Thursday, November 29, 2012

National Charter Group: 1-in-5 CHARTER SCHOOLS NOT DOING WELL ENOUGH TO STAY OPEN + USAToday + smf’s 2¢

A group that oversees more than half of the nation's 5,600 charter schools said as many as one in five U.S. charter schools should be shut down because of poor academic performance.

“As the E-trade baby would say:

‘Here's my shocked face’.”

comment in the Seattle Times 11/28/12 by hmaurice

By John Hechinger, Bloomberg News – from The Seattle Times |

November 28, 2012 at 8:04 PM | Updated at 10:41 PM BOSTON — As many as one in five U.S. charter schools should be shut down because of poor academic performance, according to a group representing states, districts and universities that grant them permission to operate.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers said 900 to 1,300 of the privately run, publicly financed schools should close because they are in the bottom 15 percent of public schools in their states. The Chicago-based group's members — such as the Los Angeles Unified School District and the State University of New York — oversee more than half of the nation's 5,600 charter schools.

The announcement represents a challenge to the fast-growing charter-school movement, created as an alternative to conventional districts and operating without many of their rules. To hold the organizations accountable, states must pass new laws that would shut down poor performers, said Greg Richmond, president of the charter-school organization.

"For all the excellent charter schools, there are also many not serving students well," Richmond said from Washington, D.C., in a briefing with reporters. "That's unacceptable."

The call for closing poor performers carries special weight because it comes from an organization funded by charter-school advocates such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

In November, voters in Washington state narrowly approved Initiative 1240, which will allow 40 charter schools to open in the state over five years. The approval came after state voters three times before — in 1996, 2000 and 2004 — rejected charter schools.

Washington state's charter-school law has a provision meant to keep low performers from staying open here. Barring exceptional circumstances, the law says that a charter's contract should not be renewed if its performance ranks in the bottom 20 percent of Washington's public schools.

Washington is one of the few states with such clauses in their charter-school laws.

But it remains to be seen how the law will play out in practice. The decision will be up to a new statewide charter commission or any school boards that are authorized to approve charter schools. The first charter schools aren't expected to open here until fall 2013 at the earliest, and more likely fall 2014.

About 2 million children, who make up 4 percent of public-school enrollment, attend charter schools, more than three times the number 10 years ago, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans turned to charter schools to overhaul public education. The schools now enroll three-quarters of the city's students, a larger share than in any other U.S. district, according to the alliance. Charter schools in Detroit and Washington, D.C., educate more than 40 percent of students.

A 2010 survey by the consulting company Mathematica Policy Research compared students enrolled at charters with those who applied but weren't admitted. It found that performance was similar in reading and in math, though there were wide variations across schools. A 2009 Stanford University study found that charter students fared worse.

Poor and low-achieving students at charters showed significant gains over peers at traditional public schools, the Mathematica study found. Charters in large urban areas helped students' math achievement. Outside those regions, they had a negative effect.

In California, more students are being educated in the best charter schools than in those that should be closed, Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association, said at the briefing.

The announcement follows debate about whether charter schools are weakening the finances of traditional districts, siphoning off students from the most committed families, promoting racial and economic segregation in public education and failing to provide equal access to students with disabilities. Those are all arguments that opponents of Washington's charter-school measure, including state and local teachers unions, made during the campaign.

The authorizers' group is trying to police against practices that weed out lower-performing students, which can also make charter-school achievement look better than it is, Richmond said.

"We want to know if games are being played," he said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Linda Shaw contributed to this report


Charter school group calls for tougher laws

by Greg Toppo, USA TODAY |

●●smf: OK: This story is a shameless rewrite of yesterday’s HuffPo story. Didn’t we kinda know that about HuffPo+USA Today?

Story Highlights

  • About 2 million students attend charter schools
  • As many as 1,300 charter schools are in the lowest 15% of schools statewide
  • Association says it's time to rein in growth and focus on quality

7:24PM EST November 28. 2012 - In what may be a wake-up call to many of the USA's 6,000 charter schools, an influential group called Wednesday for tougher standards for these independently run public schools, saying lawmakers should have more power to close down underperforming schools.

Since the first charter school opened in 1992, their rise has been meteoric – about 2 million students attend charter schools, and many top schools have helped to reinvigorate urban education. Others haven't always outperformed traditional neighborhood schools.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) — which represents the largest number of officials who authorize charter schools in the USA — estimates that as many as 1,300 charter schools are in the lowest 15% of schools statewide, but that fewer than one in seven schools seeking renewal of their charters, or operating agreements, failed to get it last year. That's about double the previous year's rate, but the group says it's still too low, considering recent research showing that many charter schools underperform.

We didn't start the charter school movement in order to create more underperforming schools.

-- Greg Richmond, National Association of Charter School Authorizers

Wednesday the group said it's time to rein in growth and focus on quality. "Charter schools are not the only solution in public education, but we didn't start the charter school movement in order to create more underperforming schools," said Greg Richmond, the association's head. The group said it would push state legislatures to rewrite laws, in effect requiring states to close bad charter schools.

Caprice Young, a former Los Angeles Unified School District board member and onetime head of the California Charter School Association, said the move was "long overdue." She said, "We need to do more of what's working and less of what's not in order to fix public education on a national scale."

Young directs education for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which invests in charter schools in post-Katrina New Orleans, where more than three-fourths of students attend a charter school, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an advocacy group. Nationwide, more than 100 school districts enroll at least 10% of students in charter schools, the alliance says.

"The charter school idea is predicated on the notion that in exchange for autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic rules, schools would face closure if they fail to meet their academic goals," said Nina Rees, who heads the alliance. She said she supports authorizers' efforts "to get it right, whatever the numbers may be."


2cents smf

•• Caprice Young has been saying what she’s been quoted twice in the past 24 hours for about five years:  There are bad charter schools out there and they must go. Jed Wallace, who replaced Caprice at the California Charter School Association (maybe because Caprice was a little too outspoken?) argued for Crescendo Charter School – caught in an egregious cheating scandal – keeping their charter  …before he quietly changed his mind.

But if you read a little deeper you will see the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, like CCSA, only represents a portion of charter schools in the nation and/or California. They are not an umbrella organizations of all charter interests; they are advocates for some member entities.

Caprice once told me that she didn’t believe charter schools could maintain much more than a 10% share of the public education market.

Has the market reached saturation?

Is this maybe a tactic to eliminate the competition in the guise of cleaning up their act?  Did you ever see the Scottish movie Comfort and Joy? – about warring Scots-Italian families trying to corner the ice cream market in Glasgow?  Like that. 

Am I letting my cynicism get in the way of my skepticism?  ….or vice versa?

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