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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Charter Cheerleading, Ledger-Style

So my print version of this morning Star-Ledger had an advertising insert - oh, sorry, it was the op-ed section! I thought maybe the charter school association paid for the print space...

After this, and then this, and then this, you'd think the S-L had stroked Christie and the 'formers as well as they could. But then Tom Moran steps in with a paean to vouchers:
“I don’t have a title in front of my name,” she said. “But I’m a parent, and I want to be sure my son is educated. I had to take my son out of the public schools because they were failing. And this will help kids like him. No one seems to be talking about that.”

At her side was her 16-year-old son, Al-Jani, in his shirt and tie. Everything changed, he said, when his mom found him a scholarship to Immaculate Conception High School in Montclair this year.

“I’m surrounded by students who want to learn and succeed, who aren’t fighting and cursing and talking back to the teacher,” he said. “Now I have to study. I’m in an environment that can help me succeed. And I want other kids to have this so they can succeed.”
God bless this kid, and I wish him the best. I am left to wonder, however, what happens to all of his former classmates when they take their vouchers to Immaculate Conception and start fighting and cursing and talking back - do they get to stay? I don't think so.

Vouchers are all about moving a kid into a different atmosphere; consequently, they are an acknowledgement that it is much harder to teach some kids than others. If that's the case, why we do we insist that teachers are at fault when not every kid succeeds?

Which, of course, is the problem with charter schools: they are also primarily about changing the student population. And that's the point Bob Braun makes in a piece for the S-L that apparently didn't make it into my print edition (if it was printed some other time, I stand corrected - but why not include it with the rest of the pro-charter stuff to have a little balance):
Some critics argue state studies comparing scores of charter schools with their home districts were not scientific and unbiased and, if they showed anything, proved test score averages can be improved by not enrolling children who don’t do well on standardized tests.
“If the children are compared honestly, there is no significant statistical difference between the performance of students in charter schools and those in traditional public schools,” says Bruce Baker, a Rutgers researcher and, incidentally, a charter school advocate.
Charter schools enroll far fewer children with handicaps than conventional schools, far fewer non-English-speaking, and far fewer who are so poor they qualify for free lunches.The latest available state records show: In Asbury Park, 21.9 percent of students have special needs; charter school enrollment is only 9.8 percent special education. 
In Camden, special education enrollment is 21.8 percent; its charter schools have an average 6 percent special enrollment. Hoboken, 16.2 percent for public schools, 14.5 percent for charters. Jersey City, 13.8 percent of all students, 10.7 percent in charters. Newark, 19.7 in public schools, 5.5 percent in charters. Paterson, 15.4 percent versus 4.2. Trenton, 19.7 percent versus 15 percent.
Records on non-English-speaking are spotty but, where they exist, disparities are wider.
The state report comparing charters to their home districts did not exclude classified or limited-English-speaking pupils. It did not factor in the very poor. A second report, requested by this newspaper, corrected some problems but did not consider income levels.
Maybe Braun could speak to his editors about maybe doing some reporting before reprinting the governor's propaganda next time. 

Folks, I really don't want to turn this blog into the anti-Star-Ledger, or anti-Record, or anti-NJ-media blog. But the reporting on education has been consistently awful. It's time for the media to raise it game.

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