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, April 5, 2014

Charter School "Success": There's ALWAYS a Catch

Camden's public school district is being systematically dismantled to become a "portfolio" district of "choice." This is, of course, all part of the formerly secret plan that was implemented by Former Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf -- a plan paid for by his mentor and patron, California billionaire Eli Broad.

What barely gets mentioned in the discussion of Camden's charter schools, however, is what barely gets mentioned in discussions of any city's charters: "successful" charter schools owe most of their "success" to the fact that they don't educate the same kids as their neighboring public schools.

Camden is a particularly interesting case of this phenomenon. Because often you can count on charters to segregate students by poverty status; Hoboken's charters are a particularly good (bad?) example of this. But Camden's poverty is so prevalent that its schools don't show much variation in free lunch-eligible status. We're better off looking at other differences in student characteristics...

Like special education rates.

Let me first say that there are other measures of student outcomes that show far less correlation to special education rates. But it's telling that 60 percent of the variation in 8th Grade language arts proficiency (as measured here by what proportion of students "clear the bar" on the NJASK test) can be explained by the special education rate for a school.

And notice Camden's charter schools in red: all have relatively low SpecEd rates, which clearly helps their proficiency rates (except in the case of DUE, which has a SpecEd rate just as low or lower than many CPS schools, yet lags relative to them in proficiency). 

Is State Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard's plan to move as many children as possible into charters with low SpecEd rates? Who, then, will be left behind in the public schools?

I think the answer to that question's rather obvious, don't you?

Chris Christie: "Paymon has a proven track record..."

ADDING: I'm a little reluctant to post this graph, as it has so many caveats attached to it. SAT scores are not good measures of school effectiveness, as the tests are voluntary (among other reasons). We don't have many data points for Camden high schools, so any linear regression is somewhat suspect. The range of scores isn't all that big, either.

All that said...

Over three-quarters of the variation in Camden's high school's SAT scores can be explained by the schools' special education percentages.

Perhaps someone ought to ask Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, the founder of LEAP Academy, what she thinks would happen if she took on the same special education population as Camden High.

1 comment:

lisalinnellolsen said...

You raise a good point about charter schools not having students of the same socioeconomic status as regular public schools. This seems to hold true everywhere that there are public charter schools. What do you think are some of the factors that drive this in Camden? Do you think the school district could overcome these factors to create a more equitable school choice system?