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, January 28, 2012

Charter Segregation, Hoboken Style!

Yesterday, I responded to Laura Waters's piece at NJ Spotlight, where she described the fainting spells she gets when communities dare to stand up and demand that the State of New Jersey stop shoving unaccountable charter schools down their throats.

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.

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]
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:
Hispanic Students as a percentage of total population
Hoboken "Regular" Schools: 60%
Elysian: 28%

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 population
Hoboken "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.
Back 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:

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?


Deb said...

My guess is not, Duke - the serious conversation part, that is. I have found the proponents of charter schools simply ignore that which does not fit the picture they want to paint. I also find that they accuse those of us fighting for accountability, transparency, and yes even that pesky right to vote, as resistant to change --- when it is really these proponents that are terrified that we might improve the system to allow for more equitable, accountable and community based charter schools. But please keep trying. Sooner or later you will pop their bubble!

Duke said...

Thx Deb. The "status quo" argument has become insipid: the "status quo" includes years of charters that are not producing results as a whole. And the evidence continues to show many "successful" ones rely on having student populations.

Same with testing, merit pay, VAM, etc. That's the "status quo."

Anonymous said...

Duke, we are talking about children. This is a racist discussion. Shame on you.

Duke said...

Anon: just to be clear:

Is it racist of the NCES and the State of NJ to collect this data?

Or is it racist of me to present it?

I suppose it's "classist" of me to bring the "Free Lunch" data into this as well?

Is NCLB a racist law because it REQUIRES judging a school on the performance of its students in these subgroups?

Or is it just racist to point out the facts?

Anonymous said...

Clang, Clang, Clang went the trolly . . .

The likes of you might be fooling yourself, but most of us have seen color blind racism before.

Here's a bit about its current form.


Duke said...

So now pointing out segregation in schools is just like calling Barack Obama the "food stamp president."


Anonymous said...

Sorry, for being unclear, its those who claim to be colorblind or claim liberals are the racists who champion innercity charters (from a safe distance). Thanks for your hard work, Duke!

Teacher Mom said...

Had a feeling that was you on the thread. Nice job. PS my previous school may be slated for closure, and just like Dr. Ravitvh has stated in the past, those kids are just going to get turned over to the other segregated poor schools within the same inner city neighborhood. The other schools just WON'T take them. The "ghetto" kids wil bring down their testing average. It's a sad day for inner city education. To Ms. Waters, I'll support Charters when they take the MAJORITY of difficult to teach learners like was originally intended.

Duke said...

Anon: OK, understood. Sorry to misunderstand.

Duke said...

TM - Amen!

Anonymous said...

It's (not its) not a problem.

Grndstn said...

My school has the same % free lunch as Connors. There are all kinds of sad correlations with that amount of poverty. I wish that the urban voice organizes to shield urban public school funding from the salivating charter industry. Thank you (all) for keeping an eye on things.

Deb said...

Grndstn - We would love to see a louder voice from the urban areas and SOSNJ is trying to help. Please, if you have an interest, sign up at SOSNJ and get our info, and share with us ideas to get the urban areas together to protect what they need before they lose more!



Duke said...

Amen to that - SOSNJ is doing great work and needs everyone's support!

Deb said...

Thanks Duke. You make it a lot easier!