Do charters serve fewer disabled students?

Charter schools are doing a better job serving special-needs students than reported, according to a New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Nationwide, charters serve fewer special-ed students, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report. However, the New York study finds “important variations in the enrollment patterns of students with special needs,” said Robin Lake, CRPE director.

In New York, charter middle and high schools enroll more special-needs students than district-run schools, according to CRPE. Charter elementary schools enroll fewer.

Some district-run elementary schools offer programs for special-needs students, the report noted.

Charter schools at the elementary level might also be less inclined to label students as needing special education services. This raises a troubling question: are charter schools under-enrolling or under-identifying students with special needs, or are district-run schools over-identifying them?

Instead of setting statewide special education enrollment targets, policy makers should set “school or regional targets that pay careful attention to those very specific factors that influence such enrollment choices as locations, grade-spans, and neighborhoods,” the report advises.

Setting targets assumes that every school should include the same percentage of disabled students. I’d like to see more schools (charter or district-run) designed for students with specific special needs, such as attention deficit disorder or autism, and more designed for academically gifted students.

Elite students excuse cheating

Cheating is easy to rationalize, say students at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High School in the New York Times.

The night before one of the “5 to 10” times he has cheated on a test, a senior at Stuyvesant High School said, he copied a table of chemical reactions onto a scrap of paper he would peek at in his chemistry exam. He had decided that memorizing the table was a waste of time — time he could spend completing other assignments or catching up on sleep.

“It’s like, ‘I’ll keep my integrity and fail this test’ — no. No one wants to fail a test,” he said, explaining how he and others persuaded themselves to cheat. “You could study for two hours and get an 80, or you could take a risk and get a 90.”

A recent alumnus said that by the time he took his French final exam one year, he, along with his classmates, had lost all respect for the teacher. He framed the decision to cheat as a choice between pursuing the computer science and politics projects he loved or studying for a class he believed was a joke.

“When it came to French class, where the teacher had literally taught me nothing all year, and during the final the students around me were openly discussing the answers, should I not listen?” he said.

Stuyvesant students are competing for highly selective colleges. They work very hard in the classes they care about, but try to limit their workload in other classes. Copying homework is considered OK, students told the Times. Cheating on tests requires some extra excuse-making.

In June, 71 juniors were caught texting his each other answers to state Regents exams.

Education and civil rights group charge the elite high schools’ admissions test screens out black and Hispanic students, reports the Times. The Specialized High School Admissions Test is the sole criterion for admission to eight specialized schools.

According to the complaint, 733 of the 12,525 black and Hispanic students who took the exam were offered seats this year. For whites, 1,253 of the 4,101 test takers were offered seats. Of 7,119 Asian students who took the test, 2,490 were offered seats. At Stuyvesant High School, the most sought-after school, 19 blacks were offered seats in a freshman class of 967.

“Stuyvesant and these other schools are as fair as fair can be,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a news conference. “You pass the test, you get the highest score, you get into the school — no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your economic background is.”

School funding: Quietly unequal

The rich districts get richer in Illinois, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and North Carolina, according to a new Center for American Progress report, The Stealth Inequities of School Funding. In these states, schools in higher-poverty districts receive less state and local dollars than low-poverty districts, the report finds.

On the state level, there’s no relationship between education spending and results, according to a State Budget Solutions study, which analyzed state spending from 2009 to 2011. Spending more didn’t raise graduation rates or ACT scores. Spending less didn’t lower performance.

Massachusetts, which has the strongest academic performance in almost every subject area and the highest ACT scores, spend less of its state budget on education than 45 other states, SBS reported.

CUNY launches community college experiment

If community college students enrolled full-time, learned basic skills in for-credit classes, took a well-planned schedule of courses, received mandatory tutoring and counseling . . .  Would they earn degrees?  City University of New York’s New Community College will test whether an intensive, highly structured program will increase graduation rates.

Colleges rethink training for energy jobs

Many “green job” trainees have had trouble finding work, so community colleges are aligning alternative energy programs to local employers’ needs.

New York colleges are adding training programs for natural gas drillers, despite the state’s ban on “fracking.” Job seekers lined up at a job fair at a college near the Marcellus Shale belt.

But which one gets to be Crassus?

Via EducationNext, a little inside baseball for those of you following the ongoing reform wars: Klein, Moskowitz, and Rhee have joined forces in New York.  It looks like that’s where they’re going to make a stand.  According to the NYT:

Like the national group, the state branch will promote the expansion of charter schools and the firing of ineffective schoolteachers, while opposing tenure.

I should visit the concession stand and pick up some popcorn.  This is going to be good.  Anyone want anything while I’m up?

Critics charge ‘credit recovery’ abuses

New York is looking into charges that credit recovery programs make it too easy for students to blow off schoolwork, earn credits for doing very little and pick up a diploma. Principals are evaluated based on graduation rates, providing an incentive to lower standards. (Students can earn P.E. credits online.) Read teachers’ comments on Gotham Schools.

It’s not just a New York City thing. Teachers all over the country have been complaining about credit recovery.

Dumbing down New York’s Regents exam

New York has dumbed down its Regents exam to avoid failing too many students, writes Michael Winerip in the New York Times. This year, for the first time, high schools students must score at least 65 on five exams — English, math, science, global history and U.S. history — to earn a diploma. But it’s easy to score 65, Winerip asserts. Literacy is optional.

The three-hour English test includes 25 multiple choice questions, an essay and two short responses. A student who gets 1’s on both responses is likely to reach 65, Winerip writes. What does it take to score a 1? The state teachers’ scoring guide gives an example of a 1-worthy short response:

These two Charater have very different mind Sets because they are creative in away that no one would imagen just put clay together and using leaves to create Art.

He also provides the start of an essay that deserves 4 out of 6 points, according to the guide:

In life, “no two people regard the world in exactly the same way,” as J. W. von Goethe says. Everyone sees and reacts to things in different ways. Even though they may see the world in similar ways, no two people’s views will ever be exactly the same. This statement is true since everyone sees things through different viewpoints.

I suppose one could argue that blathering, bluffing and echoing the words of authority figures are important workforce skills.

Winerip, never a fan of standards and accountability, doubts “there are new and higher standards, stronger curriculums and better tests just over the next hill to solve all our problems.”

“Four now,” he writes, “Wm. Shakespare must Be a turnover in his Grave (1 point).”

Massaging the Regents

Getting students to pass the Regents exam is “damn near everything,”, writes a Bronx high school teacher in New York Magazine‘s Workplace Confidential.

As teachers, we massage the tests to make sure if a kid is close to passing, he or she does. We don’t take a 30 and make it a 65, but we do our best to make that 62 a 65.

. . . This test is a requirement to pass high school and graduate. If the student doesn’t pass, the parent comes in screaming that he was a mere three points from passing. The principal hears it. Then we hear it. Then he ends up passing anyway. This is the norm. Seniors are the worst, because they feel so entitled that we have to cover our asses nineteen different ways to fail them. There have been stories of guidance counselors’ flat-out changing grades and passing ­seniors who should have failed but miraculously walked on graduation day.

Teachers are cogs in the system, the anonymous teacher writes.

Oklahoma may cancel graduation requirements

Oklahoma may repeal its brand-new graduation requirements for fear of high failure rates, reports the Tulsa World.

The class of 2012 is the first group of students to face the state graduation requirements created by lawmakers in 2005 as part of Achieving Classroom Excellence legislation.

Each student is required to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to get a high school diploma. The exams are in Algebra I and II, English II and III, Biology I, geometry and U.S. history.

Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, predicts 80 percent of legislators will support repealing the higher standards.

Even Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, a co-author of the original bill, wants to rethink the legislation. Schools haven’t been able to give students enough remedial help, she said.

Several states are backing off on higher graduation requirements, notes the Hechinger Report. Georgia eased its requirements last year, cutting the number of exams from four to one.

Other states are raising standards to ensure a passing score signifies college readiness.

New York has vowed to make its high-school graduation exams tougher after a study last year showed that even students who pass the math test may be placed in remedial math classes in college. Florida recently raised its cut-off scores on all standardized exams, including those in high school, and is developing additional end-of-course assessments.

Statistics showing that large numbers of high-school graduates are unprepared for college coursework have fueled the push to make tests more difficult. Right now, many of those who do earn a diploma must enroll in at least one remedial course in college.

Nearly a quarter of high school graduates who seek to enter the military fail the entrance exam, which tests subjects such as word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning and general science, Hechinger reports.