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

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hackstastic Charter School Hackery

Hacky charter school hackiness, courtesy - as always! - of the Star-Ledger's op-ed pages:
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that provide many low-income and working-class parents with the freedom to choose a school that offers an education that best serves their students’ needs, regardless of where they live or their income level. Charters schools are nonselective and accept students through a random lottery. Recent reports by Newark Public Schools and CREDO/Stanford make clear Newark’s charter schools are producing significant achievement gains for students. It’s not surprising that families are demanding more charter schools, with 10,000 students already on wait lists.
So many reformy hits in one paragraph! Where to begin...

- Charter are not public schools: The Census Bureau, National Labor Relations Board, and legal scholars all agree that charters are not public schools.

- Charters are, in fact, selective:
Charter schools are limited public access in the sense that:
  1. They can define the number of enrollment slots they wish to make available
  2. They can admit students only on an annual basis and do not have to take students mid-year
  3. They can set academic, behavior and cultural standards that promote exclusion of students via attrition.
In addition, there is evidence that, nationwide, charters have developed complex application processes as a way of limiting applications from students with disabilities, limited English proficiency, or who are living in poverty.

- Charters - specifically the "successful"charters in Newark - do not serve the same populations of students as real public schools. We've been over this so many times it's getting ridiculous...

- The New Jersey CREDO study is gravely flawed; its design does not account for significant differences in student populations by poverty status or special educational need. Nonetheless, the report still presents evidence that Newark's "successful" charters cannot be replicated. In no way can the CREDO report be taken an as endorsement of charter expansion.

- We have no idea of how many students on this list of 10,000 are duplicates. To my knowledge, there has never been an impartial audit of this claim.

Man, only one paragraph in, and already look at all this debunking. Better pace myself...
LIFO cost Newark $8.5 million last year, and indirectly cost tens of millions more by tying the district’s hands on hiring and firing decisions.
False. The $8.5 million figure is the NPS cost estimate of the "excess teacher pool," about 100 teachers who lost their jobs in the district's restructuring and were not offered jobs by current principals. As the S-L's own Joan Whitlow said, "It would be foolish to think all those in the pool are bad teachers. It would be just as foolish to believe there are no bad teachers among those left behind."
Under current law, when district schools face under-enrollment, they must lay off newer teachers first, regardless of performance. Meanwhile, poor performers with tenure can’t be fired. New Jersey is one of only 11 states to maintain the outdated LIFO policy.
Again, false. Poor performers can be dismissed quickly and with minimal cost under TEACHNJ, a bill written largely by the NJEA. And even before TEACHNJ, Newark was able to rehabilitate or remove poor teachers.

(Oh, and New Jersey's public schools are arguably the best-performing ones in the nation; why mess with success?)
Another real solution is to close failing and underperforming schools, whether they are charters or district-run.
Let's first acknowledge that the closure of real public schools in Newark is being undertaken against the express wishes of the elected school advisory board the elected city council, the students themselves, the teachers (who have called for an external audit), and the parents who have brought civil rights charges against the district.

There is far more evidence that the good people of Newark want their real public schools to remain open than there is that they want an expansion of charter schools.

Further, it is quite clear that these closings are, in fact, directly related to charter expansion. The NJDOE, which runs the district, has made no secret of its desire to replace real public schools with charters and vouchers for private schools. The deliberate and stunningly quick retreat from funding equity in New Jersey's public schools serves this purpose quite well: as the urban public schools are continuously underfunded by the Christie Administration, a two-tier system of education in Newark is emerging.

Newark is becoming an increasingly segregated school district: a system of charters - often espousing a militaristic, "no excuses" culture - versus an underfunded, crowded, crumbling public school system for those whom the charters refuse to educate.

But that, apparently, is what hacky hacks like Mashea Ashton want. How hacktastic.


1 comment:

Mrs. King's music students said...

I had a chance to speak with the parent of a 6th grader today, who plans to move him to charter school next year. To persuade her to continue with Camden Public Schools which have done right by her son so far, I started by asking her if she had seen her son perform in the Spring Concert. I went on to describe how I had been pulling him out of extended day activities for piano lessons when he "acts up". She was aware of his acting up, but not aware that he was getting free piano lessons or that he had learned to read notation or that he demonstrated musical talent.

She was also aware that he was a "top scorer" on NJASK - especially in Math but not aware that the Math Coach had been pulling her son for extra instruction FOR YEARS knowing that the boy tended to act up when he was bored and responded well to challenging instruction.

After bringing her up to date on all of the above, I asked what she thought the charter school could offer her son that public schools couldn't. She said "they have a bus."

We may be over thinking this. It may be about the bus.