|Putting Children First||
New York Times publishes union critique of charter public schools.What You Need To Know.
Tuesday afternoon, August 17, 2004
Today's New York Times published a story about a teachers' union analysis of 4th grade test score data from the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The story was picked up by some WA newspapers, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Tacoma News Tribune. Other WA newspapers will undoubtedly publish the story tomorrow. Web links to today's articles are below, FYI.
In 2003 NAEP tested less than 1% of students attending charter public schools in just 7 of the 40 states authorizing charter schools.
Today's "finding": the test scores of students attending charter schools in those 7 states, on average, were "performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math."
THE POLITICAL CHARACTERIZATION:
This finding was then characterized in the context of the current Presidential election as a "blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush Administration."
What the story neglects to mention is that former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator John Kerry and most other national-level Democrats have also supported charter schools for years. Also not mentioned: the official party platforms of both the Democratic and Republican parties have both supported charter schools since 1996.
The teachers' union data analysis did NOT try to measure the academic growth of children who attend charter public schools over time. Instead, it only measured the average academic performance of 4th graders attending charter public schools in 7 of 40 states.
THIS IS NEWS?
The result was no surprise: the children who attend charter public schools are, on average, farther behind academically than their peers.
Charter school supporters have been saying this for years. Charter public schools provide new public school options for children who are falling through the cracks of the regular public school system. Of course charter school students generally tend to perform at lower levels than regular public school students. That's why their families chose to move to a charter public school in the first place!
THREE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS:
The three crucial questions that were not addressed by today's article, however, were these:
One might reasonably expect that charter public schools that have been open for a few years will generally be more effective than charter public schools that just opened, and yet apparently no attempt was made to distinguish between the children attending newly opened charter schools and those attending more established charter schools.
Today's article did at least mention (in paragraph 22) that these kinds of perspectives might cast charter schools in a more favorable light: "Tom Loveless, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, who conducted a two-year study of 569 charter schools in 10 states found that while charter school students typically score lower on state tests, over time they progress at faster rates than students in traditional public schools."
LONG-TERM QUALITY ASSURANCE
Under the legislation that WA voters will approve or reject when they vote on Referendum 55, all charter public schools created in WA will have a built-in “Quality Assurance Plan.” All WA charter schools whose students demonstrate below-average academic growth (compared to similar students in the same school district) will be closed after the initial five year charter license expires. Unlike regular public schools, all of the adults who work at low-performing charter public schools face real accountability, with real consequences: they will lose their jobs and have to look for new employment elsewhere.
Nationwide, fewer than 10% of the nation's 3,000 charter public schools have closed. If voters approve R-55, WA will probably have a similar experience: 90% of charter public schools will create new, high quality public school choices, while 10% will not. However, because all WA charter public schools are subject to independent performance audits and must clear this high hurdle of accountability, families and taxpayers will be assured that the charter public schools that satisfy the stringent accountability provisions in the law will be high-quality public school choices.
By comparison, especially in low-income, urban areas, WA has many regular public schools that have performed poorly for years, even decades, without any financial or employment consequences for the adults who work there. Even though administrators know that most children are not learning in these schools, year after year, children are still assigned there, year after year.
CHARTER SCHOOLS, EQUAL OPPORTUNITY & SOCIAL JUSTICE.
It is unfair and unjust for any child ever to be forced to attend a failing public school simply because their families can't afford to live in communities with higher quality public schools.
Every child deserves an Equal Opportunity to a quality public education. That's why offering families the CHOICE of charter public schools is so important.
For additional perspective on today's New York Times article, please refer to the Press Release sent out by the Center for Education Reform this afternoon, a copy of which is below.
THANK YOU for everything you're doing to educate everyone you know about the importance of offering the CHOICE of charter public schools to the children, families and educators of our state.
Here are the web links for today's newspaper articles:
The New York Times, August 17, 2004 (p. A-1)
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 17, 2004 (p. A-3):
The Tacoma News Tribune, August 17, 2004 (p. A-3):
Center of Education Reform Press Release:
Contact: Mary Kayne Heinze
CHARTER SCHOOLS PRODUCE STRONG STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
(Washington, DC 8/17/04) Charter schools are helping thousands of low-income and challenged students across the country succeed, despite headlines that appeared in newspapers across the country this morning. The New York Times caused a flurry of media activity when it used a single sample from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to inaccurately portray charter performance (NAEP tested less than 1 percent of charter students in 7 states).
Although NAEP provides valuable information, it is necessary to combine that information with more comprehensive data to accurately assess school performance. Such data does exist and clearly demonstrates that charter schools are succeeding at promoting high student achievement among their students.
State data substantiates charter success:
National data supports charter achievement:
FACTS ABOUT CHARTER SCHOOLS
More data and information on charter schools is available at www.edreform.com. The Center for Education Reform (CER) is a national advocacy and research organization working with states and communities to provide more choices in education and better schools for all children. For more information, contact CER at (202) 822-9000.
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