Voucher may be ‘stay out of jail’ card

670px-Play-Monopoly-With-Electronic-Banking-Step-9School vouchers may serve as a “stay out of jail card”, concludes a working paper by Corey DeAngelis and Patrick J. Wolf.

Crime rates are lower for young adults who experienced Milwaukee’s citywide voucher program as high school students, they found. Students who stayed in the voucher program through 12th grade — especially males — were significantly less likely to arrested than those who attended public high schools.

Good schools matter 

Families matter a great deal and schools very little when it comes to education, concluded the famous Coleman report, Equality of Educational Opportunity, 50 years ago. Coleman mixed up cause and correlation, writes Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby as part of Education Next‘s look back on the influential report.

Coleman “did not consider the possibility that advantaged children might have had high achievement precisely because their parents could choose good schools and ditch bad schools,” she writes.

Coleman believed teacher quality didn’t matter because measurable teacher characteristics, such as experience, education and vocabulary score, explained little of the variation in students’ achievement.

Parents always knew some teachers were better than others, writes Hoxby. These days, “numerous rigorous analyses of value-added demonstrate that teachers matter a great deal.”

Coleman failed to see that “good” families might be those who could discern which teachers were effective and get their children into those teachers’ classes. Thus, part of the apparent family effect was really a choose-effective-teachers effect.

(Before my daughter started kindergarten, I visited the two teachers’ classrooms and requested the one I liked the most. In later years, I networked with other parents to determine which teachers had the best reputations.)
Looking back, it is obvious that this early and voluntary desegregation was dominated by selection, that is, families’ own choices.Coleman also concluded that minority children achieved more when they had white classmates, Hoxby writes. But his study didn’t look at students randomly assigned to an integrated or all-black classroom. The data, from an era before desegregation orders, reflected “the sort of black families who were motivated and able to live in integrated neighborhoods.”

Hoxby attended voluntarily integrated schools in Shaker Heights, Ohio.  “Often, the blacks were professionals who already spent most of their working lives among whites, had white friends, and participated in mixed-race church and social groups. ”

Her research has found that “when students are randomly assigned to schools, it is the achievement and not the race of their peers that matters.”

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.”

The schools they chose

Included in the school choice stories on Education Post is Dashaun Robinson’s story how he failed in neighborhood schools, until he “found a small charter school in Providence, Rhode Island, and became a 10th grader, again, at the age of 18.” He’s now a sophomore at Rhode Island College.

Blackstone Valley Prep, a charter school in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, created a very small, supportive class to serve their son and other disabled students, write Kevin Sims and Krystal Vasquez. Despite his epilepsy, anxiety and adjustment disorder, he “loves learning” and performs at grade level.

Kim Wilborn

Kim Wilborn plans to earn a college degree.

Kim Wilborn, an eighth-grader, credits Perspectives Charter School in Chicago for  turning her into a straight-A student who’s forgiven her drug-addicted mother and taken her first steps on “a path to a brighter future.”

In elementary school, she “ran with a bad crowd,” she writes. There was  no homework. When she started Perspectives in sixth grade, she “didn’t know multiplication or division,” only how to punch numbers in a calculator. She got extra help to catch up in math.

In an ethics class called A Disciplined Life, she learning about taking responsibility — and forgiveness.

Even though he was in prison for 27 years, Nelson Mandela forgave the people who put him in there. He had dinner with one of his prison guards. He had lunch with the man who wanted him to get the death penalty. He was not bitter.

I didn’t want to be, either.

She’s learned how to push herself to overcome challenges.  Almost 200 pounds in sixth grade, she was encouraged to join the track team. “You have to keep going,” the coach told her. “When your legs get tired, you have to start running with your heart.”

I’ve lost a lot of weight since then. I have the willpower to keep going no matter how hard it gets.

. . . I get lots of homework now but it’s like when I started track: the more I’m used to it, the more I can do.

Gabby Dixon, a Perspectives high school student, likes the “small size and personal relationships.”

Her AP Literature is reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Sometimes I really have to sit down with my teacher to understand it — there’s so much going on in the text. What’s great is he told us it’s OK not to understand something right away. It’s OK to wrestle with a text. It’s OK to be vulnerable and open. That’s the best way you get to learn.

She’s also a big fan of A Disciplined Life.

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.

Did reform fail in Newark?

School reform failed in Newark, according to most reviewers of Dale Russakoff’s The Prize, writes David Steiner in Education Next. However, the “stubborn facts” in this “compellingly readable book . . . complicate this conclusion out of all recognition.”

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“The combination of an extraordinary (and perhaps extraordinarily naive) 2010 donation of $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, the high-octane political antics of Mayor Cory Booker, and the very dedicated but consultant-reliant and at times tone-deaf district leadership of Cami Anderson converge to create an education drama of the first order,” writes Steiner, who is a John Hopkins education professor.

Five years later, Newark’s district-run schools had improved on some measures, but achievement scores were flat.

However, the city’s expanding charter schools proved to be a “success story,” Steiner writes. “Charter students in Newark gain an additional seven and a half months in reading and nine months in math” per year of schooling compared to similar students in district schools, concluded a 2012 CREDO report. Expanding the city’s charter sector helped many students.

Russakoff praises “public school teachers who kept their heads down and did wonderful work in their classroom,” writes Steiner.

(These teachers) took it upon themselves to glean many lessons from the city’s best charter schools, and found charter school leaders eager to help. They organized themselves as a nonprofit agency through which they raised private money to purchase the rigorous, early literacy program, developed at the University of Chicago for kindergarten through third grade, that was used in the two leading charter networks—the TEAM schools of the national KIPP organization and North Star Academy, a subsidiary of Uncommon Schools.

Ras Baraka, now mayor of Newark, opposed the reforms. But, as principal of a low-performing high school, he “mounted an aggressive turnaround strategy, using some of the instructional techniques pioneered by the reform movement.”

Newark schools have improved, writes Chris Cerf, who was state commissioner of education and is now superintendent of Newark Public Schools. Graduation rates are way up, he writes. “More students attend beating-the-odds schools.”

The Zuckerberg money made a huge difference in Newark, and continues to do so today. Yet The Prize has caused some philanthropists to question additional investments in public education, reading the book as a call to double down on charters since “districts are not fixable.”

School choice is the most powerful tool for change in Newark, writes Rashon Hasan, a school board member, in Education Post.

School choice? That’s too scary

We Don’t Want School Choice — complete with a Choice Monster — is satire from ChoiceMedia.TV.

EdNavigator, a new nonprofit with a New Orleans pilot, helps parents choose the best school for their kids and track their progress. It’s free for parents. Funding comes from employers and charities.

For example, Erica, a hotel housekeeper, had six children in five different schools. Ed Navigator helped her transfer two younger children from a “D”-rated school to their eighth grade sister’s “B”-rated school using an “obscure sibling consolidation process.”

International House Hotel, which partners with EdNavigator, gave her paid time-off to complete the registration. The school provided free uniforms.

Zuck’s bucks: Are Newark kids learning more?

In 2010, Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to turn Newark’s schools into a “symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.” Mayor Cory Booker raised another $100 million. 

In The Prize, Washington Post reporter Dale Russakoff describes what happened. “It feels like a wash,” she tells the Newark Star-Ledger‘s Tom Moran. “Those children in high performing charters are better off. But those in the district schools are not.”

Reforms didn’t tackle poverty and family dysfunction, she says. District schools don’t provide “extra teachers, tutors, social workers, counselors, and a dean of students whose job it is to be sure there’s an adult in every child’s life.” The best charters do provide extra support, because they get much more money to the classroom.

Only about half the money that goes into the district actually reaches the classroom. . . . The rest is spent inside the bureaucracy. There is supposed to be an economy of scale in a big system, yet the charters, which get less money per kid, get more money in the classroom.

. . . the district spends $1.200 per child on custodians. KIPP charter schools spend $400.

Newark spends $22,300 per student in district schools, writes Moran. Russakoff would like to see “a forensic audit to find out why this money doesn’t reach the classroom.”

Newark students are better off, even though “reformers blew the politics” and triggered a huge backlash, argues Moran.

Nearly a third of the city’s students now are in charters, and Newark has some of the best urban charters in the country, according to a study by Stanford’s CREDO.

For example, TEAM Academy students — 92 percent are black and 88 percent eligible for a subsidized lunch — beat the state average on reading and math tests. Ninety-five percent of TEAM high school graduates enroll in college.

District-run K-8 schools are doing no worse, Moran writes, and reading proficiency and graduation rates have improved in the high schools.

In  Zuckerberg’s Expensive Lesson, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera mourns the children “left behind” in district-run schools. But he also wonders where the money is going.

The KIPP charter network, which runs Spark, gets $16,400 per Spark pupil, of which $12,664 is devoted to the school. The district schools get $19,650 per pupil, but only $9,604 trickles down to the schools. Money that the charter school is spending on extra support is being soaked up by the bloated bureaucracy in the public school system.

Zuckerberg has pledged to donate $120 million to start new district and charter schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and improve existing schools. It will include “listening to the needs of local educators and community leaders.”

NOLA’s new public schools lure middle class

Stephanie and Ben McLeish walk their children Micah, 5, ila, 7, and Silas, 9, right, to their local charter school, while their youngest Levi, 2, is pushed in the stroller.

The first signs of gentrification can be seen in New Orleans public schools, writes Danielle Deilinger in the Times-Picayune.

St. Rita’s Catholic School is struggling to compete for students. Photo: Cheryl Gerber, Hechinger Report

Despite a record of excellence, St. Rita’s Catholic School is struggling to compete for students. Photo: Cheryl Gerber, Hechinger Report

Before Hurricane Katrina, “few people with financial resources, regardless of race, put their kids in a New Orleans public school,” she writes.

Most public students were overwhelmingly poor and black, except for those who attended a handful of schools with entrance requirements. Private schools enrolled a quarter of school-age children.

New Orleans’ public students are as poor as ever: Three quarters qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. However, white enrollment has doubled — to 7 percent.

“Several new schools are attracting families who could afford private or parochial school, the same type of families who started leaving the school system 45 years ago,” writes Dreilinger.

. . . Morris Jeff Community School and Bricolage Academy are among the city’s new hot schools, according to enrollment numbers. So is Lycée Français, a language-immersion charter. They join pre–Hurricane Katrina favorites: Lusher Charter, Ben Franklin High, Edward Hynes Charter, Audubon Charter, the International School.

Before the storm, Morris Jeff was a low-performing school for low-income black students. Reinvented as a charter school, it’s now 40 percent white and non-poor. Eighty-four percent of fifth graders test as proficient in reading and math.

New Orleans’ Catholic schools are losing students, reports Jon Marcus. “Parents know they have a lot of choice,” said Karen Henderson, principal at St. Rita, which offers pre-kindergarten through Grade 7.

Life and death of an urban high school

Once the largest high school in the U.S., Queens’ Jamaica High had only 24 students in its final graduation class, writes Jelani Cobb in The Life and Death of Jamaica High School in The New Yorker.

Cobb, who went to Jamaica High in its prime, earned a diploma in 1987 and went on to Howard.

The Jamaica High School building last year and, at right, in 1981. CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY; PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIC DELUCIA / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX; JACKSON KRULE

The Jamaica High School building last year and, at right, in 1981.
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY; PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIC DELUCIA / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX; JACKSON KRULE

The New York City Department of Education closed the once respected high school due to “persistent violence and a graduation rate of around fifty per cent,” he writes. Four new “small schools” now share the old building.

The high school started to slip when talented students in northern Queens were given the option of attending two other schools, a magnet and an exam school, on college campuses, Cobb writes.

In 2004, the Bloomberg administration let students apply to any high school in the city. Savvy parents found the best schools. Less-savvy parents took what was left.

Once a racial, ethnic and socioeconomic mix, Jamaica High became 99 percent minority and 63 percent low-income in the year before it closed.

In Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, hunger strikers hope to save Dyett High School, a low-performing school that has lost students to competing schools.

Dyett High School valedictorian Parrish Brown accused CPS of "destabilization" in not providing basic resources.

Dyett High School valedictorian Parrish Brown accused CPS of destabilizing the school in 2014 by starving it of resources.

A community group wants to run it as a neighborhood school with a focus on “leadership and green technology.” The principal envisions a school with an sports theme. Another proposal would create an arts theme.

“Schools are ecosystems, each with its own history, culture, and intricately woven set of social relationships, writes Eve Ewing. “Schools are community anchors. They not interchangeable, nor are they disposable. Schools are home.”

Bronzeville parents have been choosing alternatives to Dyett for years now, just as Queens parents have been choosing alternatives to Jamaica High. Can they be persuaded to return to the neighborhood school?