Archives for category: Charter Schools

Andre Agassi was a great tennis star. Although he never finished high school, he decided to open a charter school in Las Vegas. He talked it up as a model for education in America, he predicted that all its graduates would go to four-year colleges, and he downplayed the results, which didn’t live up to the hype. Like the revolving door of principals and teachers, and a host of other problems, such as a cheating scandal and the coach of the cheerleading squad who was charged with prostitution.

But in this society, you can count on journalists to swallow hype and ignore investigation. (For more about Agassi’s charter in Las Vegas, see “Reign of Error,” pp. 170-171.)

So now Agassi is an “education capitalist,” sponsoring charter schools in many cities despite the troubling experiences of his showcase charter.

Agassi has teamed up with a hedge fund, partners who know as little about education as he does:

“But some parents don’t buy the sales pitch.

“It kind of makes my stomach turn,” says Brett Bymaster, a parent in San Jose where the Agassi-Turner fund has been active.

“He’s taken it upon himself to dig into their business model, though one can only dig so far. While they’re building public charter schools, there’s very little disclosure, including what they charge tenants.

“We need to partner with people outside, but I don’t think the solutions to problems in my community are one-percenters getting filthy rich,” he says.

“Bymaster wonders what happens to one of these buildings if the charter has to shut down, and many do. So far, all 39 schools built by the fund are still up and running. A spokesman says if one closed, the building could be rented to another charter operator.

Even among charter school advocates, there is some quiet suspicion of partnering with hedge funds. First, there’s cost. One charter founder said a deal with Agassi was 25 percent above any other option.”

Peter Greene noticed that the CEO of Green Dot Charters, Marco Petruzzi, has started a new blog. This provided Greene with the opportunity to take a look at Green Dot and its leadership. First, he pulled up a three-year-old article about the munificent salaries paid to Green Dot executives. But, really, this can’t be surprising since Petruzzi was formerly a partner at Bain Consulting (Mitt Romney’s old firm), and he didn’t go into education to get a lowly teacher’s salary. After Greene read Petruzzi’s first post, he concluded that he inhabits an alternate universe from real public schools.


“Say hello to Marc Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot Public Schools. Today he made his first blog entry at Green Dot’s Website of Bloggy Goodness.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Green Dot charter chain, I can tell you that it’s one more fine example of the modern charter movement, depending on student skimming, political connections, and the pushing aside of public schools, as well as demonstrating the ways in which a non-profit can be used to generate profits. Petruzzi himself came to the charter world from a partnership at Bain, and makes sure that he himself is well paid for his great-hearted work for the poor. If you want a long, hard look at Green Dot from an insider, try this piece which notes both their liberal use of TFA staffing and their spectacularly bad teacher retention issues. Read here for a discussion of their “issues” with students with special needs.


So the fact that he bills himself as the CEO of a “public” school lets us know right off the bat that we have entered some sort of alternate universe. I must be sure to let my superintendent know that she is missing out by not calling herself “CEO” and setting her own ginormous salary.


Petruzzi, contemplating his entry into blogland, decides that he will tackle some Big Questions. So let’s see how these Big Questions are answered in Petruzzi’s alternate universe….


Can’t we all just get along. Petruzzi thinks we should stop saying that union members only care about their jobs and reformsters only want to make a buck. It is not clear whether he is trying to argue that both those things are true.


Aren’t we all “reformers” to some degree? Don’t we all want to improve the system for the benefit of students? Can’t the continuing debate about methodology be one of honesty and mutual respect?


These are good questions. Unfortunately, in this universe it certainly appears that the answer to the second question is, “no.” When you’re using political connections to smash public schools and doing your best to turn teaching inside your own schools into a low-paying low-skills temp job, it’s hard to feel the waves of love and respect.


I agree that an atmosphere of mutual respect is a good thing, and there are reformsters I actually respect even as I believe they’re wrong about almost anything. But too many reformsters have displayed an attitude of zero respect for teachers from the first moment they showed up on the scene, shouldering aside teachers with accusations that public schools sucked and teachers were the problem. And Green Dot’s record of love and respect for public education and the teachers who woirk there is not great. So pardon me for being standoffish until I have reason not to be.


The Challenges of Reform


Oh, boy. In the Petruzziverse, reform “has unleashed a wave of innovations that have jolted the current system and forced it to confront some hard truths.” Um, name one. Charters were billed as laboratories of educational innovation, like a scholastic space program. But as yet, we cannot point to a single solitary development, not so much as a jar of Tang, that made the rest of the education world sit up and say, “Wow! Slice us off a piece of that.” Nothing.


There have also been, apparently, “talented and passionate individuals,” and I think it’s just as well he didn’t name names. Petruzzi admits that some ideas didn’t pan out (in his universe “some” and “all” are apparently synonyms). And here’s a fun quote: “Some talented individuals have failed to make the announced progress with students.” I bet back at Bain, when corporate bosses of companies they were invested in “failed to make the announced progress,” that was an occasion for laughter and parties.


It is a cinch that Peter Greene will not continue to patronize this alternate universe.



Broward County, which already has 99 charter schools, approved an additional 13 new charters. Some of the charters are designed specifically for children with disabilities. Five of the new charters are sponsored by the for-profit, politically connected Charter Schools USA.


Of the 12 new charters that opened this fall, three shuttered within the first month of school. Another closed for earning back-to-back failing grades on the state assessment.


It is the new world of publicly-funded education in Florida. Charters open, charters close. Some get high scores, some get low scores. Parents go shopping for schools the way they shop for shoes or milk.

Chris left this comment on the blog so I hope he won’t mind if I post it:

“Florida’s a mess. Here is a story I am working on for Education Matters.

“Gary Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education

“The State Board of Education over sees the Department of Education and hired commissioner Pam Stewart.

“The Department of Education is handing out grants, 3.3 million dollars’ worth to only three winners, to foster partnerships between districts and charter schools.

“Gary Chartrand is on the board of the KIPP charter school in Jacksonville.

“Superintendent Vitti and the Duval County School board (Jacksonville) have applied for the grant. Vitti said, “KIPP is here to stay, and the KIPP expansion will occur with or without the grant,” Vitti said. “If there’s an opportunity to write a grant that benefits KIPP but also the school district, then I think it would be rather foolish financially to walk away from that.”

“Gary Chartrand and the board of KIPP have given thousands and thousands of dollars to six member of the school board and thousands more to have the seventh Paula Wright defeated.

“WJCT Jacksonville’s public radio station did what I consider a puff piece on the district applying for the charter grant that left out a lot of important information. They didn’t mention that last year KIPP was protected by the states rule saying schools could only drop one letter grade, a rule that Chartrand had a hand in developing. KIPP’s real school grades are F, B, C(D) B. They also didn’t mention how KIPP spends about a third more per pupil, has longer days, smaller classes, requires its parents to at least be marginally involved and may or may not be counseling out under performers, only 64 of its first class of 88 finished. The piece made it sound like that KIPP is just better.

“The Chartrand foundation at least partially funds WJCT’s education coverage.”

Professor Francesca Lopez of the University of Arizona responded to Betts and Tang’s critique of her post on the website of the National Education Policy Center.




She writes:




In September, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) published a think-tank review I wrote on a report entitled, “A Meta-Analysis of the Literature on the Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement,” authored by Betts and Tang and published by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. My review examined the report, and I took the approach that a person reading the report and the review together would be in a better position to understand strengths and weaknesses than if that person read the report in isolation. While my review includes praise of some elements of the report, there is no question that the review also points out flawed assumptions and other areas of weakness in the analyses and the presentation of those analyses. The authors of the report subsequently wrote a prolonged rebuttal claiming I misrepresent their analysis and essentially reject my criticisms.


The rebuttal takes up 13 pages, which is considerably longer than my review. Yet these pages are largely repetitive and can be addressed relatively briefly. In the absence of sound evidence to counter the issues raised in my review, the rebuttal resorts to lengthy explanations that obscure, misrepresent, or altogether evade my critiques. What seems to most strike readers I’ve spoken with is the rebuttal’s insulting and condescending tone and wording. The next most striking element is the immoderately recurrent use of the term “misleading,” which is somehow repeated no fewer than 50 times in the rebuttal.


Below, I respond to each so-labeled “misleading statement” the report’s authors claim I made in my review—all 26 of them. Overall, my responses make two primary points:


 The report’s authors repeatedly obscure the fact that they exaggerate their findings. In their original report, they present objective evidence of mixed findings but then extrapolate their inferences to support charter schools. Just because the authors are accurate in some of their descriptions/statements does not negate the fact that they are misleading in their conclusions.


 The authors seem to contend that they should be above criticism if they can label their approaches as grounded in “gold standards,” “standard practice,” or “fairly standard practice.” When practices are problematic, they should not be upheld simply because someone else is doing it. My task as a reviewer was to help readers understand the strengths and weaknesses of the CRPE report. Part of that task was to attend to salient threats to validity and to caution readers when the authors include statements that outrun their evidence.


One other preliminary point, before turning to specific responses to the rebuttal’s long list. I am alleged by the authors to have insinuated that, because of methodological issues inherent in social science, social scientists should stop research altogether. This is absurd on its face, but I am happy to provide clarification here: social scientists who ignore details that introduce egregious validity threats (e.g., that generalizing from charter schools that are oversubscribed will introduce bias that favors charter schools) and who make inferences on their analyses that have societal implications, despite their claims of being neutral, should act more responsibly. If unwilling or unable to do so, then it would indeed be beneficial if they stopped producing research.


What follows is a point-by-point response to the authors’ rebuttal. For each point, I briefly summarize those contentions, but readers are encouraged to read the full 13 pages. The three documents – the original review, the rebuttal, and this response – are available at The underlying report is available at literature-effect-charter-schools-student-achievement.


#1. The authors claim that my statement, “This report attempts to examine whether charter schools have a positive effect on student achievement,” is misleading because: “In statistics we test whether we can maintain the hypothesis of no effect of charter schools. We are equally interested in finding positive or negative results.” It is true that it is the null hypothesis that is tested. It is also true that the report attempts to examine whether charter schools have a positive effect on student achievement.


Moreover, it is telling that when the null hypothesis is not rejected and no assertion regarding directionality can be made, the authors still make statements alluding to directionality (see the next “misleading statement”).


#2. The authors object to my pointing out when they claim positive effects when their own results show those “effects” to not be statistically significant. There is no question that the report includes statements that are written in clear and non-misleading ways. Other statements are more problematic. Just because the authors are accurate in some of their descriptions does not negate my assertion that they make “[c]laims of positive effects when they are not statistically significant.” They tested whether a time trend was significant; it was not. They then go on to say it is a positive trend in the original report, and they do it again in their rebuttal: “We estimate a positive trend but it is not statistically significant.” This sentence is misleading. As the authors themselves claim in the first rebuttal above, “In statistics we test whether we can maintain the hypothesis of no effect.” This is called null hypothesis statistical testing (NHST). In NHST, if we reject the null hypothesis, we can say it was positive/negative, higher/lower, etc. If we fail to reject the null hypothesis (what they misleadingly call “maintain”), we cannot describe it in the direction that was tested because the test told us there isn’t sufficient support to do that. The authors were unable to reject the null hypothesis, but they call it positive anyway. Including the caveat that it is not significant does not somehow lift them above criticism. Or, to put this in the tone and wording of the authors’ reply, they seem “incapable” of understanding this fundamental flaw in their original report and in their rebuttal. There is extensive literature on NHST. I am astonished they are “seemingly unaware” of it.


#3. My review pointed out that the report shows a “reliance on simple vote-counts from a selected sample of studies,” and the authors rebut this by claiming my statement “insinuates incorrectly that we did not include certain studies arbitrarily.” In fact, my review listed the different methods used in the report, and it does use vote counting in a section, with selected studies. My review doesn’t state or imply that they were arbitrary, but they were indeed selected.


#4. The authors also object to my assertion that the report includes an “unwarranted extrapolation of the available evidence to assert the effectiveness of charter schools.” While my review was clear in stating that the authors were cautious in stating limitations, I also pointed to specific places and evidence showing unwarranted extrapolation. The reply does not rebut the evidence I provided for my assertion of extrapolation.


#5. My report points out that the report “… finds charters are serving students well, particularly in math. This conclusion is overstated; the actual results are not positive in reading and are not significant in high school math; for elementary and middle school math, effect sizes are very small…” The authors contend that their overall presentation of results is not misleading and that I was wrong (in fact, that I “cherry picked” results and “crossed the line between a dispassionate scientific analysis and an impassioned opinion piece”) by pointing out where the authors’ presentation suggested pro-charter results where unwarranted. Once again, just because the authors are accurate in some of their descriptions does not negate my assertion that the authors’ conclusions are overstated. I provided examples to support my statement that appear to get lost in the authors’ conclusions. They do not rebut my examples, but instead call it “cherry picking.” I find it telling that the authors can repeatedly characterize their uneven results as showing that charters “are serving students well” but if I point to problems with that characterization it is somehow I, not them, who have “crossed the line between a dispassionate scientific analysis and an impassioned opinion piece.”


#6. I state in my review that the report includes “lottery-based studies, considering them akin to random assignment, but lotteries only exist in charter schools that are much more popular than the comparison public schools from which students are drawn. This limits the study’s usefulness in broad comparisons of all charters versus public schools.” The rebuttal states, “lottery-based studies are not ‘akin’ to random assignment. They are random assignment studies.” The authors are factually wrong. Lottery-based charter assignments are not random assignment in the sense of, e.g., random assignment pharmaceutical studies. I detail why this is so in my review, and I would urge the authors to become familiar with the key reason lottery-based charters are not random assignment: weights are allowed. The authors provided no evidence that the schools in the study did not use weights, thus the distinct possibility exists that various students do not have the same chance of being admitted, and are therefore, not randomly assigned. The authors claim charter schools with lotteries are not more popular than their public school counterparts. Public schools do not turn away students because seats are filled; their assertion that charters do not need to be more popular than their public school counterparts is unsubstantiated. Parents choose a given charter school for a reason – oftentimes because the neighborhood school and other charter school options are less attractive. But beyond that, external validity (generalizing these findings to the broader population of charter schools) requires that over-enrolled charters be representative of charters that aren’t over-enrolled. That the authors test for differences does not negate the issues with their erroneous assumptions and flatly incorrect statements about lottery-based studies.


#7. The authors took issue with my critique that their statement, “One conclusion that has come into sharper focus since our prior literature review three years ago is that charter schools in most grade spans are outperforming traditional public schools in boosting math achievement” is an overstatement of their findings. In their rebuttal, they list an increase in the number of significant findings (which is not surprising given the larger sample size), and claim effect sizes were larger without considering confidence intervals around the reported effects. In addition to that, the authors take issue with my critique of their use of the word “positive” in terms of their non-significant trend results, which I have already addressed in #2.


#8. The authors take issue with my finding that their statement, “…we demonstrated that on average charter schools are serving students well, particularly in math” (p. 36) is an overstatement. I explained why this is an overstatement in detail in my review.


#9. The authors argue, “Lopez cites a partial sentence from our conclusion in support of her contention that we overstate the case, and yet it is she who overstates.” The full sentence that I quoted reads, “But there is stronger evidence of outperformance than underperformance, especially in math.” I quoted that full sentence, sans the “[b]ut.” They refer to this as “chopping this sentence in half,” and they attempt to defend this argument by presenting this sentence plus the one preceding it. In either case, they fail to support their contention that they did not overstate their findings. Had the authors just written the preceding sentence (“The overall tenor of our results is that charter schools are in some cases outperforming traditional public schools in terms of students’ reading and math achievement, and in other cases performing similarly or worse”), I would not have raised an issue. To continue with “But there is stronger evidence of outperformance than underperformance, especially in math” is an ideologically grounded overstatement.


#10. The authors claim, “Lopez seriously distorts our work by comparing results from one set of analyses with our conclusions from another section, creating an apples and oranges problem.” The section the authors are alluding to reported results of the meta- analysis. I pointed out examples of their consistent exaggeration. The authors address neither the issue I raise nor the support I offer for my assertion that they overstate findings. Instead, they conclusively claim I am “creating an apples and oranges problem.”


#11. The authors state, “Lopez claims that most of the results are not significant for subgroups.” They claim I neglected to report that a smaller sample contributed to the non-significance, but they missed the point. The fact that there are “far fewer studies by individual race/ethnicity (for the race/ethnicity models virtually none for studies focused on elementary schools alone, middle schools alone, or high schools) or other subgroups” is a serious limitation. The authors claim that “This in no way contradicts the findings from the much broader literature that pools all students.” However, the reason ethnicity/race is an important omission is because of the evidence of the segregative effects of charter schools. I was clear in my review in identifying my concern: the authors’ repeated contentions about the supposed effectiveness of charter schools, regardless of the caution they maintained in other sections of their report.


#12. The authors argue, “The claim by Lopez that most of the effects are insignificant in the subgroup analyses is incomplete in a way that misleads. She fails to mention that we conduct several separate analyses in this section, one for race/ethnicity, one for urban school settings, one for special education and one for English Learners.” Once again, the authors miss the point, as I explain in #11. The authors call my numerous examples that discredit their claims “cherry picking.” The points I raise, however, are made precisely to temper the claims made by the authors. If cherry-picking results in a full basket, perhaps there are too many cherries to be picked.


#13. The authors take issue that I temper their bold claims by stating that the effects they found are “modest.” To support their rebuttal, they explain what an effect of .167 translates to in percentiles, which I argued against in my review in detail. (The authors chose to use the middle school number of .167 over the other effect sizes, ranging from .023 to .10; it was the full range of results that I called “modest.”) Given their reuse of percentiles to make a point, it appears the authors may not have a clear understanding of percentiles: they are not interval-level units. An effect of .167 is not large given that it may be negligible when confidence intervals are included. That it translates into a 7 percentile “gain” when percentiles are not interval level units (and confidence bands are not reported) is a continued attempt to mislead by the authors. I detail the issues with the ways the authors present percentiles in my review. (This issue is revisited in #25, below.)


#14. The authors next take issue with the fact I cite different components of their report that were “9 pages apart.” I synthesized the lengthy review (the authors call it “conflating”), and once again, the authors attempt to claim that my point-by-point account of limitations with their report is misleading. Indeed, according to the authors, I am “incapable of understanding” a “distinction” they make. In their original 68-page report, they make many “distinctions.” They appear “incapable of understanding” that the issues I raise concerning “distinctions” is that they were reoccurring themes in their report.


#15. The authors next find issue with the following statement: “The authors conclude that ‘charter schools appear to be serving students well, and better in math than in reading’ (p. 47) even though the report finds ‘…that a substantial portion of studies that combine elementary and middle school students do find significantly negative results in both reading and math – 35 percent of reading estimates are significantly negative, and 40 percent of math estimates are significantly negative (p. 47)’.” This is one of the places where I point out that the report overstates conclusions notwithstanding their own clear findings that should give them caution. In their rebuttal, the authors argue that I (in a “badly written paragraph”) “[insinuate] that [they] exaggerate the positive overall math effect while downplaying the percentage of studies that show negative results.” If I understand their argument correctly, they are upset that I connected the two passages with “even though the report finds” instead of their wording: “The caveat here is”. But my point is exactly that the caveat should have reigned in the broader conclusion. They attempt to rebut my claim by elaborating on the sentence, yet they fail to address my critique. The authors’ rebuttal includes, “Wouldn’t one think that if our goal had been to overstate the positive effects of charter schools we would never have chosen to list the result that is the least favorable to charter schools in the text above?” I maintain the critique from my review: despite the evidence that is least favorable to charter schools, the authors claim overall positive effects for charter schools—obscuring the various results they reported. Again, just because they are clear sometimes does not mean they do not continuously obscure the very facts they reported.


#16. The authors take issue with the fact that my review included two sentences of commentary on a companion CRPE document that was presented by CRPE as a summary of the Betts & Tang report. As is standard with all NEPC publications, I included an endnote that included the full citation of the summary document, clearly showing an author (“Denice, P.”) other than Betts & Tang. Whether Betts & Tang contributed to, approved, or had nothing to do with the summary document, I did not and do not know.


#17. The next issue the authors have is that I critiqued their presentation and conclusions based on the small body of literature they included in their section entitled, “Outcomes apart from achievement.” The issue I raise with the extrapolation of findings can be found in detail in the review. The sentence from the CRPE report that seems to be the focus here reads as follows, “This literature is obviously very small, but both papers find evidence that charter school attendance is associated with better noncognitive outcomes.” To make such generalizations based on two papers (neither of which was apparently peer reviewed) is hardly an examination of the evidence that should be disseminated in a report entitled, “A Meta-Analysis of the Literature on the Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement.” The point of the meta-analysis document is to bring together and analyze the research base concerning charter schools. The authors claim that because they are explicit in stating that the body of literature is small, that their claim is not an overstatement. As I have mentioned before, just because the authors are clear in their caveats, making assertions about the effects of charter schools with such limited evidence is indeed an overstatement. We are now seeing more and more politicians who offer statements like, “I’m not a scientist and haven’t read the research, but climate change is clearly a hoax.” The caveats do little to transform the ultimate assertion into a responsible statement.


Go to the link to read the rest of Professor Lopez’s response to Betts and Tang, covering the 26 points they raised.

On September 30, Francesca Lopez of the University of Arizona reviewed a study of charter schools by Julian R. Betts and Y. Emily Tang of the University of California at San San Diego

Betts and Tang here respond to Lopez’ critique of their study of charter school achievement..

The critical study by Lopez was published by the National Education Policy Center and posted on this blog.

Betts and Tang say that Lopez misrepresented their study. They write:

“First, what did we find in our meta-analysis of the charter school effectiveness literature? On average, charter school studies are revealing a positive and statistically significant difference between math achievement at charter schools and traditional public schools. We also find a positive difference for reading achievement, but this difference is not statistically significant. Second, we devote much of our paper to studying not the mean effect, but the variation across studies in the effect of attending a charter school. We find that charter schools’ effectiveness compared to nearby traditional public schools varies substantially across locations.

“What is the central claim of Lopez? She writes: “The report does a solid job describing the methodological limitations of the studies reviewed, then seemingly forgets those limits in the analysis” (p. 1). She uses words like “exaggeration” and “overstated” (p. 8) to characterize our analysis of the literature, and implies that our conclusions are not “reserved,” “responsible,” (p. 7) or “honest” (p. 7 and p. 8).

“Throughout her essay, Lopez falsely projects intentions in our words that simply are not there. We encourage interested readers to review the words that we actually wrote, in their full context, in our abstract, main paper, and our conclusion. We are confident that readers will confirm for themselves that any “overstated” conclusions of which Lopez accuses us are imagined.”

“There are serious problems with Lopez’s arguments. First, she habitually quotes our work in a selective and misleading way. Such rhetorical slights, in which she quotes one of our sentences while ignoring the highly relevant adjacent sentences, or even cutting important words out of our sentences, overlook important parts of our analysis and result in a highly inaccurate presentation of our work. Second, her analysis contains six technical errors. These technical mistakes, some quite serious, invalidate many of Professor Lopez’s claims. An appendix to this essay exposes more than two dozen misleading or outright incorrect statements that Lopez makes in a mere 9-page essay. To give readers a sense of the scope and severity of these problems, consider the following examples:

“Example 1: A Partial and Misleading Quotation

“Lopez insinuates that we exaggerate the positive overall math effect while downplaying the percentage of studies that show negative results. She writes:
“The authors conclude that ‘charter schools appear to be serving students well, and better in math than in reading’ (p. 47) even though the report finds ‘…that a substantial portion of studies that combine elementary and middle school students do find significantly negative results in both reading and math—35 percent of reading estimates are significantly negative, and 40 percent of math estimates are significantly negative (p. 47)’”

“Here is what we actually wrote on page 47: “Examining all of these results as separate parts of a whole, we conclude that, overall, charter schools appear to be serving students well, and better in math than in reading. The caveat here is that a substantial portion of studies that combine elementary and middle school students do find significantly negative results in both reading and math—35 percent of reading estimates are significantly negative, and 40 percent of math estimates are significantly negative.”

“Lopez uses two rhetorical devices to lead readers to the perception that we overstated findings. First, she separates the two quotations, implying that we are somehow hiding the second result, when in fact we intentionally mention the positive overall mean math effect and the variation in the results across studies side by side. Second, she further misleads the reader by again cutting out part of our sentence. Instead of stating that we have a “caveat” to the positive mean math effect she removes that entire clause.

“What makes the approach of Lopez even more misleading is that in the paragraph above, we were bending over backwards to be fair. We cite only one type of study in that quotation: those that combine elementary and middle schools. (These account for about 1/7th of all the studies.) Why did we focus only on those studies in the above quotation? Because these studies were the exception to our conclusion—the ones that produced the highest percentage of studies with negative and significant estimates. Wouldn’t one think that if our goal had been to overstate the positive effects of charter schools we would never have chosen to list the result that is the least favorable to charter schools in the text above? For example, we could have stated that for elementary school studies, only 12% showed negative and significant reading results, compared to 71% showing positive and significant results. Or we could have stated that only 11% of elementary school studies showed negative and significant math results, while 61% showed positive and significant results in math.

“Lopez fails to list any of the more positive results from the other grade span categories studied that led us to our overall conclusion. We noted the exception above precisely because it was an exception. While it is worth noting, it does not refute the other evidence. By citing an exception as a reason to dismiss all of the other results, Lopez misses the main point of a statistical meta-analysis. This is a consistent pattern throughout her essay.”

Betts and Tang make 26 points about the flaws of Lopez’s analysis.

Peter Greene knows that breaking up is hard to do. But it is happening. The people who love charters also were promoting Common Core. They had a common goal: make public schools look bad, then watch the stampede to privately-managed charters.


What is it about Common Core that has made it toxic? The more teachers use it, the more the polls show they don’t like it. Rhetoric to the contrary, CCSS does tell teachers how to teach, based on the likes and dislikes of the authors, few of whom ever were classroom teachers. Rhetoric to the contrary, the early grades set absurd expectations that some children will meet easily, and others won’t reach for a year or two. No one on the writing team had ever taught little kids or had no idea that they develop at different rates. No one had any experience teaching students with disabilities, most of whom will look bad on Common Core tests. Greene points to the number of governors, like Malloy and Cuomo, who disowned the Common Core, but I think it is better to wait and see what happens now that the election is over.


Greene writes:


The Ed Reform movement has always been a marriage of different groups whose interests and goals sometimes aligned, and sometimes did not. The Systems Guys, the Data Overlords, the Common Core Corporate Hustlers, the Charter Privateers, the Social Engineers– they agree on some things (we need to replace variable costly teachers with low-cost uniform widgets), but there are cracks in the alliance, one seems to be turning into a fissure.


The Common Core Hustlers are being dumped by the Charter Privateers. It’s not an obvious break-up– the privateers haven’t texted the Core backers to say, “Hey, we need to talk.” It’s the slow, soft drop. The unreturned phone calls. The unwillingness to even say the name. Not even making eye contact when they show up at the same party. It’s awkward. It’s painful.


It wasn’t always like this. Charters and the Core were a match made in heaven. To spur financing and enrollment, the Charter forces needed a way to “prove” that public schools suck, and that meant finding a yardstick with which public schools could be measured and found failing. That meant some sort of standardized test, and that meant something to test them on. So, Common Core. The Core and the Tests (from which it could not, must not, be separated) would be the smoking gun, the proof that public schools were failing and that only privatizing schools would save Our Nation’s Youth.


The corporate folks liked it because it was another opportunity for market growth. The fake liberals liked it because it could be packaged as a way to bring equity to the poor. The fake conservatives liked it because it could be packaged as a way to use market forces to get those slacker poor folks into line.The Core and Charter really got each other. They wanted all the same things.


But soon, the love affair between charters and the Core started to show strain. The Core would show up late at night, smelling like Big Government. And while everybody’s friends liked the Core when it first started coming around, but as they got to know it, they started whispering behind its back that it was kind of an asshole. Pretty soon, old friends like Bobby Jindal were calling the Core out in public. And when election season came, they weren’t invited to the same parties together any more. Jeb Bush had been the Core’s oldest and best friend, and even he had a huge party where Charters were held up for praise and applause and the Core wasn’t even mentioned.


There was no longer any denying it. When Charter walked into the cafeteria, instead of sitting down with the Core and telling friends, “You should come sit with the Core. It’s cool” instead Charter would sit on the other side of the room and say, “You don’t want to sit at that table with that thing.”


Once the Core had been a marketing point. Public schools were bad news because they couldn’t do Common Core well enough. Now public schools are bad news because they are trying to do Common Core well enough. We used to market charters as a way to run toward the Core; now we market them as a way to run away from it.

None of the reformsters who now disown Common Core are dropping any other part of the reformster agenda, especially not privatization.


And you can bet they are not dropping high-stakes testing either, unless the public revolt gets loud enough for legislators to hear it.



Bloomberg News reports that charter schools are borrowing money at a record pace, relying on state guarantees to improve their credit ratings.


On their own, charters would be considered junk bond status. But state guarantees allow them to issue bonds with higher ratings.


U.S. charter schools are issuing a record amount of municipal debt, with Texas leading the charge as borrowers rated close to junk tap a program that gives their bonds top credit grades.

The institutions, privately run with public funding, have sold $1.6 billion of securities in 2014, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s more than all of last year and the most in Bloomberg data beginning in 2007. About $464 million has come from Texas, which for the first time in April backed a charter-school deal with its Permanent School Fund. The state-run pool guarantees bonds, lending the debt the AAA grade that Standard & Poor’s accords Texas.

Charter schools, which enroll 4.2 percent of U.S. public school students, are building a presence in the bond market as more parents seek academic options without paying private-school tuition. In Texas, the number of institutions tripled from 2000 to 2012 and enrollment jumped to 190,000 from 26,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“The backing of the Permanent School Fund is critical to the growth of charter schools” given the savings it generates, said David Dunn, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Charter Schools Association. “There’s still a lot of room to go. We’re still not meeting the demand.”


Texas’s Growth


The growth in charter issuance contrasts with a slowdown in the $3.7 trillion municipal market as states and cities still recovering from the recession hesitate to borrow even as yields approach generational lows. Muni sales are down 7 percent from last year’s pace, Bloomberg data show.

Yet in Texas, home to seven of the 15 fastest-growing U.S. cities, municipalities are borrowing the most since 2008 as a swelling population fuels infrastructure investment. Charter schools have the same need, with enrollment growing about 15 percent annually in the last six years, Dunn said.

Life School, which has more than 4,500 students on campuses in Dallas County and Ellis County to the south, in April became the state’s first charter to issue debt backed by the School Fund.

Tax-exempt bonds maturing in August 2044 priced to yield 4.13 percent, or about 0.5 percentage point more than benchmark 30-year munis.

Without the guarantee from the fund, created in 1854, the school has a BBB- rating from S&P, the lowest level of investment grade. Institutions need to earn an above-junk rank on their own to get the backing.

Republican Governor Rick Perry has said more of the institutions should be permitted. The state guarantee has won over investors.

“It’s a state where you clearly see that they’re supportive,” said John Flahive, Boston-based director of fixed income at BNY Mellon Wealth Management, which oversees about $20 billion in munis and has bought debt of Texas charter schools.

“It’s a tricky sector,” he said. “Politics play a role in whether you can really see it working out for the life of the bond.”

Colorado and Utah also help boost the grades of schools in those states, said Wendy Berry at Charter School Advisors, which is based in Albany, New York, and counsels the institutions.


Great Hearts


Arizona ranks second behind Texas in issuance in 2014. Phoenix’s industrial development agency this month sold about $80 million of tax-free bonds for Great Hearts Academies in the state’s largest charter-school borrowing this year. The deal refinanced securities and paid for new facilities. S&P rated the debt BB+, one step below investment grade.

I read a story about a charter school in Germantown, Pennsylvania. It is called Imhotep Charter School. It has a new $10 million facility. I can’t figure out who is in charge and where the money goes. Isn’t there an auditor? Stories like this are happening with increasing frequency as charters multiply and accountability shrinks.


There seems to be a tug of war between the school and the nonprofit to which it is connected about who owns the building. Meanwhile the founder of the school has been fired by a board, whose chairperson is the founder’s daughter.


I bring this to your attention because I can’t understand what is happening. I know that this school is publicly-funded but it seems to be in more than the usual turmoil, not what you are likely to find in your neighborhood public school.


“Sankofa Network Inc., a related nonprofit that owns Imhotep’s campus, filed a Common Pleas Court lawsuit last week alleging the charter owes $1.2 million in rent, interest, and fees.

The court action comes after the school, which opened in 1998, was rocked by months of turmoil, including the ouster in late June of M. Christine Wiggins, Imhotep’s founding chief executive.

The Imhotep board voted not to renew Wiggins’ contract after the School District’s charter office said in April that it would recommend not renewing the school’s charter on several grounds, including poor academic performance.


The lawyer for the school said the lawsuit was frivolous and that all bills were paid.



Sharon Wilson, a lawyer who represents Sankofa Network, said the nonprofit acted after it was told by the bank that as of Oct. 1 it was delinquent nearly $900,000 in repaying a construction loan and a line of credit.


In addition to uncertainty about the financial stability of the school, charter authorizers worried about its academic performance:


Concerns about academic performance at Imhotep prompted the district’s charter office to express reservations about renewing the school’s charter.


Although Imhotep, which has 525 students in grades nine through 12, has been praised for sending a high percentage of its graduates to college, the school’s records show that in 2013, only 9 percent of Imhotep students scored proficient on the state’s Keystone exams in Algebra 1 and 5 percent in Biology 1. In literature, 37 percent were proficient.


When I see billionaires throwing huge sums into local and state elections with the hope of opening more charters, I wonder if they believe their claims that charters will improve American education. Do they know that none of the world’s high-performing nations have charters or vouchers?





Remember the post called “Two Bonuses”? It actually described three bonuses: one went to Mercedes Schneider, who received a bonus of $427.76 after she was rated a “highly effective teacher”; she gave her bonus away to a friend raising an autistic child. The second bonus went to a charter school teacher who raised scores by 88%; her bonus was $43,000! The third bonus went to a kindergarten teacher at the same charter school who had raised scores even more, but her bonus was $4,086 because her class’s scores did not “count” toward state ratings. The kindergarten scores went  up by 165%! The teacher was Ashleigh Pelafigue.


Of course, the bonus plan is completely unsustainable because it is funded by a one-time federal grant of $2.3 million that went to a charter chain called New Beginnings with four schools.


I learned from a comment left on the post that Ashleigh Pelafigue, who had the highest gains in the school (not sure how kindergarten children were tested!), was fired. She now teaches in a public school.


And then Ashleigh herself wrote a comment on the blog:


I AM the (former) kindergarten teacher referenced in this story and the above comment about me is true [that she was fired]. As far as teacher to pupil ratios, never did I have a class of less than 25 students. I also had no aide or interventionist to pull my students. My students were not serviced for special needs nor were they appropriately designated for ESL. Despite countless hours of hard work, hours upon hours of self-directed professional development, and even continuing my own education to ensure I was providing the most up-to-date instructional strategies, it is true, I was fired without just cause, with no warning, and given only hours to clean out my classroom. My email was wiped out within three hours of receiving my termination letter and I was denied the bonus that I had earned because I was not returning to the school. I was not actively looking for a new job; completely blindsided does not even accurately express my shock. As the above comment states I did in fact find employment in a new parish, only three days after being terminated. I applied, was interviewed and hired in a matter of 24 hours. My resume and data speaks for itself.I have never been happier. Although the situation I was dealt was wrong and disgraceful to the New Beginnings Charter School Network, it was the best thing they ever did for me. An adequate bonus would have been nice, a word of thanks or gratitude would have been appreciated, but letting me go opened my eyes. I would have faithfully gone down with a sinking ship. Instead, I am flourishing and becoming even better in a supportive, appreciative and engaging environment that is well on its way to becoming an A school and leading the way to our parish’s continued success.




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