Gary Rubinstein’s analysis of the charter schools founded by Congressman Jared Polis showed that the schools posted low test score growth. Congressman Polis responded in a comment (posted below) that this was understandable because his charter schools enroll very low-performing students, many of whom barely speak or read English, and many of whom are overage for their grade and far behind. It is understandable, he says, that these kids are not posting big score gains. He also notes that the teachers at his schools are not judged by value-added assessment, given the students they serve.

Congressman Polis is making my case for me but he doesn’t realize it. He should read my book.

He would discover that I support charter schools that enroll the kids who didn’t make it in public schools. They should exist to do what the public schools can’t do. They should exist to help kids who were left behind, not to skim the brightest kids from the poorest communities. Schools should not be closed because of their low scores, and their teachers should not be judged by test scores. Charter schools and public schools should collaborate, not compete. Charter schools should fill a need, as Polis’ schools seem to do, not fight public schools for market share.

If Congressman Polis would read my book, he would see that his are the kinds of charters I endorse.

If he would take the time to familiarize himself with the research on test-based accountability, he would join me in opposing it. He would withdraw his support for Colorado’s SB 191, which bases 50% of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores. This is one of the nation’s worst, most punitive, and most ignorant teacher evaluation law, based on no research or evidence, just the whim of young State Senator Michael Johnston, ex-TFA. There are good ways to evaluate teachers, and test-based accountability is not one of them. That is why Jared Polis’ charter schools don’t do it.

Since we have now found common ground, despite the fact that Polis called me “an evil woman,” and despite the fact that he stubbornly refuses to apologize for his outburst, I invite him to meet with me in Brooklyn to discuss whether he can overcome his irrational contempt for traditional public schools. Even though he is a billionaire, I will pick up the check for breakfast, lunch, or dinner on one condition: read my book. If you don’t like it, Jared, I will give you your money back. Just promise not to throw it at me.

Here is his comment on the blog in response to Gary’s post:

“Thank you for your post defending the efforts of New America School. New America School (NAS) serves almost entirely NEP (non-English-proficient) and LEP (limited English proficiency) students, many of whom are several grade levels behind when they enter NAS. Nearly all of their students are drop-outs or have major gaps in their education.

“Given that the tests are only available in English, the NAS students have a significant disadvantage.

“A primary metric the school uses to demonstrate success is measuring the acquisition of the English language. Many NAS students are 19 or 20 years old, and only have a 6th grade or 8th grade education prior to entering NAS. Sadly in Colorado students “age out” of public education at age 21, and few students can accomplish 4 or 5 years of learning in 1 or 2 years. But even if they don’t earn a diploma, the students gain functional English language literacy.

“This analysis is a good example of why test scores should not be the only criteria used to evaluate schools or teachers. NAS teachers are hard working and dedicated and have literally transformed lives. To be clear, I support transparency on aggregate test scores, and Mr. Rubinstein is welcome to use that information to make whatever charts he wishes to show that a school is good, bad, or otherwise but it is important to educate the reform community about the importance of alternative education and serving all kids.

“Rubinstein mentions that “Colorado is one of the states that has been most aggressive about tying standardized test scores to teacher evaluations and to school rankings. ” but NAS does not use standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, nor has any kind of “ranking” hurt the school’s effort to fulfill its mission “to empower new immigrants, English language learners, and academically under-served students with the educational tools and support they need to maximize their potential, succeed and live the American dream.”