Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Scholarship on School Funding, Segregation, Native American Culture, Formerly Religious Charter Schools, and Tenure

The Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal has released its new issue, which includes several interesting articles.  The titles and abstracts are as follows:

Rachel R. Ostrander, School Funding: Inequality in District Funding and the Disparate Impact on Urban and Migrant School Children, 2015 B.Y.U. Educ. & L.J. 271 (2015). 

Today schools are more segregated than at any point in our recent history, and it is largely due to problems with the disparity of funding between districts. While migrant, low income, and inner city urban families are entrapped in lower funded schools because of low property values in those areas, the demographic of students becomes increasingly homogenous, and more affluent families move to better communities with better schools and more resources, creating an urban-migrant dilemma in education. While this is not the intended outcome, it is nonetheless the de facto outcome. So why is this de facto segregation occurring and why is the school funding disparity issue not being challenged? The answer is that it is being challenged, but the progress towards adequacy is slow and courts are not equipped to implement meaningful changes. This paper will examine why our efforts to remedy the urban-migrant problem have failed, and what we can do about this problem moving forward. We will determine the exact problem, define it, examine the possible remedies through the lens of how parallel problems are addressed under the law, and develop a model for solving the urban-migrant problem in the future. Every child has a right to an adequate and proper education, and it is worth thinking about how we can fix this system to provide the very basic necessities for every child in school to meet the goal of the educational system. I will discuss the possible alternatives to the traditional constitutional challenges, including looking at possible remedies through federal statutory law, which could be implemented under the spending or commerce clauses rather than through changes from within the administrative system.

Nizhone Meza, Indian Education: Maintaining Tribal Sovereignty through Native American Culture and Language Preservation, 2015 B.Y.U. Educ. & L. J. 353 (2015).

The United States government has attempted to accommodate, assimilate, and terminate the Indian since declaring its Independence. Indian Education Policy was no different as it duplicated the general Federal Indian Policy making an indirect substantial impact on tribal sovereignty. This impact is felt today as traditional Native American languages are becoming extinct, and the future tribal leaders are struggling to perform on comparable levels with mainstream American students. Tribal sovereignty at its core is threatened by the upcoming generation of future leaders not knowing their traditional culture or language. Preserving Native American culture and language will not only improve the individual Native American student's success, but culture and language preservation will also preserve tribal sovereignty.

​Part II of this Comment provides the background of Indian Education and its roots in general Federal Indian Policy. Part III looks at current Indian Education policy in terms of current federal legislation that attempts to remedy the effects of the assimilation period and policy. Part IV describes the current state of Indian Education, specifically as it relates to Native American student performance. Part V explores current proposals to both federal and state education policy that may aid in supporting tribal sovereignty through Indian Education, and Part VI concludes.

 

Janet R. Decker & Kari A. Carr, Church-State Entanglement at Religiously Affiliated Charter Schools, 2015 B.Y.U. Educ. & L.J. 77 (2015).

Several urban archdioceses across the U.S. have closed their Catholic schools and subsequently permitted charter schools to open in their places. This Article describes the possible church-state entanglement issues that arise at schools like these. We reviewed eighty-five relevant cases and found only seven cases involving existing or proposed religiously affiliated charter schools. While generalizations are difficult to draw from this small sample, trends and inferences inform the emerging research. Five of the cases arose when schools were connected with a particular religious organization, such as a church. The lawsuits alleged both explicit and implicit religious entanglement. Our analysis also found that the charter schools affiliated with Christianity typically prevailed; whereas, those affiliated with non-Christian religions were less successful. Additionally, we identified eleven cases that did not involve specific schools, but involved allegations about funding allocated to school choice programs such as charter schools and voucher programs. In each of these cases, courts held that funding did not offend the Establishment Clause. Based on our analysis, we speculate why more cases against religiously affiliated charter schools did not exist, predict that more lawsuits are probable, and provide recommendations to prevent future litigation involving religiously affiliated charter schools.

 Matthew Jay Hertzog, The Misapplication of Garcetti in Higher Education, 2015 B.Y.U. Educ. & L.J. 203 (2015).

Tenure, as currently implemented in American colleges and universities, provides academics a high degree of job security. However, over the past few decades, with the financial restraints placed on public institutions due to the lack of state and federal funding and declining enrollment in certain disciplines, the value of tenure is being raised by university administrators, the media, the public at large and politicians. These discussions on tenure primarily address faculty productivity and accountability when institutions attempt to remove a tenured faculty member. In addition, most colleges and universities have some form of tenure, resulting in a two class faculty system which may impact the faculty member's' academic freedom. Although there are various approaches to higher education in the United States, the institution of higher education has focused on protection of faculty members from wrongful termination, or more so, termination without due process, as well as the academic freedom to discuss controversial topics in the classroom. Similarly, the same rights that are awarded to faculty through the protection of tenure and academic freedom also provide students an opportunity to question theories presented in their courses of study.

​The rights and freedoms afforded by tenure and academic freedom did not coalesce until 1915, when the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) put forth the goals of what has become known as tenure and academic freedom. In a document drafted by the AAUP, the goals of tenure and academic freedom include: 1) protection of a faculty member's academic freedom in the classroom and 2) protection of the faculty member's ability to perform other job duties without the fear of termination. However, with the decision reached by the United States Supreme Court in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006), the Court stated that “when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties” the protections afforded through the First Amendment are not available. This statement set the precedent for university administration to apply the Garcetti decision to faculty claims of violation of their academic freedom.

April 7, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, English Language Learners, First Amendment, Racial Integration and Diversity, Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Racial, Poverty, and School Funding Implications of Indiana's Growing Voucher Program

In the summer of 2013, Indiana passed a new voucher and tax credit bill that vastly expanded opportunities for students to attend private schools.  In just ten school districts alone, the program funded $45 million in vouchers in the 2013-14 school year.  In several individual school districts, the amount spent on vouchers doubled and tripled from the 2012-13 school year.  Local teacher unions complain that the program is too permissive, permitting students who have never even "tried" the public schools to opt for a privately funded private education.  They claim approximately half of the voucher students fall in this category.  

They also cite to state data showing that the program is increasingly serving white and middle income families, rather than the poor and racially isolated families for whom it was purportedly designed.  Under the new program, 56 percent of families receiving vouchers are white, up 10 percent from the previous year.  While the program still predominantly serves low income families, the program also saw a ten percent jump in middle income families this past year.

To Indiana's defense, the program includes more non-discrimination, reporting, and oversight requirements than most voucher programs of the past.  In other words, the private schools cannot just take the money and run.  Thus, Indiana is responding to the traditional concerns of public school and civil rights advocates.  But these post facto protections seem to have relatively little effect on who is actually entering the program.

April 6, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How Do School Leaders Respond to Competition for Students?

The Education Research Alliance for New Orleans has released a new report on how the city's charter schools compete for students.  The abstract explains:

Understanding how schools respond to competition is vital to understanding the effects of the market-based school reforms implemented in New Orleans since 2005. Advocates of market-based reform suggest that, when parents and students can freely choose schools, schools will improve education in order to attract and retain students. But, for market-based school-choice policies to work, school leaders have to believe they are competing for students, and they have to choose to compete in ways that improve education.

The body of the report offers this more detailed discuss of how leaders have responded:

School-choice policies in New Orleans have resulted in perceived competition among school leaders. Only 1 leader of 30 reported having no competition. However, the responses to this competition, the strategies used to compete, are not necessarily those expected by policy-makers.

Continue reading

April 1, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Are Charter Schools Finally Outperforming Traditional Public Schools?

Probably not, but the news stories surround the most recent charter school study by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) would have the public believe so.  CREDO's studies have been a center point in the debate over the efficacy of charter schools since 2009. Charter school advocates used the 2009 study to demonstrate that some charters (17% to be precise) were outperforming traditional public schools.  Those advocates ignored the 37% that were under-performing in comparison to traditional public schools.  Charter school skeptics hammered that point and backed it up with subsequent studies.

CREDO's second report in 2013 was more equivocal than the first and moved in a direction to the liking of charter schools.  Rather than focusing on raw performance, it sought to identify educational improvement, finding that charter schools in general were showing more growth than traditional public schools. Some argued that larger growth was potentially easier because charters were starting from a lower baseline. The changed frame of analysis also elicited criticism from both sides regarding the methodology of the study.

CREDO is now out with its 2015 report, and it equivocation is all but gone.  The study finds that "urban charter schools in the aggregate provide significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to their TPS peers. Specifically, students enrolled in urban charter schools experience 0.055 standard deviations (s.d.’s) greater growth in math and 0.039 s.d.’s greater growth in reading per year than their matched peers in TPS. These results translate to urban charter students receiving the equivalent of roughly 40 days of additional learning per year in math and 28 additional days of learning per year in reading."

This finding was met with applause by education reformers, charter school advocates, and the business community.  It was met with keen interest by the media.  It has been met largely with silence from those formerly critiquing charters (or they have been unable to capture headlines). Does this study and the silent reaction to it mean that charter schools have finally matured and are demonstrating superiority over traditional public schools?  Is the debate, in effect, nearing resolution?  Not so fast, says Bruce Baker.  We still must compare apples to apples, and it is not clear that CREDO has done that.

Those seeking to demonstrate charter superiority have almost always compared apples to oranges.  If the student demographics of charters differ from traditional public schools, raw achievement scores between the two cannot be accurately compared.  Responding to this problem, newer studies, including CREDO's, have attempted to account for differing student demographics.

But CREDO's new study may have done both too much and too little in this regard.  CREDO's  new study narrows the field further than every before, largely in the attempt to triangulate some area of advantage for charters.  The new study does not compare charters and traditional public schools on the whole, but only urban charters to urban traditional public schools. That comparison is probably correct, but, of course, those are not the only charter schools in operation.  Thus, at best, the study suggests that under certain circumstances, charters outperform traditional public schools.

Bruce Baker, however, says the new study still presents a distorted picture in regard to student demographics, even when narrowed to urban schools.  The variables the study uses to "match" an urban public school to a charter for comparison "are especially problematic."  It is inaccurate to treat charters' "poor kids" as equivalent to traditional public schools' "poor kids."  And it is, likewise, inaccurate to assume that charters' special education kids are the same as traditional public schools' kids.  In fact, there is a lot of variation within those two categories, and charters may very well have the most advantaged students within those otherwise narrow groups.  Baker further explains: 

Newark data are particularly revealing of these problems.  Charters undersubscribe the poorest students and oversubscribe the less poor, but CREDO treats those kids as matched anyway...

Charters undersubscribe high need special education kids and oversubscribe mild learning disabled (as a share) but CREDO treats those kids as matched.

This creates a severe bias in favor of charters in Newark and in many other cities with similar sorting patters and high average poverty rates.

This perhaps provides partial explanation for why CREDO tends to find stronger charter effects in poor urban centers than, say in suburbs, where their matching measures - at least for income status - would potentially be more useful.

The point is that the virtual record comparison asserts that these kids are otherwise similar, and thus the gains are somehow attributable to "charter" schooling as a treatment. This assertion is deeply flawed at two levels. First, the as noted above the variables they are choosing for matching are nearly useless. They don't necessarily identify similar kids at all. Nearly all kids fall below the income threshold they are using and thus they might label as "matched" (likely do in fact) a kid in deep poverty/homelessness, etc. in a district school with a kid marginally below the reduced lunch cut point in a charter. They might also label as "matched" a mild specific learning disability kid in a charter (since that's all they have for disability) with a far more severely disabled kid in a district school (where district schools have disproportionate shares of those kids now because charters have siphoned some of the less needy spec ed kids).

The second level problem here is that the CREDO study doesn't then account separately for who these kids attend school with - the peer effect. It conflates that effect with "school" effect, by omission. 

Deep stuff.  It is probably deeper than the average reporter cares to consider, which might explain some of the silence.  But these distinctions are crucial in understanding the new CREDO report and suggest the charter school debate is far settled.  The National Education Policy Center has commissioned a review of the CREDO study that will add further clarity to the debate.  That review should be available later this spring.

March 25, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Charter Schools Come to Alabama

On Monday, I posted on the Alabama Senate passing a bill to allow charter schools in the state.  That bill blew through state house and the governor signed it into law yesterday.  More details here.

March 20, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Charter Schools and Unequal Funding Formulas the Conspiracy of the Rich?

George Joseph's new story in the Nation, 9 Billionaires Are About to Remake New York's Public Schools—Here's Their Story, suggests the answer to this post's question is yes.  The story details the role that hedge fund managers and other wealthy individuals have played in theorizing and financing changes in public policy in New York state.  The two major changes on which he focuses are more charter schools and less money for traditional public schools.  The story, if its inferences, are true is rather scandalous.  It might also put a different spin on the story I commented on two years ago regarding Goldman Sach's investment in Salt Lake City's pre-k program.  

Believing that pre-k would save the district money in the long run, Goldman promised to front the cost of expanding the city's pre-k program.  The catch was that the district had to promise Goldman a 40% cut of any subsequent savings in special education that the district accrued.  To me, this private investment was persuasive evidence of why the public should invest its own money in pre-k education, and need not let private financiers "get in on the deal."

Does either the New York or Utah story indicate a conspiracy?  Not necessarily.  But it does indicate that there is money to be made in education and we cannot underestimate the influence of this reality.  The public should be hypersensitive in evaluating education policies that directly benefit private industry or individuals.  Those policies might very well be good or excellent, but they might also be ruses.  Education experts and the research they produce, not the self-serving rhetoric of financial elites, must serve as the arbiters.

March 20, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Pre-K Education, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Evidence Grows on the Efficacy of Ending Zero Tolerance

The Atlantic ran a story this week titled "Zeroing out Zero Tolerance."  Much of the article mediates the debate between "no-excuses" charter schools that believe a rigid approach to discipline has been the key to their academic success and large urban school districts that have recently abandoned zero tolerance policies.  Her story emphasizes the large gains in achievement and graduation that the nation's two largest school districts--New York City and Los Angeles--have achieved since ending zero tolerance for minor misbehavior.  The same is true of Denver, which was a front-runner in this change.  There is not much new in the story, but it does a better job than most in highlighting the issues and juxtaposing the relevant school systems.

March 20, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Lawsuit Claims Cap on Charter Schools Is Unconstitutional

Partners in some of Boston's largest law firms plan to file suit against Massachusetts, arguing that its cap on charter schools violates the state constitution's education clause.  Their theory, at this point, is not clear.  They say the suit will be brought on behalf of children who wanted to attend charter schools, but were not afforded a seat through the lottery procedures.  Instead, the students enrolled in underperforming traditional public schools.  “We don’t think they should be denied that opportunity, and we don’t think the Constitution allows them to be denied that opportunity,” Lee said. “We’d like to see the cap removed so that supply meets demand.”  Their impetus appears to be a belief in studies claiming the academic superiority of charter schools.

The lawsuit is significant on several fronts beyond just the particular claims it might raise.   First, it would appear to attempt to expand the scope of school finance precedent.  This same type of strategy is at play in the constitutional challenges to tenure in  Vergara v. California and similar litigation in New York.  As analyzed here, the tenure theory can find some support in school finance precedent (although the plaintiffs' facts are lacking on causal questions), but how charter caps would fit into school finance precedent is far from obvious.  To the contrary, the better constitutional arguments have been that charter schools violate the education clause (although courts have been reluctant to hold as much).  Absent some revolutionary theory, the challenge to charter school caps is unlikely to go far.  Nonetheless, it is an important example of how malleable school finance precedent could expand or, at least, how many different types of lawsuits might be brought in the attempt to expand it.

Second, this lawsuit also represents another instance of what David Sciarra has called grandstanding in education cases by certain big law firms.  Education reformers' political theories are being transformed into constitutional claims by big law firms looking for pro bono work.  It is unclear as to whether the firms are being duped by education reformers self-righteousness and their civil rights rhetoric or the firms are just looking to grab headlines through controversial litigation. Either way, the litigation is potential dangerous to long term education rights.  The constitutional right to education is not political and never should be treated as such, but educational constitutional claims push separation of powers concerns to the brink in school quality and quality cases. Voyeurism into this area with these new claims looks like politics rather than vindication of constitutional rights.  In this respect, litigation of this nature has the potential to undermine current rights .

Third is the question of litigation resources.  With all the fundamental funding, quality, and racial inequalities in public education systems, the notion that a major law firm would skip past those issues to litigate on behalf of charter school interests is ironic to say the least.

March 17, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Alabama Takes Major Step Toward Allowing First Charter Schools

Alabama has been one of the few hold-outs on charter schools in the nation.  Last week, the Alabama Senate took its first major step to reverse that, passing a bill to permit charters, which Republican leadership in the state says is a top priority.  The bill passed by a vote of 22-12.  Opponents stressed that the bill would just drive more funds away from already underfunded traditional public schools, and further undermine teaching quality in the state because teachers in charters would not have to be certified.  More on details of the legislation and its effects here.

March 16, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 13, 2015

New Report Finds That New York City Charters Not Following Law in Discipline

Yesterday, Advocates for Children of New York released, Civil Rights Suspended: An Analysis of New York City Charter School Discipline Policies.  Based on a review of 164 New York City charter school discipline policies obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests, the report finds that "[a] significant number of City charter schools have discipline policies that fail to meet the legal requirements, leading to violations of students’ and parents’ civil rights. The report includes recommendations for state legislators to consider as they discuss raising the cap on charter schools and ensuring that charter schools serve high-needs students."

“We hear from parents who celebrated winning the charter school lottery only to have their students face repeated suspension or expulsion from school with no opportunity to challenge it,” said Paulina Davis, AFC Staff Attorney. “Students do not give up their civil rights when they enter charter schools. We urge the State to ensure that all charter schools have discipline policies that meet legal requirements.”

Recognizing this problem two years ago, Advocates for Children also released a practical how-to guide for families how are experiencing or have experienced suspension at a charter school.  

February 13, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Legal Status of Charter Schools

Fortuitously, just hours after drafting a post on Senator Alexander's comments positing that some charters are private, Preston Green, Bruce Baker, and Joseph Oluwole's new article, The Legal Status of Charters Schools in State Statutory Law, Univ. Mass. L. Rev. (forthcoming), came to my attention.  Their abstract offers the following summary:

Since 1991, forty-two states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation for charter schools. While charter schools are generally characterized as “public schools,” courts have had a difficult time determining their legal status because charter schools contain both public and private characteristics. This article examines how courts have treated the hybrid nature of charter schools in a variety of state statutory contexts. The first part examines whether charter schools, charter school officials, and the educational management organizations (EMOs) that provide services to charter schools are entitled to governmental immunity. The second part examines how courts have applied public accountability laws to charter schools, charter school officials, and EMOs. The third part examines whether charter schools are public entities subject to prevailing wage statutes. The fourth part analyzes whether charter schools are public schools that must follow student expulsion requirements. The fifth part provides a tally of these cases in terms of whether: (1) charter schools and EMOs are subject to the same rules as public schools; and (2) charter school officials are governmental agents subject to the same rules as other public officials. The final part identifies cases that raise concerns that legislatures should address through statutory amendments.

Download it here.

February 9, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Some Charter Schools Are Private: Lamar Alexander's Slip of the Tongue

Like or dislike him, Lamar Alexander is one of the more informed politicians in Washington, D.C. on questions of education.  He has served as the U.S. Secretary of Education and as president of the University of Tennessee.  Thus, it is hard to write his education comments off as ignorant. Speaking at a school choice event at the Brookings Institute last week, he said “There are some private charter schools, are there not?”  The Washington Post reported on some other awkward exchanges occurred along the way.  

“Charter schools are subject to the same tests as regular public schools,” Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy, said.  “Public charter schools,” Alexander interrupted.  “Well they’re all — charter schools are public schools,” Whitehurst said. “Charter schools, I guess as we define it, are public schools that operate under charters from the state rather than private, so they’re subject to the same tests.”

After the event, Senator Alexander indicated that he had misspoken and that all charter schools are public.  His initial comments, nonetheless, suggest a perception that some charter schools, particularly privately run for-profit ones, do not operate like public schools.  Of course, such a perception is problematic for the party line of both Democrats and Republicans, but consistent with the framework I suggested here.  Broader politics will almost certainly dictate that Alexander keep his perceptions to himself as he works through the rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but it would be nice if he were brave enough to do otherwise.

February 9, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, ESEA/NCLB | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 6, 2015

New York City Charters Continue to Under-enroll Students with Disabilities

New York City's Independent Budget Office has released an update on student retention in charter schools versus traditional public schools.  The new report finds that "charter school students stay in charter schools at higher rates than students in nearby traditional public schools."  This finding held true across other important subgroups.  Students with disabilities "remained at their charter schools through the 2012-2013 school year at a higher rate than similar students at nearby traditional public schools."  More specifically:

  • 64% of kindergarten students that start in a charter school will remain at that school by 4th grade, compared to 56% that started in a nearby TPS.
  • The attrition gap between charters and nearby TPS is due to students transferring from one NYC public school to another. About 23% of charter students transferred to a different NYC public school compared to nearly 32% from the district school.
  • 53% of charter students classified as having a disability in kindergarten will remain at the charter compared to 49% that will remain in the TPS.

Charter school advocates immediately latched onto these findings, particularly the one in regard to students with disabilities.  They offer it as a counter to scholars, including Rob Garda, who have pointed out the under-enrollment or under-recruitment of students with disabilities by charters. Unfortunately, the report is actually consistent with Garda and others' critique, finding that:

Continue reading

February 6, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

North Carolina Supreme Court Will Hear Oral Arguments on the Constitutionality of the State's School Voucher Program

The North Carolina Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on February 16 in Hart v. North Carolina, which may decide the fate of North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), the state’s school voucher program.  The OSP, which is currently on hold after a state superior court judge ruled last August that it was unconstitutional, would have provided up to $4,200 per year to qualifying students to attend a private school of their family's choice. The N.C. Association of Educators, the N.C. Justice Center, the N.C. School Boards Association, and local school boards challenged the program as an attempt to funnel public school funds to private schools without sufficient oversight and contested whether the vouchers would help low-income students as intended.

Last August, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood agreed with some of those concerns, finding that the N.C. legislature’s $10 million OSP allocation violated the state constitutional provision permitting taxation "for public purposes only." In a pointed ruling, Judge Hobgood concluded, “The General Assembly is seeking to push at-risk students from low-income families into nonpublic schools in order to avoid the cost of providing them a sound, basic education in public schools” as mandated by state law.  Judge Hobgood also criticized the legislature for omitting any substantive instructional, training, or credentialing requirements for private schools to receive OSP funds, saying, “[t]he General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.” Yesterday, several civil rights organizations filed amici briefs in support of the lower court’s decision, including those of the National Education Associationthe N.C. NAACPthe Duke Children’s Law Clinic and group of education scholars, and the ACLU with the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Read more about the case at N.C. Policy Watch here.

February 3, 2015 in Cases, Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Race and Poverty in the Decline of Neighborhood Schools

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran Jay Mathews' commentary on changes in neighborhood schooling.  As the National Center for Education Statistics' chart shows below, the percentage of students attending a public school of choice has risen significantly since the 1990s.   Based on his personal experience, which he allows is biased, Mathews laments the decline in neighborhood schooling.  However, he notes that technology and other modern innovations make neighborhood schools less important than in prior eras.   He ultimately suggests the change may be a good thing.

Percentage distribution of students in grades 1–12, by type of school: 1993, 2003, and 2007

Type of school

1993 2003 2007
Public, assigned 79.9 73.9 73.2
Public, chosen 11.0 15.4 15.5
Private, church-related 7.5 8.4 8.7
Private, not church-related 1.6 2.4 2.6

Mathews' commentary, however, ignores the more important issues involved in neighborhood schools: racial and socio-economic politics and equality.  Mathews largely equates "assigned" school with "neighborhood" school and "chosen" school with "non-neighborhood.  Neither is necessarily true.  Districts operating voluntary desegregation plans often incorporate some form of choice, but the school a parent chooses is not necessarily  non-neighborhood.  The student assignment plan in Louisville that went to the Supreme Court in Parents Involved v. Seattle, for instance, drew larger neighborhood attendance zones and allowed parents the opportunity to choose among neighborhood schools.  Sometimes that was the school closest to a family, sometimes not.  As a general principle, choice plans fall into two categories: those designed to foster integration and those designed to allow parents to escape integration.

Continue reading

January 26, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How Parents Choose Schools

NPR ran an interesting story this morning about how parents choose schools.  It was based on a new report on school choice in New Orleans, which is, of course, all charter now.  This unique characteristic, along with various other local circumstances, may or may not make the findings of national significance, but they are certainly surprising, if not controversial.  NPR offered this summary of the report's findings:

  • Parents care about academics, but not as much as they say they do. "The role of academics seemed somewhat lower [than in other studies]," says Douglas Harris, lead author on the report. And because of the nature of the study, which shows where families actually enroll, "we're actually able to quantify that in ways that other studies couldn't."
  • Distance matters. A lot. Schools in New Orleans are ranked by letter grades, depending mostly on their scores on state tests. What the researchers found was that three-quarters of a mile in distance was equal to a letter grade in terms of family preferences. In other words, a C-grade school across the street was slightly preferable to a B-grade school just a mile away.
  • Extended hours matter. Parents of younger children preferred extended school hours and after-school programs.
  • Extracurriculars matter. Especially for high school students. And perhaps, even more so in this city famous for its music and its love of the Saints. A C-grade school with a well-known football and band program could beat out a B-grade school without them. (Of note: In traditional public school systems, most high schools offer these extracurriculars; New Orleans has many smaller specialized schools that don't.)
  • Poorer families care more about other factors — and less about academics. The study split families up into thirds based on the median income in their census tract. What they found was that the lowest-income New Orleans families were even more likely to pick schools that were close by, that offered extended days, and had football and band in high school — and conversely, they had a weaker preference for schools based on test scores.

January 15, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What to Make of a Year of Charter School Struggles

Over the past year, numerous posts on this blog have analyzed the highest profile charter scandals.  As one post emphasized, traditional public schools are not immune to scandal either.  Thus, the point of this post is not beat up on charters.  Rather, the relevant points and questions are whether the rate of scandal is any different in charter schools and whether the nature of the scandals in charters differs from public schools.  My general observation is that there seems to be a higher rate in charters, but the scandals in charters tend to be different in character than those in traditional public schools.  If this is so, the problem is potentially easier to fix, as there are aspects of charter school structure that may allow for or incentivize scandal, rather than the concept of a charter itself. Jeff Bryant, at Salon.com, offers a comprehensive rundown of charter school scandals and reports on them.  He catches far more than you would have read on this blog. 

January 14, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bad News for Ohio Charters

The Fordham Institute commissioned Stanford's CREDO center to do an in depth look at Ohio's charter schools.  CREDO has produced two national studies of charters, which most consider to be the gold standard, so their findings in regard to a particular state were sure to carry weight.  The Fordham Institute, a staunch supporter of charters, calls the results sobering.  The report found:

Compared to the educational gains that charter students would have had in a
traditional public school (TPS), the analysis shows on average that students in Ohio
charter schools perform worse in both reading and mathematics. The impact is
statistically significant: thinking of a 180-day school year as "one year of learning",
an average Ohio charter student would have completed 14 fewer days of
learning in reading and 36 fewer days in math. There are positive notes found
in the analysis. For example, students in urban charter schools in Ohio post
superior yearly gains compared to the statewide average student
performance; this finding is unique among the numerous state studies that
CREDO has completed. Another positive result is the learning gain superiority
for students in poverty and especially for black charter students in
poverty: their progress over a year's time outpaces that of equivalent TPS
students.

Continue reading

December 11, 2014 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Small But Important Step Toward Diversity in Charter Schools

The Poverty and Race Research Action Council noted yesterday in its weekly update that

The Department of Education continues to take small but important steps toward embracing school diversity as a department-wide priority - most recently in its proposed priorities for charter school funding programs, which will add a school diversity priority to some of its future charter funding rounds, and which notes that "a critical component of serving all students, including educationally disadvantaged students, is consideration of student body diversity, including racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. This proposed regulatory action encourages broad consideration of student body composition, consistent with applicable law, as charter schools are authorized and funded and as best practices are disseminated."  79 Fed. Reg. 68821 (November 19, 2014)

December 5, 2014 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

ACLU and Community Legal Aid Society File Segregation Complaint Against Delaware Charters, Call for Moratorium

Yesterday, the ACLU of Delaware, ACLU Racial Justice Project and Community Legal Aid Society filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights asserting that Delaware’s charter school policies discriminate against students of color and students with disabilities.  They also perpetuate segregation.  “We hope that the Office of Civil Rights recognizes that any system of selection that has the effect of almost completely excluding children with disabilities from the ‘high-achieving’ charter schools is deeply disturbing and must constitute illegal discrimination,” says Dan Atkins, Legal Advocacy Director of the Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.

The complaint asserts that "over three-quarters of charter schools operating in Delaware are racially identifiable. High performing charter schools are almost entirely racially identifiable as White. Low income students and students with disabilities are disproportionately relegated to failing charter schools and charter schools that are racially identifiable as African American or Hispanic, none of which are high performing."  They assert charter schools are also increasing segregation in traditional public schools.

They ask for the following solutions to the problem:

Continue reading

December 4, 2014 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)