Archives for category: Charter Schools

In my daily reading, I have often come across references to “high quality seats.” [HQS]

See here. 

See here.

While googling, I saw pictures of “high quality seats,” but they looked mostly like lounge chairs, and I could not imagine a classroom filled with them unless the teacher-student ratio was 8:1, which would be a very effective classroom.

I confess that I don’t know what an HQS is.

in my naïveté, I assumed that learning requires teachers teaching and students exerting effort.

Now I see that the “high quality” learning is in the chair.

it seems to be reformer-speak for a seat in a school that is not a public school.

But since there are so many failed and closed charter schools, an HQS can’t be synonymous with a seat in a charter school. Many children in charters are in LQS (low-quality seats).

Where does one go to find a HQS? is there a store?

Do they sell them in Walmart? Not likely.

Do you know where to find the HQS that districts are searching for?

is that the simple answer to every problem?

When I googled, I inadvertently found the answer to my question. Jan Resseger wrote it in 2016. She said that the blather about HQS was a way of dodging the crucial question of paying for a good education for all children.

Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, specializes in exposing the role of Dark Money in education. If you read my book, Slaying Goliath, you know that Cunningham’s research and blog posts helped to turn the tide against a state referendum in 2016 to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. Cunningham showed that “Yes on Two” Organization was funded by billionaires and that the billionaires were hiding their identities. Despite being outspent, the parent-teacher-local school committee won handily.

In this post, originally from February, Cunningham explains why the Waltons and Charles Koch are so devoted to privatizing public school governance. He’s right that they want to lower their taxes. They also want to smash teachers’ unions; more than 90% of charters are non-union. The corporate sector doesn’t like unions, and most private unions have been eliminated. The teachers’ unions are still standing, which annoys the billionaires.

Chris Barbic has returned to Tennessee to join its “charter school center.”

Barbic, you may recall, launched the much-lauded Achievement School District in Tennessee, drawing upon $100 million from the state’s $500 million Race to the Top grant. He promised to take over the state’s lowest performing schools, hand them over to charter operators, and propel them into the top 25% of schools in the state, in five years’ time.

After four years, he stepped down due to a heart attack. By the end of year five, none of the schools in the ASD had been vaulted into the top 25% of schools in the state. They all remained mired at the bottom of the state’s list of schools, as measured by test scores. Since Barbic’s departure, the leadership at ASD has changed hands a few times, but the evaluations have not improved. ASD was a flop.

However, the concept was adopted without waiting for results by a few other states, including North Carolina (one school was in its state-controlled version of ASD) and Nevada (no success). Georgia proposed to create a similar district, but it was turned down by voters.

State takeovers have typically failed. Michigan launched its “Education Achievement Authority” several years ago. It was a disaster, and it was closed down.

New Orleans is the original prototype, where all the district’s schools are now operated by charter managers. Despite lots of hype, it is hardly a model. The latest state scores for schools found that almost half the charters in NOLA were rated either D or F. Overall, the district’s test scores were below the state average. The highest performing schools are the most selective. NOLA is a low-performing district in one of the nation’s lowest performing states (on NAEP, the national testing program that compares states).

The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education has released a study of charter schools and special education by doctoral candidate Katherine Parham at Teachers College, Columbia University.

From the dawn of the charter movement, the subject of charter schools and special education has generated significant controversy.

Albert Shanker cautioned in a Washington Post op-ed in 1994 that the freedom from state and local regulations sought for charter schools would mean control over admissions and thus exclusion of “difficult-to-educate students.” A decade later, Martin Carnoy and his co-authors documented in The Charter School Dust-Up: Examining the Evidence on Enrollment and Achievement (2005) that high-achieving charter middle schools enrolled far more students with strong academic records than neighboring public schools as well as far fewer English-language learners and students with special needs. Similarly, Gary Miron and his co-authors documented in a 2011 study of a major charter management organization (CMO) that it not only managed to screen out a disproportionate number of underperforming students but also shed those who failed to fulfill behavioral and academic expectations. In a 2018 study, Peter Bergman and Isaac McFarlin Jr. documented that charter schools were significantly less responsive than traditional public schools to inquiries from parents of potential applicants with special needs.

Substantiating the concerns of Shanker and the findings of scholars subsequently analyzing this issue was a 2012 report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office determining that in 2008-2009, 11.3 percent of students in traditional public schools were classified with special needs while 7.7 percent of students in charter schools belonged to the same cohort; in 2009-10, the numbers were 11.2 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively. According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education, published in 2016, the numbers were 12.8 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively.

In “Charter Schools and Special Education: Institutional Challenges and Opportunities for Innovation,” Katharine Parham explores this gap and the evolution of federal law designed to prevent discrimination against students with special needs. Parham, a doctoral candidate in education policy at Teachers College, concedes the existence of “discriminatory practices, such as ‘cropping off’ service to students whose disabilities make them among the costliest to educate, counseling out students with severe needs, or advising families of students with disabilities not to apply.” However, Parham contends two other factors explain some of the gap: variation in rates of classification of special needs by charter schools and traditional public schools as well as disparities in funding. In addition, Parham analyzes potential remedies for improving the provision of special education by charter schools.

Dispassionate, clear, and concise, this working paper should prove instructive and helpful to policymakers and scholars alike.

Samuel E. Abrams
Director, NCSPE
August 10, 2020

Coming soon: Helen Ladd and Mavzuna Turaeva on charter schools and segregation in North Carolina; Francisco Lagos on the impact of Chile’s Inclusion Law of 2015; and Kfir Mordechay on school choice and gentrification in New York.
NCSPE provides nonpartisan documentation and analysis of school choice and educational privatization.

Jeff Bryant warns parents not to be tempted by the advertisements or lures of charter schools.

He cites the report by the Network for Public Education showing that the shelf life of many charter schools is limited, and their futures are uncertain.

The report crunched nearly two decades of data and discovered that more than one in four charter schools closed after just five years. That’s less than the number of years it takes for a typical kindergartner to complete elementary school.

After 10 years, 40% of charter schools were shuttered; after 15 years, that rate rose to about 50%.

And the number of students impacted by charter school closures is considerable. According to the report, from 1999 to 2017, more than 867,000 students were displaced when their charter school closed. That figure is likely closer to 1 million students, if data from charter school closures between 1995 and 1998, as well as 2017 to 2019, were added to the analysis.

Privately managed charters are a market mechanism, like shoe stores and restaurants. Some succeed, some don’t. Buyer, beware.

The Economist Magazine has a feature that calculates the likely outcome of the American presidential election. After a week of theTrump Convention, studded with lies and boasts, this was a quick picker-upper.

The state auditor in Arizona made a weird decision. She decided that the charter schools that applied for and received $100 million in federal funds from the Paycheck Protection Program didn’t really take federal funds at all.

What?

Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic writes:

Arizona charter schools that received up to $100 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans can keep the money and not have any of their state funding cut, the Arizona Auditor General’s Office has determined.

At issue is a rarely enforced state charter school law that prohibits taxpayers from paying “twice to educate the same pupils.”

The law requires a school that has been twice compensated to have their base-level funding reduced by an equal amount if additional federal or state monies received by the school were “intended for the basic maintenance and operations of the school.”

But Auditor General Lindsey Perry concluded the state law “does not apply to loan proceeds charter schools” obtained through the federal PPP program.

Her office ruled the loans — despite being 100% forgivable with minimal justification to show that the money was needed — were not “monies received from a federal or state agency” as described in state law.

Peter Greene reviews a new charter school study from the Brookings Institution that exhibits near total ignorance of the perils of privatization. Any time that a study rests its case on DFER data, its a clue that it should not be taken seriously. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) is an organization created by hedge fund managers to lobby for charter schools. Their “studies” and polling data supply talking points to advance their cause. Similarly, when a study cites Albert Shanker’s initial advocacy for charter schools but fails to acknowledge that he abandoned charters and concluded they were indistinguishable from vouchers, the author has done a slipshod job.

Charter schools began thirty years ago. The research on them has repeatedly demonstrated that some get higher test scores, some get lower test scores, but on average they have produced no amazing innovations, no secret sauce. The Brookings author doesn’t know that. She seems to think that charters have discovered remarkable innovations and those innovations should be replicated by public schools.

Her grand notion that charters will teach public schools how to succeed, he argues, is absurd.

He writes:

Since the [charter] movement is largely premised on the notion of unleashing free market forces–well, in that context, this proposal makes as much sense as telling MacDonald’s that they have to show Wendy’s how to make fries.

And:

There is zero reason to think that the charter world, populated primarily by education amateurs, knows anything that public school systems don’t already know. Charter success rests primarily on creaming student population (and the families thereof), pushing out students who won’t comply or are too hard to educate, extending school hours, drilling tests like crazy, having teachers work 80 hour weeks, and generally finding ways to keep out students with special needs that they don’t want to deal with. None of these ideas represent new approaches that folks in public education haven’t thought of.

And:

If charters were pioneering super-effective new strategies, we would already know. There is a well-developed grapevine in the public education world. If there were a charter that was accomplishing edu-miracles, teachers all over would be talking about it. Teachers who left that charter would take the secret sauce recipe with them, and pretty soon it would be being shared across the country. After decades of existence, charters do not have a reputation in the education world for being awesome–and there’s a reason for that. Puff pieces and PR pushes may work on the general public and provide fine marketing, but that’s not what sells other teachers.

Short answer– if charters knew something really awesome and impressive, public school teachers would already know and already be copying it.

Maybe the author of this paper should meet with Andre Perry, who led charters in New Orleans and left disillusioned. He is also at Brookings.

Thomas Ultican has yet again performed a public service by investigating a reformy think tank, where people get huge amounts of money from billionaires to tell the world that public schools are terrible and private management is the way to go.

In the linked post, he delves into the philosophy and fundraising genius of the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington.

As Tom shows, it is very lucrative to knock the public schools. Foundations stand in line to offer millions for more evidence that our nation’s public schools, which educated 90% of us (but NOT Donald Trump!), are rotten.

We have been waiting thirty years to see the miracle of charter schools and vouchers and the portfolio model, but no matter. It’s a good living for them that bring bad news.

The founder and headmaster of a charter school in St. Louis admitted to skimming $2.4 million in public funding by inflating enrollment.

This is to be expected when private companies obtain public money without accountability or transparency.

The former head of a failed charter school has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges in a scheme that cost taxpayers $2.4 million.

Michael Malone, who founded St. Louis College Prep, inflated attendance numbers for years as a way to collect more government funding for the struggling school.

“What the former headmaster did through his deception, repeatedly over many years, was take advantage of the Missouri taxpayers, while obtaining an unfair advantage over the St. Louis Public Schools and other area charter schools,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeff Jensen said in a news release. “This was not a mistake. Evidence proved Michael Malone’s actions were intentional and, unfortunately he got away with it for years.”

Malone, 44, opened the school in 2011 and served as headmaster until November 2018, when he resigned after an internal review and an investigation by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway showed he was cooking the books. The school closed in 2019.

As a charter school, St. Louis College Prep was funded through the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The funding is calculated through daily attendance records, and Malone routinely jacked up those numbers to increase funding. At times, those numbers exceeded even the total enrollment by as much as 124 percent…

The fraud meant money that rightfully would have gone to St. Louis Public Schools went to the charter school to educate phantom students, authorities say.