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

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gulen Criticism Goes Mainstream

Last night, 60 Minutes moved the concern about Gulen schools away from tin-foil hat country and into the mainstream:

Interesting; unfortunately, once again, CBS News misses the point when it comes to "high-performing" charter schools.

Take, for example, Bergen Arts and Sciences here in Jersey. Typically, as Lesley Stahl reports, they try to distance themselves from Gulen, but Bergen A & S is a Turkish school nonetheless. I wrote about the school this past December; is it really that "impressive"?
I went to the Common Core of Data at NCES to get the demographic data for all of the schools in the zip code of Bergen A & S. Using Bruce Baker's method, I made another another quick graph:

Many of the schools have a larger population of "free lunch" kids than Bergen, but not by a huge amount; some have a slightly smaller percentage. But look carefully at the other columns. Something jumped out at me right away.

Let me highlight it for you:

The raw data for 2009-10 shows that Bergen A & S had more Asian students in its school (63) than the rest of the schools in the district combined (59). Bruce Baker's analysis confirms mine:

The zip code for Garfield is 07026; look how it spikes on the chart. What are we to make of this? Well, you know me and my numbered conclusions:

Keep this in mind as you read this passage from Brody's article: 
Garfield schools Superintendent Nicholas Perrapato said academic files of his students who switched to the charter showed many were top students. "If you're getting the cream of the crop, you should do well," he said.
"It's not that our kids are the smartest kids in the area, but we prepare them," countered the charter's CEO, Nihat Guvercin, a former physics teacher from Turkey. "Students have potential. They only need someone to give them options." [emphasis mine]
I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide if maybe Perrapato has a point.

Any time you see a mainstream media report about how "impressive" a charter is, watch out: inevitably, there's more to the story. In this case, like so many other charters, Bergen A & S owes at least some of its "success" to the fact that it has a substantially different student population than its neighboring public schools.

It would be well worth CBS's time to hire someone to look into whether this is a trend across the country.

(Hey, in a month, I'll be looking for some temporary work...)

ADDING: Sharon Higgins deserves credit for laying the groundwork for an investigation on Gulen. Here's her response to CBS's report.

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