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As the Legislature considers 10 bills about charter schools, be aware of the challenges of growth

New Hampshire now has 22 brick and mortar charter schools, 2 more approved to begin operations in 2016, and one statewide online charter, VLACS.  They are all locally grown and managed.  Their role is to supplement the district schools, filling specialty niches to expand options available to New Hampshire students.

But many other states have taken a quite different approach.  They consider charters competition and replacements for district schools.  It’s a world of national for-profit and non-profit charter management organizations, a world we have not encountered here in New Hampshire. (more…)

The bottom line on charter school performance: they educate kids about as well as traditional public schools do

This, from Valerie Strauss “The Answer Sheet” in the Washington Post, is the best concise summary I’ve seen on the performance of charter schools compared to traditional public schools.  There is no meaningful difference:

Charter school critics and charter school advocates should be able to agree that there are excellent and awful charter schools, just as there are excellent and awful conventional public schools. What CREDO and others have shown is that, on average, the two sectors are very similar in terms of test-score outcomes. For those of us interested in improving overall educational opportunities it’s time to set aside the “which sector is better” test-score argument and instead invest across the board in the sorts of practices and supports that the best schools in each sector have provided for their students.

via The bottom line on charter school studies.

If you are not persuaded, read the whole short post.  I think you will be.

Really, it turns out that public schools (unionized or not), charter schools and private schools all get about the same educational results on average.  The improved results come from improved leadership rather than from changing structures.

Charters are a political, not an educational, choice (part 2)

We have established that, sInce charters do not out-perform traditional public schools, charter schools are a political choice (or a profit choice, but more on that later). After all, if you had a theory of education that got results and you were interested in promoting achievement, you could just show teachers – public, private, charter…anyone – how to do it.

That’s what Expeditionary Learning does. Here is Ron Berger, Expeditionary Learning’s Chief Academic Officer, talking about their approach:

Since the mid-90’s, Expeditionary Learning has developed into a network of over 165 schools and thousands of teachers “dedicated to student success through academic achievement, character development, and high quality work.” They say,

“We provide a model that challenges students – even those starting with low skill levels – with high-level tasks and active roles in the classroom.”

Over that same 20-year period, charter icon KIPP has developed a network of 125 managed schools, some high quality, all highly promoted. KIPP has made itself a resource to the political “school choice” movement seeking a publicly funded, privately managed alternative to public education.

Expeditionary Learning has made itself a resource for improving public education for millions. An educational choice.

Charter schools are a political statement not an educational improvement

We will continue to hear about charter miracle schools. The stories are over-blown but there are surely great charter schools, as there are great (unionized) traditional public schools and private schools. But when you look, this issue always comes down to leadership, not organizational structure.

The latest in a long line of data supporting the proposition that charters do not, as an overall structure, out-perform traditional public schools is the new CREDO study from Stanford, the definitive long-term source of charter school performance analysis although (they must be read with certain widely-discussed cautions- just search on CREDO to get a taste, but here is a good beginning list).

There are many ways to read the study and many reviews of it, but the most useful review is this one from Brookings: Much Ado Over Tiny Differences. The title says it all and the post delivers the goods. Author Tom Loveless starts by asking,

Are the differences reported by CREDO large enough to be significant in the real world?….

And concludes that,

The two sectors perform about the same. Claims that the CREDO studies demonstrate the success or failure of one sector or the other are based on analyses that make small differences appear much larger than they really are.

You’ve got to be patient to read what comes between, but your patience will be rewarded.

10 Things Charter Schools Won’t Tell You – SmartMoney

This is a balanced summary, including good links that help identify the pros and cons of the various forms of research on charters.  The net of it seems to be that, while there are inspired high-performance charters that outperform some traditional public schools, most don’t.  As Michael Marder shows, most public schools outperform most charters, according to the most-used comparisons.  So, while there is no data to support a general policy that promotes substituting charters for traditional public schools, New Hampshire charters have demonstrated their value in focused roles such as helping kids at risk of failure in school.  Here’s the SmartMoney piece:

1. We’re no better than public schools.

Not that public schools are perfect, as many parents know. See our earlier story, 10 Things Your School District Won t Tell You

A host of other studies on charter school outcomes have come up with sometimes contradictory results. As with traditional public schools, there are great charters and some that aren t so great. There s a lot of variation within charter schools, points out Katrina Bulkley, an associate professor of education at Montclair State University who studies issues related to school governance. In fairness to organizations that are running high-performing schools, many of them are very frustrated with the range of quality, because they feel that it taints charter schools as a whole, Bulkley says.

find the rest at: 10 Things Charter Schools Won’t Tell You – SmartMoney.com.

Charters outperform traditional public schools? That’s not what the data shows.

Charter schools currently play a “niche” role in New Hampshire public education.  The majority serve at-risk kids who probably would not graduate from high school without special help.  However, we are in the midst of a policy discussion about continuing role of charters in the State.  While there appears to be a widely-shared consensus supporting a continued role for charters the fill specific educational gaps in New Hampshire, some advocate for an expanded role.

There is on-going debate about the performance of charter schools, but a fair summary seems to be that some out-perform traditional public schools but most don’t.  Prof. Michael Marder, of the University of Texas at Austin takes a commonsense approach, comparing standardized test results among charters and traditional public schools.  

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At KIPP, at least for 07102, zip code is destiny – Gary Rubinstein’s Blog

Not to pile on, but KIPP is everyone’s example of a successful national chain of charter schools and I just happened to see an analysis done by Gary Rubinstein, a math teacher and well informed blogger.  He looks into the publicly available data and shows that the KIPP schools in Newark, NJ have the kind of high attrition rates they would not have if they were doing a good job.  Here’s his conclusion, but you should read the full post here and see if you don’t agree:

KIPP has received a lot of money on the facade that they have the secret to getting amazing results from the ‘same kids’ with the ‘same resources.’ Their own reports and publicly available data from New Jersey clearly show that their success is extremely limited.

At KIPP, at least for 07102, zip code is destiny | Gary Rubinstein’s Blog.

KIPP charter schools losing struggling students to Nashville’s traditional public schools – WSMV

This is not a problem we have in New Hampshire.  All our charters are locally grown and most are aimed specific niches that supplement the offerings of the traditional public schools.  So far, New Hampshire has had the wisdom to avoid charter schools that game the system this way, which is a good thing to keep in mind as we re-examine our charter policies.

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) –

Leaders with Metro Nashville Public Schoolshave serious concerns about what is happening at some of the city’s most popular charter schools.

Students are leaving in large numbers at a particularly important time of the school year, and the consequences may have an impact on test scores.

Charter schools are literally built on the idea that they will outperform public, zoned schools. They are popular because they promise and deliver results, but some new numbers are raising big questions about charter schools.

One of the first things a visitor sees when stepping into Kipp Academy is a graph that shows how Kipp is outperforming Metro schools in every subject.

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The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment

The National Education Policy Center has reprinted a methodical, well footnoted analysis by Kevin Welner documenting the (often subtle) ways in which charters get the kids the want and avoid the kids they don’t want.  This happens more often the national networks rather than the locally operated charters we have here in New Hampshire but this is worth having at hand as legislators review state charter policy and potentially recommend new rules for charter applications and governance.

by Kevin G. Welner — April 22, 2013

This commentary offers a classification of twelve different approaches that charter schools use to structure their student enrollment. These practices impact the likelihood of students enrolling with a given set of characteristics, be it higher (or lower) test scores, students with ‘expensive’ disabilities, English learners, students of color, or students in poverty.

Informed discussions of whether charter schools are successful include considerations of student differences between different schools. We address “selection bias,” “attrition bias” and the like because measured outcomes are undoubtedly affected by inputs. Charter schools tend to have fewer students with disabilities, fewer English learners, and a less poor population of students than their surrounding public schools (Frankenberg, Siegel-Hawley, and Wang, 2010; Miron, et al., 2010; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2012).

In fact, the patterns are particularly stark when we realize that such at-risk students are disproportionately enrolled in a small subset of “mission-oriented” charters – those dedicated to serving a particular type of at-risk student. For instance, the “majority of charter school students with severe disabilities [in Florida] are concentrated in a handful of schools that specialize in those disabilities….” (O’Connor, J., & Gonzalez, 2011; see also Miron, et al. [2010] for a national picture). This leaves the remaining charters serving even fewer at-risk children.

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