Charter Schools: the Landscape Today

This is the last in the series on charter schools.  I will have a final piece on what I think it means and what we need to think about for Washington State.  I hope that this has been a helpful series.  

(I note that I asked the Washington State PTSA about putting up a link about this series and got a busy signal.  I will also do a link to LEV's "activist" training about charters which is a fairly skewed affair.  Bluntly put, at least this blog making the effort to educate before we advocate.)

The Basics Today:
  • Washington is one of eight states without charters.  The others are Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia.  Maine just went on-line with charters this year and bills have been introduced in the other states but not passed.  Expansion of charter law has continued in those states that already have them (see what charter advocates want).
  • There are over 5,000 charter schools in the U.S., representing a little over 5% of all public schools.   California has the largest number at 917 (9.2%) with Arizona having the largest percentage  for a state (506 schools and 23.2%) and the District of Columbia with 52 schools and a whopping 45% of all public schools.  
  • They average charter has been open about 7 years with about 30% open 10+years, 19% 7-9 years, 23% 4-6 years and 26% 1-3 years.
  • The majority are in urban areas (52%), suburbs 20% and rural/town about 23%.   (By comparison, it's fairly even for traditional public schools with 24% urban, 27% suburban, 14% town and 33% rural.) 
  • Enrollment has increased from last year of about 200,000 more students (an increase of 13%)
  • The average charter school enrollment is 372, compared with about 478 in all public schools, according to the Center for Education Reform.  
  • 65 percent of charter schools have waiting lists, an increase of 6 percent over 2009.
  • A 2010 study by researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder and Western Michigan University found that most charter schools were “divided into either very segregative high-income schools or very segregative low-income schools” compared to their sending districts, and that the pattern had changed little between 2000-01 and 2006-07. They also tended to enroll a lower proportion of special education students and English-language learners. (Miron, Urschel, Mathis, 2010)
  • It has been difficult for researchers to be able to state the actual closure rate (due to lax reporting/oversight) for charters but it appears to be around 13-16%.  

  • What charter advocates want (in states that already have charters)
  • lifting caps on the number of new charters that can open in any given year
  • allowing charters to share in levy revenues, both operations and capital
  • allowing charters access to state credit ratings so that they can get better interest rates on bond for facilities
  • approval of charter schools at only the state level (rather than at a local level which is done in some states) 
Are charters doing what they say their model will do (accountability in exchange for innovation and flexiblity)?

Mostly no (to the chagrin of many).    Almost too late, many are realizing that while charters make many parents happy, 
  • they are not providing better academic outcomes for the majority of charter students
  • they are not being held accountable (the majority close for financial reasons but studies have found if states held charters to their actual charter goals, many more would close)
  • they are not particularly innovative (and this is from the Center on Reinventing Education) 
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers is one such organization trying to create change from within and are pushing for voluntary standards for authorizing charter schools (right now, each state creates their own).   

From the NEA:

NEA has long supported charter schools that are laboratories for developing new approaches to educating at-risk students—approaches which can then be replicated in the broader public school system.

But many of the charter schools with the best test scores and the highest college attendance rates also have high attrition. A 2008 study of five KIPP schools in the San Francisco Bay area revealed that 60% of KIPP students left during their middle school years. So the schools most often touted as proof that charters are the key to helping all children reach high standards—don’t help all students. They help some—those with enough confidence, motivation, and family support to push forward through a demanding program.

“The vast majority of students enter during the 6th grade and then the total number of KIPP students in 7th and 8th grade falls precipitously,” explains Richard Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation.

Then they go back to public school.
In Indiana, the state Legislature is considering a bill that would, in part, give the state’s Department of Education more tools to force changes at under-performing charter schools. Rhode Island education officials have proposed a plan to increase state oversight over charter schools and to hold them to higher standards. 

Idaho is taking a critical look at its ability to oversee the charter schools that already exist in the state. State education officials are asking for money to increase oversight, saying that current staff resources are insufficient.

New York is taking aim at how charters recruit students. This past spring, New York passed a law requiring charters to enroll a sufficient number of lower-income students, students with disabilities and English language learners. National studies have found that charter schools tend to under-enroll students with disabilities and English language learners. New York also introduced regulations designed to make charter lotteries more transparent.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Twenty years ago the idea for charters was to be a hothouse for teachers to try new ideas in teaching.  The idea was to allow a couple of classrooms to pilot new ideas and find the ever elusive "best practices."  And it went from there. 

Like Topsy, charters have gone in every direction you can think of, good and bad.   I have diligently tried but have not been able to ascertain how many charters could fit the model of being both accountable AND innovative.   

There is charter research out there that shows that charter school parents, even when shown evidence that their child's school is performing no better than their traditional public school, still say they like their charter better.   (Choice is good thing for Americans even if it's between a Pepsi or a Coke.)

This is really a key point because if the reason for the existence of charters is to provide better academic outcomes, then they are not working.  

Now, is it important to have happy parents?  As a former PTSA parent and co-president, I say yes.  Is it the state's job to try to make parents happy or to achieve better academic outcomes?  There's a question.  

That twenty years later, in over 40 states, we are still struggling to define charters and more importantly regulate and hold them accountable is troubling.  

That there is difficult in getting data from charter schools and charter school management organizations is troubling. 

That there are growing numbers of for-profit charter management organizations is troubling.   

In a small number of charters, for minority/high-poverty students and their families, there has been hope and greater achievement.   This is valuable and powerful.

But here's where we come to a big leap - is there a greater good question for charters?  

Are the costs, in the face of underfunding and declining funding, worth the small positive outcomes?  

On balance, with the loss of funds to existing schools, is it worth it?  

And, as always, I ask - what is the problem we are trying to solve and what needs to change?  I think the achievement gap is the problem we are trying to solve and, at least in Washington State, we are on our way forward without charters.  

I'll address the Washington State issue in-depth in a separate thread. 


dan dempsey said…
The research that I remember found that parents are most satisfied with their charter school in year one. Then things decline and somewhere around year three or four the level of parent satisfaction declines to where it was pre-charter.

Obviously some charters are quite good but not enough to make this odd experiment in its current form worth funding in WA State.
BeanBug said…
First of all, I would like to thank Melissa for defending my right to comment without signing my real name. I have seen the sheer nastiness thrown at those who disagree with the norm on this blog and as a substitute teacher and parent of two children in Seattle schools, I cannot afford to go there. I would also like to point out that there is a frequent commenter who goes by "anonymous" who does not seem to get attacked for it (like I was) because he agrees with the flavor of this blog. Contradiction? Yes. In any event, I want to ask you all one question when it comes to charters... have you ever actually visited a high-performing charter? I have seen four (all run by non-profit CMOs with overwhelming track records of success with poor, minority kids) and was literally moved to tears hearing the parents and students talk about what this meant for their lives. They were all African-American and Latino and all poor. The kids arrived, on average 2-3 grade levels below grade level. In each school the rates of college admission were IN THE 90-95th PERCENTILE. All I could think was "how can I - who has the luxury of buying a house in a zip code that has decent schools - go tell parents in failing schools in Washington that they can't have this for their kids?" The democrat/advocate for social justice/liberal in me just can't allow that. I taught in a failing school for 7 years. I would have killed to have been able to recommend a successful charter school to the parents of "my kids." I would have gone and taught at one, had it existed.
dan dempsey said…

i think this counts as more than visited a high performing charter school.

I taught HERE. This should qualify as a high performing charter by most folks standards.... In less than 10 years since I was there in the summer of 2003, only one administrator remains and "Zero" faculty members. They have received millions in private donations. Note their High School component...
Wallis Annenberg High School.

With the kind of money that went into TAS ... it is hard to say that it was the Charter idea that made this work. Also in Math they switched to Everyday Math and Connected Math Project after they hired me ... the switch was made because the Understanding by Design authors told the newly hired principal it was the best stuff out there. the principal was horrible and was out in one year. I saw more than enough of her in 2/3 of a summer school session and resigned before the start of fall semester.

My choice for a more effective charter would be Stella Middle Charter Academy.

Check these results

Please note that unlike the SPS in low income schools .... neither TAS nor Stella allow the levels of student misbehavior prevalent in several high poverty / high minority Seattle Schools. These charter schools have a greatly extended day and a summer program.

TAS had a poor SpEd program when I was there.

It is hardly the Charter aspect that makes the best charters successful .... it is the decision to concentrate on academics in a very serious way. A way that the SPS central admin has little interest in pursuing .... Susan Enfield's recent plan to close the achievement gaps by raising the level of expectation is absolute nonsense. ... She needs to go visit Stella and get a clue.

Again it is a dedication to serious academics that make the best charters what they are. Why the SPS has no such dedication is beyond my comprehension. This level of student academic commitment is not for every child ... thus another argument against the SPS one size fits all differentiated instruction approach.

So how can an argument against "Tracking" be presented ... when the charter schools that are most "successful" are essentially "tracked schools" for those students interested in working hard.

Try this one. It is perpetually in the top 5 high schools in America .... Students who are not high flyers do not even apply because they will likely never earn a high school credit HERE.

Founded in 1999, Pacific Collegiate School is a college preparatory public charter school for grades 7-12 located in Santa Cruz, California, and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Due to our rigorous graduation requirements, we attract a highly motivated group of students who flourish in the school's academically challenging environment.
Anonymous said…
BeanBug{ There are certainly a few roses in the realm of charters. But the reality is that most are a steaming pile of *!&@!@^.

As a matter of public policy and true solutions for students, the charter crap far outweighs the benefits of a few roses. Better for some students not to get roses than the whole system to get a load of @*#&# dumped into it. I do understand that is a harsh reality for the students who don't get roses.

People who stand to make money on opening Washington to charters, and the zealots from Washington's education reform organizations -- personal admission, a couple of these women truly frighten me in their assuredness that they know best -- are waving roses at the public and the legislators. Some parents are reaching for those roses, because who doesn't want a rose? The education reform groups and education entrepreneurs will never admit to the truckload of (*@#&@.

I know public policy. It is simply not possible, no matter what the rose-sellers say, to only allow "good" charters into Washington. Open that door and we will be knee-deep in crap in no time flat. I cannot over-scream how much the negatives outweigh the positives.

'Transplant from 2 states that fell for it'
Anonymous said…
Here's the charter bill.

Let your senator know how you feel and why.

"...proven to be effective..."??

Why don't our legilators do the hard work of resolving the funding issue that the supreme court is "requiring" (cough, cough) of them??

Anonymous said…
The biggest assumption you're making, beanbug, is that all charters will be good (and better than their public counterpart). There is no guarantee of this, and studies by one of charters' proponents have actually shown that academically, charters don't perform better, on average, than other public schools.

If the argument is that they provide better academics, but evidence doesn't support this, then why should public funds be diverted to these schools? In some cases, charters are superior, but the same can be said for individual schools within the district.

Another issue is the lack of funding. One of the primary challenges for charters is maintaining adequate funding. A significant portion of their funding relies on philanthropic investments. This is not a sustainable model.

The blanket statement "...proven to be effective..." is simply not true.

And this is the crux of it, as Dan stated, It is hardly the Charter aspect that makes the best charters successful .... it is the decision to concentrate on academics in a very serious way. A way that the SPS central admin has little interest in pursuing ....

Charlie Mas said…
I absolutely agree with BeanBug so far as this goes.

"how can I... go tell parents in failing schools in Washington that they can't have this for their kids?"

Here's my question for BeanBug: why can't their public school do what the Charter school does?

What is needed here is not a charter, but a set of practices used at the charter which can be used at the public school.

Dan Dempsey suggests that the key is to concentrate on academics in a very serious way. I suspect he's right about that. I think these schools create a strong culture that highly values education. I think that students are assimilated into that culture and they become motivated students. I think that schools centered around academics will make a series of correct decisions about how to organize their classrooms, how to organize their instruction, and how to support students in ways that standard industrial model schools do not.

I don't think there is any reason in the world that an ordinary public school couldn't do this.

The key is what happens in the school, not who runs it. The district central staff and the public school principal are just as capable of operating a school in the same way as a charter.

Or are they? Is there a belief that public K-12 education bureaucrats (and others who are part of that culture) are actually incapable of following a more successful model than the standard model?
anonymous said…
Those are some pretty impressive pro-charter statistics Melissa.

Nationally, charter enrollment has increased by 200,000 students in the last year (13%)

65% of charters have a wait list. An increase of 6% over last year.

In states that already have charters advocates want more charters.

To me this shows that families across the nation are choosing charters and their numbers are growing at an astonishing high rate- despite claims that charters don't perform better than their public counterparts, and that they are more segregated.

The big question is why? Why are so many families choosing charters? What are they offering that the publics are not? What's the appeal and draw to families?

In my opinion, and it's just my opinion, I think the autonomy and freedom afforded to charters. Imagine a charter here that didn't use EDM or CMP or Discovery, but used Singapore instead? A charter that did not have to use NSF science kits or Writers Workshop? Imagine a high school that could set it's own start and end times? Have monster lit instead of LA 101 (like SPS used to)? That could select which teachers are a good fit for the school (instead of being assigned a teacher from the displaced pool)? Imagine a school that could choose what type of PD it's teachers needed? A school that could shun useless teacher coaches and use that money in better ways? Etc, etc, etc.

Of course our publics should be able to do these things too, but they can't. And that's not going to change anytime soon.

So I see the appeal, really I do.

BeanBug, there cannot be an "Anonymous" because blog rules don't allow it. We delete any comment that is signed in that manner.

BeanBug, I did look at a few charters in Arizona. I know that there are successful ones. I am going to put up an example of a good one in my opinion piece.

Could you name these charters? I'd like to look them up. Those are some pretty high rates of achievement and I'd like to read more about them.

I believe we can and will do better with existing legislation and flexibility on the part of both districts and labor partners. No new bureaucracy or overhead costs required.
anonymous said…
"Here's my question for BeanBug: why can't their public school do what the Charter school does?"

I hear this question over and over again. The answer is they can Charlie, and they should. But they don't. And they won't any time soon. Take one little tiny thing -EDM/CMP/Discovering. The majority of parents don't like these materials. Many have been advocating, testifying, writing to school board directors, talking to teachers, blogging, and downright begging the district to move to more traditional textbooks. Has anything come of it over the years? Nope? Nada? In fact it's now harder to get a waiver than it ever was. That's discouraging to families.

I don't see large scale change happening in SPS any time soon. Effecting change in a large organization that is muddled in bureaucracy such as SPS is, like turning the Titanic, takes time. Lots of time. Time families don't have.

When families are given an option that gives them what they want right now (IE a charter school) they jump on it. And honestly, how can you blame them?

Sahila said…
Suggest FBF read the post I linked to above...

this kind of skulduggery happens all the time in charter world...

go find the website CHARTER SCHOOL SCANDALS for confirmation of that...

I would rather deal with SPS' shenanigans than with cowboy charter operators - such as K-12 for example...

at least within SPS we do still have the ability to call out the BS, limit some of the damage done to our children and to push for improvement...

with charters, we dont have that "luxury".... it's "take the crap or leave"... leave to go where? Overcrowded, underfunded, under-resourced public schools - which is what we have already, I know, but which will increase the further we go down the road of creating a two-tier education system...
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Po3 said…
Would charter schools be allowed to use their own materials. Could a charter say no to Everyday Math, Writers workshop? Could they be an arts focused school?

If yes, then sign me up.

But if the charters coming to WA are based on the KIPP model, no thank you.

So, how do we know what a charter school will look like?
apparent said…

the immediately preceding post (regarding charters, paternalism, and optimism) is an example of one that will be deleted by the blog moderators because it is signed Anonymous without any accompanying pseudonym. There are no exceptions.
apparent said…

Po3 just slipped in ahead of me, so I was obviously referring to two posts up.
Kathy said…

How would you respond to the fact that charter schools take resources from our already underfunded schools? Thus, leaving many more students at risk?

Not being snarky.

dan dempsey said…
As one who has done more than a little bit of testimony and written several letters filled with data to the Board over the last 5-years.... I sometimes think the failure to fix the SPS system could be intentional.

(1) Damaging decisions are made.
(2) One size, which fits few, is continually pushed.
(3) Policies and Laws are violated (says State Auditor).
(4) Evidence and data are ignored in the adoption of instructional materials.
(5) Rather than providing effective interventions ... social promotion is practiced.
(6) Ineffecive and inefficient instructional practices are preferred.

I could go on.

The $500,000 four elected in 2007 worked as a block to make decisions that were in many cases horrible. They were worse than their predecessors.

Now a frustrated public may demand charters. ... which are favored by the "Big Money Folks" that installed the "$500,000 Four" of 2007.
Anonymous said…
Crosscut on charter schools on 1/11/2012

-- Distorted Newsman
Anonymous said…
The WSPTA proposal on charters uses closing the achievement gap as justification for charters and references KIPP and Green Dot.

just sayin'
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
I will go over all these charter arguments (using LEV and PTSA's rationales plus others) and we can walk thru what it would (and wouldn't mean) to have charters in Washington State.

I understand that frustration that is out there. But also understand that you, as a parent, would have very little control at the school you choose. Your control would be in your choice and if you are not happy, they aren't going to really care. Obviously, they have to draw enough parents to be viable but they are not going to listen to any concerns about curriculum or programs. They will have already made that choice and you either accept it or not. You will have no higher power to appeal to on specific issues.
dan dempsey said…
From the NY Times:

New York City Charter School Finds That a Grade of ‘C’ Means Closing

For the first time, New York City is closing a charter school for the offense of simply being mediocre.

The announcement this week that the city planned to shut Peninsula Preparatory Charter School, a seven-year-old elementary school in Far Rockaway, Queens, was unusual by any definition. Since 2004, the city has closed only a few of its 142 charters that have opened — schools that are publicly financed but privately managed, and are a source of competition for traditional schools.

But as more of the city’s charter schools have matured, reaching the five-year renewal mark, the Education Department has become increasingly impatient with weak-performing ones. With the closing of Peninsula Prep, which had received a grade of C on each of its last four progress reports, Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott seemed to be signaling that the city’s 136 charters will now be held to a higher standard.

And increasing scrutiny of New York charter schools could have widespread implications, prompting a wider conversation across the country about what the bar for closing should be, and how much charter schools should be expected to outperform public schools.

Under Joel I. Klein, the former schools chancellor, the perception had grown among charter school leaders and those on the outside that as long as their test scores were middling at worst and their schools were functional, the city would not interfere.

“I think that there was a large number of people, including the chancellor, who were just very predisposed to be charter supporters, so it was hard for them to take off that hat,” said Michael Duffy, a former director of the city’s charter school office, who remembered having to lobby his superiors in 2010 to close a charter school in East New York, Brooklyn, that was forcing out special education students.

Marc Sternberg, a deputy chancellor who oversees the charter school office, said the city had not changed its approach to monitoring charter schools.

Our focus has always been on opening new, excellent district and charter schools that provide students with a high-quality education,” he said in a statement. “ In 2009, Peninsula Prep received a short-term renewal and were told that if they failed to meet the standards in their charter they would not be given another. They failed to do so, and we have to hold them accountable for that.”
Chris S. said…
Beanbug, can you supply some advice about where to find a high-performing charter that doesn't require a plane fare to visit? How about TAF? Oh, it's not a charter.

Also, the reason that we are suspicious here on this blog is that the who work for the ed reform PACs repeatedly present themselves as ordinary citizens, not philanthropists or paid organizers. Chris Korsmo (LEV CEO) is "just a former poor kid," Sara Morris *(Alliance CEO) is "just a mom,", and Erin Gustafson (longtime STAND activist/employee) variously presents herself as mom or teacher. Video links are available to support these claims.

Now, I don't know if any of those people ever even look at this blog, but your language, with the tears and "how can I" makes you sound like one of them.

I am undecided about the validity of your argument. If it came from someone who could say they lived in the wrong zipcode, or if you could think of some other solutions besides charters (Note: TFA doesn't count) I might try harder to listen.
John said…
Melissa said charters "are not going to listen to any concerns about curriculum or programs. They will have already made that choice and you either accept it or not."
What's the basis for this? Is it inherently impossible for a charter to be run in a responsive way? I'm not pro-charter (so nobody insult me, please), I just don't understand this. (I think your statement could also be used to describe SPS.)

I think FPF above does a good job examining the appeal of charters. The district is its own worst enemy on this.
Anonymous said…
"The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts"

•On average, charter middle schools that held lotteries were neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving math or reading test scores, attendance, grade promotion, or student conduct within or outside of school.
Being admitted to a study charter school did significantly improve both students' and parents' satisfaction with school.

•Charter middle schools in urban areas—as well as those serving higher proportions of low-income and low achieving students—were more effective (relative to their nearby traditional public schools) than were other charter schools in improving math test scores. Some operational features of charter middle schools were associated with less negative impacts on achievement. These features include smaller enrollments and the use of ability grouping in math or English classes. There was no significant relationship between achievement impacts and the charter schools' policy environment.

Gleason, Clark, Tuttle, Dwoyer (2010), The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts (NCEE 2010-4029). Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

just sayin'
Chris S. said…
To answer John's "Is it inherently impossible for a charter to be run in a responsive way?"

It is a good question.

I would say no, but Melissa's extensive research of the decades of charters around the country suggests it is rare, and more common in affluent communities. (Is that fair, Melissa?)

I would ask "Is it inherently impossible for a public school to be run in a responsive way?"

And the answer would be the same.

Furthermore, charter proponents do not seem to admit that the accountability piece needs improvement, or to implement changes to improve their records. They just want more charters.

And I didn't insult anyone, unless you consider "Korsmo" an insult.
SolvayGirl said…
Has anyone taken LEV's survey on charters? The first two questions are so "designed to achieve their desired outcome" it is almost laughable. How could anyone say NO to either?

I elected to not answer either. Said no to charters, then wrote how weighted I thought the first two questions were in the comments section.
Dorothy Neville said…
FWIW, Brian Rosenthal is tweeting about the press conference in Oly regarding education and legislation.

Follow him at brianmrosenthal (don't forget the M)
dan dempsey said…
just sayin',

Nice job with the research source.

For charter middle schools....
These features include smaller enrollments and the use of ability grouping in math or English classes.

I wonder if Connected Math Project (CMP) is in widespread use?
Anonymous said…
Is this the type of charter school some are envisioning?

Ten years ago, a diverse group of parents and educators began meeting in ... living rooms and coffee shops to share a dream of starting a new school.

It then took 18 months of planning and started with a K/1 forward 10 years and it's a K-8, with 215 students.

(Not sure about their choice of curriculum though - TERC and CMP are listed)

a reader
Anonymous said…
This just received by mass email from LEV:
Dear _____,
Why would parents choose to send their children to public charter schools?

We thought it would be best if you heard directly from parents - so we've arranged a conference call with a small group of parents in California whose children attend charters.

A bill allowing some charter schools to open in Washington has been introduced in the state Legislature. (We are one of nine states - like Alabama and Kentucky - that don't allow public charter schools.)

Public charter schools are an opportunity to do things a little differently and have immediate impact for some of the state's most vulnerable students. If lawmakers would approve the bill, it means that next year, a school could open where the principal and all of the staff have one mission - to close the achievement gap...and then have the flexibility to make that happen.

This conference call is your opportunity to hear directly from parents who have children enrolled in these schools. You'll hear how their kids are doing - and why they chose to send their children to charters.

If you have questions that you want us to ask them, please send them ahead of time to

Dial in next week to learn more about public charter schools and the impact they could have on the lives of thousands of Washington's students.

Parent to Parent: A Conversation About Public Charter Schools
Conference call
Wednesday, January 18th at 11:30am
Please RSVP for call-in information

Kelly Munn
State Field Director

link to event

-seattle mom
mirmac1 said…
Yes Dorothy! Don't forget the "M" or you'll meet the "other" Brian Rosenthal.

He tweets:

"Sen Rodney Tom (D) on why proposal is going through Leg, not to voters: "I don’t think education is something you take a gamble with""

This, from a group that has shortshrifted education for HOW LONG!? *snort*
Anonymous said…
Can someone on this blog please tell us the salaries of
Chris Korsmo
Frank Ordway
Shannon Campion
Kelly Munn

A compliment: These people are effective at strategy and organizing.

A reality: This is their job. Some call it education advocacy. Some call it hired guns for corporate reform's push to make money off public schools.

I admire their talent while rejecting their backers.

Educated Voter
Po3 said…
"They will have already made that choice and you either accept it or not. You will have no higher power to appeal to on specific issues."

What power do parents have our current schools? At least with a charter you can vote with your feet. Under the NSAP, what can you do?
Disgusted said…
Here is LEV's propaganda training to educational activists regarding charter schools? Skewed? You decide for yourself.
Anonymous said…
"Beanbug, can you supply some advice about where to find a high-performing charter that doesn't require a plane fare to visit?"

Well, um, no Chris S, OF COURSE Beanbug can't provide that because we don't have charters in WA state.

Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
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Jet City mom said…
Good charter schools reach out to the parents better than your typical Seattle public school.

How do they do this?

When I was involved in the parent group @ Summit- we hosted meetings at Thurgood Marshall for those parents in that part of the city, we provided child care & dinner for families.
I would love to find out what else charter schools are doing that works better than the above.
Anonymous said…
The proposed charter law has the caveat that unsuccessful charter schools are shut down. It got me thinking about whether we have any schools now that would, were they charters, fall under that category.
Take a look at Rainier Beach's Washington State
Report Card.
Rainier Beach has passionate teachers, who have (at the time of the report card) an average of 12 years of experience and a pretty high percentage of teachers who have earned a master's degree. We can assume the RB teachers are giving it their all. But 14% of the kids are at standard in math. 35 kids dropped out of school in 2008-2009. 61% of kids graduate on time. It's not doing well, although it looks like it did a little better in 2009-2010. And I know, I know, kids earn GEDs and the numbers don't tell the whole human story. But if Rainier Beach was a charter, would you want it shut down?
SPS Teacher and Parent
Anonymous said…
EmeraldCity - as a parent I'm connected to my children's school by writing a check for PTA membership, checking the website and knowing when there's an event and then hiring a babysitter so I can attend. I work, so can't volunteer in the classroom. I go to the auction. I read the newsletter that comes home with my youngest. There's very little communication from the teacher of my older child, and there's only the shortest and most-delayed responses to email. I get robocalls. I know what's going on because I seek that information out, and can read the newsletter.
The charters I visited had control over budgets, so they paid teachers to make home visits. They had a full-time parent outreach coordinator, who made calls and wrote / got-translated newsletters. They paid staff to stay late so parents could come to barbeques and workshops.
I stay late for open house, and I guess my pay comes from Seattle's Tri money. When SPS teachers stay late for publishing parties or "Colonial Fair" or science fairs, they're volunteering their time.
I've taught in schools that had counselors/truancy officers/career counselors who had paid time to do these things, but they went the way of reasonable school funding.
SPS Teacher and Parent
Anonymous said…
EmeraldCity - I didn't respond to your question. Sorry.

I don't know that charter schools have anything that works better than what your parent group at Summit did. That's heroic and excellent that you did that. The problem is that it didn't come from the school - it came from a generous and organized group of parents. Schools aren't required to have that.
Josh Hayes said…
FBF says, among other things:

"Nationally, charter enrollment has increased by 200,000 students in the last year (13%)...

I suspect a large chunk of the "clamor" for charter schools nationwide is an artifact of the distribution of school effectiveness: I think we can all agree that some public schools are great, some are awful, and most are somewhere in between. Those parents who send their kids to one of the awful schools will jump at the chance, at any chance, to send them somewhere else.

The sad fact that, on average, charter schools are no better than the average public school, may still make them a better choice for parents whose options are the mediocre charter and the awful standard public school.

Of course, charter schools seem to have the same distribution of merit as more standard public schools, but anyone stuck at the bottom of one category will be looking to at least hit an average in the other one -- and since there are far more families in the traditional schools, students flow to the (no better) charters. It's simple statistics and has nothing to do with the merits of charters.
Anonymous said…
Charters may have a place, but in this budgetary landscape, I don't want my tax dollars to go to another level of bureaucracy so we can keep up with the other 40 states. Even it's for 10 charter schools. If a charter can get outside financing and rely on that and NOT taxpayers dollars then that's perfect. Talk to Oprah or the Gates. If you want to debate Charter's pros and cons as an academic exercise, that's terrific too. It's good to weigh things out.

But we have a budget mess and much to do to put up with this type of distraction. State assembly has a lot to do this year and next. More things to cut. Lets focus on the things that really affect the people of Washington like how can we continue to cover children's healthcare, fund basic ed, pay for our roads and highway, maintain our safety net, etc. We may very well have to increase tax, but you are not going to convince people to vote for it by directing funds away to start 10 or even 50 charter schools.

Perhaps in order to make the hard sell, the sky has to appear to fall first. But be careful there, moss grows well here due to the "Seattle process." We have a reputation for being a bit slow and deliberative, but in this case, that's a good thing. We have alternative schools that work, we have the latest "star" school, Mercer, to look at and model after. Start with schools and programs that work. Start with what we have on the ground now. The sky isn't falling.

a NW'er
Yes, what I mean is that in my research, very few charters are so home-grown that they are responsive to parent input. They usually have to have some sort of parent council but I'm thinking that's kind of like PTSA.

At least with traditional public schools in Seattle, parents did start alternatives. Foreign language immersion did come into being. And we have an elected School Board that, at some level, has to listen.

Just Sayin', I'm a little surprised to see you here. I mean to go off to another site and call me names and then come back here? And if I am as crazy as you think, why are you here? I think it better you go elsewhere or be a lurker.
Anonymous said…
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Leondard said…
Charter schools also want access to levy dollars.

Today at the news conference, Carlyle was standing with Pettigrew et. al. Last week at a meeting he publically proclaimed he didn't think it was the time for structural changes. So, why was he standing with this group? Perhaps he is just supporting teacher evaluations. We'll see. Keep an eye on him.
Maureen said…
Chris S, a friend sent her kid to The Emerson School in Portland. (No airfare needed!) My friend is a teacher in an immersion school. She felt like she had to pull her kid from her own school for social reasons. Emerson reminds me of what TOPS was before the District started aligning everything. My friend says it is pretty white/middle class (despite it's location) and did regret the loss of a diverse community.

The web site looks like it has been minimally updated this year (just requests for donations) and I can't find any demographic or test data for charters on the PPS web site (just looked quickly.)
dan dempsey said…
Speaking of Pettigrew:

BILL DRAFT (H-3214.4): Implementing and Using the Results of Educator Evaluation Systems
Rep. Pettigrew

1. Teacher/Principal Evaluation

a. SPI must establish common components of evaluation systems for teachers and principals
that must be used by school districts starting in 2013-14 in order to assure fairness and
comparability of evaluation results across the state.

b. Student growth data, based on multiple measures, must be included as a significant factor in the evaluation.

c. Student input (teachers) and building staff input (principals) may be included in evaluations.

2. Professional Growth Plan (Beginning in 2014)

a. Each teacher and principal must have an individual professional growth plan, informed by
the results of his/her evaluation and designed to assist them in increasing skills and
competencies identified in the evaluation.

b. OSPI & ESDs must act as clearinghouses of professional development opportunities for
teachers and principals to meet their professional growth plans, including opportunities that
are aligned with the performance evaluation criteria. To the extent funds are available,
OSPI/ESDs may provide professional development, including on a fee-for-service basis.

3. Use of Evaluations (Beginning in 2014)

a. District policies and bargaining agreements regarding RIF for principals or teachers within
an endorsement area must require consideration of the results of performance evaluations
before other factor such as seniority may be considered. Policies or agreements that
specify recall rights must recall staff in the reverse order.

b. Policies or agreements regarding school assignment and placement decisions for principals
and teachers must require consideration of the results of performance evaluations before
other factor such as seniority may be considered and must incorporate analysis of the best
match between the needs of the assignment and the skills of the principal or teacher.

c. Policies or agreements regarding assignment of a teacher to a school must provide a process
that includes mutual agreement by the superintendent, teacher, and principal unless there are exceptional circumstances.

d. These provisions are required by September 1, 2014, but nothing precludes policies or
agreements that are consistent with these provisions before that date. Current bargaining
agreements are not affected, but agreements entered into or amended after the bill takes
effect must be consistent with these provisions.

4. Continuing Contracts (Beginning in 2014)

a. Classroom teachers gain non-provisional status after a teacher has received one of the top
two evaluation ratings for three years within a five-year period. Other certificated staff must receive satisfactory evaluations for the same time period. Years of nonemployment or leave of absence don’t count, but years of employment in multiple districts do count.

b. Teachers and other certificated staff who are on non-provisional status who receive an unsatisfactory or lowest evaluation rating for two years in a row are moved back to provisional status, including those who have been on probation.
This Pettigrew bill has so many problems it deserves a separate thread.
Anonymous said…
Now we have politicians drafting laws to evaluate teachers and principals? What's next, how about one for police and firemen and their chiefs? God knows the Feds didn't just show up in Seattle to say "way to go." While we're at this, can we do one for university provosts, deans, and presidents? Higher Ed needs a bit of reforming too.

Meanwhile, the state's budget continues to leak. Politics and theater.

dan dempsey said…
From Page 2 of the 12 page Pettigrew bill:

(d) The superintendent of public instruction shall establish common components of the teacher evaluation systems that must be used by school districts beginning in the 2013-14 school year in order to assure fairness in the conduct of evaluations and comparability of evaluation results across the state.

Across the state ... "fat chance of across the state" this crap bill could not even assure fairness within some schools.

Well folks fairness is not possible because growth in high needs classrooms is often non-existent and not because of the teacher.

How fair is it to saddle a teacher with EDM or Discovering and expect significant growth? Discovery science kits?

Take a look at results from the "persistently failing schools" where poverty is a huge factor. Take a look at results from Indian Schools. ..... This is not a teacher problem .... but this bill if passed will create a huge teacher problem as no teacher will want to go near an Indian School ... and if a teacher is in a high poverty / high minority school using EDM .. Writers Workshop and Readers Workshop who knows what might happen. (OSPI seems to be aligning the MSP writing to match Writers Workshop ... but is that good for students?)

Check the following science and math scores at Lummi at grades 10 =>HERE

and grade 8 =>HERE

If anyone thinks this is a teacher problem ... the Lummi Science teacher was a Westinghouse Science award winner when he was a high school senior. He has been teaching at Lummi for about 20 years and really knows his stuff and knows Lummi kids.

The Lummi grade 10 Math scores that were above 6% passing came about when a retired Mt. Baker high school teacher came to Lummi and he achieved that great student success after a few years with zero percent passing. When he left Lummi it was back down to zero passing.

Try Math at Chief Leschi does this look like the kind of improvement that would meet Pettigrew's standards?

These clowns in OLYMPIA know little about teaching in high needs environments .... apparently they know just enough to interfere in a completely non-productive damaging way. Pettigrew is a "TOOL" and nothing more.

Here are the grade 10 OSPI math pass rates for Indians Statewide from 2006 to Spring 2010 in math


Scores from most reservations are worse. Like I said no one who has spent time on the REZ would think that the Pettigrew bill deserves to be passed.

OSPI has quite a record of producing nonsense ... does OSPI need more power?
Anonymous said…
FBF @ 8:26

Don't under estimate RttT policies as a MAJOR influence on the sharp increase in both the number of charter schools and the overall student attendance.

Anonymous said…
Now I know who pushed Everyday and Discovery Math into our schools: The Charter Lobby. Create a problem and dissatisfaction, proclaim it a crisis, then move in and take over.

I watched the pablum fest, aka Charter Press Conference today, and watched one ill-informed, or just flat wrong-on-the facts opportunistic politician (Medina's Rodney Tom? Really? WTH would he know, honestly?) toss red meat to the Ed Reform hounds to rounds of applause from other pols drawn to the cameras like moths to the porch light. Or was it because Pettigrew is such a captivating speaker? Um, no.

Accept your latest pox-filled blanket folks. Today it's charters. What will it be tomorrow? Better power rates (Enron)? Cleaner Coal (Massey)? How many times have the least among us been baited by "Take this and trust me. It's good for you!"

@FBF: You ask why they are so popular? Answer: Marketing. Based on all the love stories like Waiting for Superman and Oprah's fawning over charters, who would know only 17% of Charters outperform conventional public schools, about 40% do no better, and about 33% perform substantially worse?
Less than 1 in 5 deliver better goods - some at 60% attrition rates, mind you - and yet the airwaives are atwitter hailing them as THE SOLUTION to the achievement gap, and THE ANSWER to those damn union filled schools we have. And we have to act now! (WMD anyone? Anyone foresee mushroom clouds in our future?)

There are a million reasons to be careful what you wish for with charters, yet, as I've always maintained, if a community wants one, and it's democratically decided, have at it with my blessings.

Just be real, be informed, and be wise enough to see the game that's being played on the public statewide. Stop swallowing the hype hook, line and sinker. Waiting for Superman was propaganda, and it insults true documentary filmmakers to refer to it as a "documentary."

I see lots of rhetoric and rationalizing in the comments above, but mostly at a "well, if you think our schools are so good then why..(insert anecdote of your choice here)..."

I think MW has laid out the facts about Charters a lot more than we'll see anywhere else. Yet, before the debate has even begun, Charter legislation is screaming down the tracks in Olympia. Where was the public outcry and demand for Charters up to this point? Oh, right. There wasn't any, except inside the Ed Reform think tanks.

Ah well. Another day in the trenches. WSDWG
dan dempsey said…

Great observation on RttT... the Charter data can be viewed as a measure of the effectiveness of Arne Duncan's US DoE extortion and bribery.
suep. said…
@FBF 1/12/12 8:56 AM & others

There may be less to those charter statistics than meets the eye.

First off, there are about 50 million kids enrolled in primary and secondary public schools nationwide. So 200,000 is not that huge an amount, relatively speaking.

Also, to get a fair assessment of enrollment increases in charters compared to increases in regular public schools, you would need both numbers. (Does anyone have them?)

I'd bet that school enrollment in many places has grown as a function of this faltering economy which has made private schools even further out of reach for many, and, in some places, because of simple demographics like baby boomlets.

Here in Seattle's public schools alone, for example, enrollment has increased by about 2,500 in the last two years and is expected to continue (hence all the capacity issues we're facing).
(Surging enrollment blindsides Seattle schools – Seattle Times)

Also, in some respects, those numbers may be simply deceptive.

You need to take into account that in some places, charters are the only option parents have. New Orleans, for example, was completely overrun by charter profiteers who moved in after Hurricane Katrina and eliminated all the existing schools and imposed nothing but charters. (See chapter 1 of Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine.”) New York City has been heavily charterized as well. So if that statistic includes families in places like New Orleans and New York, where charters may be the only option in their neighborhood, that makes that statistic less meaningful.

Also, some charter proponents and operators have a concerted marketing strategy that is likely being used to convince legislators that there is demand for their product. They can create waiting lists and hype up a sense of scarcity through the use of lotteries (that only allow some ‘lucky’ kids in). I’ve also heard that sometimes parents, logically, will sign their kids up for lotteries at multiple schools. Are those numbers being adjusted for duplication or simply aggregated?

And again, this is still only half the picture. How does the demand for regular public schools compare? Here in Seattle, we have high demand and waiting lists for various desirable schools and programs (although the new student assignment plan has artificially restricted that somewhat). A short (incomplete) list might include John Stanford Int’l’s language immersion program, Garfield High School, Salmon Bay and TOPs, Schmitz Park’s math curriculum, and there’s a growing demand/need for gifted ed programs like Spectrum and APP (note how many of these are alternative schools and programs – further proof that Seattle already knows how to “innovate” and has what it needs in its own backyard; it just needs to replicate such successes).

And as --new pointed out, another key reason why charter creation and enrollment has gone up in recent years is because of the strong-arm tactics of Obama’s (Gates and Broad-infested) Dept of Ed which has demanded that states charterize if they want to get “Race to the Top” money. (Federal extortion, really.)

Add to that the low number of charter schools that outperform regular schools -- only 17 percent -- and overall, the charter numbers aren’t that impressive.
dan dempsey said…
Among the charter schools that out perform the average are those with summer instructional programs that are often mandated for low performing students and extensive help during a much longer school day, with enrichment opportunities ... etc. etc.

Then again there are the charters that only serve high performing kids ... and lottery requirements for entry make no difference.... as if a kid does not have the skills to perform ... the kid knows not to go to such a school.

It is the things that the best charter schools do that are needed ... but WA State won't fund a longer school day and longer school year.
caroline said…
BeanBug, what a load of unsupported hype (1/11, 11:52). And it's pretty damn rich for the advocate who is voicing the position of the billionaire funded foundations, all the major media, the leadership of both political parties, and generally the 1% to act like a poor, poor, downtrodden, oppressed outcast. Sorry, I try not to speak so strongly in these forums, but it's really sickening that someone would be so outrageously dishonest with members of your own community. (Well, with anyone.) The charter sector continues to outdo itself in shamelessness.

When discussing "it's a miracle!" successful charters, you need to talk about their admission practices, attrition rates and total funding. The starry-eyed naive believe (and the brazenly dishonest claim) that charters must admit all comers, or select by lottery if there are more applicants than seats. But the reality is that nobody is overseeing this and charters can absolutely do as they choose.

Here in San Francisco, my limited-English-speaking housecleaner wanted to apply to our city's most-highly-regarded charter high school (actually our only successful charter high school by any measures). She was unable to cope with the 13-page enrollment application requiring multiple written essay-length responses from the parent. Not being well educated, she's not comfortable with that much writing in her native language either. I mentioned this on a local school listserve and got an immediate call from the charter's now-publicly-outed admissions director (public schools can't afford an admissions director, BTW) offering to waive the entire application requirement. And of course I offered to help. But my housecleaner had been intimidated by the requirement and clearly decided that it wasn't a school where her family would be welcome.

So, you get the picture. The school board decries this obviously improper screening tactic, but they get beat up by the press and pundits if they so much as look cross-eyed at even a struggling charter school, let alone a successful one.

And, as mentioned, the San Francisco Bay Area KIPP schools lose 60% of their students. To be clear, these students are not replaced, and the study that reported on this confirmed that those who leave are the least successful students. Comparable public middle schools have high mobility (lots of students leave -- this is chronic with low-income populations). BUT in public middle schools, those students are replaced by incoming high-mobility students.

So, if the public school down the street got to screen who enrolled and push out any student it didn't want -- and had such vast amounts of philanthropic funding that it could afford to leave all those seats unfilled -- how would it do? (Not to mention bounteously funded advocacy organizations pushing it, unquestioning gushing support from the press, etc.) Continued...
caroline said…
Continued from previous post...

Also, by the way, it's a lie that so many charters have "long waiting lists." The press should be damned and shamed every time it parrots that crap without making a quick undercover call to the charter to ask if there's room for a newcomer. Even if there are "long waiting lists" for an initial lottery, in the "it's a miracle!" charters the challenging students start getting pushed out right away, which leaves ample room for an incoming applicant should the charter find the child (and family) appealing.

All this said, the big appeal of these schools is that they ARE free of oppositional and troublesome classmates. (They're also free of classmates who need extra effort and resources, such as children with more than minor disabilities and limited-English speakers.) That's something parents really, really like about charters. Should/could public schools try to replicate this characteristic in some schools, tacitly creating a system of bottom-tier schools for the more challenged students? Discuss among yourselves.

So, these clarifications should add a little more dimension to poor oppressed BeanBug's "it's a miracle!" scenarios.
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