Charter co-location: A phantom threat

Charter co-location — having a charter school share a building with a district-run school — is a “phantom threat,” argues Marcus Winters in a New York Daily News commentary. Co-locations don’t affect test scores for students in traditional public schools, his research shows. 

“Rent-free co-locations have helped charter schools expand rapidly in New York City,” despite receiving no state funding for facilities, Winters writes.

More than half of New York City’s traditional public schools share space with other schools and with community organization, he notes. Only charter co-location is controversial.

Complaints range from fairly small issues such as insufficient closet space or changes to the building’s lunch schedule to more serious issues that could impair a school’s effectiveness, such as classroom overcrowding and the loss of classroom space used for small-group instruction and teacher preparation.

Looking at test scores over five years, co-locations — whether with other traditional public schools or with charter schools — do not show “any discernible impact on student achievement.”

New York City charter students outperform similar students in traditional public schools, two studies have found. A 2013 CREDO study found gains for urban charter students in New York City and elsewhere.

Enrollment falls at California community colleges

California’s community colleges have cut as much as 20 percent of courses since 2008, driving enrollment to its lowest point in two decades, concludes a new report.  Enrollment fell from 2.9 million students in 2008-09 to 2.4 million students in 2011-12.

Encouraging wait-listed students to take online courses is a “massively bad idea,” writes a community college professor. Poorly prepared students can’t handle MOOCs.

Study: LA’s new schools help younger students

Los Angeles Unified built 131 new schools in the last decade to end overcrowding. Elementary students who moved into new schools made strong achievement gains equal to another 35 days of schooling, according to a Berkeley study. But high school students improved only a bit in English Language Arts and not at all in math when they moved from a crowded building to a new facility.

“How new elementary schools are lifting achievement remains somewhat of a mystery,” said William Welsh, the UC Berkeley Ph.D. student who carried out the statistical analysis. “New schools in LA Unified are much smaller than older schools, perhaps offering warmer, personal settings that are more conducive to kids’ learning.”

. . . Achievement gains were even stronger for elementary students escaping the most severely overcrowded schools and landing at a new campus – gains equivalent to lengthening the school year by up to 65 days, said the report.

LA Unified spent just under $15,000 per pupil, on average, for the new schools. “We found no evidence suggesting that more expensive school facilities yield stronger achievement,” Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller said.


CCs make room for out-of-state athletes

California’s crowded community colleges are cutting classes, turning would-be students away and making room for out-of-state football players.


Students pay more at public colleges

Public colleges and universities are relying more on tuition as state and local funding fails to keep up with rising enrollment.

A California community college may charge premium pricing for ‘next-day’ classes. Students could pay as much as $200 a unit to avoid a wait list, more than four times the regular price.

Squeezed out

Nationwide, 37 percent of community college students say they’ve failed to get into a class because it was full this fall; 20 percent can’t get the classes they need to complete a degree or certificate.

A community college dropout in New York City costs $17,700 in wasted financial aid and support for the the college system, according to a new report. Only 28 percent of students complete a degree — associate or bachelor’s — in six years.

Achievement is still a dream

On Community College Spotlight: In its first five years, Achieving the Dream has helped community colleges analyze data on students’ progress but success rates haven’t improved significantly.

As crowding worsens at community colleges, one third of students were turned away from one or more classes last semester.

Trailer teaching

Arthur Goldstein prefers teaching in a trailer — despite the days when it freezes or burns, despite the marching band playing Sousa outside — becase it beats the half classroom.

Sometimes in winter, you fumble wildly to unlock the trailer door, shivering in zero temperatures, only to find a sheet of solid ice on the floor. No one knows how that happens — it’s a wonder of nature. But when the thermostat breaks, as it does every few weeks, you know exactly what’s wrong. Don’t buy into the myth about tin being a good insulator. When it’s hot outside, it’s really hot in the trailers. On frosty mornings, when the heat isn’t working, kids find it painful to sit in those hard plastic chairs.

The alternative  to a trailer is a classroom divided into two halfs by a wall.  There’s no room for students to get up and talk to each other or for the teacher to walk around to see what students are doing.

Once, shortly after 9/11, I was in a half room and a supervisor walked in. He asked me why we hadn’t observed the moment of silence they’d announced. Of course, the loudspeaker was over on the other side of the half room so we never heard any announcements. When I told him that, he asked me why I had kids sitting on the windowsill. I told him they didn’t want to sit on the floor. Then I asked him to find us another room. But he ran away without responding.

It’s the curse of teaching in a high-performing high school.  “Every time we made more space, they sent us more kids.”