Charter News Roundup - It's Not Pretty
- Let's start with Diane Ravitch's call at her blog for ed reform stories from around the country. It's staggering to read and most are about charters.
- Last Stand for Children First Illinois about how turnaround schools happen in their state.
- Diane's blog again - a story about the "American Indian Charter School" in Oakland, CA. The school is about 86% Asian-American, not Native American. It has been a high-performing middle school but parents and former teachers complained. An audit found that $3.7M were wrongly spent by the founder and his wife. (The founder told Newsweek that he thought it would help to get rid of school boards. He also said he would prefer the Ku Klux Klan to the teachers' unions.) I'm with Diane; if you can't trust them with the money, do you believe the test scores?
- Via Huffington Post by the Detroit News, some pretty sad but not surprising news: The majority of the Motor City's charter high schools underperform the city's traditional public schools, according to an analysis published Thursday by Detroit News.
The report found that just six of 25 Detroit charter schools had higher math or science proficiency rates on the Michigan Merit Exam than those in Detroit's traditional public schools. The analysis notes that charter schools only surpassed Detroit Public School performance in social studies.
- To Charlie's point on whether charters really are public schools, this article from School Finance 101. I would agree to "limited public access" schools. Here's the reasoning:
1) They can define the number of enrollment slots they wish to make available
2) They can admit students only on an annual basis and do not have to take students mid-year
3) They can set academic, behavior and cultural standards that promote exclusion of students via attrition.
A traditional public school or “district school” or “government school” must accept students at any point during the year and but for specific disciplinary circumstances that may permit long term suspensions and expulsions. Traditional public schools cannot shed students who do not meet academic standards, comply with more general behavioral codes or social standards, such as parental obligations.
Note that while public districts may limit slots to individual schools, especially magnets (which are clearly also limited public access), districts must accommodate all comers (a charter school operated by a district would be part of a system that is not limited in enrollment).
- Another great article from Ed Week about who should have the final say on allowing in charters to districts. Is it a state control or local control issue? Florida, Georgia and New Jersey are all arguing this point.
The push and pull between state and local officials over charters was on display this month, when the Florida state board of education overruled several local school boards' decisions to reject charter school applications, which included requests to open virtual charters and to replicate academically high-performing schools in new school systems.
In Georgia, meanwhile, a ballot measure that goes before voters in the fall would re-establish a state commission with the power to create charters over the objections of local school boards.
In New Jersey, a bill sponsored by a Democratic state legislator would require the approval of voters in local communities before the state could approve charters within affected school districts.
The conflicts between states and local boards "are as old as charters themselves," said Todd Ziebarth, the vice president of state advocacy and support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a Washington organization that supports charters. His group favors giving charter applicants more choice of authorizers so that district school boards are not the only arbiters of whether schools can go forward.
But he says he recognizes that striking a balance is difficult, as is the case in Florida, where Mr. Ziebarth notes that districts that have their decisions overturned by the state board will be expected to act as authorizers for the very charters they rejected.
"The state is essentially arranging a shotgun wedding between two people who don't want to be together," Mr. Ziebarth said.
If this initiative passes, I guarantee the day someone files a charter proposal for Issaquah or Bellevue or Mercer Island, you'll hear the teeth-gnashing all the way here in Seattle.