Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind

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Discus: College Confidential Café: 2004 Archive: Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind
By Simba (Simba) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 01:27 pm: Edit

ASHINGTON, Aug. 16 - The first national comparison of test scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools shows charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.

The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration.

more at

By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 02:21 pm: Edit

what are charter schools?

By Scubasteve (Scubasteve) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 02:57 pm: Edit

"Charter schools are independent public schools designed and operated by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others. They are sponsored by designated local or state educational organizations, who monitor their quality and effectiveness but allow them to operate outside of the traditional system of public schools"

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 04:40 pm: Edit

Simba, do you mean another miracle cure for one of our country's problems bites the dust? Why am I not surprised?

Actually, it IS a bit surprising, given that charter schools have had so much more flexibility than publics.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 05:10 pm: Edit

The real issue is the link between charter schools and kids living in proverty.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 05:44 pm: Edit

If poverty is used as an explanation for the poor performance of charter schools, then vouchers are not the cure-all, nor is teacher-bashing or union-bashing the solution.

By Simba (Simba) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 06:08 pm: Edit

Massdad: The current administration likes us to believe that solution to any problem is a 'one liner' black and white 30 second sound bite solution. Proponents of vouchers and charters forget one basic thing - there is not enough infrastructure - capacity to absrob every one who wants to get out. In my district it costs about 8 million to put up a new elementary, about 14 for a middle school and about 30 for a high school.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 08:48 pm: Edit

Bashing anything is not the solution, but I'm willing to give vouchers a try. On another thread I was told that privitizing education was an elitest concept. With the horror that education in my State (CA) has become in the government's hands, I'd let anyone else try!

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 09:03 pm: Edit

Mom101, I think the problem with vouchers is primarily that the ability to actually chose a good school is just not there. We can certainly select schools with high performing students. But, is this because of, or in spite of, the school? The effect of demographics on student performance is just so strong. (which is why the mania for testing is so misdirected. Just give me some recent census data and I will tell you with good accuracy which schools will have low performing students).

Take a look at the ed research literature and you will find precious little information about identifying superior schools (as opposed to superior student bodies.)

Yes, there are many problems with public education. Impossible mandates like special ed. The policy of inclusion that too often teaches to the bottom. And many others. However, I fear that some solutions, like vouchers, will bring their own set of even worse problems, much as charter schools have. And, consider this, if one imposes standards on schools that take/receive vouchers, as I would demand as a taxpayer, are we not then back where we started, with the risk of unreasonable state standards/policies/mandates etc.? So I say fix the mandates first. Let's regain some local control.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 09:15 pm: Edit

I agree about regaining local control. The issue is that it works best for the same demographics that already have good schools because of strong performance student bodies. What's going to end the poor state of education for those living in poverty?

By Savedbythebell7 (Savedbythebell7) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 09:30 pm: Edit

who cares?? the results i'm sure were pretty similiar. Maybe the charter school kids didn't care about some silly test.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 11:06 pm: Edit


Why do we blame the schools for poor academic performance of those living in poverty? I realize the schools in poor areas may not always be the best, but, as I indicated in my earlier post, I'm not sure anyone knows what a "good" school is.

In our area, there's something of an inverse correlation between money spent per student and student performance: Cambridge, Boston, Lowell and a few others spend the most per student. Guess what their performance is?

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 12:14 am: Edit


The reason that I say vouchers are not the cure all is that, as Massdad said, the choice is not there. The vouchers are just not enough to buy a student's way into a good private school or to provide the transportation needed to get to that private school. In a poor district, a better school may be only marginally better than a bad school, and with transfers, it will be swamped and lose that edge. In the Boston area, there is the METCO program that brings inner-city students to suburban schools. Most of the suburban schools are happy to welcome the inner-city students who provide a measure of diversity to their student bodies. The METCO program has been very good for the students participating in it, though it has entailed very early rising times and long travel. But its effect on the students who remain in the inner-city schools has not been beneficial since only the most motivated students and the ones most capable of holding their own in a high achieving suburban school participate in the program.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 12:19 am: Edit

MA is interesting. I investigated Cambridge schools in hopes of taking some classes at Harvard. Surprised and dissapointed! You have far more options than we have here in CA. What do you think of groups like Whittle running inner city schools?

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 12:36 am: Edit

A student can do very well or very badly in the Cambridge schools. And the student's performance will bear a very close correlation to parental SES and level of education. Students on Free/Reduced lunch rub shoulders with children or lawyers, doctors, professors. The children of lawyers, doctors, professors do very well and get into HYPM (few apply to S). 60% of the students are claimed to do as well or better than the national average on the SAT, but 20% of students were unable to graduate because they could not pass the high stakes MCAS even after several tries.
There is one charter school that was begun to address the needs of minority kids. It has drawn heavily from low SES families. It's underperformed very significantly ever since it opened quite a few years ago (in other words, teething problems are no longer an excuse).
I don't enough about the Edison schools to comment.

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 10:42 am: Edit

Simba - there's a great article in today's Wall Street Journal that completely debunks the New York Times article and the American Federation of Teacher's assessment of the Department of Education's report. The article too asks a simple question: If the AFT believes its own findings, then why won't it ever give credit to religious schools that consistently outperform public schools nationwide by a significant margin? The AFT won't give credit to the religious schools because it argues that religious schools attract students who are more able. However, no one at the AFT thought of asking the question of whether or not students who choose charter schools may be less able. The authors make many other excellent points. Read it and you'll get a better appreciation of the AFT's bias in the matter.

By Simba (Simba) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:30 am: Edit

Browninfall: I can't. It costs money to subscribe WSJ online. I don't think there is any inconsistency. Religious schools are 'private' schools - aren't they? The article only compared to charter school results. I could be wrong, but I think Charter schools get money from the state.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:44 am: Edit


Whether or not the NYT article is flawed misses the bigger point. The more remarkable thing, IMHO, is that no one has been able to show that Charter Schools are better than traditional schools. I'll comment on the WSJ article later when I get my WSJ copy this PM.

Mom101, there is no question that the efficiency of public schools can be improved. Groups like Whittle may be able to do that. But, then we run the risk that the efficiency gains then become the profit margin for the company. And then, taxpayers are right back where they started.

Now efficiency is a tough sell, so Whittle promised improved performance. That's a tough goal, especially given the difficulty in even defining performance, much less measuring it.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 02:31 pm: Edit

OK. Looked at the WSJ article. It was hard to find, because it was on the editorial page, which is a hint of what it is about.

Browninfall, if that article is your idea of "debunking"....

The authors are long standing proponents of charter schools and vouchers. So to start, are they any more objective than the AFT? Further, I'm not sure they even read the whole NYT article, because the NYT raised most of the points these guys raised. No, instead, they adopt a common rhetorical approaches: Don't like the message? Attack the integrity of the authors. Exaggerate what the message was. Bring in unrelated material (like what the AFT said in other situations.)

Geesh. Can't we focus on content, instead of bashing? I guess even a discussion of ed policy takes on overtones of a political campaign: bashing, disinformation, obfuscation etc.

And if you doubt the political element of the response, in spite of its placement on the WSJ ed page, ask yourself how such a sophisticated, three author article could be placed in ONE DAY in such prime editorial real estate. You think Howell only had one day for this article? Yet the NYT article was only out monday...and the reply one day later!

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 05:39 pm: Edit

Massdad, good point on the authors. Obviously they have their own biases. That's why it's an opinion piece and located on the editorial page.

On your other points I'm not nearly as impressed. Who do you think made the charge of politics in the first place? It wasn't the WSJ, but the AFT and their pal at the NYT (you don't really think that they would release their findings to anyone other than someone who was sympathetic to their cause, do you?).

I suggest you reread the NYT article. If you look at it objectively you'll see that it's the AFT and the NYT who are attacking the integrity of those at the Education Department who authored the original report. Some of it is direct and some of it is implied, but it's there. The WSJ authors started the attacking and made it political? Nice try.

Look at the the language used in the NYT article: "The findings, BURIED in mountains of data the Education Department released without public comment...The results...UNEARTHED from online data by researchers at the AFT, which provided them to the NYT...Federal officials said they didn't intend to HIDE the performance of charter schools, and denied any POLITICAL motivation for failing to publicly disclose that the data were available...BUT OTHERS WERE SKEPTICAL...". Nope, nothing political there. Right.

The AFT and the NYT started the bashing and made it political. The WSJ should be applauded for having the integrity of placing its piece on the editorial page. It's too bad that the readers of the NYT continue to be subjected to opinion pieces that have been faked as straight reporting.

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:28 pm: Edit

Hello, is anybody out there? Massdad?

By Massdad (Massdad) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 12:30 am: Edit


Was the "political act" the NYT article, the WSJ rebuttal, or the DOE report? Hard to tell. Seems to me they ALL have their agenda. Meanwhile, the poor kids are the pawns.

The saddest part of all this is that good ed outcomes research is rare. Many of the studies are trash - poorly designed, poorly controlled, misuse of statistics etc. No accident, I guess, that ed schools at most unis are at the bottom of the pole. On top of the bad design, so much is politicized.

It is at times like this that I apply my prime rule of social science research and epidemiology. The rule is this: If it takes huge sample sizes to find a difference, or if studies consistently show inconclusive or conflicting results, then the effect being studied is buried in noise.

What does my rule mean here? It means school structure does not matter. It means we really don't know how to impact this process. It means SES, to a great degree, predicts ed outcome.

My conclusions are no real secret, which is why I'm confident there is a hidden agenda in the ed reform movement out of washington. We don't need testing to identify "problem" schools. We just need parental education, income etc. So, a massive fraud is about to start. For what purpose??????

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 10:25 am: Edit

Massdad - It's easy to be cynical about the actions of somebody on the other side of one's own position. If one is predisposed to being against the President, then some are going to argue that whatever he does he does for "political" reasons. Same goes for the other side. It really doesn't matter what the subject is. To argue, though, that it's not just political, but fraudulent is another story. What's the hidden agenda? To bust up the teachers' unions? To keep those at the bottom of the ladder at the bottom of the ladder?

I've read that Freud said something like "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar". Whether he said it or not is not the point. Maybe people are pushing charter schools or vouchers because they really think that they're good ideas, and not because they have some vested interest in their success or because they want to hurt someone else. I personally have nothing to gain from charter schools or vouchers, but I think that they're an idea that needs to be pursued. Maybe they'll work and maybe they won't, but at least it's a start at trying to correct a sytem that many would argue truly is a fraud.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 10:41 am: Edit

>> I personally have nothing to gain from charter schools or vouchers, but I think that they're an idea that needs to be pursued>>

Instead of discussing the credentials and biases of the messengers, this is what needs to be discussed. So far, I have not seen anything that actually undermines the findings that students in charter schools lag behind their peers in public schools in comparable neighborhoods and from similar SES. Bringing in religious schools is a red herring since they are private schools that can admit and reject students as they please and do not have to teach to tests the way conventional public schools and charter schools (which are also public) have to.

>>Maybe they'll work and maybe they won't, but at least it's a start at trying to correct a sytem that many would argue truly is a fraud. >>

It would be interesting to find out how long the charter schools surveyed have been operating. Have they been in existence long enough to be held accountable for the performance of their students? If not, then the comparison may not be fair. If they have been, then they are being shown by the data not to provide any advantage over conventional schools. If so, the causes of students' poor performance in both kinds of schools lie outside of the schools themselves.

By Simba (Simba) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 11:17 am: Edit

Browninfall,"I personally have nothing to gain from charter schools or vouchers, but I think that they're an idea that needs to be puursued"

The idea has been pursued for the last FOUR years. The study is the first that compares charter school performance.

Now we have results - do we still continue to pursue the failed path?

"May be it will work many be it won't" - at what point do you say that it is not working? What kind of data will convince you?

"but at least it's a start at trying to correct a sytem that many would argue truly is a fraud."

Fraud??? - I think many parents on this board will disagree with you. I have a child who goes to public school, and am I happy about everything they do? No - but they are doing a decent job. Public schools are like rivers - flowing with opportunities. As the old saying goes, you can bring a horse to a river, but can't make it drink.

I think part of the problem is the parents themselves. (Yes I will concede that socio-economic back ground of parents do play a role). However, if you look at successful public schools you will find that thre is tremendous parental involvement from elementary schools all the way to high schools. I have observed that when parents of the kids who are engaged in their child's education and school, those kids perform better.

In my opinion the proponents of charters or vouchers want an easy way out - they seem to think that they have no responsibility. It is your job to teach our kids.

And let us not bring religious or private schools in this discussion. That would be like comparing apples and oranges - or Republicans and Democrates.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 11:29 am: Edit

Simba, the same peoactive parents that are involved in their kid's educations will be there at a charter school or the school that takes the voucher. Imagine the combination, good parents AND good schools. It's great that you're OK with your public school. When we lived in parts of NY and CT we experienced some wonderful public schools. Schools better than many private schools I've seen. But then there are States like CA that have run schools into the ground on the whole. Are there public school kids who do well here? Certainly. But as you say, that's mostly parent driven (and also SES related). But what do we do about entire school systems that are failing miserably? States where the funding model isn't working for anyone? I agree with Browinfall, there's no big plot. Just a lot of human created problems that need some new solutions.

By Simba (Simba) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 11:52 am: Edit

Mom101: May be the proactive parents in your community should run for school board (no pun intended), and try to overhaul the system.

Many think their kids performance will improve if they could just go to charter school or use vouchers.....But the results say it ain't so.
Some proponents of charter/voucher schools have good intentions, some would like religion infused in education and some just want government to subsidize a private school. (Vouchers are the re-incarnation of Private School Tution credit movement during Reagan years)

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 12:26 pm: Edit

As most private schools are non profit. I don't have a problem with sending the educational dollars to them. Heck, I don't care if someone makes a profit if they can produce a better school. I think that people like myself who have had kids in a variety of public and private schools have seen that the lack of beauracracy can really contribute to the quality of education. Being able to react, change, retool. I don't honestly see anything being run by the Government that is run as well as the best private enterprises. I'm willing to give it a chance. It's kind of like airline deregulation or when Countries sell off State run businesses. There are kinks to work out but efficiencies do follow.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 12:45 pm: Edit

" Simba, the same peoactive parents that are involved in their kid's educations will be there at a charter school or the school that takes the voucher. "

Of course. And the connection between parental involvement and student performance is well documented. So if Mom101's assumption is correct, then the lack of demonstrated superior performance by charters is all the more remarkable, but:

Marite, one possibly valid criticism of the study is that some of the schools in the sample, about 1/3, were quite new. Critits posited, but did not prove, that this should have some negative effect.

Back to my earlier point about a "hidden agenda" - the NYT had an interesting article yesteday on the "failing school" topic due to the fed legislation. One should read the article, and note the comments by Paige. Actually, I should stop referring to a "hidden agenda". Visit this web site and note the bottom note: "This web site was developed by WestEd under contract with the U.S. Department of Education."

Now please do not misunderstand. I have no problem with charter schools, and do think market forces could correct some of the problems we have. In fact, market forces are already at work. Just review some of Hoxby's work. The problem is that charter schools are not really part of a market solution, and won't solve the problem of poor performance by some students. Think of it this way: some folks are poor consumers; some don't have the resources; market forces are quite darwinian, with winners and losers.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 01:28 pm: Edit

>>Imagine the combination, good parents AND good schools.>>

Precisely. But what makes a school good?

We've had the experience. One building housed two schools. One was overwhelmingly a neighborhood school, with a traditional "back to the basics" curriculum. The other was an alternative school that drew from the city at large; students were bused in from all over town. The alternative school had a fund raising committee; parents came to porfolio breakfast, evening meetings, participated in hiring decisions, chaperoned kids on field trips (the one to DC was a 3-day affair), attended school council meetings in large numbers. The traditional school could not get two parents to come to council meetings even though it was a neighborhood school and even when decisions that were crucial to the school's future were going to be discussed. No point for guessing which school was one of the highest-performing school in the city and which was the lowest-performing school. And yet, teachers in both schools worked well together and respected each other. Their teaching methods, over the years, had grown more similar. In another part of town was another school, also with a back to basics curriculum but with a very involved parent community. That school, too, was one of the highest performing school in the city. So what was the major difference among the three schools? Not educational bureaucracy or state mandates or even curriculum. It was parents'involvement.

As Massdad said, "the connection between parental involvement and student performance is well documented. So if Mom101's assumption is correct, then the lack of demonstrated superior performance by charters is all the more remarkable." In other words, if certain schools succeed, it will have more to do with parental involvement than with the quality of the school itself.

But think about the results of luring away students with the most proactive families. Those who will be left behind will be the ones whose families are unwilling or unable to participate in their children's education. And they will fall even further behind their peers whose families have taken them away. An unintended consequence of the No Child Left Behind policy?

By Simba (Simba) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 02:17 pm: Edit

Massdad: Looks like this administration is actively encouraging the formation of charter schools.

To all proponents of chater schools: Show me a comprehensive data (similar to NYT data) to support your claims (and the population should be large enough. Not a school here and there)

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 03:26 pm: Edit

Simba - I don't think FOUR years is anywhere near enough time to evaluate the program's success or failure. As you said, the study is the FIRST that compares charter school performance. I'll wait for some more studies. My sense is that for some reason you don't want charter schools to work.

I used the word "fraud" because Massdad had stated that "a massive fraud is about to start". My view was that the fraud hadn't started, it had been going on for years. Two of my children have graduated from the public school sytem, and I believe that they were both well educated and prepared for college. One went to the University of Michigan and one's going to Brown in a couple of weeks. Two of the best colleges in the country. Who gets the credit? Obviously my children do, but I'll gladly give some of it to our local public school system.

Unfortunately our positive experience isn't shared by a significant number of families throughout the land. You have serious concerns about the performance of charter schools compared to public schools in one study. Fine, but don't forget to look at the numbers attached to the public schools. They're a disaster and that's the real fraud. All I've been hearing for decades is "give us more money". Every administration in memory has thrown more money at the problem than the administration that preceeded it (including the current one) to no avail.

Some of us are looking for something else and we're willing to wait for a while to see if the alternatives work. Nothing sinister's going on. We're just tired of the old way.

By Simba (Simba) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 04:03 pm: Edit

Browinfall: Data. What kind of data would be needed to prove that charter schools are a disaster, and how long the experiment should go on. After four years (that is one third the life of school age population passing thorugh a school system, and 100% for elementary, middle and high schools) if the data shows significant gap, the gap is real.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 04:38 pm: Edit


The fraud is in the labelling of schools as failing when the failure is on the part of the parents, the community and society. Yes, there are bad urban schools. Heck, there are bad surburban schools. The latter just get hidden with favorable demographics.

So, instead of looking at societal issues, we implement high stakes testing using poorly designed, poorly validated instruments. This testing forces statewide standardization of curricula and teaching to the test. It's also a convenient opportunity for various groups to engage in curricula manipulation via the testing, as has occurred here in MA. And all this under the rubric of improved education for low performers. This is honest? I realize the ed folks are not usually the smartest in any college class, but surely there is intelligent leadership somewhere in this effort? If so...

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 05:22 pm: Edit

Marite hit the nail on the head. The consequence of a lot of much of the efforts to reform public education will be to further leave behind the already hurting. The move to giving back more power to local school districts. Magnet schools. Vouchers. All of these things favor the children on the top of the SES wrung. You need a parent to drive you to that further away school in my State--magnet or voucher. The schools with educated stay at home moms will do great if we can just control things locally.

I havn't read the charter school study thoroughly. I was actually surprised to learn that most charters are in poor neighborhoods on the whole. In my area, savvy, wealthy parents are using the system to create well heeled, private-like schools. They are writing some pretty well thought out charters, putting significant private money in and using them to gain a more exclusive school setting as private schools are very hard to get into here. Has anyone else seen this?

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 05:33 pm: Edit

Simba - First of all your single, solitary, probably lonely ONE study shows a gap - arguably significant in some cases, not significant at all in others, and in a couple of cases it shows that charter schools have performed better than their public school counterparts.

You think the charter school numbers are a disaster. I would argue that the real disaster is in the public school numbers. The education establishment has had decades to try to figure out how to better educate our children with a showing that has been consistently poor. You only want to give charter schools four years to solve the problem. What's been going on all those decades in the public schools? Why are you cutting them so much slack, and why do you want the charter schools to figure all of it out in just four years?

Like I said before, I'm willing to give charter schools, vouchers, anything more time. The alternative, making minor changes at the margins with ever increasing demands for money, has failed for too many of America's schoolchildren.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 05:53 pm: Edit

>>All I've been hearing for decades is "give us more money".>>

There is no question that there is considerable waste in the public school system. But the schools are also asked to take on more and more burdens and to address issues that are really the responsibility of families and the community. Drugs, teen-age pregnancy, guns, broken homes. These are only some of the issues that schools have to deal with.
More students are attending school than ever. It's not just a numbers issue; many of these students would have been allowed to drop out before, or would not have attended school altogether. Many are first-generation immigrants with limited English.
Private schools--including parochial schools- can choose not to admit students with limited English or with disabilities. They can expel unruly students. They can cherry pick. Public schools cannot. They are required by law to admit all students or to provide an appropriate education for all students in the district.
My district published statistics about the per pupil cost for each elementary school. The lowest cost was associated with the highest achieving student population; in turn, the highest achieving student population included the smallest percentage of students on free or reduced lunch.

By Simba (Simba) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 07:24 pm: Edit

Browinfall: You are skirting the questions I asked.

By Emswim (Emswim) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 08:31 pm: Edit

That's surprising. I got to a charter school and we had the highest passing rate (100%) of the ISTEP (Indiana's standardized test needed to graduate) in the state. We also had all the graduates go on to college and an average SAT of 1190. That's just my school, though. I find it disappointing that most are performing so poorly.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 11:52 pm: Edit


What is the socio-economic status of the student population in your charter school? The point of the study is that most charter schools draw from low SES student populations. So it's not surprising that they do not perform well. The fact that they perform less well than conventional public schools with similar student populations could be attributed to different factors.

But this is a generalization. There are many charter schools that are established among middle income communities and with a specific misssion. In my district, for example, a proposal was made to establish an IB charter school (it was not approved). In another district, some Russian immigrants have proposed to establish a math and science academy (this was approved). Charter schools such as these, which do not seek to duplicate the curriculum or pedagogy of conventional public schools and which attract middle class families probably do better than the national or state average.

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:30 am: Edit

According to the Office of Management and Budget the federal government's funding of elementary and secondary education was 15 billion dollars in 1997. 2004? estimated to be approximately 37 billion dollars. I'm not sure what adjectives to use to describe an increase like that in such a short period of time. Feel free to use whatever you think is appropriate.

Simba - Why don't you tell us what you really think about charter schools. What's the source of your consternation? Explain, please.

I don't understand your comment on "skirting the issue". Read my post again. I'm willing to give the charter schools, vouchers, magnet schools a lot of time. Understand? A lot of time. I'll say it again - much time. Years..maybe decades. Time.

I think the only question you raised that I didn't address was "DATA". Sorry, what do you suggest for a ten year time period, or maybe a twenty year one? I'm open to suggestions.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 06:46 am: Edit

Browinfall,"I'm willing to give the charter schools, vouchers, magnet schools a lot of time. Understand? A lot of time. I'll say it again - much time. Years..maybe decades. Time."

Wow - you have made up your mind. So no amount of real data will convince you. Boy what a closed mind !!I refuse to debate further.

By Emswim (Emswim) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 08:19 am: Edit

Yes, I realize that my school is not typical. Our student body is predominately middle class, though there are a significant number of lower-income students. Yes, my school has a very different learning environment than a public school. Our mission statement says the school exists "to meet the needs of self motivated learners in a progressive environment driven by global concern." So we have few of the kinds of problems that other charter schools have, as the people who come to my school are usually already good students.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 09:01 am: Edit


That's key to success, isn't it? To have well-prepared and highly motivated students. It does not matter whether the school is public, charter or private: it should achieve good results. If it has a predominantly middle-class student body, the lower income students will benefit. This is what happened in both the alternative school and the successful "back to basics"" school I described in an earlier post. The less successful school had a predominantly lower income population. The limited mobility of the families was one reason it was a neighbohood school and one reason why so few parents were involved in the school.

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 10:11 am: Edit

Simba - I know you're gone, but I have to ask the question anyway. Where did I say that "no amount of real data will convince" me? All I said was that I wanted to give charter schools TIME. If they don't work, fine, we'll move on to something else.

You're kidding about the closed mind thing, aren't you? I thought I made it pretty clear that I'm willing to try anything (i.e. vouchers, magnet schools, etc.) to help correct our national problem. You, on the other hand, haven't suggested anything and have only argued against trying something (anything!!) different from the status quo. Who's got the closed mind?

Maybe some day you'll come back to tell us the real reason why you don't like charter schools, vouchers, etc.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:19 am: Edit

"If it has a predominantly middle-class student body, the lower income students will benefit."

This is an interesting issue. I wonder if the data actually supports the statement? In order to fully understand the issue, one would need to compare the performance of middle class students in homogeneous environments to middle class in heterogenous environments, and do the same for lower SES students.

What you would want to see is a rise in lower SES performance with no corresponding drop in higher SES performance. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any work of this nature. Are you?

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:56 am: Edit


Not an expert on this issue. Apparently, however, there has been a string of studies since the Coleman Report of the 1960s. Subsequent studies have confirmed the findings of scoiologist James Coleman that class mix of peers is a better predictor of the performance of poor students than the amount of money spent per student.

The idea is that middle class parents have the self-confidence and other resources to advocate for their children, something that low SES, and especially parents with limited English, do not possess to the same extent.

There has also been some analysis of the phenomenon known as "tipping point" i.e., the point on the high SES/low SES scale at which middle class families begin to leave a diverse school system, thus accelerating its transformation into a low SES system.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:07 pm: Edit


>>What you would want to see is a rise in lower SES performance with no corresponding drop in higher SES performance. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any work of this nature. Are you?>>

The METCO program ought to yield some information on this but I'm not aware that systematic studies have been performed. One district (Lynn?) considered bailing out of the METCO program on the grounds of cost and also on the grounds that METCO students brought the school's stats down. That is not the right way to look at the impact of METCO on students' performance. METCO students have improved; at the same time, the performance of students from the district has not declined. The lower stats can be attributed to METCO students starting from a somewhat lower baseline; while they have improved, they have not entirely caught up with local students.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:59 pm: Edit

Marite, the METCO data, as well as a number of other studies that you allude to in the previous post indicate that low SES students benefit. But that's only part of the equation.

I've always been equally interested in the effect of heterogeneous classroom environments on the higher SES students. This question does not seem to have received much attention. What I would not want to see is gains for the low SES students at the expense of the high SES students. I don't think METCO is much of a model because (1) the numbers are low and (2) there is a huge degree of self selection, since parents must pursue METCO for their kids, and tolerate a good deal of inconvenience to boot. I don't think most low SES parents would do this. Indeed, most of the METCO families I've known were very middle class.

A similar situation applies w/r/t academic abillity. The academic fashion the past two decades has been toward heterogenous classrooms - no ability grouping, no tracking etc. While some studies claim to show that low ability students gain in such environments (and I hedge only because I have not carefully looked at the studies) I'm not aware of any studies that looked at the performance of high ability students. Many of us parents on the boards have such high ability students, and we are all to aware of how elementary schools marginally address their unique needs, if they do anything at all. Fortunately, this does not extend to high school, although your town, Cambridge, came dangerously close a few years ago, and close to driving out even more families.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:30 pm: Edit


The low numbers are relevant because of the issue of "tipping." It may be that for each class there are so few METCO students as not to make a significant difference. But you are right that METCO students, being self-selected, are unrepresentative.

On the issue of heterogeneity: Yes, indeed. It's been a sad story. But I believe a district can have diversity without having heterogeneous classes. In fact, honors are being reinstituted, though not in time to make a difference for my S. He had to create his own opportunities to do challenging work.

I am not aware of studies that look into the performance of high SES students. One problem is that while performance is closely related to SES, the inverse is not necessarily true. That is, not all high SES students are high performers. Accounting for their poor performance would be a complex issue.

At the high school level, tracking the trajectory of high performing students can also be difficult. Some go to magnet schools, others take college classes. In fact, the very availability of Harvard Extension classes has, in my opinion, been a factor in the high school's lack of attention to high achieving students. They could always be sent to the Extension School while the hs had to deal with the low performing students. The advent of MCAS has made focusing on low performing students even more of a priority. In fact, heterogeneous classes were introduced in large part because of NCLB, with the idea that the presence of high achieving kids would raise the performance of the struggling ones. But as you point out, it drove many families away. Those who left had children "in the middle" who, their parents felt, needed the support that would not be forthcoming in the school and the honors classes that had been eliminated. They felt squeezed between the high flyers who took Extension classes and the low performers in the MCAS remedial classes.

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