Study: Charter high grads earn more as adults

Florida students who attended charter high schools earn significantly more as 23- to 25-year-olds than those who went to traditional public high schools, concludes a large-scale study by Vanderbilt and Georgia State researchers. Charter high school students are more likely to complete high school, go to college and stay in college, concluded the study, which was published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Former charter students earned $2,300 more per year, on average, in their early to mid-20s, said Ron Zimmer, one of the researchers.

Test scores weren’t higher at the charters, but these schools may do better at “promoting life skills like grit, persistence, self-control and conscientiousness,” he said.

To create a control group of students from education-minded, school-choosing families, researchers compared charter eighth graders who went on to traditional public schools with charter eighth graders who enrolled in charter high schools. They crunched the numbers five different ways to show their results were “robust.”

It’s not news that charter schools boost “attainment” — years of schooling — for disadvantaged students, even when test scores are no higher. Going farther in school and college pays off.

Zeeconomics has more on the long-term effects of charter school attendance in Boston, Chicago and Florida.

Hablas Java? Parlez-vous Python?

Credit: Jillian Lees, Daily Titan

Credit: Jillian Lees, Daily Titan

Computer coding could substitute for a foreign language for Florida high school students applying to state universities under a bill moving through the Legislature, reports the Sun Sentinel.

State Sen. Jeremy Ring, a former Yahoo executive, thinks students should study a foreign language in the early grades, then learn coding in high school. People without technology skills “will be left behind,” he believes.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is campaigning against the bill. It would make as much sense to call music a language, Carvalho said.

Charters work best for neediest kids

Urban charter schools improve the achievement of their low-income, black and Latino students, writes Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan professor, in the New York Times. In predominantly white, middle-class suburbs, “charters do no better and sometimes do worse” than neighborhood schools.

MATCH's disadvantaged students are some of the highest scoring students in Boston.

MATCH students are some of the highest scoring students in Boston. Credit: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times

Lottery studies in Massachusetts and a national study of charter schools funded by the Education Department confirm the pattern, she writes.

A Stanford study of student performance in 41 cities “also concluded that their charters outperformed their traditional public schools.”

Charter schools in Boston, which predominantly educate low-income black students, produce “huge gains in test scores,” her research shows. Charter-school “score gains are large enough to reduce the black-white score gap in Boston’s middle schools by two-thirds.”

Boston’s charters also do a better job at preparing students for college. Charter students are twice as likely to take an Advanced Placement exam as similar students in Boston’s other public schools. Ten percent of charter students pass an A.P. calculus test, compared with just 1 percent of similar students in other public schools. This stronger preparation means that these charter students are far more likely than similar students in traditional public schools to attend a four-year college.

Urban charters have one big advantage: It’s not hard to do better than the district alternative.

The bar is higher in the suburbs. Suburban charters must be drawing parents who value a small school, more flexibility, a non-standard curriculum or . . . They’re choosing something.

Looking at eighth-grade math scores on NAEP, Hispanic charter students in Florida and Arizona “scored about a grade level ahead” of Hispanic students in district schools, writes Matthew Ladner. In Florida, Hispanic charter students outperform the state average for all students in half the states.

Teacher evaluation sticker shock in Florida

With hundreds of mentors and “peer evaluators,” big raises for teachers and consultants’ fees, teacher evaluation has become a budget buster in Hillsborough County, Florida, reports Marlene Sokol for the Tampa Bay Times.

The Gates Foundation offered $100 million to fund Empowering Effective Teachers if the district paid the other half. Although other foundations also contributed, the district’s share has ballooned to $124 million.

Frank Hannaway teaches music at MacFarlane Elementary in Hillsborough County, Florida. Credit: Willie J. Allen, Jr., Tampa Bay Times

Frank Hannaway teaches music at MacFarlane Elementary in Hillsborough County, Florida. Credit: Willie J. Allen, Jr., Tampa Bay Times

“With $200 million in private and public money to play with, it was as if the district dined out nightly, ordered lobster and never kept track of the mounting tab,” writes Sokol.

Teachers got raises for performance — and for seniority. Most of the big raises went to veteran teachers in suburban schools, while high-poverty schools continued to get the least experienced, lowest-paid teachers.

Test scores rose, but the district continues to lag on graduation rates.

Hillsborough may cut back on peer evaluators, instead asking high-performing teachers to provide “non-evaluative” feedback to colleagues.

Valerie Strauss is leading the chorus of sneers, writing, “Another Bill Gates-funded education reform project, starting with mountains of cash and sky-high promises, is crashing to Earth.”

Graph for press release.PNG

Forty-three states require that student achievement and growth be included in teacher evaluations, according to a National Council on Teacher Quality report. In 35 states, it’s a significant factor.

Only Alabama, New Hampshire and Texas have teacher effectiveness policies that exist only in waiver promises made to the U.S. Department of Education.

Texas, Florida do well with disadvantaged kids

Texas and Florida “turn out to be educational powerhouses once you adjust for student demographics,” according to Breaking the Curve, a new Urban Institute report.

Matt Chingos compared states’ NAEP scores based on students’ race, ethnicity, poverty levels and the percentage of English Learners.

Adjusted for students’ disadvantages, Massachusetts remains the highest-achieving state, followed by New Jersey. Texas and Florida leap up to the number three and four spots.

“Utah, which is about average based on test scores alone, slides nearly to the bottom when adjusted for demographics,” writes Vox’s Libby Nelson. Other low-scoring states on Chingos’ index are California, which is just above Utah, Hawaii, Alabama and West Virginia.

Where college dreams come true

College dreams are coming true for minority students in Orlando, reports Saundra Amrhein on Politico.

Orlando’s University of Central Florida is working with four nearby state (formerly community) colleges to ensure two-year graduates transfer seamlessly with all their credits intact.

University of Central Florida graduates celebrated in May.

University of Central Florida graduates celebrated in May.

Thanks to DirectConnect to UCF, Latino bachelor degree graduates increased by 134 percent from 2010 to 2014; the number of black graduates nearly doubled.

Graduation rates at DirectConnect’s two-year colleges have climbed. Once at UCF, 71 percent of the program’s students go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.“

Forty-one percent of people who earn associate degrees go on to complete a bachelor’s degree in six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. The median completion time is 2.8 years.

One in four certificates are the first step to a four-year degree.

Millionaire turns around poor Florida town

Harris Rosen visited a day care center he funds in Tangelo Park, Fla. Credit: Melissa Lyttle, New York Times

For 21 years, a Florida millionaire has funded day care centers and college scholarships in a small, low-income, mostly black town near Orland, reports the New York Times. With $11 million of Harris Rosen’s money, “Tangelo Park is a striking success story.”

Once, nearly half the town’s students dropped out of school. Now nearly all graduate and most go to college or trade school with full scholarships.

Property values have climbed. Houses and lawns, with few exceptions, are welcoming. Crime has plummeted.

The son of immigrants, Rosen grew up poor in New York City and made his money in the hotel business.

For the youngest children, he created a system of free day care centers in Tangelo Park homes, ensuring that the certified providers, who are also the homeowners, instruct children as young as 2. He also started and finances a prekindergarten program in the local elementary school and offers parents training through the University of Central Florida on how to support their children.

The Tangelo Park Program doesn’t fund K-12 education.  “It is run almost entirely by volunteers, mostly community leaders,” reports the Times.

Next year, Rosen will begin funding early education in a downtown Orlando neighborhood with housing projects and few neighborhood institutions.

Defining ‘college readiness’ down

Naesea Price teaches a lesson on sentence and paragraph structure in a remedial English course at Baltimore City Community College.

“College readiness” has been redefined as ready to take middle-school courses in college, writes Checker Finn on Education Gadfly.

A movement for “co-requisite remediation” is placing remedial students in college-level courses, he complains.

Massachusetts will stop requiring a placement test for new students with a 2.7  grade point average (in all subjects). Those with a 2.4 grade point average who’ve passed four years of math also will be placed in college-level math.

A kid with a D in math but good grades in photography, gym, and basket weaving could easily end up with a 2.7 GPA, notes Finn. Four years of D’s in math and he needs only a 2.4 (C) average.

Florida’s open-access state colleges (formerly community colleges) now let students skip remediation and start in college-level courses, if they choose, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Alarmed by the high dropout and failure rates for college students who start out in remedial classes, Florida lawmakers voted last year to make such courses, and even the related placement tests, optional for anyone who…earned a [high school] diploma….The optional-remediation law is forcing professors in college-level composition classes to spend time on basic sentence structure, while mathematics teachers who were ready to plunge into algebra are going over fractions.

These students are earning college credit for learning middle-school skills, writes Finn.

There’s an easy way to make the reform look like a success.

Just teach fractions and sentence structure to students in courses that you label “college-level” — even though they’re not. Dumb ‘em down. Cheapen the currency. And again defraud the students (and anyone who might someday contemplate employing them) into believing that they really were prepared for college and are now getting a college education, even though neither of those statements is actually true.

Employers already are concerned that college graduates lack important skills, writes Finn. There’s “mounting evidence” that many graduates haven’t learned very much. Sending more unprepared students to college further cheapens the meaning of “college-educated,” he argues.

Testing fail

Steve Rasmussen, an education consultant, has written a devastating critique of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) math tests that will be administered to more than 10 million students in 17 states.

Citing test items, he concludes that many violate the standards they’re supposed to assess, can’t be answered with the technology provided, use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces and will be graded “in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct.”

Parents are right to boycott the SBAC test, Rasmussen writes.

As you’ll see as you look at these test items with me, a quagmire of poor technological design, poor interaction design, and poor mathematical design hopelessly clouds the insights the tests might give us into students’ understanding of mathematics. If the technology-enhanced items on the Smarter Balanced practice and training tests are indicative of the quality of the actual tests coming this year — and Smarter Balanced tells us they are — the shoddy craft of the tests will directly and significantly contribute to students’ poor scores.

Teachers will need to prep students on how to use the confusing tools, he adds.

Elizabeth Willoughby, a fifth-grade teacher in Michigan, has posted a video of her tech-savvy students struggling to figure out how to enter numbers on a practice test.

PARCC, the other federally funded testing consortium, also has produced a confusing, poorly designed exam, according to Save Our Schools NJ. “In the early grades, the tests end up being as much a test of keyboarding skills” as of English or math competence, the group argues.

As a farmer, Colorado State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg uses math to analyze “cost, production and profit, and quite often, loss,” he wrote. He got the right answers on the PARCC practice math test, but failed because he didn’t “show my work” in the approved way, he complains. Sonnenberg also struggled with the software.

Florida dumped PARCC and scrambled to create its own exam. The rollout of the computerized test created a “catastrophic meltdown,” Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Miami Herald.

The education of Jeb Bush

In Testing Time, The New Yorker’s Alec MacGillis looks at Jeb Bush’s approach to education reform as governor of Florida.

In 1995, Bush joined the board of the Heritage Foundation, “which was generating papers and proposals to break up what it viewed as the government-run monopoly of the public-school system through free-market competition, with charters and private-school vouchers,” writes MacGillis. He became a fan of school choice.

Bush worked with Willard Fair of the Urban League’s Miami branch to push a state law authorizing charter schools. It passed with bipartisan support in 1996.

Bush and Fair founded Florida’s first charter school in an impoverished, largely African-American section of Miami.

Bush brought his mother in for classroom visits and dropped by unannounced to make sure that things were running smoothly. If he found wastepaper lying around, he’d leave it on the desk of the principal, Katrina Wilson-Davis. The message was clear, she recalls: “Just because kids are poor and at risk doesn’t mean that their environment shouldn’t be clean and orderly.”

When he made a second run for governor, in 1998, he chose Florida’s education commissioner as his running mate and pushed the A+ Plan to hold schools accountable for their students’ performance. He won easily.

(The plan) provided additional funding to schools with good grades and stipulated that students at schools with poor grades would receive taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private and parochial schools.

. . . By the end of Bush’s second term, fourth-grade reading scores in the state had improved sharply, though eighth- and tenth-grade scores were more middling.

Bush is a strong supporter of the Common Core, which he’s called a “clear and straightforward” path to “high, lofty standards.” That’s hurting him with conservatives, writes MacGillis.