Saturday, December 05, 2015

Wild Conjecture about Charter Schools as ALEs

We don't really know how it would work if an urban charter school in Western Washington became an Alternative Learning Experience program of a rural school district in Eastern Washington.

Since we don't really know, let's make some wild conjecture about it.

State laws regulate schools pretty tightly - teacher:student ratios, the number of hours of planned instructional time each year, and lots more. But state law also allows for Alterntative Learning Experiences (ALEs). In an ALE, so long as the school can show that the students are learning what they are supposed to be learning, a whole lot of the regulations are off. So much for those who claim that innovative education isn't possible within public schools.

In particular, ALEs can allow for a lot of independent study. That's how online schools operate.

Seattle Public Schools has two of these: Cascade Parent Partnership Program and Interagency Academy. In the past, The NOVA Project and STEM at Cleveland have been ALEs, but they are no longer.

If a school district, even a small, rural school district such as Mary Walker School District, chose to do it, they could easily (and profitably) make charter schools, even those far outside the district's geographical boundaries, into ALE programs. Here's how:

After they get all of the students through the process of requesting a transfer from their home district to the new district, they enroll the students in an ALE program. The program can be essentially an independent study program. Now all of the students are responsible for educating themselves and the district is responsible for making sure that they do.

What does the district get out of this? Money. Lots of money. The state money allocated for each of the students. And their cost is the cost of administering an ALE which, if you don't work too hard at it, can be done very cheaply. They just have to fill out the paperwork and administer the state tests. They don't have to provide staff - no teachers, counselors, secretaries, principals, janitors, or nurses. They don't have to provide any buildings, desks, or paper. All they have to do is fill out the forms and submit them to the OSPI. And, if you know the OSPI, then you know that they don't question anything that any district writes on any submitted forms.

Rather than leaving those students out there to fend for themselves, however, the district contracts with an educational service provider to support these students with tutoring. School districts all across the country already do this - No Child Left Behind requires them to do it. Only in this case the school district contracts the work out to the charter school. They pay the charter school to "support" the students' independent study. And how do the charters do that? By operating their charter school just as they normally would.

What does the charter school get out of this?

They get money. Their contract with the district will entitle them to the bulk of the state allocation for the student. They can even make a profit. The charter school law requires them to be non-profits, but as an education service provider they can be a for-profit company.

That's just the start. Charter schools actually get much, much more from this arrangement.

They get free of nearly all accountability save what the school district wants to impose on them. They don't have to live up to their charter - that's out the window. No benchmarks to meet unless the school district sets some - and they don't set any. When was the last time you saw a district close a school for failing to meet benchmarks?

They get free of oversight. They would not be overseen by a state commission. Instead, they have no more oversight than what school districts impose on tutoring services, which is none. No one audits their books. No one questions their methods or practices.

They get free of nearly all regulation. They are not schools anymore. Sure they look like schools and act like schools, and they will call themselves schools, but legally they are just tutoring services, so none of the state laws governing schools will apply to them.

They get free of oversight. No one audits their books. No one tells them what to do or how to do it.

They get to pick their students. Since the students live out of the district's geographical boundary, they have to apply annually for access. The district can deny access to any student they like for any reason. They can set up any enrollment practice they like. And, if students look like a bad risk or don't meet achievement requirements the district can always say that they are not suitable for the Alternative Learning Experience. The district could easily say that students with disabilities, English Language Learners, or students with bad discipline records are not suitable for the ALE.

The district won't hesitate to let students go - especially students that look like trouble or expense. If the student is booted from the ALE they don't go into one of the district's public schools - they go into some OTHER district's public schools. They can tell Seattle and Tacoma to keep their problem kids and take only the ones who are easy and cheap to educate.

This arrangement creates super charter schools that take everything about charter schools and step it up. Do charter schools have little accountability? These will have NO accountability. Do charter schools have freedom from some state regulations? These will have freedom from ALL state regulations and federal regulations too. Do charter schools have friendly oversight? These charters will have NO oversight. Are charter schools able to cherry pick students to some extent? These will be able to select each student and reject entire classes of students. This is the charter school dream come true.

And what does it take to make this happen? A school board that supports the corporatist education reform platform. You know, the kind in the conservative rural areas of the state. Here's the best part - they never have to subject any of their own children to these schools. The district responsible for this scheme is all the way across the state from the students in the schools. They can say that these schools are good for poor students of color without ever having to answer or be accountable to those students' families because they don't live or vote in that district. Why would their constituents object to this deal - it means a revenue stream for their district and therefore more money for their children's schools.

We never needed a charter school law. We just needed people willing to abuse the ALE law in this way.


dw said...

Leave it to Charlie. You might as well have written this up like a recipe, because I could easily see one of these schools/districts giving this a try. Might as well, what would they have to lose at this point? Respect? Hahahaha.

seattle citizen said...

Yeah, thanks a lot, Charlie, for giving the corporatist, privatizing charter industry the recipe. Thanks. ; )
Oh, wait, they're already doing it; they already know how to cook this goose....

Looks like we need to advocate for regulations to control their kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Charlie:

Doesn't it seem, then, that strict oversight of any such practices by OSPI would be a key element in the 2016 election for that office? We know that Dorn and his predecessor were utterly worthless. One announced candidate is talking a good game. Another one has potential to be pretty good. But who knows at this point?

-- Ivan Weiss

Outsider said...

This ALE scheme seems too brazen to last long, but at the same time, there is a logical disconnect in your criticism. You seem to assume that these schools are harming children and their families, at the same time those families are deliberately going through an elaborate bureaucratic process to get their children into the schools. How can that be true?

In truth, cherry-picking charter schools would be a dream come true for a lot of families, which is precisely why they can't be allowed to exist. The mission of public schools is to nullify the wishes of family in favor of social engineering schemes that squander the potential of many students. That will ultimately prevail, don't worry.

Anonymous said...

The district could easily say that students with disabilities, English Language Learners, or students with bad discipline records are not suitable for the ALE.

Can they? I think this is where you are wrong. But under the ALE/home-based instruction scheme, the academic performance of these students is ultimately the responsibility of the parents, not the ALE "home school center."

The state board of education shall not require these children to meet the student learning goals, master the essential academic learning requirements, to take the assessments, or to obtain a certificate of academic achievement or a certificate of individual achievement pursuant to RCW 28A.655.061 and 28A.155.045. The standardized test administered or the annual academic progress assessment written shall be made a part of the child's permanent records. If, as a result of the annual test or assessment, it is determined that the child is not making reasonable progress consistent with his or her age or stage of development, the parent shall make a good faith effort to remedy any deficiency.

-homeschooling parent

Lynn said...

The link you provided covers home-based instruction - not ALEs. They are two different things.

Dora Taylor said...

Highline, where Enfield landed, is looking into doing this. See

Watching said...

Why have charter schools when we have alternative learning?......:)

Olympia doesn't know if the plan to turn charter schools into ALE is legal. I'd love to be listening to that conversation.

syd said...

I have so missed you Charlie. :)

Reductio ad absurdum

Anonymous said...

You are right, Lynn, they are two different things, yet a parent can submit a "Declaration of Intent to Provide Home Based Instruction" and also enroll their child in an ALE program, in which case both ALE and home-based instruction rules apply. You can be part-time enrolled in a public school, while still declaring home-based instruction status, which is how I thought the Charters were operating. If the ALE/home school center is receiving funds for students with full-time status, my understanding is that those students wouldn't file a "Declaration if Intent," and therefore only ALE rules would apply.

-homeschooling parent

Anonymous said...

There is no declaration of intent to homeschool if you are in an ALE. The exception would be for part time students and that exception would be at any public school, not just an ALE. There are only a handful of students who do part time at our ALE. We know some students who part time at SPS schools, mainly in the upper grades.

It's not required to provide all services to all students. But no SPS school does - we send our HCC kids to just a few places, our full time SpEd kids to just a few places. But now with that it has been found that ELL can not be dispersed, I do wonder if that will change. No school or program provides all services needed.

BTW, it is also audited for compliance on a regular basis, lest anyone think that ALEs are not regulated and monitored.

ALE Homeschoolmom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Let me add the OTHER benefits that OSPI is seemingly giving to the charter schools.

1) No WSLPs until Feb. Unfortunately neither the RCW or the state regs state WHEN an WSLP has to be in place but written student learning plans which are the WHOLE essence of ALEs.

2) With no WSLPs, you have to wonder how the requirement for a monthly teacher update can be done if there is nothing to pivot off of for this report.

3) Allowing the district to count charter kids at a different time than they allow other districts to count their ALE kids.

(I have all the OSPI documents to compare with Dorn's recent memo to districts on ALEs and charters.)

Again, thinking this needs to get into court, pronto.

Watching said...

KUOW did a story on the charter school/ ALE issue. No surprise:

"Washington State Charter Schools Association spokeswoman Maggie Meyers said that becoming alternative programs could be a stop-gap measure for charters after they lose funding later this month.

"The ALE pathway allows charters to remain public and open while the Legislature works on a permanent fix," Meyers said. Her organization has been working with the state schools office in Olympia to ensure the funding model would apply."

I've received information that Summit Sierra remained a charter school. I'm not sure what happened with their attempt to become a home school.

I've not gotten a sense that there is a ground swell of support for charter school legislation, just a highly financed and organized effort. Who is paying for the tv commercials to save unconstitutional charter schools?

seattle citizen said...

Gates. He's spent over $50,000,000 on charters in WA in last three years. My guess is the two million he gave LEV to advertise how great charters are is the gift that keeps on giving.
Or Walton. $200,000 to LEV.
Doesn't matter, it's all the same, big pot of rich people's money being used to buy public policy....

mirmac1 said...

Gee, it is inconvenient that we cannot access last years "annual approval of written plans of programs or schools using the alternative learning experience model". I was hoping to see if the BAR last year said "the Department of Career and College Readiness will look at other alternative programs to see if there (sic) it is appropriate to align their work with Alternative Learning Experience Washington Law and Board policy which may result in additional revenue for Seattle Public Schools"

Is SPS looking to get in the game?

Anonymous said...

Saw a TV ad tonight with a plea to save charters.


Charlie Mas said...

@ Outsider, I'm curious. What words in my post indicate that I "assume that these schools are harming children and their families"? Or did you just imagine that part?

Could you also provide the supporting evidence for your assertion that "The mission of public schools is to nullify the wishes of family in favor of social engineering schemes that squander the potential of many students." Or do you just imagine that as well?

Please try to be reality-based in future.


Charlie Mas said...

Here's a hotlink to that Highline School District document
It suggests that a few existing Highline School District programs could be ALEs. I don't see a reference to charters here.

@Ivan, Yes. It would be up to OSPI to regulate this sort of thing. Of course it is already up to OSPI to regulate all sorts of things, but they refuse to do so. The OPSI doesn't think it is their job to question any document a school district submits, even when it is their job to question the documents a school district submits. I can give plenty of examples - as could a lot of other people on this blog.

While homeschool partnerships or homeschool support programs, such as the one in Seattle Public Schools, are often ALEs, there are plenty of ALEs which are not homeschooling. So there's overlap, but they are not synonymous. The charter schools can be ALEs with independent study without being homeschool.

And yes, ALEs can have enrollment practices which are different from other schools. NOVA, for example, requires students to attend an orientation before requesting enrollment. Interagency is an ALE and a service school, which means that no student chooses to enroll there - they are assigned there by the District - and the District can assign them out of it as well. So any students deemed inappropriate for the ALEs can be assigned to the regular schools in Mary Walker School District. Transportation from Tacoma to Springdale is not provided.

ALE schools definitely have to provide all kinds of reports, but let's not confuse requiring reports with closely regulated when the reports don't have to be very good or very true.

Anonymous said...

Nova is no longer an ALE.


GarfieldMom said...

The question of Middle College HS and when it changed from being an ALE came up at the last board meeting. I'd have to go back and listen to what Nyland said, but my impression was that they thought being an ALE was a disadvantage funding-wise, at least at the time given some changes that had been made at the state level. The whole discussion was in the context of why Interagency and Cascade had board oversight but Middle College was being dismantled without board knowledge/approval. What can we learn from how charters are using ALEs to help Middle College?

(Don't know if I'm making sense, I need another cup of coffee about now.)

Another Name said...

Seattle Times article:

Cheezman said...

Part 1 (posting in 2 parts)

Last year I had three kids in public school. My oldest daughter was an 8th grader at a good but very crowded (many portables) middle school. This daughter scores off the charts in the language arts portion of testing (college level) but is just a bit above average in math testing. Because she was not, across the entire board, over 95%, she was denied access to any higher level classes (spectrum or AP), including in language arts.
Because my daughter does pretty well, she doesn't get a lot of attention from her teachers. This translated last year into no real inspiration instilled from any teachers. She is a good student, wants to learn and was frustrated in some of her classes with significant numbers of students that were disrespectful and disruptive in class and with a couple of teachers that seemed very checked out, manifested by a failure to provide any feedback on class assignments or, in some cases, even to grade them.
Myself a public school product, part of me just says, so be it. I believe that most public educators take the mission seriously (my other two daughters continue in public school and are decently educated, for the most part). My daughter did have some really good teachers in middle school and the school has an excellent Principal that is doing her best with what she's got to work with.
Moreover, as a student, learning how to deal with both mediocre people and systems with resource challenges is part of learning how to get along in the world.
So last year we received notice of an informational meeting to be held on the Seattle Charter school that was to open in the fall. As conscientious parents that feel an obligation to be open to all options where our kids are concerned, we took our daughter to the meeting. There were 20+ parents there and the Principal-to-be gave an impressive presentation on how the school would work. My daughter left the meeting very excited about the possibility of the learning experience that had been described. Over the next several months, before the school was open or the school year began, this Principal-to-be organized several events for those kids and families interested in learning more. These events were set up to allow the kids to begin to bond and to feel a sense of community and it that’s exactly what happened.

Cheezman said...

Part 2 (posting in 2 parts)

If I didn't have a daughter in a Charter, I likely wouldn't at all be dialed into this issue. I voted against Charters the first two times the issue came up and voted yea in 2012 with no expectation that it would eventually directly affect our family. I voted no the first two times because I had the idea that Charters were potentially dangerous; run maybe by religious fanatics and/or right wing organizations that went against my own idea that the education of children should be more tied to the democratic process than that. I voted for Charters in 2012, because it seemed clear that the law was designed to prevent the concerns I earlier had on Charters: primarily that they were to be potentially open to all who wished to attend, would be non profit and overseen by an appointed board.
I don’t really expect to change any minds here, but I’m struck by how smug, self-congratulatory, demagogic and therefore heartless the arguments and comments are on this. Charlie whoever-you-are, true you didn’t explicitly state that Charters are bad for kids in your piece, as @outstanding asserted. But from my read, that is one of the implied subtexts. How else could it be otherwise? Because, if you’re NOT claiming that Charters are bad for kids, then I think this is worse. This would mean of course that Charters may in fact be beneficial, but you are so wrapped up in your ideology that you’ll bring down the good to keep it all at the baseline level of mediocre. I’m sure you won’t agree with that, but the logic is there, nonetheless.
Which brings me back to my daughter’s experience: She’s thriving at the new Charter. She has competent teachers and with some of the curriculum based in “personalized learning,” she’s able to challenge herself as much as she needs or wants to and it has caused her to feel a much deeper stake in her own education than I think she would have if she continued in public school. I can’t say that any of her teachers are “great,” but this just speaks more for the model. The model works regardless, to a certain extent, of the level of competence of the teacher (as opposed to the traditional public school model where superstar teachers and administrators are extolled but do not represent a replicable model).
And my daughter’s experience is not unique. The school has many students that are thriving in ways they did not in traditional public schools; including this feeling of stake and engagement. I see my daughter, who is of European descent, making genuine friendships with people who are not and it’s opening and exposing our entire family to these experiences and friendships. More than I’ve seen in the traditional public school, these kids, for the most part, have each other’s back and that’s cool.
I get the Supreme Court’s reasoning; they’re required to interpret the law and the State Constitution as currently written. I don’t though get most of you-all. You claim that innovations can take place in public schools, but fail to address why they don’t happen. You decry the “accountability” issue of the Charter board while ignoring the obvious competency gap and institutional ineffectiveness of the publicly elected boards (thinking mainly Seattle here).
Most importantly, you refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the 1,200 Charter families that are in a better position than you to judge the effectiveness of Charters in educating our kids. The only conclusion from this willful blindness is that your antipathy toward Charters is based instead on anachronistic ideology and ignorance. Your concern is not for the children and is not for the positive effect that the Charter experiments can have on the traditional public schools, should they be allowed to first observe and then absorb effective lessons in pedagogy. It seems anti Charter arguments really miss the bigger picture and the potential here to make all public education, Charters and traditional, more effective in educating the kids.

Anonymous said...

Some background info on ALEs in Washington State:

According to the report, in 2010-11 approximately 40% of ALE students statewide were in Parent Partnership Programs (parent or guardian is the primary instructor). A past audit of SPS showed 86% of audited FTEs in ALEs did not requirements (some changes have been instituted since).

-just fyi

Melissa Westbrook said...

Cheezman, could I ask a question? Were you told - either by looking at your charter's webpage or at a prospective parents meeting or in writing - that this lawsuit was happening and ALL the possible outcomes from it? Because I haven't found that to be the case and I was just wondering.

There is actually a fair amount of innovation in SPS that doesn't happen in other places. It would depend on how you define "innovation."

And, with all due respect, being in a school for less than half a year is not a big perspective. I think most people are pretty happy in a new school at the beginning.

It's good you feel good about your child's situation; that's what everyone wants for their child. I myself have done research, visited charters and feel very qualified with my lesser opinions of charters.

Lastly, the research has not borne out that charters are any more innovative than other schools. In fact, the local charter research tank, CRPE, has said this and wonders why that is.

Charlie Mas said...

@Cheezman, How about you stick to what is in evidence and base your understanding on that rather than basing it on what you imagine.
"Charlie whoever-you-are, true you didn’t explicitly state that Charters are bad for kids in your piece, as @outstanding asserted." That's right. I didn't. And there is no reason for you to assign that belief to me. None. I didn't imply it; you inferred it. The connection was made by you, not by me.
How could it be otherwise? Easily. Stop making conjecture about my beliefs and motivations. You don't know me; you don't know what I believe, and you have no clue about my motivations. I'm not making any conjecture about your beliefs or motivations; please afford me the same courtesy.
You write that I wish to "bring down the good to keep it all at the baseline level of mediocre". Not only is that absurd, it is nowhere in evidence. You think that there is some "logic" there, but there isn't. A logical person would pay attention to my words, and not the tone that YOU assigned to them.

You seem convinced that innovations don't take place in public schools. How can anyone who lives in Seattle, home to so many innovative schools, believe that?

As for judging the effectiveness of charters, you're right. I don't have any first-hand anecdotal evidence like you. I only have the studies that show they are, on the whole, not effective nationally.
You think that the "only conclusion from this willful blindness is that your antipathy toward Charters is based instead on anachronistic ideology and ignorance." Why do you discount the possibility that this antipathy towards charters is based on their track record of ineffectiveness? Why are you willfully blind to that evidence? Why can't you presume good intent on the part of people who disagree with you? That's just sad.

I'm glad that you found a school that works well for your daughter. Good for you, good for her, good for your family. But please don't pretend that there isn't as much or more innovation in public schools as there is in charter schools - because there is. Please don't pretend that charters have a record of effectiveness - because they don't. And, more than anything else, please don't pretend that the people who find charters a distraction and, on the whole, a detriment, aren't motivated by doing what is best for children.

Anonymous said...

Cheezman says:

"You claim that innovations can take place in public schools, but fail to address why they don’t happen. You decry the “accountability” issue of the Charter board while ignoring the obvious competency gap and institutional ineffectiveness of the publicly elected boards (thinking mainly Seattle here)."
I read this blog, and every post on it, at least twice a day, every day. Here on this blog we do, in fact, address all the things you say we don't address. We talk about innovations -- how they happen, and how and why they don't -- all the time. We discuss the failings of the school board -- and how they might be made into strengths and positive achievements -- all the time.

It's not my place to deny your daughter's experience, or yours. But your criticisms of this blog, and those of us who read it and comment on it, are not valid.

-- Ivan Weiss

Po3 said...

Given that the Summit corp website has no open houses for any its Seattle or Tacoma schools, my wild conjecture is that they are getting ready to pull up stakes.

The calendar for CA schools is jammed packed w/ open houses and lottery deadline info.

Anonymous said...

Summit has already had an open house.
I would not bet against the deep pockets and strong philanthropy connections it has here in Washington.

Prospective parent

Anonymous said...

Hmm... this is clearly a hot button issue for many, as it has been ever since the move to open Charters here in Washington started. I think we can all agree to disagree on the effectiveness - it's sort of one of those things that depends greatly on which end of the lens you are viewing the issues from - the big picture or our individual children.

I do think the Charter operators owed their constituents the courtesy of warning them that the WA Supremes had not yet ruled and might decide the current law was unconstitutional. Maybe operators did that, maybe they didn't do that - but they should have, for certain.

Cheezman - I understand where you are coming from. I too have a high school aged kid who, for a variety of reasons, was not flourishing in a traditional setting. Fortunately, her district (not SPS) offers a great ALE via online school, combined with some traditional in-person classes. She too is thriving in that environment.

But most of the people who write and read on this blog are far far from ignorant about charters. That's a very erroneous assumption on your part and does your cogent points a great disservice.


Another name said...

"Cheezman, could I ask a question? Were you told - either by looking at your charter's webpage or at a prospective parents meeting or in writing - that this lawsuit was happening and ALL the possible outcomes from it? Because I haven't found that to be the case and I was just wondering."

Cheeman, I have the same question. Were families notified that I 1240 was in the court system? How do you feel about placing your child in a school and leaning that the financial and legal path is on shaky ground- at best.

I also have to ask how you feel about the lack of transparency. I'm not finding charter school demographics and test scores on OSPI web page. Where do charter schools document school board meeting minutes etc.?

For those with special ed. students; How do you feel about your child's education/oversight being outsourced to a small school district in eastern Washington?

Po3 said...

Prospective parent -

Are you betting your kids high school education being paid for by Bill Gates et al?

Anonymous said...

Seattle Public Schools have some wonderful option schools available for middle and high school. They can even cap their enrollments so that classes are not overcrowded. The problem is that there are not enough of them. If Summit is so wonderful, then they should seek to join SPS and become an option school. Most option schools in Seattle were started by parents.


Chris S. said...

Unfortunately, the research is pretty conclusive that charter schools are *on balance* just about as good as public schools. (There was a report some years ago, you can probably find reference to it on this blog.) This is because in both the public and the private sector, there is a range from great to awful. In the intervening years, I have seen some *good* charters close due to the difficulty of sustaining quality education without grants. There are also weekly reminders that with the weak oversight, fraud and corruption are common.

However, the "on balance" result allows proponents to keep claiming that charters are better, without qualifying that with "sometimes" and "unsustainably" or anything.

That said, Cheezman, I can relate to your description of middle school. High School is better in SPS, possibly because high school is better, period. Plus the is NOVA and the Center School.

Anonymous said...

another name wrote: " I'm not finding charter school demographics and test scores on OSPI web page."

Maybe that's more an OSPI thing than a charter thing? Or maybe it's because the most recent data on OSPI seems to be for 2014-2015 when the schools didn't exist?

In CA, charter schools show up on the CDE (CA Dept. of Education) webpage, the same way as district schools.


Anonymous said...

Cheezman, we had a similar experience to yours several years ago. Our son was in a large public high school and small schools were popular then (as charters seem to be now).

We were able to help start The Center School, a small public high school at Seattle Center. It takes kids from all over the city and offers challenging academics. The students get a very personalized learning environment. My son still visits with one of his teachers there and he is now almost 30.

Our second son was more interested in Ballard H.S. and did very well in the Biotech Academy program. He did not get lost in the bigger school.

Charle has often stressed that parents may be able to find what they want in the public schools. Just think what we could do if they were funded adequately by the state and had more parental involvement.

S parent

Cheezman said...

Responding to a couple of points:

Regarding knowledge of the pending legal action: The pending case was not brought up to anyone in our family and I haven't heard of any instance where any of the Summit people discussed it with other prospective students' families. Maybe they should have made a point of highlighting that in their presentations. Maybe the person that raised this in response to my earlier post could articulate why it carries any relevance to the issue. In hindsight, it may have been a tactical error on the part of Summit. Maybe not. I can say that I do not ascribe any ulterior motive to the omission. I take them at their word when, after the (callous timing of the) decision was issued people speaking on behalf of Summit said that they didn't anticipate the decision would go the way it did, given similar cases in other states (I expect some of you now will want to jump all over that claim. If you insist on doing that, please include why it's relevant vs. Monday morning quarterbacking).

Second, to Charlie, a two parter: First, yes, of course my perspective and experience re Charters (rather, ONE charter) is anecdotal and personal. How do you factor such anecdotal experiences into your consideration of the issue, if at all? Particularly when the evidence suggests that the majority of families involved with Charters this year are, for the most part, enjoying a similar positive experience.

Second, I'm interested in your reference to studies. I see you like to pull out quotes, so I'll join the game on your playing field: You wrote:

"As for judging the effectiveness of charters, you're right. I don't have any first-hand anecdotal evidence like you. I only have the studies that show they are, on the whole, not effective nationally."

I talked to my wife who is familiar with your postings (this is my first day here) and she said you are a person of precision, which of course is a good thing. I also am probably willing to acknowledge that you've done a lot more reading of non-anecdotal research on this issue and so please consider me a student. I did follow up with a quick search on Charter effectiveness and the first two I read were from the Rand Corporation and on called Mathematica Policy Research. Both seemed to have similar conclusions:


We found that:

On average, charter schools had no significant impacts on student achievement in math and reading.
Impacts on measures of both student and parent satisfaction were positive and statistically significant.
Charter school impacts varied widely across schools.
Impacts were most positive among schools in large, urban areas and among those serving the most disadvantaged students.
Among subgroups of students, impacts were most negative among students who were not eligible for free or reduced-price school meals and those who were higher achieving when they entered charter schools.

Rand Corps findings were also more positive than you imply in your quote and theirs included that students at Charters are more likely both to graduate and to attend college.
Here's the link to Rand:

Do the studies you had in mind with your statement reach different conclusions?

Anonymous said...

Wait Cheezman - seriously? You can't see how telling prospective customers about the pending Supreme Court decision that might mean their operations were no longer legal entities in Washington State isn't relevant???? Wow.

Sure, the Supremes could have timed it better. I fail to see it as callous however. The court is under no obligation to issue a decision at the convenience of the plaintiffs, but rather when they have thoughtfully and fully reached a decision.

If anyone was callous here, it was the Charter operators who couldn't bother to wait, but rather took the chance, with the education of students like yours at risk, of assuming it would all be ok. That is poor management at best.


Cheezman said...

Wow what? You still didn't say why that point is relevant to current discussion. The. Current. Discussion. How is it relevant to the effectiveness of charters to educate kids? It's water under the bridge. Wow back at you.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Maybe they should have made a point of highlighting that in their presentations."

Maybe? I don't know but "maybe" a lot of the finger-pointing over the unhappiness of charter school families should be pointed directly at the Charter Commission and the schools themselves that didn't have the good grace (or ethics) to fully inform families.

"In hindsight, it may have been a tactical error on the part of Summit."

Of course, they didn't know how the decision would go but they had a DUTY to fully inform perspective parents so those parents could make a fully informed decision. Yes, they gambled on children's academic lives and lost.

The studies are mixed and you can pretty much find on to meet your POV. The bottom line is that, overall, charters do no better than regular public schools. They don't. Individually, some are good and do well with students of color. But so do some public schools. I don't believe the upheaval of charters is worth it. But every parent is making a decision based on their own child so that "overall" may not matter to them.

Cheezman said...

Oh, so now the studies are "mixed." Does this mean then that it's at least as likely as not that charters are effective? Seems to me the "upheaval " is largely caused by the forces fighting to kill charters, rather than give them a fair chance. And as far as the "gamble,: it ain't over til it's over. And it ain't over.

Anonymous said...

Cheezman seems to believe his charter will be one of the exceptional ones. If it can keep its funding.

What happens to these charters if the hedge fund guys and Bill Gates stop funding them? Will they have to wait in line like public schools?

S parent

Charlie Mas said...

Cheezman, I would direct your attention to the CREDO study, which is more of a survey of the most reliable studies. It showed that about three of six charter school students did about as well as their peers in public schools, that one of six charter school students did better than their public school peers, and that two of six charter school students did worse than their public school peers. In short, for five out of six students the charter meant no improvement and that students were twice as likely to worse than to do better.

There's an excellent reason why charter schools, on the whole, are not effective for students. It's because the difference between charter schools and public schools is only in the ownership and the governance of the school. It's a change in the boardroom. For it to make a difference for students the change has to come in the classroom.

While you would think that charters are more likely to innovate the truth is that the bulk of charter schools use the same instructional strategies that are used in traditional public schools. You may believe that charters have some special license to innovate, but public schools - as everyone in Seattle knows - have just as much license to innovate. There is nothing - nothing - that a charter school can do for students that a public school cannot do.

That's why charter schools are a distraction and a waste of time, political capital, energy, and resources. The barriers to children's education are not in the boardroom and we aren't going to overcome them there.

Here in Seattle we have schools with Montessori programs, language immersion programs, arts-based curricula, international focused curricula, advanced learning programs, project-based learning, STEM programs, experiential learning and more. Besides those structures, the simple fact is that teachers innovate every single day. They have to because every students is different and needs something different.

I have had a number of conversations with Charter school advocates and I will tell you plainly that I don't care if a school is a public school, a charter school, a private school, or any other possible ownership and governance structure. That doesn't drive the quality of the school or the quality of the academic opportunity, and that is what I care about. I care about the students' experience.

You say that your daughter's charter school is providing her and her classmates with a great experience. That's wonderful, but it didn't take a charter school to make that happen. It took the school community. A community which could have just as easily come together in a public school. And public schools are constitutional and at least partially funded by the state.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Cheezman, uh, charters have been around for over 20 years and haven't proven themselves better? That experiment seems to have made its statement. Of course, it isn't over but it would have been good to create a constitutional law. (Again, the Court didn't decide ALL the issues in the lawsuit. Keep that in mind for the future. It would be far better for the legislature to create a new (constitutional) law than to keep support this poorly-written initiative.

S parent,you don't seem to be reading the threads. The money is coming from us. I'll write a new thread with all the dots connected. It's not pretty.

I will say that I think Charlie is being pretty gracious here.

Outsider said...

This is backing up about 30 posts, but ... Charlie ...

You wrote:
"Here's the best part - they never have to subject any of their own children to these schools. The district responsible for this scheme is all the way across the state from the students in the schools. They can say that these schools are good for poor students of color without ever having to answer or be accountable to those students' families because they don't live or vote in that district."
That's a fairly clear insinuation that these schools are harming students' families to whom the are allegedly not accountable.

You wrote:
"Could you also provide the supporting evidence for your assertion that "The mission of public schools is to nullify the wishes of family in favor of social engineering schemes that squander the potential of many students."
My supporting evidence is:
1) direct personal experience of being stonewalled and ignored
2) reading the comments on every AL thread ever posted here
3) observing that families will choose mediocre charter schools to escape dysfunctional public schools
4) simply observing how "inclusive" and and "equitable" public schools actually function

I think it's you who needs to be more reality-based, and get out of the PC fantasy echo chamber.

Brooklyn Bridge said...

"Regarding knowledge of the pending legal action: The pending case was not brought up to anyone in our family and I haven't heard of any instance where any of the Summit people discussed it with other prospective students' families"

I am having a hard time believing that families aren't outraged. These charter schools have created an unstable situation for many families. Frankly, I don't know why families would want to subject their children to unstable conditions. Hold on tight....It is going to be a rough ride and I predict corruption along the way.

Good luck!

Brooklyn Bridge said...

I'll go so far as to say that children in charter schools are being used.

Anonymous said...

I do believe there's data showing students who struggled in a traditional public school, did perform better once enrolled in a public charter school.

I think that's the point pro public charters school supporters are trying to get across.

For me, I don't care if there's a placebo effect, all that matters is the child's fresh academic start and the parents diminished frustration with central administration.

Public charter schools have more flexibility to serve under performing students without the constraints placed on schools by central administration or teachers unions. I wish our traditional public schools had the same level of flexibility.

Listen closely

Anonymous said...

Listen closely, the charters don’t have to play by the same rules as public ones. If a child misbehaves, they can be counseled out to a public school. No teacher unions may work for awhile, but young teachers will eventually get tired of working for little pay and no benefits.

SPS is a top heavy central administration, but charters being run by a Spokane district sound even worse. It is a dishonest dodge.

S parent

Anonymous said...

@ Cheezman

You shouldn't get too involved with the admins on this blog, they don't have any children in schools, public, charter or private. They just complain endlessly and like to squash anyone's joy in escaping from the traditional public school asylum.

As for Charlie, he doesn't even live on the west coast and Westbrook should be a lobbyist for SEA.

You know teacher unions hate charters because success is contagious.

FRL nauseam

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas @ 5:09

Which CREDO study? There's a recent one that looks at 41 "urban regions".

It shows in math: 43% of charter schools better, 33% the same, 24% worse.
in reading: 38% of better, 46% the same, 16% worse.

(Apparently on-line charter schools do much worse than other charter schools.)

Charlie also said "There is nothing - nothing - that a charter school can do for students that a public school cannot do."

I strongly agree. The answer is why aren't more traditional public schools doing some of the things that high performing charter schools do?
I guess an obvious answer is the public schools aren't getting enough money. But then why do some schools in the same district get very different results? Are they getting different amounts of money?


Anonymous said...

S parent @6:19 said "If a child misbehaves, they can be counseled out to a public school."

A child can also be "counseled out" of a district public school

One of my children was suspended about 40 times from a district public school when he was in kindergarten! We finally took him out to homeschool him.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I know it wasn't Seattle Schools or we would have heard about it. That's a very sad story.

Anonymous said...

For me one of the saddest thing about this back and forth debate is lost opportunity. Charters came in and successfully fill in the big hole where public schools failed. The meanest and worst SPS schools are nothing like the ones I saw in Detroit in the late 90's and Anacostia in the 80's. The schools were just bad. They were often violent places and falling apart with transitory staff. I toured several of these Detroit schools. Parents were looking for anything which was different than what they had. Charter operators saw their opportunity and took it. Public schools really lost an opportunity here. I'm not sure what happened. It looked like the adults just gave up. The state and city seemed to have lost control of city services and much of the city was a haunting, dead zone.

Detroit schools is still a mess, but with more school choices. That is part of the problem. Too many so-so to poor choices. Not enough quality seats. Children can go to traditional public schools, charters, and ones controlled by the state educational authority. Quality education though remains an elusive beast regardless of which type of schools a child's in. The only positive is the acknowledgement by the adults that for Detroit to make a permanent comeback, education has to be a top priority to draw back families and industry to rebuild this once fair city. I suspect at some point, state legislators will have to wrestle and tighten the rules on charters and find a way to weed out bad operators and find ways to draw and retain better public school teachers and fix the public schools.

In situation like these, what I see is an attempt to try anything and everything with the hope something will stick. Parents are left to figure out this complicated tangle. It's a terrible system. You know charter started off with the hope that innovation by the best public school teachers will turn failing schools around. Somehow along the way, market force stole that ideal. Profit masked by good marketing. It's an American tragedy.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, I may use - with credit (such that it is) - that last paragraph. Brilliant.

Cheezman said...

The paragraph that mentions "profit" is brilliant? Where does profit come in wrt Washington Charters under the statutory scheme?

I know some of y'all insist on believing that there's all kinds of outrage among charter parents over the legal situation. Whereas you assume and offer no evidence, I can at least tell you that none of the several families I know are at all angry at charters. Just the opposite. But I will be meeting many more families at an event next week and I will poll every one of them on the issue and report back here.

Brooklyn Bridge said...

I like transparency and stability, and I don't like my children being used as pawns. That's me, though. C'est la vie. No need to get back. Happy trails.

Lynn said...


I have a question about Summit Sierra. Is it true that students aren't receiving any instruction from their certificated teachers this month? How does that affect your daughter's progress in the second language she's studying? I'd think four week without instruction in most subjects would be a concern. (I also expect this wouldn't fly with OSPI in an ALE.)

Anonymous said...

When people call the Timing of the Supreme Court decision callous, it smacks of the hubris of the charters operators that created this mess. Not only did they know the law was under review, they knew it had been found UNCONSTITUTIONAL at the King a County Court level. That they charged ahead abd opened dispite knowing that the law had been found unconstitutional in THIS state was callous. I get maybe taking the risk and going forward if the law had initially been upheld (it still would have been a risk and something families warned about) , but when the law was overturned right out of the gate, it was callous abd cruel to move forward. I think it was deliberate to ensure that there were kids and families that could be used as essential hostages for the shenanigans that are going on now.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Cheezman, I don't know what you mean by "outrage." You mean outrage at the outcome? Or outrage because their own schools didn't have the good grace to warn them that this could come to their schools?

I think the families can be upset for a lot of reasons but the blame should be shared equally.

Anonymous said...

I (sadly) agree with Brooklyn Bridge - I don't want to see my kid used as a pawn in this chess match, but hey, if it's ok with you then that's your choice.

SWWS makes a good point. The operators, however effective/ineffective their educational product might be, should have been more prudent in insuring that all legal issues were resolved before jumping into fully operating. I doubt any of them were not aware of the risks - it was pure hubris to assume all would be well.

And now Mr. Dorn appears to be bending over backwards to accommodate this whole mess. What a cluster


Watching said...

"When people call the Timing of the Supreme Court decision callous"

The Supreme Court has a lengthy and specific process for making decisions. We can't expect the Supreme Court to alter their process/ schedule for every group that decides to rally in Olympia. Good grief.(!!)

Cheezman said...

@Lynn: 4 times each school year at Summit (all Summit Schools), regular instruction switches to two weeks of "Expeditions." Each student chooses two topics from an array that they then study in depth over the 8 total weeks. The expeditions are taught by adjuncts and the teaching staff spends the two weeks in professional development sessions. This week began two weeks of expeditions. I can't remember all of the expedition choices, but there are classes on computer coding, effective public speaking, genocide in the 20th century, digital storytelling and the politics and dynamics of civic engagement. These expeditions were a selling point for my daughter choosing Summit and so far it seems so good.

@Melissa W: I was referring to what I perceive is the assumption of some posters to this blog that Charter parents are upset that they were not informed of the pending court case and its potential impact. As I said, none of the Charter parents I know are in actuality upset about this. I'm interested though if some are upset and will keep my ears open on that issue.

MelissaP said...

Question: Does anyone out there know what the four-year college acceptance rates are for SPS high schools are? I'd like to understand that next to Summit Public Schools 94%+ acceptance rate across their schools.

Thanks for any constructive response.

Anonymous said...

in 2013 SPS had (as a percentage of H.S. graduates) 74% enrolled in college, and it appears that 61% of those enrolled in college are in four year colleges.


MelissaP said...

@LisaG: Thanks for responding. Clarification: The link is to statewide data (not SPS) and 61% for four year and two year institutions, correct? Or did you obtain SPS data from somewhere else? And is there any demographic info to go with that? Thanks....

MelissaP said...

@LisaG: Whoops - I see now how to select districts, but do you know a source for demographic info? THanks again.