The piece has quite a comments thread going: one of the longest I've ever seen at Spotlight. And while most of the comments neatly dismantle Waters's arguments, there have been some visits from charter cheerleaders:
Dear ACClark: I’ll take you up on your challenge to make a choice: since it’s doubtful that the fair solution of the money following the child will happen, we are happy to continue to do more with less at our charter school. At Elysian Charter School we will continue to educate our children for much less than the public schools (plus rent, no matter how reasonable, that the district doesn’t have to pay) and get better test scores and have a waiting list of 400 students.The poster here is "elysiankathy," who Waters says "runs" Elysian (here's the staff list). I find her comment fascinating, because I wrote about Elysian Charter School back in September of 2010, when Governor Christie decided to to stage yet another photo-op at the school:
We will continue to accept every applicant that wins the lottery, including Limited English Proficient students and our 12% of special education students, a percentage similar to the district in which we are located, and we will continue to accept the troubled students that the districts do not want and have encouraged to come here. Recently, a parent wanted to remove a child with severe behavioral difficulties to put him in a school closer to home, but our staff persuaded her to keep her child in our school. The parent was convinced that our staff really cares about the child. The staff wants all troubled children to remain so they can help them. This is how we treat all our children in our charter school, and we are continually taking in the most difficult cases and our well-documented outreach efforts continue to actively recruit minority, poor, LEP and Special Ed students. In several instances, we have paid for children (yes, NJ Logic, it cost us over $30,000) to attend private schools for the disabled when the local district could not adequately serve the child. Anecdotal data, yes, but no less true than the random items cited in comments above. [emphasis mine]
Hispanic Students as a percentage of total populationBack then, it didn't appear that Elysian was representative of the district's population at all. But maybe their "well-documented outreach efforts" over the past year have changed things; let's go back to the Common Core of Data at NCES and take another look at Elysian and the Hoboken public schools:
Hoboken "Regular" Schools: 60%
African-American Students as a percentage of total population
Hoboken "Regular" Schools: 15%Elysian: 11%
Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible Students as a percentage of total populationHoboken "Regular" Schools: 65%Elysian: 25%
Look at those numbers above. Think about how many of the Hispanic kids speak Spanish at home. Look at the economic statistics. Think about how this may affect test scores. Charter schools have freedom, all right - the freedom to exclude the most difficult-to-teach students from their rosters.
This, apparently, is Christie's great new vision for schools: economic segregation.
Brandt is an early childhood center with kindergarten students, so it's a bit of an anomaly in the district. The other schools serve K-8 students, just like Elysian. There are clear differences in the populations, particularly with white and Hispanic students.
Bruce Baker tells us that "% Free Lunch" is the better metric, as it shows a deeper level of poverty, but both metrics show that Elysian has far fewer kids in need than the rest of the district.
I'll say what I've said about other charters: Elysian is undoubtedly a fine school with a dedicated staff, committed parents, and wonderful, deserving children. I congratulate them on their successes.
But let's not kid ourselves: what they are doing is not replicable. No matter the reason, the student population at Elysian is simply different from the population in the rest of the district. It is foolish and/or mendacious to pretend otherwise.
Are we prepared to have an adult conversation about this or not?