Category Archives: Charter Schools

As charters nip at budget, one school’s story

Source: Mike Newall, Inquirer, February 22, 2015

As the School Reform Commission gathered Wednesday for its heated vote on whether to approve new charter schools, principal Ron Reilly of Willard Elementary in Kensington was holding a monthly staff meeting. … And that’s the problem with calls for more charters now, of course. With the state’s broken funding formula, there’s no way to give to one without stealing from the other, and hurting schools like Willard….

Philadelphia School Budget May Spark Exodus, Moody’s Report Says
Source: Romy Varghese, Bloomberg, May 5, 2014

The proposed budget for Philadelphia’s public schools may cause students to leave for charters, increasing expenses, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report. The $2.5 billion plan for the year beginning in July calls for the district serving the nation’s fifth-most populous city to fire 1,000 employees unless it receives $216 million to maintain programs, according to the report. The jurisdiction educates about 205,000 students, according to a board presentation…..Charter students strain the system’s finances because Pennsylvania law requires it to cover the expenditures. Per-pupil costs have risen 70 percent since 2004, Seymour said. More than 30 percent of students attend charters, and about 31 percent of next year’s budget is devoted to that cost and for transportation.

Review of Separating Fact & Fiction

Source: Gary Miron, William J. Mathis, Kevin G. Welner, National Education Policy Center, February 2015

The irony of a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is that it purports to “separate fact from fiction” about charter schools. Unfortunately, in addressing 21 “myths,” it embraces fiction whenever useful to push advocacy goals, thus perpetuating its own myths and fictions about charter schools. Since it relies overwhelmingly on other advocacy documents, it does not give a balanced or thorough examination of any of the 21 “myths.” But the exercise provides a useful opportunity for this review to walk through the various claims and succinctly address each. Among the areas addressed are the financial equality of charter schools, lower teacher qualifications, student selection demographics, academic outcomes, segregation, and innovation. While the NAPCS report itself may provide only sound-bite fodder for advocates, we hope that the two documents combined—report plus review—offer an overview of issues that does advance comprehensive understanding.
Press release

Separating Fact & Fiction: What You Need to Know About Charter Schools
Source: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, August 11, 2014

Charter School Expansion Advances In Virginia Assembly

Source: Tommie McNeil, Virginia Public Radio, February 5, 2015

After a spirited debate Wednesday in the Virginia Senate, charter school proponents won a major victory with passage of a resolution to amend the state constitution to give the Board of Education authority to establish charter schools in Virginia. The proposed amendment now goes to the House. Under state law, the General Assembly must pass it again next year, and voters must approve it in a referendum before it can take effect…..

Charter Schools in NYC – 4 reports

Source: United Federation of Teachers, 2015

Which NYC schools (charters and public) serve the highest-need and lowest-need students?

The charts in this document show how many of the city’s highest need students are enrolled in each district and charter school in each of the city’s Community School Districts. The data show that more than three-quarters of the charters serve students below the average district need.

Demographics: Charters vs Traditional Public Schools
The charts show the average percentages of English language learners; total special education students; special education students in self-contained classrooms; and students in temporary housing in charter and traditional public elementary and K-8 schools in the city’s Community School Districts. The data show that elementary and K-8 charters in 23 of the 25 districts where they are located are serving fewer ELLs, students with disabilities, special education students in self-contained classrooms and students in temporary housing.

Charter school suspension rates: way above most district averages
Many charter schools, in particular the larger chains, suspend students at rates well in excess of their home-district averages. The tables compare suspension rates of elementary, middle and high school charters located in each of the 32 school districts with their district averages. The numbers are for 2011-12, the most recent available.

Co-located charters and traditional public schools sharing school buildings
The charts compare charters and traditional public schools sharing school buildings on indicators of student need. The data show co-located charters serve fewer ELLs, students with disabilities, special education students in self-contained classrooms and students in temporary housing.

Before you lift the charter cap, let’s see some equity, Mulgrew tells Cuomo
Source: Maisie McAdoo, UFT, Press release, January 29, 2015

….Mulgrew spoke as the UFT released a report and extensive documentation showing that charters educate fewer high-needs students than traditional schools in virtually every school district. The report also showed that charters suspend students at up to 10 times the rate of district schools. The solution, Mulgrew said, is to change admissions policies at charter schools so that some preference is given in lotteries based on student need. District superintendents also should be able to “backfill” at charters, replacing students who leave midyear, he said. And, he said, charters should have to account for high numbers of student suspensions that would trigger an investigation if they occurred at a traditional district school….

Charter schools snub city’s needy students, says report from teachers union
Source: Steven Trader and Ben Chapman, New York Daily News, January 30, 2015

The city teachers union lobbed another attack in its war on Gov. Cuomo’s education reforms Thursday, dropping a bombshell report showing that charter schools repeatedly failed to admit needy students.

Friendly FIRE

Source: Chris Maisano, Jacobin, Jacobin, Issue 15/16, Fall 2014

Social impact bonds offer private interests yet another opportunity to enrich themselves at public expense. …

Goldman Sachs wants you to know that it’s not just about plundering the globe for profit — it wants to do a little good along the way. That’s why the vampire squid has started founding seemingly innocuous philanthropic outfits like the Urban Investment Group (UIG).

Established in 2001, the UIG is the perfect embodiment of what labor journalist Bob Fitch used to call “friendly FIRE,” per the old shorthand for the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. Always attuned to the public-relations value of its activities, UIG promotes itself with a gauzy language of community uplift centered on the buzzword “double bottom line”: the simultaneous pursuit of social change and return on investment.

In a gesture of exquisite irony, its first investment was in the Dorothy Day Apartments, an affordable housing development in Harlem named after the founder of the anticapitalist Catholic Worker movement. Since then, it has invested billions of dollars in projects such as community health centers, charter schools, early childhood education, low- and moderate-income housing units, small business loans, and community development grants. As Alicia Glen, the former UIG chief currently serving as deputy mayor for housing and economic development under Mayor Bill de Blasio, put it: “We’re not all evil squids. We’re nice little calamari.”

Glen’s highest profile deal as head of UIG was a $42 million investment in Citi Bike, the privately funded bike-sharing program whose signature blue bicycles have become ubiquitous throughout Lower Manhattan and the gentrified zones of north-central Brooklyn. But bikes may not be the most important legacy of her tenure at Goldman. The bank, together with some of the biggest names in social policy, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector, has led the way in establishing the burgeoning field of social impact bonds (SIBs)…..

…The SIB market is still rather small in terms of dollars, but its promoters are intent on achieving rapid growth. The current total value of SIB transactions in the US is estimated at approximately $100 million; sixteen states and Washington, DC either have an active SIB underway or are considering implementing one…..

….Public-sector unions are increasingly aware of the threat SIBs pose and have begun to rally against state-level legislation that would expand their use. AFSCME Council 94 in Rhode Island has been outspoken in its opposition to a bill that would allow the state to implement a $25 million SIB program….

Policy Cues and Ideology in Attitudes toward Charter Schools

Source: Sarah Reckhow, Matt Grossmann and Benjamin C. Evans, Policy Studies Journal, Early View, Article first published online: December 5, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Charter schools have generated support from politicians in both major American political parties while stimulating intense debate among interest groups. We investigate whether and how public attitudes reflect interest group polarization or politician consensus. Using an original survey, we find that charter school opinions diverge along ideological lines among high-information respondents. With embedded experiments, we manipulate respondents’ information using policy cues tied to opposing sides of the charter debate: We assess whether the role of private companies and nonunion teachers changes support for charter schools. We find that the public responds favorably to some informational cues; conservatives without prior information are especially persuaded by information about nonunion teachers. This explains how polarized opinion can develop even in the absence of strong partisan sorting among top political leaders and clarifies the partisan and ideological context of ongoing education policy debates.
Study Finds Pro-Charter School Arguments Are More Convincing
Source: Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post, January 27, 2015

How charter school foes are failing

Source:: Sarah Reckhow, Matt Grossmann, Andy Henion, Michigan State University, MSU Today, January 22, 2015

“School Choice Week” is a Good Time to Review the Evidence

Source: National Education Policy Center, Press Release, January 27, 2015

With “National School Choice Week” once again at hand, the National Education Policy Center reminds us that sound policymaking should be based on research-based evidence, not the ideology of enthusiasts.

Choice Week was created by staunch advocates of choice policies. Accordingly, the Week is generally used to advocate for choice as a goal in itself. The result is that policy is driven by ideology, rather than evidence and research. If the evidence were heeded, however, choice approaches would simply be one of many tools used by policymakers to carefully craft policies in ways designed to advance important societal goals for educating each and every child.

The National Education Policy Center has published research on various forms of school choice, including charter schools, virtual schools, vouchers, and neovouchers (vouchers created through tax credit mechanisms). For example, an NEPC research brief documents the segregation and stratification arising from charter schools run by Education Management Organizations. Importantly, a subsequent NEPC legislative policy brief points to research-based practices that could be employed to create charter schools that are much more equitable.

Similarly, while NEPC research has pointed to disheartening concerns about the current direction and results from online k-12 schools, another legislative policy brief outlines ways to move forward in an evidence-based, cautious way. ….

Charters Without Lotteries: Testing Takeovers in New Orleans and Boston

Source: Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Joshua D. Angrist, Peter D. Hull, Parag Pathak, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w20792, December 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Lottery estimates suggest oversubscribed urban charter schools boost student achievement markedly. But these estimates needn’t capture treatment effects for students who haven’t applied to charter schools or for students attending charters for which demand is weak. This paper reports estimates of the effect of charter school attendance on middle-schoolers in charter takeovers in New Orleans and Boston. Takeovers are traditional public schools that close and then re-open as charter schools. Students enrolled in the schools designated for closure are eligible for “grandfathering” into the new schools; that is, they are guaranteed seats. We use this fact to construct instrumental variables estimates of the effects of passive charter attendance: the grandfathering instrument compares students at schools designated for takeover with students who appear similar at baseline and who were attending similar schools not yet closed, while adjusting for possible violations of the exclusion restriction in such comparisons. Estimates for a large sample of takeover schools in the New Orleans Recovery School District show substantial gains from takeover enrollment. In Boston, where we can compare grandfathering and lottery estimates for a middle school, grandfathered students see achievement gains at least as large as the gains for students assigned seats in lotteries. Larger reading gains for grandfathering compliers are explained by a worse non-charter fallback.

At What Cost? The Charter School Model and the Human Right to Education

Source: Kevin Murray, Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 209-2014, November 12, 2014

From the abstract:
From humble beginnings in the early 1990s, charter schools have grown explosively to become a pillar in a market-oriented national education reform in the United States. The fiscal fallout from the financial crisis of 2007-08 constricted educational budgets and intensified the public debate around directing resources to all aspects of educational reform, especially charter schools.

The human right to education is well established in a variety of international treaties and covenants, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right establishes the obligation of states to provide all young people with a quality education, as defined by the prevailing social and economic context of each country. Guidance provided by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, focuses attention on the acceptability, availability, adaptability and accessibility of education in every context.

The impact of charter school expansion on the ability of U.S. states to implement the right to education for all children has, to date, been little considered in the national debate around education reform. Given the diversity of the legal foundations of charter schools in the states, it is difficult to carry out such an analysis at the national level.

Despite the fact that its public education system is rated among the most effective in the country, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been the site of large-scale implementation of the charter school model. Prominent educational research institutes have analyzed Massachusetts charters and found them – especially the schools located in Boston – to be among the most successful in the country.

The experience of Massachusetts charter schools undoubtedly includes positive effects on the implementation of the right to education. A significant number of students who had difficulty accessing quality education in traditional public schools have been able to do so in charter schools. Many of those students are from racial or ethnic groups that have faced historic discrimination in U.S. public schools. In addition, charter schools are, by their nature, adaptations of the public education model and, therefore, increase the adaptability of the system.

At the same time, other aspects of the charter school model raise concerns from a human rights perspective, some of them serious concerns. The extreme school discipline models employed by some charters and the increased use of disciplinary exclusion to maintain social order in the schools both raise human rights concerns that go well beyond the right to education. Also, the existence of an “enrollment gap” between charter schools and traditional public schools, especially in relation to the enrollment of Students with Special Needs and English Language Learners is the source of further concern. Finally, the way in which charter schools are financed, in Massachusetts and in most other jurisdictions, gradually degrades the financial capacity of public school districts. This loss of financial capacity often leads to mass school closings or other major disruptions to the system. In districts with high charter density, this process can reach the point where the capacity of the district to provide for even the basic educational needs of all students comes into question.

Massachusetts and other states with relatively high charter density in urban centers should reinforce regulatory mechanisms in place to ensure the accountability of existing charter schools to legal and regulatory frameworks. In addition, legislative bodies considering laws to allow further expansion of charter schools should carefully consider the impacts of charter school growth on the human right to education of all children in their jurisdiction before enabling such expansion.

Texas to Close 14 Charter School Operators

Source: Morgan Smith, Texas Tribune, December 9, 2014

Texas will shut down 14 charter school operators that failed to meet heightened financial and academic performance rules this year, state education officials announced Tuesday. The action comes as a result of a provision in a 2013 law aimed at expanding the presence of charter schools in the state. The law requires the Texas Education Agency to revoke a school’s charter if it fails to meet state academic or financial accountability ratings for three years. Lawmakers passed the law, known as Senate Bill 2, to quickly free up limited state contracts for high-performing operators by severing ties with low-performing ones. Among the charters facing closure: the Henry Ford Academy Alameda School for Art and Design in San Antonio, Girls & Boys Preparatory in Houston, the Faith Family Academy of Oak Cliff, and the Ignite Public Schools and Community Service Centers, which has campuses across the Rio Grande Valley. For a full list, go here. …
Charter schools identified for mandatory revocation under SB 2
Source: Texas Education Agency, TEA News Releases Online, December 9, 2014

The Texas Education Agency has identified 14 open-enrollment charter schools that meet the legislative criteria for mandatory revocation of their charter under Senate Bill 2. Passed in 2013 by the Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 2 requires mandatory revocation of a charter by the Commissioner of Education if a charter holder has failed to meet academic or financial accountability performance ratings for the three preceding school years. Failure can include three years in one specific area (academic or financial), or any combination of the two.

Texas orders Dallas-based charter and five others to close next year
Source: Holly K. Hacker, Dallas News, December 19, 2013

The state on Thursday ordered a Dallas-based charter school and five others to close under a new law that cracks down on charter operators with chronic problems. The Texas Education Agency said it will revoke the charters of Honors Academy and the five other schools in June. The schools can appeal the decision in the meantime. Charter schools are publicly funded and privately run. They’re given greater flexibility and room to innovate. In return, they’re supposed to deliver results. The state has closed charters before for fiscal mismanagement, dismal test scores and other problems. But there’s new urgency. A law enacted this year requires the state to close charters after three straight years of poor academic or financial performance. …

…The other five schools that the state intends to close are:
American Youthworks in Austin.
Azleway Charter School in Tyler.
Jamie’s House Charter School in Houston.
Koinonia Community Learning Academy in Houston.
Richard Milburn Academy in suburban Houston.

The Texas Education Agency is already trying to revoke the charter of another Dallas school, Children First Academy, after concluding that hiring and staffing practices risked students’ safety. School leaders have appealed the state’s decision….