I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, July 5, 2012

About Those Charters That Are Taking Over Newark

Let's go back to today's usurpation of democracy in Newark. The state-appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson, overrode the elected yet powerless local advisory board to allow for the closing of several public schools and subsequent leasing of the properties to five charters. This all happened immediately after the state reaffirmed that they will retain control over Newark's schools; the justification was that the schools are not run well, even though it's the state itself that's controlling them.

Yes, they are that shameless at the NJDOE. But more on the Broadies that hatch these schemes later...

Let's look instead at who the lucky winners in the charter school property giveaway are:
Five charters, Paulo Freire, Newark Legacy, 100 Legacy Academy, Team Academy and North Star Academy, will lease facilities previously known as Burnet Street School, Madison School, West Side NAF Academy, Eighteenth Avenue School and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School starting next school year.
The only lease agreement the board did not contest was that of Paulo Freire Charter School, whose chief is former Science Park High School teacher Tauheedah Baker-Jones. The board voted unanimously to approve its lease of space at Burnet Street School. [emphasis mine]
Well, what do we know about these schools? Paulo Freire, which was approved by the board, is a brand new school, opening in September of 2012. So, according to its website, is 100 Legacy. Newark Legacy opened its doors in 2010, but only to kindergarteners and first graders who moved up a grade level each year. So we have no academic records with which to judge the school's successes (the third graders will take their first NJASK this spring).

Apparently, the plan is to close public schools - some of which were "beating the odds" - and replace them with charters that don't have a record of success. To be fair: maybe there are good reasons to believe these schools will succeed. Having a respected educator as your leader is always a good sign; of course, Anderson could have just hired Baker-Jones to run one of the public schools.

In any case, what about TEAM and North Star? Well, thanks to Bruce Baker, we actually know quite a bit about both.

I'd rather Baker put out his own synopsis of his work on these two, but let's take a quick look anyway. Baker did an extensive post on TEAM last year:
Misinformed charter punditry doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help the public to make more informed decisions either about choices for their own children or about policy preferences more generally. It also doesn’t help charter operators get their jobs done and it doesn’t help those working in traditional public schools focus on things that really matter.  This post is in direct response to the irresponsible and unjustified statement below from a recent editorial in the NJ Star Ledger:
The best of these schools, like the TEAM Academy in Newark, are miracles in our midst. With the same demographic mix of students as district schools, their kids are doing much better in basic skills. And they are doing it for less money, in a setting that is safe and orderly.
Nearly every phrase in this statement is misleading or simply wrong. And that’s a shame. My apologies for being trapped in meetings yesterday and not having a chance to return calls on this topic. I might have been able to head this off.  Perhaps most disturbingly, this stuff really doesn’t help out TEAM Academy much either. Readers of my blog know that I often go after stories about the high flying Newark and Jersey City charters which, for the most part, stick out like sore thumbs when it comes to demographics and attrition. Readers also realize that it is not that I think these schools are doing a bad job. Rather, I think many are doing a great service. But, I am concerned that the media often deceives the public into believing that the “successes” of schools like North Star and Robert Treat can be scaled up to improve the entire system, which they cannot, because they simply do not serve students like those in the rest of the system.
Bruce goes on to show that TEAM is a decent charter school; in many ways, it's the best of Newark's "successful" charters when it comes to not cultivating a different student population. But it's not producing any miracles: it still has fewer special education students and student in poverty, it has a relatively high attrition rate, and it spends a significant amount of money to get its results.

North Star, on the other hand...
Here’s North Star on the map, in context. Smaller lighter circles are lower % free lunch schools. Most of the charters in this map are… well.. smaller lighter circles (with charters identified with a red asterisk). Not all, however, are as non-representative as North Star.
My point here is not that these are bad schools, or that they are necessarily engaging in any particular immoral or unethical activity. But rather, that a significant portion of the apparent success of schools like North Star is a) attributable to the demographically different population they serve to begin with and b) attributable to the patterns of student attrition that occur within cohorts over time. [emphasis mine]
Again, I don't want to spend too much time recapping Baker's work, because he can do that much better himself (I hope he will). And I want to do everything I can to encourage all of you to go back and read his original posts.

The point here is that, out of the five charters slated to take the locations created by closing public schools, we have significant data on only two. And that data shows that these schools are not replicable. They do not serve the same student populations, and they rely on funding outside of the public school budgets.

The NJDOE is overseeing the replacement of public schools in Newark that serve all children and answer to the public with charter schools that do not.

I don't know about you, but I find this incredibly disturbing.

1 comment:

Deb said...

Disturbing, nauseating, immoral, and more. I recently heard the term 'custodial schools' to refer to the traditional public schools that are left with all the students that the charters do not take/keep.....that is chilling....and disturbing, and immoral, and more.