WA charters face new challenge in 2017

2017 will be a critical year for Washington state charter schools, which face the second year of a constitutional battle over school choice, reports Kate Stringer in The 74.

Voters approved charters in 2012, but the state’s first nine schools were ruled illegal by the Washington Supreme Court in 2015, “saved by state lawmakers in 2016 and now jeopardized again by a second lawsuit.”

“What we are after is the public oversight of the money being used for educational purposes,” said Ann Murphy, president of the League of Women Voters of Washington, one of the groups that successfully challenged the schools the first time and is making many of the same arguments again about how charters are run.

Parent Shirline Wilson, whose son Miles attends Rainier Prep in Seattle, calls the latest litigation “nothing more than a threat and a political ploy” obscuring the real issue: her right to choose the best school for her son.

“Shouldn’t I as a private citizen be able to say, ‘Enough, I’m done. I need to find something more and something better, and my child is worth it’?” she said.

A ruling is expected in late 2017 or early 2018.

Choosers like their schools

Charter parents are considerably more satisfied with their children’s schools than are district-school parents, according to a new Education Next survey. Private-school parents are the happiest of all.

Parents report less disruption at charter schools than at district schools, the study found. On some measures, charter parents “seem to be in closer contact with their school than parents in either the district or private sector.”

A 2012 Education Department survey provides similar results: Private school parents are the most satisfied and charter parents come next, followed by parents whose children attend a district school of choice. Those whose children were assigned to a district school are the least satisfied.

The Obama administration never reported the charter school results, writes Paul Peterson, a Harvard professor who directs the Program on Education Policy and Governance, in the Wall Street Journal. “By appointing Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump is listening to parents and acknowledging that it’s time to begin thinking outside the public-school box.”

That 2012 survey also found that charter-school parents are considerably more likely than district-school parents to be black or Hispanic and less likely to have a college degree or to earn $75,000 or more. District-choice parents are whiter, more educated and more affluent than assigned-school parents.

Check out interactive graphics at Results from the 2016 EdNext Parents Survey and Results from the National Center for Education Statistics 2012 Parents Survey.

A plurality of millennials think private schools provide the best education, but they don’t vote for pro-choice candidates, writes Ashley Bateman in The Federalist.

To recruit diverse teachers, schools hire their grads

How can an inner-city school find teachers who understand the challenges of their disadvantaged students? A California charter network is hiring its graduates as teachers, reports Jamie Martines in The Atlantic. High school graduates are offered a job, once they earn their college degree.

Elizabeth Pérez, a new teacher joining PUC Schools through the Alumni Teach Project, and her mentor, humanities teacher Joe Garza, during a training session. Photo: Jamie Martines

Elizabeth Pérez, a new teacher joining PUC Schools through the Alumni Teach Project, and her mentor, humanities teacher Joe Garza, during a training session. Photo: Jamie Martines

“We need people who look like we do, who come from our neighborhoods and who understand what it is like to be the first, to become role models for future young people,” reads the letter students receive on graduation day, signed by the co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools (PUC Schools), Ref Rodriguez.

PUC Schools, a nonprofit charter network, runs 16 schools, primarily serving Hispanic students in the Los Angeles area.

Nationally, 18 percent of teachers are non-white, reports the Brookings Institution. A little more than half of public school students are Hispanic, black, Asian-American, Native American, etc.

Children do better when they see authority figures, such as teachers, who look like them, says Michael Hansen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy.

A March 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University showed that black teachers are more likely to have higher expectations for their black students; white teachers, for example, were almost 40 percent less likely than their black counterparts to expect black students to finish high school.

A school’s graduates have “deep roots in the local community and may be more likely to stay in the job, which can help address the chronic problem of high teacher turnover at many urban schools,” writes Martines.

Mastery Charter Schools, which runs 22 schools in Philadelphia and in Camden, New Jersey, is recruiting and training its alumni. Mastery runs its own residency program with Relay Graduate School of Education.

Near Baltimore, the Howard County Public School System “awarded 11 of the district’s 2016 graduates full four-year scholarships to attend McDaniel College,” writes Martines. When they graduate, students are expected to teach in Howard County for at least three years.

England goes charter

England’s Conservative government wants to turn all 20,000 public schools into academies, their equivalent of charter schools, by 2022, write Helen F. Ladd and Edward B. Fiske of Brookings. However, a proposal to force schools to become academies has been dropped.

Two-thirds of English secondary schools are independently run academies.

Two-thirds of publicly funded secondary schools in England are independently run academies.

Two-thirds of England’s publicly funded secondary schools are academies.

The plan laid out in Educational Excellence Everywhere calls for academies to receive funding directly from the national Department for Education, “sharply reducing the role of the local authorities.”

“Our ambition remains that all schools should benefit from the freedom and autonomy that academy status brings,” said Education Secretary Justine Greening in a Parliamentary statement. “Our focus, however, is on building capacity in the system and encouraging schools to convert voluntarily.”

The Conservatives also want to let more schools choose their students.

A new Brown Center Policy Brief describes five lessons U.S. charters can learn from England.

LA teachers’ union says ‘no’ to Broad bucks

Great Public Schools Now (GPSN), largely funded by billionaire Eli Broad, hopes to create 260 new charters in Los Angeles. Pledging to “do more of what works,” GPSN also plans to “offer up to $3.75 million to help L.A. Unified expand five promising schools” in low-income neighborhoods, reports KPCC.

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That only fueled the teachers’ union’s Broad Rage, writes Larry Sand on Union Watch.

Five district-run schools will be awarded $250,000 a year for three years to expand or replicate successful programs.

United Teachers of Los Angeles members at four schools voted to refuse the money, reports KPCC. However, none of the schools are on the list of possible grant winners.

The money will go through the school district, writes Sand. “UTLA is asking the LA school board to turn down the cash.”

Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl called the donation “a public relations stunt that offers chump change to a couple of LAUSD efforts while they continue to put tens of millions of dollars into unregulated charter growth.”

The union leader wants philanthropists to “give a substantial amount of money, millions of dollars, to the L.A. School Board … to spend in the way they see fit.”

That’s not going to happen.

Why charters lost: They worked too well

Michael Siciliano holds a No on 2 sign outside a Holyoke school on election morning. Photo: Dave Roback / The Republican

Michael Siciliano holds a No on 2 sign outside a Holyoke school on election morning. Photo: Dave Roback / The Republican

Charter-school expansion lost in Massachusetts in a 62-38 blowout, writes Richard Whitmire on The 74. Why did voters reject “the best charter schools in the country?”

Unions targeted charters because they’re so good, he concludes. “The better the charter, the bigger the threat.”

Educators fought to defend the premise that schools can’t make a difference for kids in poverty, writes Whitmire.

When a charter operator such as Brooke Charter Schools, which serves a poor and minority student population, turns its students into scholars who rival the white and Asian students attending amply funded public schools in the suburbs along the Route 128 corridor, the question has to be asked: If Brooke can do it, why not others?

The Massachusetts Teachers Association started its anti-charter campaign seven months before the election, focusing on funding rather than school quality, Whitmire writes. Neither unions nor superintendents “can afford to lose the poverty argument. That risks losing everything.”

Eduwonk’s Andrew Rotherham asks how much the unions spent in Massachusetts to “protect jobs and keep poor black kids bottled up in crappy schools?” What if they’d spent that money “in, oh I don’t know, Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania on politics there?”

 Non-urban school districts with existing charters voted heavily against lifting the charter cap, reports MassLive. Money was the issue: The state pays districts 100 percent of per pupil revenue lost to charters in the first year, but only 25 percent for the next five years.

Education in the Trump era: What now?

Donald Trump won the presidency by mobilizing the frustration of non-college educated whites who feel left out and left behind. (Donald Trump will be president of the United States of America. Oy vey.) What now?

On the campaign trail, Trump called for cutting “the power and reach” of the Education Department.

Donald Trump spoke in New York in June. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

Donald Trump campaigning in New York. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

“Education has to be run locally,” he said. “Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top are all programs that take decisions away from parents and local school boards. These programs allow the progressives in the Department of Education to indoctrinate, not educate, our kids.”

He backed school choice, including charters, vouchers and magnet schools.

Trump said he’d make colleges cut tuition. “If the federal government is going to subsidize student loans, it has a right to expect that colleges work hard to control costs and invest their resources in their students,” Trump said. “If colleges refuse to take this responsibility seriously, they will be held accountable.”

He also threatened to end the tax-exempt status of colleges and universities with large endowments and high tuition rates, notes Inside Higher Ed. Colleges need “to spend endowments on their students, not themselves,” Trump said. “They need to use that money to cut the college debt and cut tuition, and they have to do it quickly.”

Trump’s education platform includes making it easier for people to afford vocational and technical training.

Here are education quotes.

What’s he really going to do? Would Congress go along? I have no idea. Still in shock.

Trump’s victory “leaves widespread uncertainty about what’s in store for public schools,” writes Ed Week.

Fordham’s Mike Petrilli predicts “quick changes” at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, including an end to applying “disparate impact theory” to school discipline.

Massachusetts voters rejected lifting the cap on charter schools.

California voters repealed limits on bilingual education.

Why vote for new charters? Kids learn more

Massachusetts voters are split on whether to approve 12 new or expanded charter schools, according to a new poll. Some 30,000 children are now on charter waiting lists.

“Progressives” Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have come out against Question 2. The Boston Globe has editorialized in favor of more charters.

Alanna Clark at Match High School in Boston in October. Photo: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times

Alanna Clark at Match High School in Boston in October. Photo: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times

Boston’s charter schools, most of which follow a “high-expectations, high-support” model, are very, very effective at teaching disadvantaged students, writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times. Rigorous research shows these are schools that work — and you’d think we’d want more of them.

Alanna Clark fell behind in school, but got no help with her reading disability. Her mother entered her in a charter lottery.

Alanna today is 10th grader at Match High School, which provides intensive tutoring to help students prepare for college success.

Match and other high-expectations, high-support charters focus on classroom teaching, Principal Hannah Larkin tells Leonhardt.  Students spend more hours in class. Standards are high. Teachers get weekly feedback on how to improve their teaching.


Black students who enroll in a Boston charter in sixth grade have much lower math scores than their white counterparts, researchers have found. By the end of eighth grade, they’ve caught up.

“Relative to other things that social scientists and education policy people have tried to boost performance — class sizes, tracking, new buildings — these schools are producing spectacular gains,” said Joshua Angrist, an MIT professor.

Massachusetts’ urban charter students don’t just earn higher reading and math scores, compared to students who applied for a charter but lost in the lottery, conclude Brookings researchers. Charter students are much more likely to take and pass AP tests, earn much higher SAT scores and are much more likely to go to a four-year college or university.

“The gains to children in Massachusetts charters are enormous. They are larger than any I have seen in my career,” researcher Susan Dynarski wrote in a Facebook post. “To me, it is immoral to deny children a better education because charters don’t meet some voters’ ideal of what a public school should be. Children don’t live in the long term. They need us to deliver now.”

Why charters will lose in Massachusetts

Massachusetts voters will reject a measure allowing up to 12 new charter schools, predicts Jay Greene on Ed Next‘s blog. Why? Charters serve disadvantaged blacks and Latinos, not middle-class and well-to-do families. That’s bad politics, he writes.

Rigorous evaluations of existing Boston charters show large test score gains,” he writes. Charter supporters are spending millions on ads.

Yet the charter expansion appears to be way behind in recent polls.

Education reformers are “so obsessed with social justice virtue-signaling that they’ve forgotten how politics actually works, writes Greene.  “If you want to help the poor, you should design programs that include the middle and upper-middle classes.”

Here’s more from The 74’s Matt Barnum on competing claims in the Measure 2 campaign.

Who’s blocking the door now?

It’s been 53 years since Gov. George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse door” to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama.

Affluent white suburbanites want to limit urban charter schools, complain minority parents in Boston. “So far, 194 mainly non-urban school committees statewide have backed resolutions opposing Question 2,” which would lift the cap on charter schools, reports the Boston Herald.

“You are hurting our children — not yours. Do you actually care what happens to little black and brown children? No, you don’t” said Dawn Foye, a Roxbury mother who sends her son to KIPP Academy in Mattapan.

Boston has the highest-performing charter schools in the nation. Most students come from low-income and working-class Black and Latino families.