This article was written by an independent education researcher who requests anonymity. It is unfortunate that the politics of education have become so intermingled with powerful forces that researchers remain silent or hide their identities to escape retribution. In this case, everything in this article is carefully documented.
How the Nation’s Most Powerful Mayor Lost His First Battle Against Corporate Interests and How He Can Win the War
Mayor Bill de Blasio has lost his first battle against the status quo corporate education reform policy machine. In attempting to lessen the influence of charter schools, which often comes at the expense of public schools, he made a number of key tactical errors. This led to the passage of a new law in New York State that now forces New York City to either co-locate every new charter school or pay for its rent in private space. De Blasio was also forced to overturn his decision not to co-locate three Success Academy schools. A review of the tactical errors made can serve as a roadmap for future policy changes that will benefit all of New York City’s children.
Be transparent, and engage communities. Prior to leaving office Mayor Bloomberg had the Panel for Educational Policy vote and approve of over 40 co-locations including 17 charter co-locations. Historically these votes were held in March, but they were moved up to October in order to force de Blasio’s hand. Upon entering office de Blasio should have immediately begun a transparent process of re-evaluating these decisions. Instead he delayed addressing the situation and when he did a single employee at the NYC Department of Education (and former de Blasio deputy at the public advocate’s office) seems to have been primarily responsible for the reviews. Future policy changes should follow a clear process with open avenues of community and stakeholder input.
Be bold. Universal Pre-K is a bold move. But policy changes must not stop there. Instead of deciding to overturn only three co-locations, which left him vulnerable to accusations of a personal vendetta, de Blasio should have stopped every single one that did not meet community needs. Instead of stacking a new space-sharing committee with charter supporters de Blasio should assign them seats based on number of students served (6%) rather than number of dollars in the bank accounts of their backers. A lack of boldness and a reluctance to make waves has also interfered with attempts to re-organize Tweed (the NYC DOE’s headquarters). Besides the departure of a sole deputy Chancellor all the officials in Bloomberg’s DOE are holding onto their positions. This may explain why, as of yet, there have been no changes to the test-centered promotion policy, no changes to test-centered school accountability metrics, and no changes to the test-centered teacher evaluation system. Without significant changes to the ranks of central office managers, progressive educational reforms will have no chance of success.
Communicate the values, figures, and facts used in making policy decisions. Bloomberg was a master at this. He used numbers to bludgeon opponents into submission. Although careful analysis and review of the data showed that many of the numbers were false, the charts in the powerpoints at every press conference lulled the media. In the empty space created by the lack of communication on the part of de Blasio’s City Hall, others stepped in to address some of the falsehoods that de Blasio’s political adversaries were spreading. Eva Moskowitz, the $475,000 CEO of Success Academy, was the loudest and boldest of the de Blasio attackers. Her claims, made on national television, were debunked, but not by City Hall.
We know that countering lies with the truth works because Success Academy has recently changed its multi-million dollar political advertising campaign. They no longer claim to have the highest 5th grade math test scores in New York State. They now claim to have a school with the highest 5th grade math test scores in Harlem. Even this claim does not pass the smell test. There are 32 school districts in New York City. Out of those 32 districts Harlem is but one neighborhood (not even a full district). There are four Success Academy schools in Harlem. Out of those four schools we are asked to focus on a single one. There are three elementary grade levels where students are tested. Of those three grade levels we are asked to pay attention to only one. There are two main subjects in which students are tested, English and Math. Again we are asked to consider only one. The data in fact show that even on this narrow view there are four schools in Queens and four schools in Manhattan that have higher average 5th grade math state test scores than this Success Academy school. And they got these scores without kicking out 50% of their students as Success Academy does.
As de Blasio comes to terms with the constraints that the New York State Legislature recently imposed on his decision-making around charters, he must not accept defeat. He must initiate a conversation about the practices of the charter sector in New York City. He must use his bully pulpit and ask the legislature to address the questions that charter school advocates refuse to confront.
*How will charter schools be held accountable for suspending large numbers of students leading to those students leaving the school?
* How will charter schools be mandated to stop their selective attrition approach whereby they keep the high-performing students and kick out the low-performing students (making comparisons to schools with natural patterns of attrition unfair)?
*How will charter schools be forced to address their unwillingness to accept the neediest students?
*How will charter schools be subject to basic oversight regulations going forward (such as the grading of their state exams by a 3rd party)?
Now is not the time to run and hide. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to have an honest discussion about the charter sector.
The research cited below can get us started.
http://www.edwize.org/middle-school-charters-suspending-their-way-to-the-top charter schools have high suspension rates and shrinking cohorts of students suggesting that charters suspend and expel challenging students and as a result their test scores increase.
http://www.edwize.org/new-charter-report-improves-transparency-but-leaves-many-questions-unanswered reviews data from “state of the sector” report on NYC charter schools. Charter schools in NYC serve a less needy student population (fewer ELL students, fewer students with disabilities, fewer students in poverty), have higher teacher and principal turnover, and have declining middle school enrollments.
http://www.edwize.org/asking-hard-questions-about-what-works Harlem Success and Harlem Village charter schools serve more privileged student body than the district in which they are located and have very high (up to 68%) attrition rates
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15582159.2011.548242?journalCode=wjsc20 “Using 3 recent years of data from the New York State School Report Cards and analyzing the charter population at the school level, the authors found that English language learners are consistently underrepresented in charter school populations across 3 academic years.”
http://www.edwize.org/new-study-confirms-uft-report%E2%80%99s-findings-on-ells-in-charters reviews above study. Points to some issues (such as including less than reliable high school data) with their finding that charters serve a proportionate number of free-lunch students
http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/still-searching-for-miracle-schools-and-superguy-updates-on-houston-and-new-york-city/ finds that charter schools in NYC serve a more privileged student population, spend more money per student, and have smaller class sizes.
http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/uft-report-2010-01-separate-and-unequal.pdf UFT study finding that NYC Charters ”serve significantly fewer than the average of the City’s poorest children, and 10 to 25 percent fewer of such children in the charters’ own neighborhoods. Charters serve on average less than four percent of English Language Learners (“ELL”), rather than 14 percent of such children in the City’s district public schools (the “district schools”). Less than 10 percent of charter pupils are categorized as special education students versus a citywide average of more than 16 percent in the district public schools. In addition, despite their concentrations in highly diverse neighborhoods, charters as a group admit substantially fewer Hispanic and/or immigrant students. As a result, charters contain a heavier concentration of African-American students than is true in the City as a whole or even in the neighborhoods charters are supposed to serve.” Also raises questions about the financial practices and “outsize “management fees”” and the transparency of charter schools.
http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/uft-report-2010-04-special-ed-in-charters.pdf UFT study finding that NYC charter schools do not serve the same percent of students with disabilities as non-charter schools and serve significantly fewer of the higher need students with disabilities.
https://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/03/reader-calls-out-ny-daily-news-for-charter-spin-2/ Daily News story claiming that charter schools serve same students as public schools in districts 7 and 23 is false. There are in fact 500% fewer high needs special education students, 50% fewer ELLs in charter schools.
https://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/20/inflated-claims-of-charter-success-in-nyc/ KIPP has fewer of the highest need special education students although the media claims otherwise
http://www.edwize.org/rhode-island-charter-board-to-seth-andrew-you%e2%80%99re-fired compares Democracy Prep Charter School to co-located district schools and finds that the charter schools serves over 30% fewer students with disabilities with self-contained special education students and fewer students eligible for free lunch.
http://www.edwize.org/at-charters-struggling-students-vanish-as-scores-rise#more-7161 it seems likely based on the data that charter schools are removing students from testing cohorts and that might account for some of their test outcomes
http://www.edwize.org/the-anatomy-of-a-cover-up-the-nyc-department-of-education-and-special-education-in-charter-schools#more-6932 claims that the New York City Department of Education attempted to conceal information that should be available to the public regarding the numbers of students with disabilities served by charter schools. And “is failing to provide the most minimal oversight of the education of students with special needs in NYC charter schools.”
http://www.edwize.org/charter-schools-and-special-ed-eva-moskowitz-gets-defensive#more-6890 links to data on characteristics of students served by NYC charter schools. Notes that “virtually none of the information available for district schools is also available for charter schools” on schools’ public web pages.”
http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2012/06/12/it-takes-a-village/ looks at the performance of the Harlem Village Academy Charter School. Finds that “In 2010-2011, HVA had 55% free lunch and 13% reduced lunch. The district, that year, had 74% free with 5% reduced. In 2010-2011, HVA had 3% LEP vs. 11% for the whole district. In 2010-2011 38% of the students at HVA were suspended for at least one day while 7% were suspended for the whole district. Student attrition at HVA is huge. For example, the 66 5th graders in 2007-2008 have shrunk to just 16 9th graders in the 2010-2011 school year. This is a 75% attrition. In that same time, the district that the school is in went from 904 5th graders in 2007-2008 to 1313 9th graders in 2010-2011. That is a 45% growth.” Also notes “staff turnover was 2007-2008 53%, for 2008-2009, 38%, and for 2009-2010, a whopping 61%. By comparison, the teacher attrition for the entire district in 2009-2010 was just 19%.” Not a single student took the New York Sate Trigonometry exam.
http://miracleschools.wikispaces.com/Harlem+Village+Academy%2C+NY%2C+NY more on Harlem Village Academy Charter School.
http://www.edwize.org/charter-vs-district-student-demographics-beyond-the-lotteries cites research showing that charter schools do not educate the same type of students as district schools. For example, KIPP charter schools in NYC serve fewer poor students than the district middle schools.
http://miracleschools.wikispaces.com/KIPP+Academy+New+York tracks high attrition rate in NYC KIPP school.
http://www.edwize.org/joel-klein-turns-a-blind-eye-to-his-own-data-on-charters-and-test-scores “58% of district schools got an A or a B in 2010, compared to only 34% of charters. In Districts 4 and 5 in Harlem, more than half of district schools got either an A or B (27 out of 53), compared to only 8 out of the 21 charters in those neighborhoods.” “Based on the data charters reported to the state last year, the city-wide difference in poverty between charters and district schools almost doubled — from 2.5 percentage points in 2008-09 to 4.3 percentage points in 2009-10. In addition, poverty at public schools rose 2 percentage points from 2008-09 to 2009-10, while at charters the increase was only a tenth of one percent. Across the city, 15 percent of district students were English Language Learners, while in charters, English Language Learners made up only 5 percent of students.”
http://gothamschools.org/2009/02/17/toward-a-new-definition-of-creaming/#more-9646 discusses evidence of creaming at Democracy Prep charter school at both the initial application stage and later on as students are dropped from the school’s roster.
http://school-stories.org/2012/05/pushed-out-charter-schools-contribute-to-the-citys-growing-suspension-rates/ “no excuses” charter schools have very high suspension rates which, in some cases, violates legal regulations.
http://www.edwize.org/democracy-prep-and-the-same-kids-myth the populations of Democracy Prep Charter School and its co-located public show that their populations are dramatically different with the charter school having fewer poor, limited English proficient and special education students
http://www.edwize.org/middle-school-charters-show-alarming-student-attrition average attrition rate for charter middle schools examined is 23% between 5th and 8th grades. Students appear to be removed from the school rather than being left back a grade. As students are removed from cohort proficiency on state exams goes up.
http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/what-do-the-available-data-tell-us-about-nyc-charter-school-teachers-their-jobs/ an examination of charter school data shows that they “have smaller classes… spend much more than surrounding district schools … serve much less needy student populations than surrounding district schools… have 4th grade students with relatively “average” to below average scale score outcomes compared to schools serving similar population… in some cases, have 8th grade students with high average scale score outcomes compared to schools serving similar populations… where data were available, have value-added scores which vary from the citywide average in both directions, with KIPP being the lowest and Uncommon schools the highest (in the aggregate). Notably, Uncommon Schools also have consistently smaller class sizes and the fewest low income students.”
http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2010/06/new-kipp-study-underestimates-attrition-effects-0 study of KIPP doesn’t fully account for high attrition rates at KIPP middle schools and other external factors that influence student outcomes.
http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/zip-it-charters-and-economic-status-by-zip-code-in-ny-and-nj/ demographic comparison showing that KIPP middle schools in NYC have fewer poor students than other district middle schools.
http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/upperhalf/ charters in NYC have fewer poor students and fewer English Language Learners than district schools.