Several recent stories are highlighting the fall in support for charter schools in the USA.
Most significant is the call at the 2016 national convention of the leading civil rights group, the NAACP, for a moratorium on charter school expansion.
The resolution called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
But following the November 2016 Presidential election, the NAACP was concerned that Trump’s agenda to expand the privatization of public education would put the promise of a quality education for all at risk. The Board of Directors then expanded the work of a Task Force they had created to examine charter schools to include protection of quality public education for all inner-city children and renamed it the Task Force on Quality Education.
The Task Force framed their report around five critical recommendations for regulating charter schools and strengthening the public education system.
Other key findings of the Task Force are worth highlighting:
“Charter schools were created with more flexibility because they were expected to innovate and infuse new ideas and creativity into the traditional public school system. However, this aspect of the promise never materialized.”
“Charter schools are publicly funded, but they are privately operated under a written contract (or charter) with a state, school district or other authorizers depending on the state.”
“With the expansion of charter schools and their concentration in low-income communities, concerns have been raised within the African American community about the quality, accessibility and accountability of some charters, as well as their broader effects on the funding and management of school districts that serve most students of color.”
“For some, charter schools provide the answer to persistently failing traditional public schools in their community. To others, charter schools drain their community of limited resources and harm their children because many cannot attend the charter schools in their own neighborhood.”
“There were pros and cons on charters versus traditional schools in every hearing. The Task Force heard testimony that accused charter schools of “cherry-picking” students, counseling out the difficult students, manipulating funds related to average daily attendance once students were no longer in attendance, and re-segregating the public school system. Conversely, charter school advocates criticized the traditional school system for its poor record in educating students.”
“In every hearing, many people agreed that the current education system fails too many children because of the lack of investment in people, policies and programs that support high quality educational opportunities.”
“Furthermore, while high quality, accountable and accessible charters can contribute to educational opportunity, by themselves, even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in the communities that serve our children.”
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
Source: NAACP Task Force on Quality Education Hearing Report, July 2017.
“Twelve parents from Bronzeville [Chicago, USA] and allies from communities across Chicago launch a hunger strike in front of Dyett High School to call out the injustice suffered at the hands of CPS and the appointed Board of Education and to demand the adoption of the Global Leadership and Green Technology plan for Dyett.
Stall tactics and patronage politics from CPS have driven everyday people to use their bodies to stand in the way of further injustice. Instead of honoring their commitment to the process they outlined, CPS and the new education chair for Chicago’s City Council, Ald. Will Burns, have subverted the rules to “grease the rails” for an underperforming contract operator to acquire Dyett High School.
The sabotage of and fight for Dyett has raged since CPS decided to convert a highly-successful middle school to a high school over a 3-month period in 1999.
Horrified by the inability of the first graduating senior class in 2003 to experience college prep or advanced placement classes or a full-time librarian; community members began to invest in the school through the local school council to infuse critical programs and neighborhood partnerships into the building.
The fruits of that labor yielded the highest increase in students attending post-secondary institutions in 2008, and the highest decrease in out-ofschool suspensions and arrests in 2009.
Despite steady significant gains, the Mayoral-appointed Board of Education members voted to phase-out the school in 2012; and the mass erosion of investment to prepare those students for success. Galvanized by this injustice and emboldened by their record of success, parents and concerned residents began to work with educational experts within Chicago and around the country to develop an academic plan based on the community wishes.
Through a series of focus groups, town hall meetings, and extensive consultation with community and educational institutions, the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology academic plan was developed. Some of the same experts who have developed Level 1 high schools in Chicago led the design team that created this plan in direct consultation with the community over a 4-year period.
Neither of the competing proposals for Dyett come close to this level of community engagement or expertise. “We are willing to starve ourselves to bring justice to our children and our community!”
– Jeanette Taylor-Ramann
Show your support for the hunger strikers by joining the Thunderclap.
There are many good and great teachers, but even among them, Rafe Esquith is regarded as one of the standouts.
Rafe runs has done amazing work for decades, bringing Shakespeare and other literary greats to mainly minority students from low socio-economic backgrounds in LA. They visit places like Harvard to set their sights high, they watch and perform plays, they take educational visits. He feeds them snacks to keep them going. He gets them music tuition and instruments, too, largely through private donations from his many supporters.
Rafe’s work running The Hobart Shakespeareans has brought a list accolades as long as your arm, including National Medal of the Arts. a Compassion in Action Award from the Dalai Lama, and an MBE from the Queen. He was given the Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award and Disney’s National Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. There are documentaries about him, and he is written about in books about pedagogy. You get the idea.
In short, he is a great teacher.
And now Rafe is in “teacher jail”. He’s been there four months already.
In Los Angeles, the School District has what has been termed “teacher jail” for teachers under investigation. teachers report to the District’s offices and sit out the working day there, in some sort of odd house arrest. This is before anything has been proven and often with no criminal charges laid. Sometimes the charges are minor, and there are reports that the jails are sometimes used to silence teachers who oppose reforms too loudly.
Back to Rafe. His ‘crime’ was to joke that if The Hobart Shakespeareans didn’t get enough funds they would have to perform that year’s play naked. It seems that the joke passed and none of the students took it seriously or were concerned, but an observing teacher told management, and management told the district, and from then on it was the subject of an investigation. Not one parent or student has complained.
In fact quite the opposite:
The LA Times reports that “[t]he teachers union has criticized these so-called teacher jails, saying that instructors typically aren’t informed of the charges against them and that they are barred from their classrooms for far too long.”
It seems to me to be a heartbreaking state of affairs when such an inspired educator is taken out of his classroom for months on end for a throw away remark. Perhaps he should have been more prudent? But even if you think that’s the case, a reminder would have surely been enough?
The District has now widened its investigation into The Hobart Shakespeareans’ use of funds. It all seems rather reminiscent of The Crucible, where one person shouts witch and suddenly there’s a cacophony of accusations.
Of course, accusations must be investigated. But months and months sitting in a “teacher jail” seems a rather heavy handed approach when no charges at all have been laid. Meanwhile, Esquith’s students graduated without him and this year’s plays were cancelled.
As Rafe’s lawyer noted, it seems to be a case of “no good deed goes unpunished”.
Sydney Smoot, a U.S. fourth grader, shared her concerns on testing in schools with members of the Hernando County School Board at their regular meeting on March 17, 2015. She explained all that is wrong with the system she and others have been forced into, and she does it well.
Watch her speak truth to power…
Well done, Sydney – you are an inspiration.
There are many reasons teachers fight standardised testing: they are not a good use of learning time, they lead to teaching to the test, results are not always reliable, and they cost a fortune.
But even beyond that, the craziness of the whole standardised testing system can be no better explained than by Bob Braun’s latest blog post about the Pearson company’s dubious behaviour.
Bob considers Pearson’s insistence that in monitoring students’ online activity it is working only in the interests of test security (i.e. to prevent cheating), and he shares this with us. But is that the full picture, asks Bob?
“Here is what the State of New Jersey and Pearson agreed encompassed the idea of security and its possible breach–it’s codified in the testing manual developed by the state and sent out to all the districts:
“Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication.””
Let me run that by you again… students are not even allowed to talk about a test afterwards. To anyone.
“How did the test go, dear?”
“I can’t tell you, mum, or I’ll have Pearson contacting the Department of Education to send the principal down here”
“But did it go okay, dear?”
“I can neither confirm nor deny the test went okay, mum, please stop asking”
“Do you think you passed?”
“MUM! Are you trying to get me suspended? … I’m taking the fifth.”
Read more over at Bob Braun’s Ledger.
Kiwis, thank your lucky stars we do not have this madness here … and please help us keep it that way by supporting teachers,unions and fighting the monstrosity that is the TPPA.
Trying to get to the bottom of what, if anything, students sign to promise non-disclosure of Pearson’s exam content, I was pointed towards this form…
I have so many questions, such as does a parent signing this legally bind their child to the agreement? And what if a parent is not able to read and comprehend that contract? Do parents really understand fully what they are signing? Does every student/parent get a copy of the PTE Test Taker handbook to peruse? … and so on.
But what I want to ask most of all is this…
And who ensures that data is safe?
What we know so far:
Pearson monitors students’ and others’ social media for mention of Pearson, its tests, etc.
It then finds a student has Tweeted about a PARCC test they had just completed.
The Tweet didn’t have a photo of the test.
The student had not signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Pearson work out what school the student goes to.
Pearson alert the education department about the ‘priority 1 item breach’, asking it to be dealt with.
The education department contact the testing coordinator at the student’s school.
The information passed on says the Tweet was done during the test and had a photo attached: It did not.
The student was contacted and deleted the Tweet.
The student’s parent was talked to.
The parent was very concerned to find their child’s social media had been monitored this way.
Bob Braun wrote a piece about the affair.
Bob’s blog suffers a Denial of Service (DoS) attack by unknown hacktivist/s.
People discuss Pearson’s use of Tracx to “monitor and listen” to what people are saying about them on social media.
Tracx gets their Pearson page taken down.
Pearson put out a press release saying they behaved perfectly responsibly….
Sources and further reading:
Tracx and Pearson (This is a cached copy, in case it’s still down)
Bob Braun on Twitter
Bob Braun on Facebook
Grand rhetoric and promises that are not realised are the order of the day for charterisation. Failures are papered over, successes exaggerated, and public schools demonised. All of this to push charter schools over public schools.
Ask yourself why anyone would do this.
Who does it serve?
And my advice… follow the money.
After 9 years, only 4 of the 107 schools taken over by the Recovery School District and made into charters are above the state average.
Now parents have to enter a lottery for a school place and hope for the best. Their children can be bused all over the city. One mother is reported to have 5 children in 5 different schools. She did not choose this. The system forced it upon her.
Who Does Charterisation Serve?
Charterisation has not brought choice or improvement. Nothing has improved. The promise of a better system was a lie. The promise of choice was a lie. The only people to benefit here are those running the charter schools.
A Perfect Storm: The Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools reveals the real story behind the creation of the USA’s first all-charter school district.
“The lie is simply this: ‘We want you to have choice…. But we are going to
set the parameters of the choice and then convince you you have it’.”
~ Steve Monaghan, President, L.A. Federation of Teachers
Selling charter schools as the great hope while all the time undermining public schools should act as a red flag to parents.
Again, ask yourself why anyone would do this and who it serves.
Two US organisations are challenging the charter school system, with accusations that it promotes segregation and inequality:
“Charter schools are often promoted as a tool to address educational inequities, but a potential precedent-setting legal case launched earlier this month says the opposite. In filings with the U.S. Department of Education, two Delaware nonprofit groups allege that some of the state’s publicly funded, privately managed schools are actively resegregating the education system — and in a way that violates federal civil rights law.
The complaint, by the Delaware branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Community Legal Aid Society, cites data showing that more than three-quarters of Delaware’s charter schools are “racially identifiable” — a term that describes schools whose demographics are substantially different from the surrounding community.
According to the complaint, “High-performing charter schools are almost entirely racially identifiable as white” while “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….””
Sixty years after the historic Brown v. Topeka Board of Education banned segregated supposedly separate-but-equal schooling, it seems there is still some way to go to achieve equity in education.
This is chaos. It has nothing to do with improving education.
More and more parents are opting their children out of state-wide testing in the USA.
Well done, Natalie’s dad – I like your style.
Thank you to Natalie for permission to use this image.
Charter schools are sold with the promise of innovative teaching, greater freedom, and the magical word “choice”. And it’s fair to say that in some cases they deliver. Some charter schools do great things, as do some state schools, so what’s the problem?
The charter school promise all to often fails to match the delivery.
PR, sound bites and glossy brochures might sell a school as doing amazing things. The desks might be new, and you might get your uniform paid for or other benefits that individual parents find hard to resist, especially if they are having trouble making ends meet as it is. And some of those schools will be doing just what they say they are, a good job.
But far too many aren’t, and the level of fraud, mismanagement and dirty doings that is uncovered on a weekly basis is staggering.
In too many cases worldwide, we have seen that corporate greed and money-grubbing individuals use charters as just another opportunity to rort the system for profit.
The truth is, the charter school system is all too often co-opted by charlatans.
Rupert Murdoch gleefully declared for-profit public education “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” Be under no illusion, the businessmen and corporates are already poised to cash in on your tax dollars. They have only one thing in mind – profit.
However, even worse than that is the fact that so much money is stolen or misappropriated.
Between the frauds and the lavish wages, lunches and perks given to certain staff, it’s bewildering how much education money fails to be used for education!
As one observer noted:
It might be an overstatement to say that some operators use charter schools as their own personal piggy banks, but then again a recent corruption scandal… illustrates just how easy it is for money to flow from charter schools to private individuals.” Source
Indeed, and that flow seems all too often to be more of a flood.
Let’s focus on the issue of fraud and money mismanagement.
A recent report Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, & Abuse found that over US$100Million is misappropriated in charter schools in the USA.
Things are so bad in the USA that the FBI are involved. Just take a look at just some of the cases FBI were involved in during the past year alone:
And it’s not just the USA charter schools that have this problem.
In England, where charter schools are called ‘Academies’, there has also been a staggering number of cases of both poor management and fraud:
Overseas charter school chains already have their eye on Aotearoa.* Given the levels of fraud in overseas charters – of which the above list is but a drop in the ocean – how can we ensure our taxes are not squirreled off by the unscrupulous?
I’m sure those running charters honestly are as frustrated by fraud and mismanagement as those who don’t want charter schools at all. The trouble is, the system is set up in such a way that makes them a prime target for rogues of all stripes.
Which begs the question, when it comes to fraud, will New Zealand’s charter school system fare any better than overseas?
* KIPP , for example, sent over a representative to meet Hekia Parata and tour New Zealand just as charter schools were being legislated for.
See also: The Great City Academy Fraud, by Francis Beckett
The problem is that
The University of Arkansas (UARK) recently produced a report that concluded US charter schools, despite being terribly underfunded, were performing favourably compared to US state schools, being only slightly behind state schools in test scores.
The report has, of course, been trumpeted by our own lovely right wing blogs here in NZ as proof that charter schools are the way forward. Predictably, Kiwiblog and the like were not so fast to look at criticisms of the University of Arkansas’s research.
In School Finance 101: UARK Study Shamelessly (& Knowingly) Uses Bogus Measures to Make Charter Productivity Claims, Bruce D. Baker picks the claims apart in great detail.
Note: Baker’s analysis is not a swift overview or cherry picking from a blogger, pundit or journalist playing to the crowd. He is well placed to critique the research – he is a Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he teaches courses in school finance policy and district business management. The report was produced by the National Education Policy Centre at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The report found that student performance at charter schools is roughly on par with public school performance.
The research relied primarily on one standardized test, the NAEP. Researchers took NAEP scores in reading and math from 28 states, then broke them down by schools’ funding per student. It concluded that, as charter schools tend to have lower budgets than public schools, they can be deemed to perform better dollar for dollar,
Baker’s critique pointed out that “among other things … making comparisons of charters schools to district schools statewide is misguided – deceitful in fact” as the schools being compared are not in the same settings. Therefore, to take just one factor in isolation is not rigorous or reliable.
Of the methodology used by the researchers, Baker concludes they either show”an egregious display of complete ignorance and methodological ineptitude, or this new report is a blatant and intentional misrepresentation of data” as the analysis is so faulty.
Baker states that the report ‘constructs entirely inappropriate comparisons of student population characteristics’
He goes on to say that” the report displays complete lack of understanding of intergovernmental fiscal relationships, which results in the blatantly erroneous assignment of “revenues” between charters and district schools.”
“Simply put, the findings and conclusions of the study are not valid or useful.”
Baker’s full report and analysis is here.
Ted Kolderie is a senior associate with Education Evolving, an education policy nonprofit, and has worked on charter school research for years. Kolderie says “This is the kind of quote-unquote ‘study’ we’ve been seeing for years that falls into the category of ‘advocacy research,’ and to take it with a grain of salt.
There are other serious concerns. We have to question the impartiality of research that comes from the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, which was established and is funded in part by The Walton Foundation, a huge proponent of charter schools and where one of the researchers in the team was recruited directly from a conservative think tank.
The Walton Foundation has its fingers well and truly in the charter school pie and is incredibly vested in their success:
So, when reading the railings of our rather interesting right wing bloggers, extolling the virtues of charter schools as proven by research like this, it pays to look into things in more detail.
Given the choice between the analysis of Baker, Kolderie and the New York Times or that of Whale Oil and Kiwiblog, I know which I find more reliable.
Sources and further reading:
To apply for a school place, parents must use the OneApp system. Before that system was introduced, parents had to send in individual applications to all the schools they were interested in, and then hope. The OneApp system was brought in to make things easier and prevent any “funny business” taking place regarding who got what place.
Sadly, it’s not all gone to plan.
Parents interviewed by the Nola Defender, were not happy at all: “Yesterday, I got there at 7am and by 10, they told me to go home because there was already 300 people inside and they couldn’t take anymore,” she said. “Today, I got here at 8 and it took me about 4 hours to get this done.”
And it’s not exactly improved choice, despite reformers’ constant battle cry that charter schools and reforms are ALL about choice. One mother finally got her children “into a school on the West Bank, despite the fact that they reside on the East Bank.” In fact, after days of queueing, no toilets, no shade, and pure frustration “at this point, most parents are simply settling for any school that their children can attend despite being told that they have a choice in placement with the open enrolment policy.”
This from Karran Harper Royal:
This week we saw major problems with the RSD’s One App system.
Contrary to popular belief, most parents were not in that line simply because they waited too long to apply for a school for their child. What we saw can also be attributed to the state takeover our our public school system and place it into control of people who don’t have to answer to the people of New Orleans through our democratic process.
Due to the takeover, parents no longer have a right to a public school and must apply to have a seat in any school.
New families moving to New Orleans who may have completely unaware that they needed to start the process months ago were also among those in the lines.
Giving children a guaranteed right of first refusal to schools in their neighborhood is one way to remove the angst and stress families face in applying to schools.
This does not mean students would be trapped in failing schools, after all, we now have fewer failing schools if you believe what the current propaganda is telling you. Isn’t this why the RSD keeps closing schools, to get rid of failing schools. This means children have a greater chance of going to a non failing school in their neighborhood.
This short 5:42 documentary [below] shows you how all of this got started.
When it comes to competition and choice, charter schools are failing New Orleans’ Recovery School District, just as they are when it comes to improving education.
But of course, someone came out of it okay…. those running the schools.
Look at the job the power companies have done – Privatisation is not necessarily better for the consumer.
And in this case, the consumers are our children – the next generation.
And whilst some politicians and businesses are all for a privatised education system, teachers and parents are not. Ask yourself why that might be? Last time I looked, teachers and parents weren’t in it for the money…
Look to what has happened and is happening in overseas public education systems that have been ‘reformed’:
“The Swedish school system is often cited by Michael Gove as a model of best practice. However, like America its experiment with for-profit education has had disastrous consequences.
In May, JB Education, one of the largest for-profit education providers in the country went bust leaving the future of 10,000 pupils in limbo.
Ibrahim Baylan, the education spokesman for Sweden’s opposition Social Democratic party, says closures should come as a warning to the UK not to slavishly adopt the Swedish model, where private companies can set up profit-making free schools, paid for by the state but with little government oversight:
“Before you do something like this you have to really, really think about how you set up the system. The system here is not working as it’s supposed to work. Nobody could foresee that so many private equity companies would be in our school system as we have today.””
“Despite consuming billions every year in taxpayer-funded student loans for-profit universities have a terrible record of success. Only one in five students graduate, and students at for-profit colleges are much more likely to default on their loans. This is partly a result of their recruitment practices, with for-profit colleges often targeting people (including the homeless) who simply do not have the financial resources to pay loans back.
The US’ experience of allowing for-profit companies to run schools (often described as the CharterSchool movement) has also been mired in controversy.
Former Under-Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, who served under George Bush and Bill Clinton and was an initial supporter of Charter Schools, came up with the following summary:
“Charter schools are leading us to having a dual school system again. We’re going back to the period before Brown v. Board of Education, but the differentiation in the future will be based on class instead of race.
“Corporations aren’t going to put more money into the school, they’re only going to make money. This should make people in America angry. There ought to be a public uprising about this effort to destroy public education.””
“[The Agency] needs to do more to address potential conflicts of interest in academies.
We were concerned that individuals with connections to both academy trusts and private companies may have benefited from their position when providing trusts with goods and services. The Agency has reviewed 12 such cases but it is likely that many more exist and have gone unchallenged”.”
Be very clear that what is happening in New Zealand is part of the global education reform movement (GERM) and is not isolated.
Worldwide, education systems are being broken up and handed over to businesses so that your taxes can go into private hands. Education does not improve, Students do not fare better.
A fragmented, secretive, and privatised system is not the best way.