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 28, 2014

UPDATED: Miami-Dade's Charters Don't Serve the Same Students

UPDATE: I really try hard to get this stuff exactly right; in this case, I made a small mistake, and I'm replacing the graphs. Honestly, you would hardly notice the difference if I put the graphs side-by-side, but I try to set the bar pretty high here, and I don't want stuff out there that isn't completely bulletproof.

While I was at it, I decided to add the numbers for another charter management organization, CharterUSA. Like the others, I tagged their schools by looking at the website.

* * *

The series from the SunSentinel on Florida's charter schools is well worth the read: it's the Wild West down there, with some of the craziest stories of charter school malfeasance, corruption, and incompetence you could imagine.

What's missing, however, is some hard data on student population characteristics and academic results. I want to try to fill that in over the next few posts.

Data here is from two sources: the FLDOE and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The following two graphs come from M-DCPS data. The blue bars represent the M-DCPS -- the non-charters. Red bars are the charters; green and purple are two of the better-known for-profit charter school operators, Academica and Mavericks.

Academica, as I reported last year, has an amazing scheme working for them: using taxpayer-subsidized financing, they build new charters on land that they control, raking in lease payments from charters they, in many cases, operate. The Tampa Bay Times reported last April that the company is under federal investigation.

Mavericks is run by the brother of Vice-President Joe Biden, Frank:
Biden, the brother of Vice President Joe Biden, offered some red meat, saying the school choice movement needs to continue organizing parents – and accumulating political power.
“It’s all about the 501(c)(4) and how much money we get in it,” he said. “And we go see our friends and we tell them we’ll support them. And we go see our enemies and look ‘em in the eye and say we’re going to take you down.”
OK, then.

What's clear here is that these charter operators are not serving a representative student population of the Miami-Dade School District. Academica is, for all intents and purposes, a Hispanic school system, enrolling fewer Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL)* students than M-DCPS. Mavericks has a black student population strikingly larger than the rest of the area, and far more boys, even as their FRPL population is relatively smaller.

There are also notable differences in student enrollment in special programs:

The charter sector, and Academica in particular, has left the education of Students With Disabilities (SWDs) to M-DCPS. Mavericks is the big exception here, but remember: not all "disabilities" are the same. I haven't yet found whether the data is there to explore this further.

I also find it striking that Academica has such a large Hispanic student population, yet a smaller proportion of English Language Learners (ELL) than M-DCPS (reminds me of the Noble charter chain in Chicago).

It's going to take a bit of time to get a handle of how this affects student achievement. But it's worth repeating: any time you hear that Florida's charter schools are getting "great" results, remember that they do not serve the same student populations as the local public schools.

I often get the feeling some folks would rather you not remember this.

Charter school edu-preneur and Academica business partner Pitbull.

* Annoying: both FLDOE and M-DCPS data do not disaggregate free lunch from reduced-price lunch students. Yes, it matters.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"And we go see our enemies (presumably public school officials. MF) and look 'em in the eye and say we're going to take you down."

At last, an "honest" so-called reformer, who reveals what charter schools are really about.