Chartering for integration

While most high-performing charter schools serve disadvantaged minority students, there’s been a “noteworthy rise” in successful charters designed to serve racially and economically integrated student populations,” concludes a brief by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Three charters designed to draw a mix of students and three focused on low-income students are profiled in A Mission to Serve.

The Century Foundation, an advocate of economic integration, looks at seven diverse, high-performing charter schools in a second report.

Integration raises challenges, notes Education Week.

The “no excuses” philosophy popular in many charter schools, which focuses on discipline and more-traditional teaching practices, has garnered attention for some positive results with disadvantaged students, but “middle-class parents generally aren’t interested in that,” said (Fordham’s Mike) Petrilli.

On the other hand, several models of progressive education that place less emphasis on basic skills have not been consistently demonstrated to be effective for more-disadvantaged students, he said.

Meeting everyone’s needs in one school is very, very difficult to do.

Based on studies that compare charter lottery winners with students who applied but lost the lottery,“students in urban areas do significantly better in school if they attend a charter school, concludes Jay Greene in a research round-up. However, he notes, a national study for the U.S. Education Department found “significant gains for disadvantaged students in charter schools but the opposite for wealthy suburban students in charter schools.

It’s easier to compete with  dysfunctional urban schools than with smooth-running suburban schools. But I also suspect the suburban charters are providing a progressive alternative for middle-class parents — and it doesn’t work as well, at least in producing high test scores.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. I actually wrote about this indirectly at Larry Cuban’s blog a while back:

    In my experience, most of the “progressive” charters (Summit, HTH, and so on) are the ones that try, at least, to be student-centric. They often exist in school districts with a large URM population co-existing with a still substantial middle class or higher income population, and their students are made up of the earnest mid-achievers of both groups. Hence their less than stellar scores that nonetheless aren’t dreadful. They are always under pressure to “increase their diversity”.

    These schools are marketed to give well-off but not rich white parents in a split-income district a less expensive alternative for their middle-achieving kids than an equivalent mid-level private school (which charges just as much as the high-achieving schools).(emphasis mine after the fact)

    The “progressive charter” can’t be compared with the typical urban charters that give a low-achieving population a safe haven from the often out of control schools they’d otherwise attend. These schools aren’t even slightly interested in being student-centric, but in providing a tough, disciplined, safe environment.

    I know there are a few high-performing charters (Pacific Charter School in Santa Cruz comes to mind) designed for high-achieving students, but they are the minority.

    The common denominators for all charters: they are all designed to appeal to one or two specific populations and “bleed off” the high achievers from public schools. The suburban charters rely on money from their parents; the urban charters rely on grant money from Gates and the other philanthropists.

    That’s why charters continue to grow, despite their lackluster results. Despite their billing, they aren’t designed to change curriculum, instruction–or even results. They are designed to provide an environment that will please the target population. Mid-level suburban charter students (Summit, HTH) are getting As instead of the Bs and Cs they’d get at their local public schools, and their parents aren’t forking out private school funds. Urban students at KIPP and the rest feel safer and are in an environment where the other students have to behave or get kicked out, so their peer environment makes their parents happier.

  2. They are designed to provide an environment that will please the target population.

    Perhaps you could contrast that with the design followed by the district schools from which these kids come? I’m just curious what the design criteria are for district schools that a) doesn’t please parents and b) is so worthwhile that “a” is unimportant?

  3. I did contrast it. I even bolded it.

    • I’ll try to remove the possibility of misinterpretation:

      These schools are marketed to give well-off but not rich white parents in a split-income district a less expensive alternative for their middle-achieving kids than an equivalent mid-level private school (which charges just as much as the high-achieving schools)

      And the well-off but not rich white parents who don’t send their kids charters in an attempt to gain the benefits of a mid-level private school? What about them? Do they not give a damn about their kids? Are their kids too stupid to even consider trying to get them into a charter that approximates a mid-level private school so those parents don’t bother? There’s one contrast that ought to be interesting to explore.

      The “progressive charter” can’t be compared with the typical urban charters that give a low-achieving population a safe haven from the often out of control schools they’d otherwise attend.

      And here’s another bunch of parents whose motivations, or lack thereof, deserve some inspection. Not the ones who want to get their kids into charters as “a safe haven from the blah, blah, blah” but the ones who don’t. Do you think they’re indifferent to their kids being in “out of control schools”? Or is something else going on?

  4. And the well-off but not rich white parents who don’t send their kids charters in an attempt to gain the benefits of a mid-level private school? What about them? Do they not give a damn about their kids? Are their kids too stupid to even consider trying to get them into a charter that approximates a mid-level private school so those parents don’t bother? There’s one contrast that ought to be interesting to explore.

    You forgot the part about “middle-achieving”. That is, high ability kids do just fine in a comprehensive high school, so no need for the parents to pull them out. Middle ability kids do poorly, so charter schools designed for them are a way for parents to give the kids a more impressive GPA without them actually learning anything more.

    Other parents have kids who are good at sports, or who loathe progressive education. There are all sorts of reasons why parents wouldn’t want their kids in a progressive charter. Remember, these are suburban charters, so the schools aren’t terrible.

  5. I didn’t forget anything. You’re just loath to have to confront the fact that parents see choice as a worthwhile end in itself because it means they’re in charge, not some professional of indeterminate competence and uncertain concern.

    Oh, and since subject of forgetfulness has been raised, what about those parents who care so little about their kids that they don’t even try to pull them from “out of control (district) schools”? Lot of those in your world? Judging from the waiting lists many charters sport I’d say you might want to rethink your rationalization of the uncaring parent.