touted even if the scores themselves are still low.  The description provided by a D.C. mother and published writer about culture indicates that there is a human cost that is neglected in the story about school reform in D.C.

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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U.S. DOE: Testing Action Plan

hat-157980_1280The Fact Sheet on federal plans to reform the over emphasis on testing was released yesterday.  The approach to school and teacher accountability has shifted from a strong emphasis on annual state assessments to one that uses multiple measures in ‘innovative’ ways.  The principles for testing are those one would expect:  tests should be worth taking, high quality, time limited, fair, transparent, one of multiple measures, and tied to improvement of learning.

Reading closely, it is apparent that annual testing remains for reading, writing, science and math.  The use of test scores to evaluate the achievement of students in diverse groups and to determine which schools need additional support remains.  There are, however, cracks in the system.

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For-Profit Charters: Whose Interest is Being Served?

money-40603_1280Lots of money easily available can lead to abuse, and it did–over and over again in Miami.  It is so much money that it may be time to follow New York’s lead and ban for-profit education management companies.  In this post we look at Academica, Florida’s largest for-profit education management firm.

Its schools are consolidated into at least four non-profit entities that allow Academica to operate legally as a contractor to its own schools. Their 100 schools are organized into the  Mater, Somerset, Pinecrest and Doral networks.  They also manage several Ben Gamla schools as well as others.  Academica operates in five states plus D.C. including Florida, Utah, Texas, Nevada, California.

The Doral and Mater charter governing boards keep appearing in the Miami Dade Inspector General reports.  There is a lot of money involved and continued poor governance citations.  You can follow the money.  Do these schools do more with less?

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Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness

by Pat Drago and Sue Legg

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This is not an easy walk into the woods, but you need to know where the funding for charter schools comes from and where it goes. It is your money.

There is a lot money to be made and lost with charter schools, and it is public tax dollars. As usual, independent schools tend to lose it, and large charter management chains come out on top.  This is not always to the children’s benefit.  How does this happen? We looked at the audits and found huge disparities in facility and fee expenditures. This meant that instructional parts of the budgets were reduced accordingly.

We wanted to know how these facilities were financed. If State funds were creating opportunities to make real estate venture capitalists wealthy, we wanted to know how this worked. Unfortunately, public dollars that go to private companies are hard to see. The lack of transparency for their financial records provides only vague outlines. We did find some clues by looking at how facilities are financed.

We wondered what other states were doing to ensure that state money was allocated for instruction and not for profit making ventures. We found some answers. As always, different approaches have their share of unintended consequences. As we groped in the darkness, there was a glimmer of light. The brave among you are invited to go down this path with us.

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Sweeping the Money Under the Rug?

Remember the post on  Profit Trumps Public Interest?  It was the one the National Council of State Legislatures put out on for-profit education management companies.  We discovered that National Heritage Academies had some serious problems.   Propublica published a follow-up article on the for-profit National Heritage Academies.

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Where Does the Money Go?

The Michigan State Board of Education has now asked the legislature to outlaw “sweep contracts” to for-profit companies, but the legislator did not listen.   Continue reading