Education reform pioneers’ story

Education Reform: Before It Was Cool looks at the pioneers of the modern reform movement. The anthology was edited by Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform.

Media Bullpen joins the fray

The Media Bullpen, a critique of education reporting, was launched this week by the Center for Education Reform, which supports school choice, including charters and vouchers. It’s an ambitious project: CER hopes to expand its staff to a dozen analysts who will review hundreds of education stories daily.

The site isn’t designed to push an agenda, CER President Jeanne Allen told Linda Perlstein on The Educated Reporter.

“The issue is not that education is underreported,” she said. “It’s either misreported or doesn’t really focus on the issues at hand.” If there’s a bias, she said, “it’s that education is critical, achievement is down and needs to be better.”

Perlstein has doubts on the no-agenda part.

Charter performance

Charter school students don’t perform as well as students in traditional public schools, concludes Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States, released by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). However, low-income students and students who aren’t fluent in English do better in charter schools. Special education students do about the same.

Overall, the report found 17 percent of charters outperform traditional public schools, 46 percent are about the same and 37 percent are less effective.

Students do better in charter schools over time. While first year charter school students on average experienced a decline in learning, students in their second and third years in charter schools saw a significant reversal, experiencing positive achievement gains.

Elementary and middle school charters are effective; high school charters lag behind.

There were very significant differences between states.  States that cap the growth of charter schools had lower performance, as did those with multiple charter authorizers. Denver, Chicago and Louisiana charter schools were the most effective; Ohio charters did the worst.

On average, charter schools receive 78 percent of the funding of district-run public schools. In seven of 16 states studied, charters receive no facilities funding so they must use operating funds to pay for classroom space.

In response to the report, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools called for requiring annual performance targets in charter contracts and clear legal authority to close underperforming charters. The alliance also wants to hold charter authorizers accountable for the performance of schools they approve to make it harder for poorly conceived schools to shop around for a lax authorizer.

National Alliance will be releasing A New Model Law for Supporting High-Quality Growth for Public Charter Schools next week.

The alliance criticized some aspects of the report, such as the comparability of charter and non-charter students and limited data on high school achievement. A recent RAND report found charter students earned similar test scores to non-charter students but were more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college.

Center for Education Reform analysis the strength of states’ charter laws in Race to the Top for Charter Schools.

Charter schools that make a difference

Twenty-one charter schools have made a dramatic difference for high-need students, reports The Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC), an initiative of New Leaders for New Schools. EPIC analyzed gains in student achievement at 150 charter schools serving disadvantaged students.

Among this year’s recognized schools are:

MATCH Charter Public School, Boston, MA – By developing powerful partnerships with area colleges and universities, MATCH has developed student support and enrichment programs that are critical to the school’s mission. The school is lauded as one of the best in the country, with 99 percent of graduates moving on to a four-year college or university.

Mastery Charter Schools: Lenfest and Shoemaker Campuses, Philadelphia, PA – As a small charter management organization in Philadelphia, Mastery Charter Schools are tackling the issue of educational inequity head-on. By placing an emphasis on effective management and proven practices, Mastery is growing into a leader in urban education.

E. L. Haynes Public Charter School, Washington, DC – E.L. Haynes has made improving literacy one of the central foundations of their school community. Teachers use and analyze data from interim assessments to see what content their students are struggling with. During a full-day of professional development following each marking period, teachers then develop action plans for addressing curricular challenges and problem areas.

EPIC will provide monetary awards worth $3,000 to $12,000 each to administrators and instructional staff at each of the 21 schools.

Also, Center for Education Reform is releasing its charter school accountability report today.

Ty’Sheoma needs choices

Without school choice, Ty’Sheoma Bethea will stay in her second-rate school, writes Jeanne Allen, who runs the Center for Education Reform, in the Washington Post.

Ty’Sheoma is the young lady who sat with first lady Michelle Obama when President Obama spoke to Congress Tuesday night. She had reached the president through a letter about her school, the ceiling that leaks, the walls that shake when trains go by, the poor education it provides.

Ty’Sheoma lives in Dillon, South Carolina, which spends $8,700 — more than the national average — to keep her in that crumbling school. Her junior high has a student-to-staff ratio of 9 to 1, notes Allen.  But it doesn’t seem to make a difference.
Ty’Sheoma’s parents have no choice: There are no charter alternatives in Dillon; there are no vouchers or “opportunity scholarships” that would let them consider a private school.  There’s no pressure on the district-run public schools to improve. “If Ty’Sheoma had a choice, maybe we wouldn’t know her at all,” writes Allen.

Change: Here’s how

Center for Education Reform’s Mandate for Change prescribes a five-part cure for our education woes. Juan Williams writes on federal accountability, John Engler on transparency, Kevin Chavous on charter schools, Jeanne Allen on school choice and Richard Whitmire on teacher quality.