Mar 21st, 2013 by Alex Medler
Last week, Chris Korsmo, of Washington state’s League of Education Voters crafted a powerful and personal commentary for the Seattle Times confronting the argument that people ought to “finish” the effort to eliminate poverty before they insist on dramatic improvements in the schools we give our poor children.
You see it all the time. Last month, even the traditionally astute Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, repeated the line of argument with Michelle Rhee, asking how we can demand so much education reform, when we know that poverty is really the real problem. As Stewart offered, “It seems like education can only be put in place once the soil is fertile.”
Can you imagine any other problem faced by the poor, for which otherwise intelligent liberals would say it is wrong to try to fix it before we eliminate poverty? According to this line of reasoning, we shouldn’t work to alleviate or end homelessness, hunger, violence, obesity, or substance abuse until poverty is gone — ridiculous. Like education, poverty is correlated with, and exacerbates, each of these problems. Yet we work to reduce them in the face of continuing income inequality.
No one says, “Stop! You are just helping people ignore the real problem of poverty by criticizing our health, housing, or criminal justice systems.” For some reason, reasonable people repeat the absurd argument when it comes to education.
What do you suppose makes so many people leave their brain behind when it comes to arguing against efforts to give more poor kids a good education?
Hello from a chilly St. Paul, Minnesota! Earlier this week, the House Education Committee chose to incorporate into an omnibus bill, HF 998, legislation that would create a closure provision for charter schools performing in the lowest 25% of all public schools in the state. The authorizer would still have the ability to keep the school open, but must justify why they are doing so. The bill provides an exemption for AECs (referred to as Alternative Learning Centers in Minnesota). Charter School Partners Executive Director, Al Fan, spoke out in support of the bill that would provide a red flag on schools that were performing poorly. NACSA’s Alex Medler, testified about the importance of holding authorizers accountable for closing failing schools and making it easier to make the hard decision of closure. Thank you, Charter School Partners, for inviting NACSA to St. Paul and we look forward to visiting again!
Mar 12th, 2013 by Alex Medler
How can we improve our ability to judge the quality of charter schools that serve high proportions of extremely at-risk kids?
This article from the MinnPost does a good job of describing this complicated and difficult issue.
Catrina a student at Denver’s Florence Crittenton High School, a school for teen moms, with her son at the zoo. Credit: The Denver Post via TLC
I’m in Minnesota to talk with policymakers about accountability for schools that do badly on state tests. Part of that challenge is figuring out how to address this issue for schools that serve extremely at-risk populations–not just students who are low-income or behind-grade-level, but students with specialized challenges such as teen pregnancy, juvenile incarceration, and drug addiction. States have various names for these schools, but a common factor is a large proportion of young people (some not so young) who would not do well on a state test in any school. The challenge is to find a way to hold these schools to high standards of achievement while taking account of their unique challenges.
I have two main observations:
1. Doing a better job of understanding these schools is key to applying accountability to many schools that will claim they deserve flexibility that is intended for such schools (even if they aren’t really an AEC); and
2. Collectively, we don’t agree on what we expect of such schools, so the idea that we could have consensus on what they must do to be successful is premature.
What do you think?
Check out the new op-ed from Al Fan of Charter School Partners and NACSA’s Alex Medler on the need for greater accountability for the state’s charter schools.
“A bi-partisan bill is making its way through the Minnesota legislature to close the state’s persistently lowest performing charter schools. The effort is not led by charter school opponents but by charter supporters, who believe that the charter sector holds tremendous promise to help close the nation’s and Minnesota’s appalling achievement gap…
…Closing chronically low-performing charters and providing solid educational options for all Minnesota children is the right thing to do. Let’s have the courage to move forward with this bold initiative as a public service to Minnesota’s least-served children.
Read the whole piece here.
Mar 7th, 2013 by Amanda Fenton
Greetings from Nashville! Earlier this week, the House Education Committee passed HB 0702, legislation that would create the State Charter School Panel, an independent charter board. The Panel would serve as an appellate body that could review (and, when warranted, authorize) charter school applications if they were improperly denied by local education agencies. The Panel would follow NACSA’s Principles and Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing and would encourage LEAs across the state to do the same. Rep. White, the House author of HB 0702, spoke to the importance of setting high standards for authorizers and charter schools, as with this bill “we will challenge not only LEAs across the state, but we will challenge the charter applicant to meet the highest standards.”
Dr. Alex Medler, NACSA’s Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, testified on the role of quality authorizing in charter school oversight and the goals of NACSA’s One Million Lives campaign. The committee hearing coincided with the Tennessee Charter Schools Association’s annual “Day on the Hill” and students and parents packed the hearing room to show their support for quality charter schools.
We thank Rep. White and the Tennessee Charter Schools Association for inviting NACSA to participate in this hearing and look forward to our next visit to Nashville!
Feb 28th, 2013 by Parker Baxter
A new report from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University (CREDO) “found that the typical student in a Massachusetts charter school gains more learning in a year than his or her district school peer, amounting to about one and a half more months of learning per year in reading and two and a half more months of learning per year in math.”
“The average growth rate of Boston charter students in math and reading is the largest CREDO has seen in any city or state thus far. These results signify that these schools could serve as a model and have an opportunity to transfer knowledge to not only the rest of the state but to the national sector as well.” –Edward Cremata, CREDO Research Associate and co-author.
In Boston, where 13 percent of the state’s charters are located, the findings “were even more pronounced, equating to more than twelve months of additional learning per year in reading and thirteen months greater progress in math. At the school level, 83 percent of Boston charter schools have significantly more positive learning gains than their district school peers in reading and math, and no Boston charter schools were found to have significantly lower learning gains.”
Feb 28th, 2013 by Parker Baxter
“Today’s Mathematica Policy Research study on the positive results produced by KIPP charter schools is welcome news for the many children in America who don’t have the opportunity to attend a good school. Poverty, gangs, drugs and violence are enormous obstacles in the lives of many children and there are too many people who say that there’s nothing schools can do about that. They’re wrong. KIPP shows that a well-run school that has the autonomy to do things differently can change children’s lives.
When we focus on growing quality schools, give schools the autonomy they need to excel and hold them accountable for results, we expand parent choice and give more children access to the education they deserve.
Every school in America, charter schools and traditional public schools, can do the same things that KIPP does and can have the same results. We can do better at replicating great schools and great programs, particularly with the help of studies like this one. Armed with more data on a school operator’s performance, charter school authorizers can make more informed decisions and encourage replication of successful charter schools. When we focus on growing quality schools, give schools the autonomy they need to excel and hold them accountable for results, we expand parent choice and give more children access to the education they deserve.”
Feb 27th, 2013 by Parker Baxter
Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, has released a new study of KIPP middle schools. The study, funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, found that “The average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial.” According to the authors, the study found that
KIPP middle schools have positive and statistically significant impacts on student achievement across all years and all subject areas examined. In each of their four years of middle school, KIPP schools produced positive academic impacts on state standardized tests. Significant positive impacts are evident on average as well as for the majority of individual KIPP middle schools in the study.
The magnitude of KIPP’s achievement impacts is substantial. In each of the four subjects studied, KIPP schools produced achievement gains large enough to have a substantial impact on student outcomes:
- Math: Three years after enrollment, the estimated impact of KIPP on math achievement is equivalent to moving a student from the 44th to the 58th percentile of the school district’s distribution. This represents 11 months of additional learning growth over and above what the student would have learned in three years without KIPP.
- Reading: Three years after enrollment, the estimated impact in reading is equivalent to moving a student from the 46th to the 55th percentile, representing 8 months of additional learning growth over and above what the student would have learned in three years without KIPP.
- Science: Three to four years after enrollment, the estimated impact in science is equivalent to moving a student from the 36th to the 49th percentile, representing 14 months of additional learning growth over and above what the student would have learned in that time without KIPP
- Social Studies: Three to four years after enrollment, the estimated impact in social studies is equivalent to moving a student from the 39th to the 49th percentile, representing 11 months of additional learning growth over and above what the student would have learned in that time without KIPP.
The matched comparison design produces estimates of KIPP’s achievement impacts similar to estimates of the same impacts based on an experimental, lottery-based design. Researchers found that KIPP’s achievement gains are similar for the matched comparison design and the experimental lottery analysis.
KIPP’s gains are not the result of “teaching to the test.” For KIPP students in the lottery sample, researchers administered the TerraNova test—a nationally norm-referenced test—which students had not prepared for, and which carried no consequences for students or schools. The impacts shown in the TerraNova test were consistent with those shown in state tests.
You can read the Executive Summary here and the full report here. A fact sheet is here.
Feb 26th, 2013 by Parker Baxter
This morning, the Charter School Committee of the Board of Trustees of The State University of New York (SUNY), the governing body of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute decided to renew the charter of U.F.T. Charter School for a two-year probationary period during which the school must meet performance standards or automatically lose their contract to operate the school. The charter school is a project of the New York City teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers. Beth Fertig reported yesterday on the unusual news that of the 10 charter schools up for renewal by SUNY, the U.F.T. school was the only school not to receive a recommendation for renewal from the Charter Schools Institute’s staff. The staff did, however, issue what Fertig calls a “scathing” report. As Fertig explains,
The union opened the school in 2005 to demonstrate that unions and charters are not mutually exclusive. The school, located in East New York, Brooklyn, serves children in kindergarten through 12th grade at two campuses. In 2010, it was given a conditional, three-year renewal instead of a full five-year renewal because of its anemic test scores and other academic indicators. But a short-term renewal like that can only be granted once, and the union has been fighting to prove the school has improved and deserves a full five-year renewal.
Today, the SUNY trustees disagreed and granted the school what amounts to a do or die extension. It must improve or close.
According to SUNY staff report, the union’s school has a lot to work on. Fertig summarizes the findings:
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