Charters help close achievement gap

The achievement gap between students from low-income families and more advantaged students stagnated or grew between 2011-14, according to the Education Equality Index released by Education Cities.

urlOnly two in 10 low-income urban students attend a school with a small or nonexistent achievement gap, according to the study.

“Nearly 30 percent of the 610 achievement gap-closing schools recognized in this study are charter schools,” pointed out Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In Hialeah, Fla., which has the smallest achievement gap, “80 percent of the gap-closing schools are charter schools.”

About 6.5 percent of public schools are charters.

Disadvantaged big-city students did the best in Miami-Dade County, El Paso, San Francisco and New York City.

Gaps were the largest in Des Moines, Madison and Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Paul, St. Louis and Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina.

 

Charter school King

John King, Jr. won bipartisan approval as President Obama’s new U.S. Education Secretary this week. That shows “the mainstreaming of school choice and charter schools,” writes Lisa Snell in Reason.

U.S. Education Secretary John King, Jr.

U.S. Education Secretary John King, Jr.

A former school principal, John King helped found Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston and was managing director at Uncommon Schools charter school network, writes Snell. His schools have closed achievement gaps and raised college-going rates for low-income black and Latino students.

Yet, King’s charter school history wasn’t controversial in the hearings. His biggest obstacle was his support for Common Core as New York state education commissioner and his introduction of using student achievement in teacher evaluations.

Sanders hits ‘private’ charter schools

“I believe in public education, and I believe in public charter schools,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said at Democratic Town Hall in Ohio on Sunday. “I do not believe in private — privately controlled charter schools,” the presidential candidate added.

Charter schools are all public,” writes Anya Kamenetz on NPR. “And, each has some element of private control.”

Students and young adults asking the U.S. Senator from Vermont about issues ranging from education to immigration to crime to child care during a campaign event at Creative Visions, an organization founded by former Des Moines School Board member and current State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. (Flickr/Phil Roeder)

Bernie Sanders campaigns in Iowa. Photo: Flickr, Phil Roeder

More than 40 states — but not Vermont — allow charter schools, writes Emily Richmond on Educated Reporter. Some states let charter school governing boards hire for-profit companies to manage their schools or provide services. Others do not.

Nationwide, only 15 percent of charters are under for-profit management, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Twenty-six percent are managed by nonprofit organizations and 59 percent are run independently by the school’s leadership.

2014 Gallup poll showed lots of confusion about charter schools, Richmond writes. While 63 percent of respondents supported charter schools, nearly half thought charters were private and that charters could teach religion. Fifty-seven percent said charters could charge tuition and two-thirds thought charters could pick and choose students.

Phil Fiermonte, the former executive director of the Vermont American Federation of Teachers, is Sanders’ field director, reports Education Week in a look at candidates’ education advisors.

Inside the discipline debate

A video of a Success Academy teacher ripping a student’s math paper has raised a debate about discipline at rigorous, “no excuses” charter schools, writes Elizabeth Green on Chalkbeat.

“No excuses” refers to adults using students’ poverty to explain — and tolerate — poor academic results, Green writes. However, many reformers believed effective schools must adopted the “broken windows” theory that holds tolerating small infractions leads to serious disorder.

At struggling schools, the no-excuses educators argued, learning was regularly undermined by chaos, from physical fights to a refusal to follow even basic directions.

. . . At no-excuses schools, students often walk from one class to another in orderly and perfectly silent single-file lines. Detailed instructions dictate precisely how and when students should pay attention, from nodding to folding their hands and legs just so — poses on display in the Success Academy video. Teachers sometimes ban conversation during breakfast or lunch.

Now, there’s a move to relax rigid rules and make no-excuses schools happier places. Green thinks charter leaders have the desire and ability to improve the model.

But I think this is her most important point:

Looking at test scores, all the highest academic results ever produced for poor students and students of color have come from no-excuses schools. Period.

. . . Success Academy charter schools, which ranked in the top 1 percent of all New York schools in math and the top 3 percent in English.

. . . Other life outcomes are impressive, too. Data collected by the KIPP charter school network in 2013 showed that 44 percent of the schools’ graduates go on to earn a four-year degree, compared to just 8 percent of low-income Americans.

The urban no-excuses charters have significantly improved the reading and math skills — and the odds of high school and college graduation — for students from low-income black and Latino families. No other model has done this consistently, writes Green.

It’s a long piece, but well worth reading in full. Let me know what you think.

Bipartisan deal saves WA charters


Students at Summit Sierra, a Seattle charter school, rallied to save their school. Photo: Joshua Trujillo, Seattle Post-Intelligencer 

Washington state’s charter schools will remain open, if Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bipartisan bill funding the schools from lottery money.

“About 1,100 students are enrolled in nine charter schools across the state,” reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. School already had started last fall when the state Supreme Court “threw out the financing provision of a voter-passed 2012 initiative that authorized charter schools.”

The 6-3 majority ruled that charter schools aren’t eligible for general fund dollars as “common schools” because their boards aren’t elected.

‘No excuses’ charters soften discipline

A fourth-grade student does test-prep in his English class at Brownsville Ascend Lower Charter School in Brooklyn.

Fourth-graders study at Brownsville Ascend Lower Charter School in Brooklyn. Photo: Stephanie Snyder

Some high-performing, “no excuses” charters in New York City are rethinking strict rules, reports Monica Disare for Chalkbeat.

A few years ago, if a student arrived at an Ascend elementary school wearing the wrong color socks, she was sent to the dean’s office to stay until a family member brought a new pair. Now, the school office is stocked with extra socks. Students without them can pick up a spare pair before heading to class.

. . . “We’ve moved sharply away from a zero tolerance discipline approach,” (Ascend CEO Steve) Wilson said. “We believe a warm and supportive environment produces the greatest long-term social effects.”

Suspension rates were nearly three times higher at city charter schools in 2011-12, according to a Chalkbeat analysis.

Charter leaders say the rules create an orderly environment where students can learn.

Critics say high-needs students are pushed out.

Achievement First used to make students who’ve misbehaved wear a white shirt signaling they were in “re-orientation.” That policy has changed, said a spokeswoman.

KIPP no longer sends students to a padded “calm-down” room.

Recently, the New York Times published a video of a Success Academy teacher harshly criticizing a student who answered a math question incorrectly.

. . . Success Academy, for its part, has not changed its discipline philosophy and does not plan to, according to a spokesman.

Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academy said it should serve as a model. “The city could learn from Success’s code of conduct and provide the same safe, engaging learning environments that children need — and parents want,” she said.

Minority kids advance in choice schools

Urban minority students are more likely to complete high school aand enroll in college if they attend a charter or voucher-accepting school, writes Martin West in Education Next. Test scores may not be higher in urban schools of choice, but students go farther in school — and often in life.
Boston’s charter middle school students are closing the achievement gap in math, one study has found.

In Boston and New York City, other studies have found charter students are likely to avoid teenage pregnancy and incarceration and more likely to enroll in four-year colleges rather than two-year options.

In Washington, D.C., voucher usage greatly improved students’ chances of graduating. New York City voucher students are more likely to enroll in college and earn a bachelor’s degree than a control group.

“The chief beneficiaries of policies that expand parental choice appear to be urban minority students,” says West. “The benefits of school choice for these students extend beyond what tests can measure.”

Charters retain more hard-to-teach kids

While critics claim charters “push out” hard-to-teach students, urban charter schools are better at retaining students with disabilities and English Language Learners than district-run schools, concludes Marcus Winters.

Four years after entry into kindergarten, 65 percent of students with disabilities remained at their Denver charter school,  while district schools retained only 37 percent of special-ed students, writes Winters.

Victor Uriarte and his daughter Daniela, 11, celebrate the winning of the lottery of West Denver Prep. Photo: Hyoung Chang, Denver Post

Victor Uriarte and his daughter Daniela, 11, celebrate winning a seat at West Denver Prep, a high-performing charter network,  in a lottery. Photo: Hyoung Chang, Denver Post

Students learning English are more likely to remain at a charter than a district school. In New York City, 82 percent of ELLs who enrolled in charters for kindergarten remained in their schools four years later, compared with 70 percent in traditional public schools.

ELLs and students with disabilities made “substantial” learning gains in Boston charter schools compared to district schools, concludes a new MIT study.

Charters enroll fewer students with disabilities or an ELL designation. That’s because fewer apply, writes Winters. He advocates a common-enrollment system to make it easier for parents to apply.

Common enrollment nearly eliminated the gap in ELLS entering charters in Denver, his analysis found.

Is it OK to push out disruptive kids?

“I have no problem at all with charters functioning as a poor man’s private school,” Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio tells Reason. “Are we saying that if you’re a poor black or brown kid, it’s a problem that you should have a disruption-free, studious, high-quality school? Why is that unfair?”

A group of parents have filed a a civil rights complaint accusing high-scoring Success Academy charters of pushing out students with disabilities.

One Success Academy principal issued a “Got-to-Go” list of unwanted students, reported the New York Times in October. Founder Eva Moskowitz called it a mistake.

In response to the complaint, she said Success schools only suspend students for violent behavior. The schools’ disabled students perform better in reading and math than non-disabled students in other city schools, she points out.

Success Academy students who behave well enough to stay are doing much, much better than similar students in district schools. Should Success be forced to adopt laxer discipline policies and keep disruptive students? Should district schools be allowed to adopt tougher discipline policies and get rid of disruptive students?

Milwaukee’s voucher program also was accused of discriminating against disabled students. After four years, the federal investigation has been closed “with no apparent findings of major wrongdoing,” reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Detroit’s disintegrating schools

Crumbling, Destitute Schools Threaten Detroit’s Recovery, headlines the New York Times.

Two words: New Orleans.

Yes, Detroit’s district-run public schools are moldy, rat-infested — and failing academically. But they’re not the only alternative.

Teachers called a sick-out this week, shutting down most of the district’s schools.

“We have rodents out in the middle of the day,” Kathy Aaron, a teacher of 18 years, told the Times. “Like they’re coming to class.”

The gymnasium floor at Charles L. Spain school is buckled and partially ripped out. Credit: Salwan Georges, New York Times

The gymnasium floor at a Detroit school is buckled and partially ripped out. Credit: Salwan Georges, New York Times

“Many worry that the state of the schools will hamper Detroit’s recovery from bankruptcy,” according to the Times.

The city is beginning to rebuild, said Mary Sheffield, a City Council member. “We have businesses and restaurants and arenas, but our schools are falling apart and our children are uneducated. There is no Detroit without good schools.”

But what if there are good schools — outside the district’s control? Fifty-five percent of school-age children in Detroit attend charter schools and others go to district schools in nearby suburbs. Detroit Public Schools enrollment has fallen by more than two-thirds in 15 years.

New Orleans.