The Offensively Defensive Ideology of Charter SchoolingRead the rest, and the excellent point by point take-down (and links) here.
There now exists a fair amount of evidence that Charter schools in many locations, especially high performing charter schools in New Jersey and New York tend to serve much smaller shares of low income, special education and limited English proficient students (see various links that follow). And in some cases, high performing charter schools, especially charter middle schools, experience dramatic attrition between 6th and 8th grade, often the same grades over which student achievement climbs, suggesting that a “pushing out” form of attrition is partly accounting for charter achievement levels.
As I’ve stated many times on this blog, the extent to which we are concerned about these issues is a matter of perspective. It is entirely possible that a school – charter, private or otherwise – can achieve not only high performance levels but also greater achievement growth by serving a selective student population, including selection of students on the front end and attrition of students along the way. After all, one of the largest “within school effects on student performance” is the composition of the peer group.
From a parent (or child) perspective, one is relatively unconcerned whether the positive school effect is function of selectivity of peer group and attrition, so long as there is a positive effect.
But, from a public policy perspective, the model is only useful if the majority of positive effects are not due to peer group selectivity and attrition, but rather to the efficacy and transferability of the educational models, programs and strategies. To put it very bluntly, charters (or magnet schools) cannot dramatically improve overall performance in low income communities by this approach, because there simply aren’t enough less poor, fluent English speaking, non-disabled children to go around. They are not a replacement for the current public system, because their successes are in many cases based on doing things they couldn’t if they actually tried to serve everyone.
Again, this is not to say that some high performing charters aren’t essentially effective magnet school programs that do provide improved opportunities for select few. But that’s what they are.
But rather than acknowledging these issues and recognizing charters and their successes for what they are (or aren’t), charter pundits have developed a series of very intriguing (albeit largely unfounded) defensive responses (read excuses) to the available data. These include the arguments that:
The Charter School Myth Take-down
School Finance 101 is good at explaining data, especially the lies used to misrepresent the data by those who would like to push their charter agenda. To wit: