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Charter Schools and Testing Collide

By jolly st nick in Op-Ed
Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 02:04:52 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

The education policy of the Bush administration is founded on two pillars: standardized testing and charter schools.

However, as reported in this New York Times article (see also the audio archive at NPR or nonsubscription coverage at the Boston Globe) , the US Department of Education's own testing data show that nationwide, charter schools are, in aggregate, lagging their public counterparts.


A charter school is a publicly funded, open enrollment school which is independently governed. That is to say, while it is locally funded, it is not under control of the local school board. Charter schools are sometimes run by ad hoc non-profit entities, and sometimes for profit companies that have established a charter school practice.

The key arguments for charter schools are choice and accountability. Without charter schools, parents are financially penalized for the choice to take their children out of failing public schools. Charter schools are designed to be more accountable because they they will be closed if they fail to meet their charter goals in a set period of time.

Another pro charter school argument, which has more narrow, politically based appeal, is that public school innovation is limited by the interference of teacher unions and local school boards. Charter schools can use non union teachers and operate independently of local control.

The argument against charter schools comes down to resources. When a student moves from a public district school to a charter school, he takes his per pupil share of funding with him. This includes both the marginal cost of educating him,and the overhead costs (support for administration, buildings and special programs). It is this loss of overhead funding that severely hurts already strained schools. Many states have mandated that local districts pay for expensive special services for disabled students such as assistants for blind students or special programs for emotionally disturbed children. The higher than average costs of these special students are spread over the entire student population -- it is in effect overhead. Since charter schools do not have to provide these programs, they get to "cherry pick" the cheapest students.

And, with respect to accountability, opponents point out that the closing of any school is so disruptive that charter schools are not closed for underperforming, only for financial fraud or total failure.

The Controversy

The charter school movement is about a decade old. Throughout the years, I have seen articles in my local papers (and sometimes in local papers when I have been travelling) to the effect that an individual charter school doesn't do any better or lags its district counterpart. However, charter school parents still tend to have a higher satisfaction level with their school in these articles.

This education department report shows these are not isolated incidents but part of a nationwide trend.

The response from charter school advocates that I've heard has followed several lines. First, that the data should be considered "baseline" data because most of the charter schools are just starting up. Second, that charter schools are concentrated in urban areas and disproportionately deal with students dealing with social stressors. And third, to cite individual charter schools that are doing better than their local district counterpart, or in some cases that charter schools in one region perform on par with their public counterparts.

The response by opponents to this data has been relatively restrained, mainly pointing out that in their view economic and social stresses on students combined with low overall per pupil funding levels are responsible for underperforming schools. In their view it is unsurprising that new schools under the same constraints do not perform any better.


The first argument against this data is that this should considered baseline data since most charter schools are new. However, while most charter schools are new, the charter school movement itself is not new. It should be possible for somebody to disaggregate this data and sort the schools by years of operation. There are some charter schools that are nearly ten years old. In particular, it would be interesting to look at schools in operation for four to six years, the period under which most charters envision reaching their educational goals. This would discard the more early adopters and show more what a typical new charter school can expect to achieve at around its target age. If the charter school proponents are right, then test scores should improve with the age of the school. However it will also be important to consider the impact of the failure rate of charter schools when considering the advisability of new ones.

The second argument is that charter schools are disproportionately located in stressed urban areas, and therefore we should expect charter schools on average to perform less well than averages that include wealthy suburban schools. The cynic in me wants to note the similarity of this argument to the ones defending failing urban public schools as a whole. However, if you could show that charter schools compare favorably when matched to district schools in similar circumstances, then the argument is valid. Unfortunately this is something of an imponderable without properly disaggregated data. At this point the federal government has not seen fit to promote disaggregated data that might answer this question. The NCES web site provides tools to query their data in various ways, but mostly for silly things like ranking your state in Mathematics scores. This is like concentrating on the national medal counts in the Olympics when what you are really interested in doing is coaching your swim team so it can swim like Michael Phelps. If the data showing charter schools vs. district is there, it's well hidden, which on the surface is surprising since charter schools are the foundation of this country's educational strategy. I think this calls for many eyeballs to search the site for really useful data.

A somewhat related argument is that charter schools often take children who are failing in district schools, and thus we would expect charter schools to score lower. What matters is the increased progress that these students make. However, one can also argue that charter schools are apt to take higher achievers because they attract students with greater parental involvement. The problem with arguments like these is that they may be true, and may have anecotal support, but there is no data to cite (or at least nobody is citing supporting data). There are plenty of stories about charter schools to pick from that can support twisting the data to fit our desired outcome.

The unfortunate situation we are in is that we just don't know how charter school populations differ from similar district school populations, much less how they stack up to schools with comparable populations.

The third argument, citing individual charter schools that are successes, obviously tells us nothing about whether the charter school approach is a good one overall. However it does raise yet another disaggregation question, perhaps the most important of all. Charter schooling is not an educational philosophy. It is an administrative one, under which schools are free to choose an educational philosophy. For example, my local charter school emphasizes discipline and conduct. Some schools choose to emphasize a particular subject area such as science or math, or a "three R's" curriculum grounded in basic skills. It is not surprising that a non-education centered philosophy should produce mixed results educationally. What would be interesting is to look at different factors such as educational approach and how they affect school performance against other schools matched by geography and demography.


The data that are readily available do not in my opinion tell the whole story yet. What we are at the beginning with is a long process of disovery. All the data we have now tell us is that charter schools are not a quick fix, which is an important lesson. They also raise the possibility that as a whole the charter school movement may not be such a good thing.

However, the lesson you get looking at the whole and looking at the parts may be different. I was never a fan of the charter school movement, but they are a reality today. Since we have gone down the road on the experiment, we should follow it to its logical conclusion. The first thing that should be done is to collect data that can distinguish between successful and unsuccessful charter school models. New charter schools that follow the unsuccessful models should be denied and existing schools using those models should reform. Likewise successful models should be transferred to traditional district schools.

Furthermore, if we look at this as an experiment, the negative consequences of this experiment must be controlled. If federal and state authorities believe that charter schools are the solution to schools in crisis, their solution should not deepen that crisis. They should fully fund all mandates such as special education, but especially those that apply to district schools but not charter schools. Funding should also be set aside to deal with the aftermath of failed schools that have closed.

Curiously, one thing that has not come up after this is the idea that test scores may not tell the whole story about a school. Recall that many parents in charter schools have a higher satisfaction rate, even though the scores may not be any better or in fact be somewhat worse. In part, this may be cognitive dissonance -- the fact that the parents chose the charter school may bias their opinions. But I truly think testing is not the whole story.

As an employer, I don't find that many people who have deficient basic skills in math and reading or technology. Deficient knowledge is not often a problem. Things like working effectively in a team are frequently a problem. And the ability to apply knowledge and skills in a practical way is rare. As a way of illustrating this distinction, let's consider a topic like robots. There's lots of people who can discuss robots as a social and economic phenomenon. Somewhat fewer who can discuss the electronics, mechanics or system principles that robots are built on. The number of people who could actually design and build a robot is vanishingly small.

I think schools are getting better at this kinds of experiential education. But there is still the trend to look at minds as passive repositories of facts and skills that must be filled at the highest possible rate. I think it is possible to create a person who has lots of basic skills and knowledge who scores high on tests but is totally dysfunctional as a citizen or worker in a demanding environment.

As a final thought, let me leave with this: perhaps we should not discount activities that encourage young people's use of imagination, creativity and self-direction, but cannot be measured readily on the kinds of tests we are using today. Why create a great experiment to release creative energies of educators, while confining the evaluation of its results completely to a narrow box? If we are to create standards, those standards must be broad enough to encompass imagination. Art, theater, music and extracurricular activities balance the kind fact and skill based testable knowledge to produce people who are fundamentally more effective at putting that knowledge and skill to work.


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Choose your favorite education reform
o Charter Schools/School Choice 18%
o Standardized Testing 0%
o Lower class size/Higher funding 44%
o Higher Teacher Standards 8%
o Eliminate Teacher Unions 12%
o Focus on 3Rs 4%
o Focus on Science and Math 4%
o Revive art education and extracurricular activities 8%

Votes: 49
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o New York Times article
o Boston Globe
o NCES web site
o Also by jolly st nick

Display: Sort:
Charter Schools and Testing Collide | 170 comments (127 topical, 43 editorial, 1 hidden)
Right. What? (2.61 / 13) (#31)
by sllort on Wed Aug 18, 2004 at 04:41:27 PM EST

The unfortunate situation we are in is that we just don't know how charter school populations differ from similar district school populations, much less how they stack up to schools with comparable populations.

Ok, we have no accurate data on their performance. Check.

All the data we have now tell us is that charter schools are not a quick fix, which is an important lesson. They also raise the possibility that as a whole the charter school movement may not be such a good thing.

And in addition, this total lack of data supports your personal bias. Shocker.

I work with a single black mother who sends her child to private schools at her own expense because she's terrified of the city school system (and rightfully so). I told her about a system called "vouchers" whereby she could get her share of school taxes to help with the cost she pays to send her child to private school. She thought this was a GREAT idea and didn't know why anyone hadn't told her about it. She ran around for a week talking about what a good idea it was until someone told her that "don't say that, that's Republican talk".

Now she's just confused.
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.

Please read more carefully (2.66 / 6) (#36)
by jolly st nick on Wed Aug 18, 2004 at 08:37:52 PM EST

before you choose to be rude.

Ok, we have no accurate data on their performance. Check.

Nope. We do have accurate data on their performance. We just don't know why it isn't as high as was expected. We can't rule out a number of scenarios that might explain this in a way that turns out to support the idea of charter schools as a quick and easy fix, but those scenarios make some pretty sweeping assumptions about data we don't have yet. In any case, what charter school advocates are pleading for is realism: improving schools are going to be a long hard slog.

And in addition, this total lack of data supports your personal bias. Shocker.

Well, what do you think my personal bias is?

What I am suggesting is that it would be a good thing to begin to collect and examine data on the charter school experiment rather than (A) trusting that the concept will work by magic or (B) dismissing all the energy and effort that has gone into the charter school movement.

I work with a single black mother who sends her child to private schools at her own expense because she's terrified of the city school system (and rightfully so). I told her about a system called "vouchers" whereby she could get her share of school taxes to help with the cost she pays to send her child to private school. She thought this was a GREAT idea and didn't know why anyone hadn't told her about it. She ran around for a week talking about what a good idea it was until someone told her that "don't say that, that's Republican talk".

Wonderful. Nothing like bringing a big steaming wad of distraction to the discussion.

[ Parent ]

Accurate data (none / 0) (#58)
by sllort on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:19:03 AM EST

Would be data that compared existing urban public school performance against existing urban charter school performance. Your article states that no such figures exist. Did I miss something?
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
No (2.33 / 3) (#60)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:59:11 AM EST

That would be precise data.

[ Parent ]
OT: Reason for 0 (none / 1) (#51)
by Kwil on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 01:14:42 AM EST

Page widening posts suck.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

[ Parent ]
damn straight (none / 0) (#54)
by MrLarch on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 01:54:29 AM EST

Those entities in the sig should be stripped; that is, if somebody ever notices how stupid it is to allow them after a rousing round of monocle polishing.

[ Parent ]
In all seriousness (none / 0) (#57)
by sllort on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:17:50 AM EST

Is my sig widening the page? I have not noticed this effect at all.
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
That's because on every story, the page widens. (none / 0) (#155)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 10:15:50 PM EST

You've become used to your widened page. If you and those like you stopped, we would gain back our concise, clear pages.

And... our freedom.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Vouchers (2.71 / 7) (#71)
by tgibbs on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 05:31:04 PM EST

I like the idea of vouchers. But there should be one crucial requirement: Any school that accepts vouchers must be prohibited from charging students any tuition in addition to the voucher. This prevents vouchers from being misused as a sneaky way of sucking money out of the public school system in order to subsidize the wealthy to send their kids to expensive private schools that are inaccessible to the poor.

[ Parent ]
Agreed (2.50 / 4) (#95)
by dn on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 01:40:20 AM EST

Any school that accepts vouchers must be prohibited from charging students any tuition in addition to the voucher.
I absolutely agree. Schools and all school-affiliated functions should be funded exclusively from taxes. This includes charging for tickets at athletic events, students supplying their own pencils, fundraiser sales, and so forth. Young people need to understand that they depend only on the government for their success.

    I ♥

[ Parent ]

I take it by inference then (none / 0) (#131)
by sllort on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 10:48:53 AM EST

That my coworker the single mom is wealthy.
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
Taking it by inference (none / 0) (#146)
by tgibbs on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 04:54:12 PM EST

Sounds like your inference engine needs a tuneup. Here's a start: If all men are mortal And dogs are mortal You cannot infer that dogs are men.

[ Parent ]
True (none / 1) (#154)
by sllort on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 01:16:00 PM EST

But if God slays all mortals He's gonna have more than just dead dogs on his hands.

Which was my point.
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

You know what we need? (2.50 / 2) (#43)
by ultimai on Wed Aug 18, 2004 at 11:06:19 PM EST

A more <u>efficient</u> school system. A school system that takes advantage of the unique capabilties that kids have during different stages of their lives. You teach them the 3Rs. You take advantage of the fact that very young kids absorb languages by osmosis when completely immersed in one (rather than by teaching them in the ineffective ways done in high schools).

One that cuts the crap and not have burnt out teachers who are frustrated with the politics, unionism and paranoid/ivory tower policy makers. One that isn't really lame in implimenting new educational innovations and pirorities. One that teaches what is needed effectively and doesn't waste a few years in doing it.

Efficiency is good (2.50 / 4) (#44)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:05:50 AM EST

Which reminds me of the opening scene of Animal House, where we see the statue of the college founder, with the inscription "Knowledge is Good".

One of the things you could do to improve efficiency is to eliminate summer vacation. It's an obsolete relic of the days when we were an agricultural society and children were needed for farm work. It has a huge impact on educational progres. Don't you remember coming back every September and having to review everything you'd forgot? You end up repeating about half the year.

The problem is, looking back as an adult, would you trade all those summers you had as a kid for a few years advantage in school?

[ Parent ]

I'd trade all those years in school (2.75 / 4) (#45)
by MrLarch on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:16:02 AM EST

for a few of actually learning something.

Don't let schooling interfere with your education.  Mark Twain

[ Parent ]

Taught yourself to read, did you? ;-) n/t (none / 1) (#49)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:41:06 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Not really (2.25 / 4) (#50)
by MrLarch on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 01:05:22 AM EST

My parents helped, as did things like golden books (one day the riches of eBay will be mine). I certainly could read before I got to kindergarten. That must've been why it was so boring.

[ Parent ]
Similar story here (2.33 / 3) (#61)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 11:02:37 AM EST

I was "reading" before Kindergarten. So was my wife. Both my childred could read quite a bit before K. I

This doesn't mean that I was ready for Shakespeare or Thomas DeQuincy by the time I entered elementary school.

[ Parent ]

I have a pink elephant whistle (2.40 / 5) (#105)
by curien on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 11:48:02 AM EST

It keeps pink elephants away. I know it works because there aren't any pink elephants in my neighborhood.

This sig is umop apisdn.
[ Parent ]
Funny thing about teaching to read... (none / 0) (#169)
by Hillgiant on Fri Sep 10, 2004 at 06:04:50 PM EST

I failed reading class for reading in class. Reading a book that was two grades above "level". You are not there to learn to read. You are there to read what they tell you.

"It is impossible to say what I mean." -johnny
[ Parent ]

Yes, that's exactly what schools need. (2.66 / 9) (#65)
by scanman on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:19:17 PM EST

You know what I need? A million dollars and a spaceship.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

Charter School (2.00 / 2) (#46)
by Robo210 on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:16:06 AM EST

I must say, as one who currently attends a charter school (The Charter School of Wilmington) your results about testing being lower then public schools seem wrong. The school I attend is THE number one school in the state (DE), and one of the top in the nation. Granted students going here must test into the school, and its main focus is on math / science, however, the school does great in all subject areas. If it where not for this school and the other charter schools cropping up around the state, Delaware would sink much lower in its school system rankings. Yet for some reason the state wishes to close down the charter schools, as they seem to be draining the brightest kids from the public school systems. It seems like, given a chance, charter schools can really excel past the public school offerings.

Magnet school vs. Charter school (2.50 / 2) (#48)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:40:15 AM EST

Most chater schools are open enrollment.

You seem to be in something of a hybrid magnet school/exam school/charter school. In general, you must expect that exam schools are going to do better than selective schools, no matter what the curriculum or teaching is like. Anybody who's gone to MIT can tell you that.

Now since you are in a science and math exam school, I have a riddle which illustrates the danger of careless aggregation.

Airline A is on time 90% of the time and airline B is on time 70% of the time. But your chance of having an on time flight is greater if you fly B than A. How can this be?

[ Parent ]

Riddle (none / 0) (#79)
by Robo210 on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 07:43:44 PM EST

Ok, as for that riddle, I'm gonna guess that if Airline B flys many more flights then Airline A, then the chances of getting on an on time flight would be better then with A.

[ Parent ]
Riddle - nope (this is a good one) (none / 1) (#88)
by jolly st nick on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 07:06:21 PM EST


Let's stipulate this: airline A and B fly exactly the same number of flights overall.

I'll simplify this and include a fat hint here by adding an additional simplification: A and B are point to point airlines that fly direct from one city to the next. Let's say that I always have a choice between A and B, but I'm always better off choosing B. Yet when the numbers are aggregated, A comes out looking better.

Note -- this riddle has no trick or twist. It points out a real way that averaging data can lead you to the wrong conclusions (which is why I keep harping on disaggregation in the article).

[ Parent ]

I suspect (none / 0) (#93)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:45:26 AM EST

It's because you haven't explained how "on time" is calculated.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Any way you want to specify it. (none / 0) (#144)
by jolly st nick on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 04:27:48 PM EST

It doesn't matter. Number don't lie, but they sure can mislead.

[ Parent ]
My guess (none / 0) (#98)
by Polverone on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 04:06:24 AM EST

For the subset of flights that you actually make, B is more likely to be on time, even if A is the better performer averaged across all flights.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
Nope again (none / 0) (#143)
by jolly st nick on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 04:27:09 PM EST

See curil's response where he has it nailed. It is possible for one airline to beat another on every head to head match up but the raw aggregate data to make it look worse.

[ Parent ]
Innumeracy (none / 1) (#121)
by curril on Sun Aug 22, 2004 at 03:03:09 PM EST

More people need to read John Allen Paulos. His works are readable and provide accessible explanations to situations like this one. Or Public/private/charter schools should do a better job of teaching this stuff.

To answer the question, different destinations may have different probabilities of delays. For instance, Dallas probably has fewer weather related delays than Chicago. If airline A has the majority of its flights going to low delay destinations, while airline B primarily serves high delay destinations, then B will have a lower overall on-time percentage even if for any particular destination B has fewer delayed flights. There are other ways to explain this--strikes, policy changes, etc., but I think that this explanation is what the parent was going for.

Actual (contrived) example:
A on-time---885---------15
A delayed----90---------10
B on-time---150--------550
B delayed----10--------290

In this example, airline A was on time 91% of the time to Sunnyville and 60% of the time to Snowville. Airline B was on time 94% of the time to Sunnyville, and 65% of the time to Snowville. Yet out of a thousand flights, A was delayed on only 100 of them while B was delayed on 300 of them.

[ Parent ]

Bingo! (none / 1) (#142)
by jolly st nick on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 04:22:54 PM EST

Excellent. You go to the head of the class.

I love this example, because it shows the perils that using a big fat average as an easy way to judge between two alternatives. It'a also directly applicable to the issue at hand: Charter school advocates are claiming, in effect, that they are flying most of their flights out of Snowville and the district schools are flying their flights out of Sunnyville. The charter school critics say the opposite is true.

This is why I think it is premature to declare the Charter school experiment a failure. However, since we have no reason to believe one or the other hypothesis at this date, these results should motivate us to examine the disaggregated data and separate the apples and oranges for more individualized consideration.

[ Parent ]

What class? (none / 0) (#157)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 10:36:26 PM EST

This is k5, and you're the author! You're not allowed to have opinions.

You must sit there and leave us alone while we, the community, expertly tease out every little nuance of your failure, and lightly stroke the real meat of your story to make it grow into something interesting.

Unless you're localroger, then it's more the other way around. (hey there lr.)

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

muddled question? (none / 0) (#119)
by bafungu on Sun Aug 22, 2004 at 08:04:39 AM EST

If, when B is late, they're on average one minute late, but when A is late they're on average three hours late, I'd go with B.

If this is what you meant though, it means that you were using different meanings of "on time" (binary on-time versus quantitative on-time) in the first and second sentences of your riddle, which isn't nice.

[ Parent ]

How many retarded kids go to your school? (3.00 / 5) (#56)
by Wah on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:03:00 AM EST

Just curious.

umm, holding, holding...
[ Parent ]
assumption (none / 1) (#73)
by mattw on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 06:18:09 PM EST

Yet for some reason the state wishes to close down the charter schools, as they seem to be draining the brightest kids from the public school systems.

Every wonder why, with the amazing range of ability and interests found in humans, children are grouped solely by age and forced through the same cirriculum regardless of interest or ability?

That's clearly not the way to succeed at educating them. So what is the motivation? If you can answer that, you might be able to decide why the state would want to close down the successful charter schools, especially if they started attracting brighter students.

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]

Charter Schools Are The Answer? (none / 0) (#76)
by freestylefiend on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 07:11:22 PM EST

State education is highly deficient. Are charter schools really any better? The same moneyed interests control education either way.

[ Parent ]
Closing down school (none / 0) (#81)
by Robo210 on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 08:13:22 PM EST

Ok, I'm gonna take a guess that, while maybe not the response you are looking for, the charter schools in the state are making the public school systems look silly, and are taking funding from the public school systems away. The school I attend takes receives some funding from the school district it sits in and some from large corporations, and the scores for the school count towards that district. Yet I think that the main reason is that the other public schools have been made to look bad. The charter schools are embarassing the rest of the state.

[ Parent ]
partially (none / 1) (#84)
by mattw on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 03:49:09 PM EST

I'm sure people aren't happy the public schools are looking bad. But is that the charter schools' fault, or theirs?

Do some research into how the typical school cirriculum has changed in the past 50 years, and you'll probably get a better idea.

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]

-1, since ... (1.69 / 26) (#47)
by Peahippo on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:33:23 AM EST

... anyone who seeks to condemn or even question alternatives to our thug factories (i.e. "public schools") should be laughed off the forum in disgrace. THIS MEANS YOU, "jolly st nick". Haaaaahaaahaaahaaaa ... don't let the door hit you on the ass.

The public school system across America is so broken that at the advent of the Second Iraq War in 2003, half of polled America thought that Iraq had something to do with 9-11. People commonly "buy" homes that they obviously will never be able to pay off. Municipalities are gearing up to tax themselves to death. The examples of pervasive stupidity are endless. The public is apparently a colossal mass of morons who are incapable of forming thoughts beyond their lusts and fears. So what can I observe from this?: They were brought up through the public schools. To them, a book is more likely to be used to prop up the TV than anything else.

I don't care one jot or whit about academic whinings about whatnot or whichever metric that seems to fail in the charter schools. I don't care, since a group of chimpanzees (much like the current American President) squatting in the forest tossing turds at each other would arguably be as effective in educating the populace as America's public schools have. Charter schools by comparison cannot perform any worse.

Bill Cosby had it right. Instead of a public school system, we have constructed a manufacturing line for nigger thugs. The inner-city grade schools in my city (Toledo OH) show single- to low-double- digit test grades. These aren't children. They are borderline animals. Instead of Iraq, this "education" system itself should be bombed, burned and razed to the ground, after all the thug-trainees are sent back to their thug parents (with strict curfew). After all, TV is the primary educator in their lives, in between breaks mounting their sisters ... so they may as well just stay home.

A related tangent (2.71 / 7) (#52)
by Rot 26 on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 01:38:35 AM EST

It's interesting to see the parallels between Bush's education plan and the Texas educational system. The public educational system in Texas, more than any other state is very specifically geared towards "the tests" and as such the Texas public school system has some of the highest test scores in the country. However, when the system is examined on a less superficial level, it is clear that while their test scores are high, their system is rather ineffective in actually educating their students. Not to say Texas's system is awful or anything, surely even despite the fact that they seem to value their test scores above what their students actually learn their system is still above average -- it's not like academic tests are completely out of touch with teaching students, they're just not the only thing you need to care about.

Also, a short anecdote about Texas public schooling: My aunt (who is a teacher) had a friend who taught English in Texas for a few years. Like many English teachers, she decided to bring a bundle of her own books into school which she kept on a shelf in her classroom. Soon after she brought these books in another teacher took notice and told her that she wasn't allowed to have books that hadn't been cleared by the librarian. When she took her books to the librarian there were a number of books which the school's librarian decided were inappropriate for the school, going mostly by the "banned books list" (a notoriously over-zealous listing of books deemed inappropriate for children, including many favorites such as Harry Potter, Where's Waldo, most Roald Dahl books, etc.).

She has since left Texas because of policies like that.
2: A website affiliate program that doesn't suck!
Dropout rates faked (3.00 / 7) (#55)
by jongleur on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 04:50:33 AM EST

On PBS there was a show on how in one Texas school system, dropout rates were low because administrators fiddled the books, 'transferring' failing students (with no cross-check on the destination, somehow) and the like. It was speculated that the whole Texas miracle, and Bush's famed results could be frauds (not on Bush's part). I think the punchline was that the head of the system must have known, and is now Bush's Education Secretary.

But the point was made; reward and punish numbers heavily and you'll get those numbers, whether they continue meaning what they used to or not.
"If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil
[ Parent ]

Rod Paige in Houston Texas (3.00 / 3) (#80)
by Wah on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 08:00:13 PM EST

Here's the original article from the NYC.

Students that were doing poorly, or dropped out, or whatever, were simlpy classified under a special category that didn't show up on the balance sheet.

A class starts with 1500 kids, 800 graduate, and yet there is a less than 5% drop out rate.  "It's a miracle!"

Nope, no miracle, just the newmath that goes along with the newspeak.  
umm, holding, holding...
[ Parent ]

OT: Related to the school voucher concept? (none / 0) (#59)
by joib on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:58:21 AM EST

I hadn't heard about this charter school thing before, but it sounds vaguely like a half-hearted version of the "school voucher" concept originally proposed by Milton Friedman. I.e. instead of a bureocratic and inefficient government monopoly on education, let the market sort it out and give money earmarked for schools to parents (as schooling is beneficial to society as a whole).

I think the basic idea is good, but I don't know how well it would work out in practice. One problem could be that in rural areas there wouldn't be enough competition between schools to give them incentives to do any better than the current public schools.

Different idea (2.50 / 2) (#62)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 11:23:41 AM EST

But related philosophy. The idea is to improve schools using competition. Only in the case of vouchers, you could take your per pupil cost and put towards tuition at any school, particularly private and religious schools. The voucher may cover only part of the tuition. For example a few measley thousands isn't going to make much of a dent at Phillips Academy, but as they say, every little bit helps.

The charter school concept is more limited. You can't just take your share resources and go to any school you want. Instead, charter schools must be chartered by the state (which excludes religious academies). Since the states control the charters, the situation may vary from state to state, but in my state the charter schools don't charge above the per pupil rate the public school gets. You just take your public chips and move them to the charter school, you don't have to ante up more.

The arguments over vouchers have all the features of the arguments over charter schools, plus an additional set of issues.

The hot button issue is funding of religious schools. Vouchers are a particularly popular idea among people who send their children to religious schools like Catholic parochial schools. The question is whether this is a step on the slippery slope towards state establishment of religion. Or perphas a step on the slope toward state regulation of religious schools.

The next issue is whether this allows public money to be spent on substandard education. For example, vouchers potentially take the issue of teaching creationism out of the public debate. Parents can vote with their feet. Whether this strikes you as a good or bad thing determines whether you think vouchers are a good idea.

Then there is the race to the bottom issue. Vouchers can't cover the full cost at every kind of school. If some parents have to pony up extra dough to get their kids educated, wouldn't it tbe fair to make all of them? Why not keep property taxes low by keeping vouchers low? There's a juicy class warfare angle on this too: wealthy parents in expensive houses benefit more as vouchers and property taxes drop; poor families benefit more as voucher levels rise. Depending on how strongly you feel about redistributing resources for some broader social purpose, you're either loving vouchers or hating them.

[ Parent ]

Rich and poor (none / 1) (#70)
by A55M0NKEY on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 05:01:10 PM EST

Why not keep property taxes low by keeping vouchers low? There's a juicy class warfare angle on this too: wealthy parents in expensive houses benefit more as vouchers and property taxes drop;

Of course, class disparity is already a problem under the current voucherless system. Rich folks tend to live amongst rich folks with high property values, and poor folks tend to live in poor neighborhoods with low property values. The public schools of rich folks already tend to be much better than the schools of poor folks for this reason. Broadening of the tax base would hurt schools in affluent areas while benefitting schools in poor areas.

If poor folks comprised a voting majority in a property tax jurisdiction, then they could force the rich folks to pay more. However, rich folks tend to congregate in exclusive areas where they often comprise the voting majority. Poor folks have no choice but to live amongst their own class. Even with a low property tax rate, rich areas are able to fund schools at a much higher level than poorer areas.

[ Parent ]

Homeschooling (2.33 / 3) (#63)
by haydentech on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 11:42:52 AM EST

More reason than ever to homeschool...

Yes (2.75 / 4) (#68)
by aphrael on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 03:59:21 PM EST

if you've got the resources that allow one member of the family to not work.

[ Parent ]
No. (2.50 / 2) (#75)
by CorwIn of Amber on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 06:44:47 PM EST

That should read "Yes - If the parents can afford to pay a private teacher, because it's SO much better than any sort of schoool (at least for genius kids whose social skills are limited to "get beaten [period])".

And I speak from personal experience.

If I'd gone in a school for kids who are much more intelligent than average (I was a true miracle at that time) I'd probably have a couple PhD's by now, instead of a worse-than-worthless piece of paper that basically says I can build a computer... Moreover, anyone can be taught in a week what I was supposed to learn (and already knew, mind you) in two years.

When I was little, all I could say of "the others" was that they beat me. And that's it. And that was it until I turned fifteen, by which time I way too depressed to even notice.
Shortly after, I was expelled from the expensive, elite school I was in, pretty much only because of underachievement.
End of story : I ended up in a zoo, two years behind where I should have been at that age, and got out of that with the "diploma" described above.
Then I failed a year in CompSci (ended it learning German). Then another year in CS. Then I went to work for a year (ended up back in Germany instead).
Now I'm 23, with a secondary school diploma and no ability to study anything, even if I love the stuff being taught. (Not needing to study, or not doing it anyway, during 14 years doesn't help.)
I'm going back to CS in September. Might produce better results than before now that I'm not depressive anymore...

-Do you realize the suicide rate we'd have if people killed themselves just because they're stupid?
-Yes, an acceptable one.

[ Parent ]
So close the failing schools (2.00 / 5) (#64)
by cestmoi on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:05:06 PM EST

I don't understand what the problem is here. If a charter school or public school is doing a miserable job teaching, shut it down or replace the staff.

The schools that are doing a good job like Gretchen Whitney or Pacific Collegiate should be allowed to do whatever they wish as they continue to deliver outstanding results. Whitney started out as a magnet school, PC is a charter school so the idea that all alternative public schools are worthless is tripe.

Shut down the failures, reward the successful schools, allow new schools to form as old ones fail and pretty soon you'll have more successful schools than failing schools.

There's a numerical problem. (2.75 / 8) (#67)
by aphrael on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 03:59:02 PM EST

If more than half the schools are doing a substandard job - which is certainly implied by the testing results - what happens when you shut down half of the schools? Where do the kids go? Where does the new staff come from?

This is a logistical nightmare of the first-order, and it's entirely possible that a substandard education is preferable to no education at all.

[ Parent ]

Control the numbers (none / 1) (#82)
by cestmoi on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 08:31:41 PM EST

You can control the extent of the problem by capping the number you shut down each year.

Before charter schools, the number shut down was zero. Without allowing new school formation, you end up with a bunch of schools that get paid to operate no matter how poor a job they do. That doesn't make any sense to me at all.

[ Parent ]

It's a wash! (2.75 / 4) (#66)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 03:09:54 PM EST

The available data authorizes only one substantive conclusion at this point: merely converting a school from the traditional model, where it is part of a larger adminstrative district, to the charter model, where it is independently administered, has no significant effect on aggregate test scores.

The AFT, whose report is the source of the information used in the Times article, is engaging in unadulterated spin when it concludes, no matter how tentatively, that charter schools underperform relative to traditional schools. Their own study acknowledges that when controlling for race, any measurable difference in performance between the two types of schools is statistically insignificant (charter schools enroll black students at roughly double the rate of traditional schools). Additionally, controlling for wealth and for urbanity both result in narrowing the measurable gap to near insignificant levels. No attempt is made to control for the aggregate effect of all three.

On the other hand, the available data does strongly suggest that the President's "No Child Left Behind" program will fail to improve underperforming schools, as it treats charter schools as a kind magic bullet which will fix the problems without need of any further intervention. The strongest arguments in favor of expanding the number of charter schools have always portrayed the change in administrative structure as a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. The goal is to attain greater pedagogic diversity and flexibility, but if schools simply change their administrative structure while remaining otherwise the same, we shouldn't expect to see any significant improvement.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

Re: Cherry picking (2.75 / 4) (#69)
by A55M0NKEY on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 04:33:28 PM EST

The higher than average costs of these special students are spread over the entire student population -- it is in effect overhead. Since charter schools do not have to provide these programs, they get to "cherry pick" the cheapest students.

Because special needs students cost more, they should garner more funding per student. It is an example of an 'unfunded mandate'. Funding schools according to the marginal cost of students based on their needs rather than on a per capita basis would eliminate this problem. Special needs students would then be worth more to schools.

It isn't the charter school's fault that the funding model is retarded. Rather than attacking the charter schools, attack the funds disbursement method.

How to define "special needs"? (3.00 / 4) (#106)
by curien on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:03:58 PM EST

So retarded kids get more funding? But that doesn't make sense; the cost-benefit ratio just isn't there. So should we spend extra money on the really smart kids? Well, that doesn't make sense either... they're already smart, it's the rest that need extra help. So we'll spend the extra money on the average kids. But wait... what's "special needs" about being average? Why should we "punish" an average performer for improving out of the average group?

This sig is umop apisdn.
[ Parent ]
Hamstrung (none / 1) (#72)
by n8f8 on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 05:56:42 PM EST

This was pretty much a forgone conclusion since the charter schools were hamstrung fro mthe start by operating under the same conditions, rules and unions that hose public schools.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
Theory? (2.50 / 2) (#74)
by mattw on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 06:24:01 PM EST

Not that I have an ounce of evidence to support this, but it would seem a possible theory. I wonder if anyone has anything that would prove or disprove it.

We know that testing is Bush's lynchpin issue with education. "Accountability". But charter schools are outside the regulation of the school board, and so it would follow that it is harder to impose a cirriculum that "teaches to the test". When increased testing for "accountability" was initiated, there was an outcry it would provoke "teaching to the test". Well, maybe it has... so the students in the traditional setting are performing better on tests despite actually knowing less.

Anyone have data to substantiate or disprove this idea?

[Scrapbooking Supplies]

I dont' think so (none / 0) (#77)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 07:23:41 PM EST

I'm not sure about this. I don't think Charter schools are exempt from No Child Left Behind. Furthermore, charter schools are chartered by the states they reside in. It's not likely that they are exempt from state mandated testing. They are only, AFAIK, free from local control.

[ Parent ]
yes (none / 1) (#85)
by mattw on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 03:50:49 PM EST

I'm assuming that they ARE still required to do the mandated testing. I'm implying, however, that they are less concerned with test results, and more concerned with real education; the lack of local control frees them to teach as they see fit, whereas the locally controlled schools "teach to the test", and score better but learn less.

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]
My daughter's take on it (2.66 / 9) (#78)
by mcgrew on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 07:27:48 PM EST

Patty's a senior this year. I had PBS's "Newshour" on last night and two women were debating this very topic.

"They're stupid!" she said. "What matters is the teacher, not the school. Some people just suck at teaching."

This is from a punk with a pretty good GPA who's suffered through incompetant teachers but obviously had a few good ones, too.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

Partially right, IMO (none / 1) (#107)
by curien on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:13:43 PM EST

I went to two highschools. The first one was poor and had a horrid administration. There were some awesome teachers there, though. My biology teacher was a retired physician, and my chemistry teacher had a PhD in chemistry. I had a great time in some of those classes, and I learned a great deal.

At the same time, my guidance counselors lied to me, they were incapable of scheduling my classes correctly (I missed the first two weeks of half my classes both school years while I found out which classes were offered which periods so I could fix my schedule), and there was a great deal of systemic racism.

I sort of switched schools later (it's a complicated situation) to a much more open, much more affluent school. A few of the teachers were really good, but I didn't see as many of the truly outstanding types that I'd seen at my previous school.

One thing I noticed was that the poor school with the administrative problems had a much harder time retaining the excellent teachers. Also, I (a very bright, rule-obeying student) was driven to cut classes simply because I hated being in the building. (I went to the frickin public library to read instead.)

So yes, individual teachers make a huge difference, but it's not the entirety of the situation.

This sig is umop apisdn.
[ Parent ]

Guidance Counselors (3.00 / 4) (#115)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 09:53:11 PM EST

Think of this: No one ever dreams of being a guidance counselor.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

It's a quandry (none / 1) (#113)
by X3nocide on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 08:24:29 PM EST

From a purely economic standpoint, if you can make more money practicing than teaching, then there should be a trend toward poor teachers, a brain drain. But you and I know there's more to it than that. Most everyone says they don't do it for the money. After all, if it was all about the money, they'd be managers at a McDonalds or something.

Its not just the teachers though. I once had the opportunity to listen to a man who'd earned his PhD and started his own chemical engineering company doing indirect emissions measurements (basically measuring things like sulfurus oxides in the air without being on the manufacturer's property or needing permission) during a highschool physics class. The lecture was directly preceeded by a story on how he had first offered to teach for the school, but the administration refused. Only after he had been rejected did he have to look for an alternative, like starting his own (now successful) company.

There's two things at work here: the current standard is deeply entrenched but broken, and there's no financial incentive to come in and change it. Teaching certificates aren't as difficult to come by as a Professional Engineering liscence, but they're still difficult to come by. And neither the Universities nor the state budgets are going to directly address the problem.

To tie it back to you (or your daughter's) thoughts, if your teacher sucks, why are they still there? Either the school doesn't know, doesn't care or can't do anything about it.

[ Parent ]

religious groups... (1.54 / 11) (#83)
by circletimessquare on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 08:32:59 PM EST

would love it if they could get the government to support their particular brand of insanity, whether it be catholic, muslim, mormon, southern baptist, etc...

fuck them

they are the problem in this world: little wahabi madrassas in this world, taking poor children and turning them into propagandized morons, able to spout whatever stupid rhetoric the pope or the latter saints or jimmy falwell thinks is important but unable to do math or read books

the whole charter school system mostly serves to just increase the violence and stupidity in this world

do religious schools help serve poor communities?

yes, of course they do

the same fucking stupid creeds also help to create the fucking poverty in the first place though with their teachings on marriage and human sexuality like birth control

so they are merely propagating whatever stupid catholic or moslem bullshit it is that keeps the poor, poor

fuck the fucking organized religions in this world: holding us all back and keeping our fellow man's mind hostage to some propaganda drilled into them as children

public schools do have a lot of problems

but i'll take all the problems in this world of the public schools that you can find over anymore of this moronic charter school bullshit and the religious factionalizing and propagandizing of our kids it represents

stupid fucking religious right

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

I realize it isn't really your style... (3.00 / 5) (#86)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 04:13:54 PM EST

...but you might want to actually read and process the article prior to going off half-cocked. You see, religion has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with charter schools. In fact, there isn't a single charter school of religious character anywhere in the country.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
hey man (none / 1) (#91)
by circletimessquare on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:36:34 AM EST

stop pissing on my soapbox ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
They're working on it. (2.50 / 2) (#97)
by waxmop on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 01:45:12 AM EST

It's no coincidence that the same party that supports charter schools also supports government funding of faith-based programs.
The threat of losing all of your shiny possessions is what keeps us slaves to the machine. --Parent ]
can i hear an amen? ;-P (nt) (none / 1) (#99)
by circletimessquare on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 04:54:02 AM EST

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
No coincidence they support bunker buster nukes (2.50 / 4) (#104)
by georgeha on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 11:28:30 AM EST

either. There's obviously a huge Republican conspiracy to test bunker buster nukes underneath charter schools.

Or maybe teacher's unions generally support the Democrats, which wouldn't endear them to Republicans, or is that too boring?

[ Parent ]

haha! (2.50 / 2) (#111)
by waxmop on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 03:30:44 PM EST

Yeah, that's way too boring. This is k5, not McLaughlin group. Anyway, I'm not going to track down links showing who paid the salaries of the lobbyists got pro-charter school laws passed, but I'm not alone in my crazy delusion that charter schools are cover for putting religion back in schools.
The threat of losing all of your shiny possessions is what keeps us slaves to the machine. --Parent ]
CTS and religion: always a circus! (none / 1) (#87)
by Polverone on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 05:52:16 PM EST

Why do people send their children to private (even religious) schools? Well, it's partially to provide religious instruction. I know you consider religions pure evil and would probably even ban religious indoctrination in the home if you could. But another big reason to send children to private schools is that the quality of education is higher. My exposure to students educated at private, religious elementary and high schools indicates that those students are significantly more educated (compared with public schools in the same area), on average, in reading and writing, mathematics, history, foreign languages, and the natural sciences with the exception of biology. In biology, they seem reasonably familiar with evolution and evolutionary explanations for biological phenomena, but they have an alternative special creation-based explanation for each one of those areas. These alternative explanations are not very convincing; they would quickly be shredded on talk.orgins. The ones who go on to study biology further will quickly discover the weakness of the creation-bolstering arguments that they heard as teens, if they haven't already found the weaknesses on their own.

It seems that teenage pregnancy/parenthood is about as common among private school students as public school students, so they're not doing a marvelous job. But I wouldn't say they are doing a worse job than public schools. Not all Christians are Catholics; many denominations permit birth control and sex simply for pleasure, though almost all want sex to be within marriage. The only real poverty-inducing doctrine I can see is one that encourages people to get married and have children without regard to financial considerations.

I do realize that anecdotal evidence is no match for statistics, so if you have statistics that show private-school pupils significantly lagging their public counterparts in basic areas like reading, writing, and mathematics, bring 'em on. I would also be curious to hear more about these bottom-of-the-barrel US private schools that churn out illiterate, innumerate, furiously breeding Bible zombies (assuming they aren't a figment of your imagination).

Of course

...they are the problem in this world: little wahabi madrassas in this world, taking poor children and turning them into propagandized morons, able to spout whatever stupid rhetoric the pope or the latter saints or jimmy falwell thinks is important but unable to do math or read books...

...i'll take all the problems in this world of the public schools that you can find over anymore of this moronic charter school bullshit and the religious factionalizing and propagandizing of our kids it represents

Indicates that you think that private schools teach kids nothing worth knowing and (later) that even if the private schools do better at teaching core subjects, you prefer public school problems over charter/private school successes if it saves kids from being "propagandized." You do realize that if the kids belong to anybody, they're aren't "ours" but rather "theirs" (the parents' or legal guardians')?
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Whose doctrine? (none / 1) (#148)
by Verax on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 07:48:36 PM EST

The only real poverty-inducing doctrine I can see is one that encourages people to get married and have children without regard to financial considerations.

I hope you aren't suggesting that this is a Catholic doctrine, because it isn't. First, the Catholic Church actually discourages people from getting married unless they are ready for marriage and and enter into it freely. A marriage that results from force or coersion is not valid.

Forcing people to have children is also not a Catholic doctrine. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2399 says that regulation of births is an aspect of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate reasons, however, do cause illigitmate means (e.g. direct sterilization, contraception) to become ok. A legitimate method would be Natural Family Planning (NFP), which boils down to avoiding sex during the 100 to 120 hour window where a woman is fertile. This is not the unreliable "rhythm method" as some like to suggest.

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
really? (none / 0) (#89)
by speek on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 09:13:11 PM EST

What did the Amish ever do to you?

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

the amish did this (none / 0) (#90)
by circletimessquare on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:33:33 AM EST


isn't it interesting how this religion of peace and nonviolence supports the likes of gw bush?

maybe they'll get drafted and have conscientious objector status overturned for their efforts, huh?

fundamnetalism is stupid, even the amish... nonviolent my ass

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

This is just like faith-based programs. (2.19 / 31) (#94)
by waxmop on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 01:33:59 AM EST

The discussions about breaking teachers unions and fostering competition among schools and encouraging innovation are all just smoke. Charter schools are really a method to re-establish prayer in schools by limiting oversight and standardization. Most charter-school supporters are suburban middle-class whites, who have the best public schools now. These same voters fight like hell to prevent their property taxes from leaving their suburban enclaves to fund poor inner-city schools.

The Evangelicals really believe that America is headed to hell very soon unless they can get everyone to accept JC as their savior and they're aiming at the next generation since this one is clearly lost. Listen to AM radio for a few hours the next time you're on the road if you think I'm being paranoid. They want Christian prayer in schools, a sex-ed curriculum that covers abstinence only, no discussion of homosexuality, and no mention of evolution.

When this really gets going, I think people in rural communities will be the first to lose any shot at a non-sectarian education. In some small town, the single Assembly of God charter school might just be the only school for 100 miles in any direction. The state will have fulfilled its obligation by funding the program, but the responsibility of providing the school becomes the market's responsibility instead of the state's.
The threat of losing all of your shiny possessions is what keeps us slaves to the machine. --

Why are most charter schools in the city? (2.66 / 3) (#103)
by georgeha on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 11:17:43 AM EST

if most of their supporters are the suburban white middle class? In my city, the greatest amount of parents unsatisfied with the public schools live in the city. Many suburban parents picked the suburbs for their high quality schools.

[ Parent ]
Way to completely miss the point nt (1.33 / 3) (#108)
by curien on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:18:29 PM EST

This sig is umop apisdn.
[ Parent ]
Way to make meaningless assertions [nt] (none / 0) (#110)
by waxmop on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 02:34:17 PM EST

The threat of losing all of your shiny possessions is what keeps us slaves to the machine. --Parent ]
As opposed to...? (2.00 / 3) (#122)
by CAIMLAS on Sun Aug 22, 2004 at 04:59:57 PM EST

Not saying that the "Christian right" is correct in establishing schools with "prayer in schools, a sex-ed curriculum that covers abstinence only, no discussion of homosexuality, and no mention of evolution", but how is it better than, "no prayer allowed in schools, a sex-ed curriculum that only teaches kids to 'be careful' alongside a blanket acceptance of homosexuality without making note of the drastic increase in the likelyhood of transmitting/receiving STDs while practicing it, and no mention of alternative forms of our scientific past besides evolution? Good way to keep an open mind.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

I'm not making a value judgement. (none / 1) (#147)
by waxmop on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 05:40:11 PM EST

Maybe Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are absolutely right and their methods are justified in order to prevent all those happy schoolchildren from spending eternity burning in the lake of fire. That's not what I'm arguing about though -- my point is just that I suspect that charter schools are really a method to sneak Christianity into public education, regardless of whether that's a good or a bad thing.
The threat of losing all of your shiny possessions is what keeps us slaves to the machine. --Parent ]
standardized schooling (1.75 / 4) (#96)
by collideiscope on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 01:42:01 AM EST

public schools suck. charter schools are the same thing in a slightly different dressing. both suck. set your kids free; let them self educate.

Hope is a disease. Get infected.
My own experiences (2.88 / 9) (#100)
by mcrbids on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 05:11:46 AM EST

I am a father of 5 home-schooled (Charter school supervised) kids. Here's what I've personally found.

1) My kids have not gone throught the "bind and grind" of the classroom environment. When tested, they either score very high or very low. They haven't been rigourously indoctrinated with a standardized history text, but consequently see history as a real past, with people doing what they felt was best or right, rather than a sequence of dates.

2) They are curious at the age of (for my oldeest) 15. I can't say how many times I've heard how wonderful it is to work with my kids because they "want to know". or "are curious". It's interesting - they score all over the place on tests (either way above, or below the "norm") attend community college, and are curious. What good is teaching kids when, in the process of learning, they lose the capacity for ufrther learning?

3) Whereas school kids are taught formulas, we've taought our kids comprehensive analysis. Thus, they come up with some very creative answers to problems presented. I've been shocked at how some intermediate problems have been solved (CORRECTLY) with a completely different line of reasoning!

In short, I wouldn't be surprised if my children scored badly in standardized testing. As "Charter school" students, they've not only been taught to teach outside the box, they are generally unaware of the box in the first place but thhat won't show well on a typical (do the formalua) type testing.

If you want to compare them to public-schooled children, fine. Just realize that since the goals we, as parents and educators of our children are different than public schools, don't try to compare our success as to whether or not we achieved public school ends, but whether or not we've achieved our own goals.
I kept looking around for somebody to solve the problem. Then I realized... I am somebody! -Anonymouse

Hmm... (2.66 / 3) (#101)
by epepke on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 06:15:10 AM EST

As a sometimes teacher, I would be inclined to agree with you. As a veteran of programs that required standardized testing, I'm pretty familiar with it. As a reformist, I would be in favor of anything that would teach kids how to think rather than pass tests or recite information. As a skeptic, however, I know how easy it is to fool yourself.

Home schooling is a radical concept. From what I've seen of it, I like it. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We'll know much more about it twenty or thirty years down the line.

As far as public schooling goes, it has at least one defensible, reasonable attribute: the goal to teach people what they need to become citizens in a democratic society. This obviously does not translate to what you need to know to get a good job. Nor does it mean that public schools are actually doing that.

Another issue is socialization. It might be true that home-schooled children can get socialized just as well. However, my most intimate experience with a home-schooled family was from my next-door neighbors, and I think they all were pretty well fucked. Of course, this possibly had a lot to do with the fact that the schooler was the kind of woman such that she was constantly trying to seduce me behind her husband's back, but that's as may be and another story. In any event, while the kids struck me as moderately bright, they weren't exceptional by any means.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Radical as meat and two veg (none / 1) (#112)
by scruffyMark on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 07:10:43 PM EST

Home schooling is a radical concept.

That doesn't work at all for me - haven't parents been teaching their children for at least as long as the homo genus has been around, if not longer? If anything it's reactionary.

Calling home schooling radical is kind of like calling low intensity agriculture radical. People do see it that way - but only in the places with the most technologically intensive (i.e. radical) agricultural practices...

[ Parent ]

No, not really (none / 1) (#118)
by epepke on Sun Aug 22, 2004 at 03:53:32 AM EST

People have been teaching people forever. However, loosely associated individuals teaching with the end result of getting an official diploma by proxy is pretty radical.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
fair enough I guess (2.00 / 2) (#153)
by scruffyMark on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 01:08:09 PM EST

On the one hand - yes, that's true, as far as it goes.

On the other - you could look at it as fitting the formal measures associated with (new-ish, radical) mass schooling, to the old and entirely non-radical methods of home schooling.

Confining people in over-segregated age groups, in over-restricted environments, for most of 12 years of their early lives, is very radical. The idea of giving them some globally recognized diploma after that is only a little radical by comparison.

Compared to that, having people learn by methods as old as dirt, and then writing some standard tests to get their standard diplomas (basically, after all, just certificates that they've passed the tests), seems positively reactionary to me.

Of course, that depends on the time frame you use for reference - in the context of the past 50 years, sure it's radical, but only because the past 100 or so years have seen such a radical change away from the way things have been going on for millenia...

[ Parent ]

F'd over family (none / 1) (#128)
by mcrbids on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 03:19:54 AM EST

However, my most intimate experience with a home-schooled family was from my next-door neighbors, and I think they all were pretty well fucked.

In my experience, some families are F'd over. It doesn't matter what you do. They're F'd. They'd fail in public school, and they'll fail as home-schoolers.

The thing that I worry about, though, is that the classroom environment strongly encourages conformity in thought and behavior.

We need creative, independant thinkers. We won't get that with conforrmist education. Since public schools don't offer this, the whole Home-school/Charter-school phenomena has sprung up by concerned parents who want the best for their children.

Am I worried that Charter-school kids don't test as well as public school kids?

Not at ALL...

See, public schools fancy and favor the consumption and regurgitation of facts - whereas Charter-schooled kids tend to encourage independant thought and non-linear education.

The end results seems to be that public schooled kids do better on test, while charter-schooled kids do better in life.

I choose success in life...

[ Parent ]

A disconnect... (none / 0) (#170)
by Gooba42 on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 05:37:00 AM EST

Those who support it for political reasons seem to do it on the basis of saving money and running the schools as a business to let the "free" market sort things out. Then they also support the standardized testing which is supposed to be proving or disproving the effectiveness of our schools. Now the schools they supported are failing the tests which they also supported.

Ultimately the purpose of most modern education is to make you an effective cog in the machine which is our day to day society and non-traditional modes of thought confound followers of that very narrow view of human life and success.

Do we want proven and tested conformity or do we want variable and unreliable individuals?

[ Parent ]

As one who was home-schooled and knew others... (none / 1) (#134)
by loqi on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 01:38:41 PM EST

I'd say the fucked/not-fucked ratio seems pretty damn close, according to my statistically invalid empirical data. Some home-schooled kids end up without much in the way of social skills. And some public-schooled kids end up without much in the way of acceptable social skills.

Having attended a public school for two years (both before and after being home-schooled), I can say the lessons I learned from school were not part of the curriculum; I was ecstatic when I actually learned something in school and got to go home and tell my parents about it (sadly, this happened at most maybe four days in two years). But what I really learned was that there is no justice "out there in the world." I remember feeling very sick one day, and the school nurse told me I was faking and I'd better get back to class (turns out I had the flu). I remember getting in trouble (I was extremely well-behaved) several times for things I had absolutely no part in. I remember seeing kids walk up to other kids and punch them without provocation, landing them both in big trouble for fighting (often without any retaliation from the victim). Is it healthy for a child's outlook to be made so realistic so early? I don't know, but I've basically been dissatisfied with the world ever since those experiences. Or maybe I'm just that kind of person.

I will say this: In a well-populated area (i.e., not the woods), parents will probably have to try to keep their home-schooled kids away from socialization. I was very shy as a child, and still had many, many friends in my neighborhood. I was socializing basically from the time their bus came home and my school-time ended until I had to go to bed. I actually found it much easier to make friends outside of school. There's way less groupthink, cliques are more dispersed, and you haven't been categorized by about a hundred kids that don't even know you.

Then again, I am posting on k5, so maybe all that home-schooling fucked me up more than I realize...

[ Parent ]
In NY, charter schools don't get all the money (none / 1) (#102)
by georgeha on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 11:14:20 AM EST

I can only talk about the charter schools in Rochester, New York, since I'm only familiar with them. I imagine other charter schools in New York would have similar situations.

They don't recieve equal money from the state, part of the state's allotment of funds stays with each pupil's home district. The charter school might get 3/4 of the money. The other 1/4 stays with the home district.

Charter school's don't own school buildings, or have them provided for by the taxpayers. For most school districts, they own the schools, heck, they may not even owe taxes on them. For charter schools, they have to rent or buy property.

True, the home district has to provide transportation, which would be paid for by the money that stays with the home district. They also have to pay for special resources, though our school has turned away students who they couldn't accomadate. On the whole, the public schools probably have more money per student than the charter schools.

As far as failing, Rochester's charter schools are mixed with regard to standardized testing (which is another whole can of worms, is teaching to pass  a test the best thing for our students?). The one our child goes goes to ranked with the wealthiest area suburbs. Of course, we have excellent teachers and staff.

Charter schools are typically non-unionized. In Buffalo, the teacher's union has dropped out of fund raising events if one charter school would be present. Who is that union serving, the students or the teachers? That might clue you into the animosity between the unionized public schools and the non-union charter schools.

Ths was reposted as topical.

In defense of "teaching to the test" (2.83 / 6) (#109)
by curien on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:27:50 PM EST

The best classes I attended in public school taught to tests. They were my Advanced Placement classes. I've taken quite a few of these classes across many subjects: calculus, physics, English, computer science, and US history.

So what's unique about AP classes that's different about normal classes? First, there is an independently-established curriculum (basically, what ETS decides it is). Second, the students all want to be there. Third, they are generally taught by more experienced teachers. Fourth, the quality of the tests is outstanding: the AP tests are the best set of exams I have ever had the pleasure of taking.

So clearly, in my mind, teaching to the test is not a problem. Just as clearly, though, it won't solve anything.

This sig is umop apisdn.

In agreement (none / 0) (#114)
by strlen on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 08:52:56 PM EST

But, I have to add that AP tests are in vast majority cases not mandatory and do not effect the grade in the class and can also be taken without taking the class and will yield the same full credit.

The only classes I've really enjoyed in high school were AP US History (which along with K5, taught me how to write), AP Computer Science and AP Biology. AP Calculus helped a great deal  - but I didn't find the presentation enjoyable as what I experienced in community college and university Calculus classes. Can't say the same about AP Economics class, the teacher (despite good intentions) had no previous experience teaching an AP class and used Michael Moore's essays as valid economical texts.

I do think, "only those students who wanted to be there took the class" is a big factor as to why the classes were enjoyable: the teachers were free to actually teach rather than babysit and discipline.

Perhaps, if education past 8th grade wasn't mandatory, and only those students who wanted to learn would attend we'd see better environment in high schools as a whole. I've hated high school and over all performed sub par compared to other students, yet I'm enjoying studying in university immensly and plan to go on to graduate school. I was lucky enough to have a great deal of AP classes available in high school and to live next to a community college which provided university-transfer opportunities -- but lot of other high schoolers who are perhaps like me, don't have the opportunities and end up wasting their talent.

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]

Probably not coincidentally (none / 1) (#141)
by jolly st nick on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 04:14:11 PM EST

I'd guess they are the classes that are most consciously taught to a standard of excellence.

I'm not against standardized testing at all. I'm just against using it as a measure in isolation.

[ Parent ]

first off (3.00 / 2) (#150)
by modmans2ndcoming on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 12:27:19 AM EST

it is not teaching TO the test, it is teaching FOR the test.

the first one means that the teacher teaches you only the exact information you need to pass the test. the second one teaches you the types of information that you will need to know for the test.

so if you were taking the SAT. a teaching to the test class would teach you information that is available from old tests and extrapolate the types of information that may be added to the new test.

a teaching for the test class would look at the subjects and the level of knowledge that the test measures and try to bring the students up to the appropriate level in the subjects that are on the SAT.

why is this difference meaningful? because teaching to the test does not teach the kids problem solving or critical thinking. it fills their heads with answers. it is also not ethical because the fine line that exists is often crossed and cheating ensues.

teaching for the test does not try to get the kids to know all the information that they need to know to get good scores. it teaches them how to get the information to get good scores.

[ Parent ]

All the answers are in this book.... (2.00 / 2) (#116)
by mikelieman on Sun Aug 22, 2004 at 03:16:27 AM EST

Bianca, You Animal, Shut Up!

Our problem in understanding forced schooling stems from an inconvenient fact: that the wrong it does from a human perspective is right from a systems perspective. You can see this in the case of six-year-old Bianca, who came to my attention because an assistant principal screamed at her in front of an assembly, "BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL, SHUT UP!" Like the wail of a banshee, this sang the school doom of Bianca. Even though her body continued to shuffle around, the voodoo had poisoned her.

Do I make too much of this simple act of putting a little girl in her place? It must happen thousands of times every day in schools all over. I've seen it many times, and if I were painfully honest I'd admit to doing it many times. Schools are supposed to teach kids their place. That's why we have age-graded classes. In any case, it wasn't your own little Janey or mine.

Most of us tacitly accept the pragmatic terms of public school which allow every kind of psychic violence to be inflicted on Bianca in order to fulfill the prime directive of the system: putting children in their place. It's called "social efficiency." But I get this precognition, this flash-forward to a moment far in the future when your little girl Jane, having left her comfortable home, wakes up to a world where Bianca is her enraged meter maid, or the passport clerk Jane counts on for her emergency ticket out of the country, or the strange lady who lives next door.

I picture this animal Bianca grown large and mean, the same Bianca who didn't go to school for a month after her little friends took to whispering, "Bianca is an animal, Bianca is an animal," while Bianca, only seconds earlier a human being like themselves, sat choking back tears, struggling her way through a reading selection by guessing what the words meant.

-- I Miss Jerry
Schools (1.06 / 15) (#117)
by ShiftyStoner on Sun Aug 22, 2004 at 03:21:59 AM EST

Close all the publics schools down entirely, they are failing miserabley. Keep them open only for retards. Make all schools charter schools, then the public schools wont be able to whine about not having enough money the'll be gone. Tards should be kept away from normal people anyway. The tards just get made fun of, picked on and for many of them school is entirely pointless anyway. The normal kids education shoudnt be stunted in any way to attemp educating people whom will be living off their parents or the state the rest of their lives anyway. All the tards ned to be taught is how to use money an how to take care of themselves the best they can. Math science history pe geogrophy all pointless to teach them and virtualy pointless for them to know. Waste of money and time if you ask me.

Maybe the budget problem isnt having to ocomidate for tards. Rather instaling medal detectors and cameras and hiring securety guards. Plus all the other crap thy blow money on. Fuck public schools. I would rather there be no schools than the schools that are around today.

I'm all for the standardised testing as well.
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler

Holy Shit (none / 0) (#129)
by ShiftyStoner on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 07:21:52 AM EST

It's weird this coment is getting so many zeroes.
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]
How so? (none / 1) (#159)
by codejack on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 02:54:52 PM EST

It's a moronic argument; The application of the term "retard," or whatever P.C. term you wish to substitute for it, is completely arbitrary. Where do you draw the line? What's your I.Q.? 110? 120? Well, mine's higher, so I think I'll call you a retard, and since setting the limit higher would include more people, we'll save even more money by not having to educate the bottom 60% of people.

Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
hah (none / 1) (#160)
by ShiftyStoner on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 05:27:06 PM EST

My IQ is somewere around 145, give or take 15 depending on the test. I got a 140 on an oficial IQ test, others I've taken online.

I'm clearly talking about people whom school is useless to. Useless when it comes to being succesful because they are to retarted to ever become succesful using their education. People whom with any teacher will never acheave the same lvl or close to the same lvl of education as the average person. It's a waste of manpower money and time to put somone threw years of school when schooling will do nothing for them. That would include people like me, though im at the other end of the spectrum.

You can go ahead and call me a retard, I consider myself to smart for school and have since I was a child. I would have happily been kicked out of school in second grade. In a charter school that may not have been the case. Maybe I could have gotten something out of all those years other than a hatred for government school and America in general.

Money would not be saved by not putting the bottom 60% threw school. In realety if you dont have your little brainwashing facilities you wont have nearly as many robots. Therefore everyone would be a whole lot poorer. Then youd have to find another way to enslave the masses and there is no better way than having them believe they are free. In a free, or sane society for that matter it would be considerd rediculouse to think being forced to give up 8 hours a day 5 days a week for no pay is freedom. Anyway, charter schools are the way to go.

It's hardly a moronic argument. Why would a moron think morons should be treated like morons?
God your a dumbass.

( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]

145? And you still missed the point? (none / 1) (#162)
by codejack on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 05:57:13 PM EST

The point was that the process of selecting who education would be useless to is completely arbitrary; Most likely, smart poor kids would get that label while dumb rich kids would not, less because of any tin foil hat brigade type of conspiracy, although racism would surely play a part, but more because rich people don't send their kids to the cheapest day-care they can find so they can work and poor people do. As for the
People whom with any teacher will never acheave the same lvl or close to the same lvl of education as the average person.
you've just cut 50% of kids out of the system.

I never called you a retard, that was an attempt to illustrate the fallacy of both your argument and standardized testing. I didn't learn much in school either, although being in about the worst school district in the country (Hamilton County, TN: Tennessee is 49th in the nation in education, Hamilton county is 95th out of 96 counties in TN) probably didn't help.

And you would save money by cutting 60% of people out of the school system, just not much and only in the short run; Having an educated population is essential for a functioning economy, as well as providing better skills for decision making while voting, etc. The end result of killing public education, and make no mistake, that is the goal of our current fligh-suit-in-chief, will be to relegate the United States to the second world while Europe and Asia continue to advance. It's root, hog, or die.

Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
No (none / 0) (#164)
by ShiftyStoner on Thu Aug 26, 2004 at 03:59:52 PM EST

I didn't miss the point, im saying your wrong. Maybe your confused, the rich kids get a better education now while the poor kids are stuck in the worthless public schools. The rich black kids get to get their education away from all the whites.

I didn't cut out 50% of the children. 90% of them are in a gray area, average, slightly above or below the exact average wich I would consider average. I'm talking about the kids that are curently put into a differant class from everyone because they are retarted. The kids that can never get to the same lvl as everyone else their age. The kids that are slightly below average can take in all the same information just wont be as good at it and will take them a little longer. These kids and the very "smart" kids should just be seperated into differant classes. But the 15 year olds that have a second grade education shouldn't even be alowed in schools. Why spend 3 years just to give them a 3rd grade education. All they need taught is how to whipe their own ass and make their own food if they are even capable of learning that. You're very stupid, most anyone else knows what a retard is and wouldn't have trouble seeing the diferance between normal and retarted.

I didn't say their shouldn't be schools. I'm saying public schools need goten rid of because sadly they don't educate anyone. Kids should at least get an education with their brainwashing. I agree, with the society being the way it is brainwashing is neccesary, for rich people. Without it this society could not stand, it would be forced into change. Which could be good or bad. Education is most definatley neccerary, to bad most kids arent getting educated, since they arent the world is the way it is. Yay.  
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]

Once more for the cheap seats... (none / 0) (#165)
by codejack on Fri Aug 27, 2004 at 06:02:22 PM EST

YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT! It's true that currently the rich kids get beter education than the poor kids, but what we're talking about here is a concerted effort in this country to take away the oppurtunity for poor kids to get any education at all.

As for the "retards," you're painting a broad line: Which kids get called "retards" and which get called "below average" depends much more upon how wealthy the parents are and what color their skin is than what their I.Q. is or what level of education they are capable of attaining, and this trend will only get worse if you cut those kids out of the system altogether, not to mention the aspect of discrimination inherent in the concept.

And when you say "I don't want public schools, but I want most kids to be educated," you are ignoring the implications; If you get rid of public schools, the vast majority of kids will get no education whatsoever. Imagine a generation 80% of whom cannot read or write. Granted that right now the choice is between bad and worse, but why choose worst?

Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
*sigh* (none / 0) (#166)
by ShiftyStoner on Fri Aug 27, 2004 at 07:10:29 PM EST

standardised testing

charter schools

you idiot
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]

*scream* (none / 0) (#167)
by codejack on Sun Aug 29, 2004 at 10:10:32 PM EST

Critical thinking

Decently funded public schools


Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
*sigh* (none / 0) (#168)
by ShiftyStoner on Mon Aug 30, 2004 at 12:16:11 AM EST


they're overly funded

you idiot
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]

and btw... (1.00 / 2) (#161)
by ShiftyStoner on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 05:29:22 PM EST

tisk tisk tisk, your not suposed to 0 comments just because you don't agree with them. Were do you think you are, daily kos?
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]
Problem (3.00 / 4) (#152)
by John Asscroft on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 12:21:55 PM EST

Half of all charter schools are located in the state of Arizona. They get 80% of the per-pupil finding and 0% of the facilities funding that regular public schools get, in a state that already has disasterously low per-pupil funding. As a result, virtually all Arizona charter schools are a) at the verge of bankruptcy at any given time, without the resources to do the job right, and b) as a result, most charter schools in Arizona are run by fanatical advocates for special needs children who are not getting their needs met in the public schools with time and fanaticism substituting for money. In other words, most charter schools in Arizona are aimed at "problem" children, "at risk" children, "special needs" children, etc. rather than at the general student population. Many of the students at Arizona charter high schools, for example, actually dropped out of the regular public schools, then were brought back into charter schools aimed at "at-risk" students (those at risk of dropping out and failing to graduate), sometimes under judicial order.

To properly compare a charter school founded to educate "behavior disordered" children with a general public school, you'd need to segregate out the "behavior disordered" children's scores in that general public school. That has not been done, indeed, would be difficult to do because Arizona has no state-wide computerized student database like many other states do, and thus no way to pull out student's classification and test cores the way many other states do. The testing companies themselves don't have this information, and Arizona isn't aggregating it (this is due to privacy concerns that keep derailing the computerization of the records).

The funding thing was on purpose. The Republicans in charge of Arizona at the time wanted to prove that schools could do the job with less money. As charter schools took off and the public schools withered, they expected to be able to cut 20% from the state's educational budget. They proved the opposite. Substituting labor and fanaticism for money does not scale. Most Arizona children still attend normal public schools, not charter schools. The normal public schools, with their greater resources, are far better at putting together "magnet" programs for the "gifted and talented" and at providing appropriate materials and instruction for "regular" students. All that has moved out to charter schools, for the most part, are "fringe" students who were not getting their needs met in the regular public schools, or religious zealots intent upon providing the type of instruction tha t their religion dictates (generally a "back to basics" type of instruction that emphasizes rote memorization and discourages asking questions and reasoning about the handed-down wisdom of the teachers -- remember, reason is the enemy of faith!).

Under these circumstances, it's no surprise that the "regular" schools perform better than the charter schhools. Whether this would be true if charter schools were financed at 100% per-pupil, and had access to publically funded school facilities, is another question, one that has not been answered. Arizona's current charter school law has proven to be a boon for "at risk" children, "problem" children, and others that the public schools aren't good at serving, and I have no problem with that. It is still unclear, however, whether additional funding for charter schools would result in better charter schools.

Even if they had equal funding, charter schools have one huge disadvantage -- transience. It takes time to construct and equip facilities, build up a stock of textbooks and materials and facilities, accumulate institutional knowledge. It is unlikely that the free market would give a general purpose charter school that time before students abandoned the school and it went bankrupt. The best public school magnet programs are still better than anything available at any charter school anywhere, and this is likely to remain true for years, because those programs have been evolving and growing for decades in some places accumulating materials, musical instruments, scientific lab tools, etc. that are difficult to acquire all in one big lump for a new charter school. In short, while charter schools have proven to be a valuable supplement to general-purpose public schools (at least as implemented in Arizona), it is unlikely that, as their supporters suggest, they will ever supplant the general-purpose public school. Surveys show that most parents are satisfied with the school their child attends. Given that, there just isn't the demand for general-purpose charter schools in most areas, and it's unlikely there ever will be.

Oh, since many people are unfamiliar with how Arizona's charter schools are done:

  1. All it takes to form a charter school is a board of directors, an administrator, a charter, and a school district willing to serve as a funding sponsor. There are several rural school districts which, thanks to the per-pupil sponsorship funds, will gladly sponsor anybody who comes to them.
  2. You can create a charter school anywhere that you can get zoning. You do not need the permission or sponsorship of the containing school district. The school district sponsoring you can be 200 miles away from where you actually form the school (in fact, those rural school districts ARE that distance away from most of the schools they sponsor, which are typically in urban areas).
  3. Your charter cannot be withdrawn by the state for any reason other than financial misconduct (embezzling the state's funds, in other words).
  4. Due to the low per-pupil funding, commercial charter schools are virtually unknown in Arizona. It simply is not possible to make money.
  5. Most charter schools were formed by teachers and/or administrators convinced that they could better fill the needs of special needs students outside the constraints of a normal public school environment, not by parents. In other words, most charter schools are being driven by professional educators.
  6. The average life of a charter school in Arizona is around three years. Mostly this is because of the funding issue. The first year is a struggle but exhilirating because of the challenge. The second year starts getting to be a long slog. The third year, everybody gets discouraged because the fight to stay in business with inadequate funding and 20 hour days on the parts of the teachers and volunteers during the school year have taken their toll, and everybody eventually decides hmm, maybe the public schools weren't so bad after all. This probably accounts for why most of the charter schools that remain are for special needs children where the public schools just plain didn't work for them -- it takes a considerable incentive for teachers, parents, and, yes, students, to make the sacrifices needed to attend a charter school in Arizona.
  7. Most charter schools in Arizona are located in strip malls, office warehouses, and other locations not designed for schooling, due to the lack of facilities funding. This forms a considerable barrier to their expansion, since larger facilities capable of handling hundreds of students (rather than dozens of students) are not readily available. This also limits what physical education or recess activities are available.
-- The Attorney General's Inner Penguin
We must destroy freedom to save it from the terrorists who want to destroy freedom. Else the terrorists have won.
Victory for private education (none / 0) (#158)
by nlscb on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 11:00:15 AM EST

Philadelphia schools just announced reform is working.

Private markets & Freedom shoots from the outside ... AND HE SCORES! 3 points!

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange

Charter Schools and Testing Collide | 170 comments (127 topical, 43 editorial, 1 hidden)
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