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Last week, I wrote a diary sharing my experience with a small charter school in Northern California. I opened a can of worms that, though not completely unexpected, was much larger than I had imagined. I found that we have Kossacks who literally hate all charter schools across the board (and homeschooling, too) and Kossacks who support the growth of charters in a responsible manner. We succeeded in confirming only one fact - self proclaimed progressives are not on the same page when it comes to education. Not at all.

A report by CREDO, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (not the phone company), was referred to by several of the opponents of charter schools. Azezelo kindly offered me the link and I've spent some time reading the report.

I was surprised. The report is not the damning piece of evidence against charter schools. Rather, it reveals both some of the problems and of the benefits of charter school education models. CREDO also makes recommendations on how to improve the charter system rather than getting rid of it all together.

Let's begin with the most quoted portion of the CREDO report:

The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior educaton opportunities for their students. Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.

Opponents of charter schools have used this quote to claim that the majority of charter schools are either worse or no better than traditional public schools. Fair enough. When you look at this paragraph, that's exactly what it says. You add the numbers for succeeding as well as with failing and you end up with more than 51%. Of course, add superior numbers to succeeding numbers and the number is more than 51% as well. It's that 37% that really stands out.

Let's look at a little more closely to get a better idea of what these numbers really mean. From here on out in the diary, all bolding is mine for emphasis. And we need to explain the term TPS - it stands for 'Twin Public School.' In order to compare charter schools to public schools, the study created virtual public schools - basically the students in real life come from many different public schools. More about this towards the end of the diary.

Here is the worst:

On average, charter school students can expect to see their acadmic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small. Charter students trail the academic growth of TPS students by .01 standard deviations in reading, and by .03 standard deviations in math. Though small, these effects are statistically significant. These findings hold for students across the board of inital starting scores, except for students in the lowest and highest starting deciles in reading

And here is the best:

There is some good news as well. Nationally, elementary and middle school charter students exhibited higher learning gains than equivalent students in the traditional public school system. In addition, some subgroups demonstrated greater academic growth than their TPS twins. Specifically, students in poverty and ELL students experience larger learning gains in charter schools. Other subgroups, however, including Black and HIspanic students as a whole, have learning gains that are significantly smaller than those of their TPS twins.
 

Remove high schools from the mix, and the numbers start to look a whole lot better.

The other day, I saw a lot of 'facts' thrown around in the comments of my diary. One of them was:

Charter schools don't help poor kids learn better.

One person actually used the CREDO report to support this 'fact.' Unfortunately, he didn't read the entire report or chose to cherry pick because, according to the report, if charter schools do anything, they help kids in poverty:

In our nationally pooled sample, two subgroups fare better in charters than in the traditional system: students in poverty and ELL students. This is no small feat. In these cases, our numbers indicate that charter students who fall into these categories are outperforming their TPS counterparts in both reading and math. These populations, then, have clearly been well served by the introduction of charters into the education landscape. These findings are particularly heartening for the charter advocates who target the most challenging educational populations or strive to improve education options in the most difficult communities. Charter schools that are organized around a mission to teach the most economically disadvantaged students in particular seem to have developed expertise in serving these communities.

Another 'fact' that was often hinted at but never explicitly stated was that average American middle class families benefit from charters more than any other population, at the detriment to the local public school. Ironically, the CREDO report has  this to say:

Students not in poverty and students who are not English language learners on average do notably worse than the same students who remain in traditional public school systems.

Essentially, many of us on DKos who support charter schools fall into that category - families not in poverty and families that already speak English. We would be the ones least served by the introduction of a charter school in our community yet many of us still support charter schools.

Look at what charter schools are doing in some states:

Black charter school students do better compared to their TPS peers in both math and reading in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Missouri. In addition, Black charter school students to better in California and better in math in Arkansas than their TPS peers.

(snip)

Hispanic charter school students do better compared to their TPS peers in both math and reading in Missouri. In addition, Hispanic charter school students do better in math in Arkansas, Colorado and Louisiana than their TPS peers.

Why do charter schools work for some populations in some places and not in others? This is actually a question a lot of us were asking in the comments of last week's diary. To me, this is the very heart of the matter. This is why charter schools are important. When we see where they succeed and where they fail, we can use those examples to improve the entire public school system.

What is clear from the report is that some state Charter School Systems are doing well while others are not. Again, according to the CREDO report:

The effectiveness of charter schools was found to vary widely by state.

In five states - Arkansas, Colorado (Denver), Illinois (Chicago), Lousiana, and Missouris - charter school students experienced significantly larger growth - ranging from .02 standard deviations to .07 standard deviations - than would have occured in TPS.

In six states - Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, and Texas - charter school students experienced lower learning gains - ranging from -.01 to -.06 - than would have occurred in TPS.

In four states - California, District of Columbia, Georgia, and North Carolina - the results were mixed or no different from the gains for TPS.

During the conversations in my last diary, we were beginning to come to similar conclusions. It seemed that some of us had great experiences in some states and horrible experiences in others. Seemed like there was little in between. The hard part that we didn't figure out is why. The CREDO report addresses some of the failures, though not all:

  • The academic success of charter school students was found to be affected by the contours of the charter policies under which their schools operate
  • States that have limits on the number of charter schools permitted to operate, known as caps, realize significantly lower academic growth than states without caps, around .03 standard deviations.
  • States that empower multiple entities to act as charter school authorizers realize significantly lower growth in academic learning in their students, on the order of -.08 standard deviations. While more research is needed into the causal mechanism, it appears that charter school operators are able to identify and choose the more permissive entity to provide them oversight
  • Where state charter legislation provides an avenue for appeals of adverse decision on applications or renewals, students realize a small but signigicant gain in learning, about .02 standard deviations

In other words, we need to have charter contracts that are well written from the start, states should consider making charter growth unlimited while providing only one or two very specific authorizing bodies with clear standards, and states should provide access to appeal the decisions of the authorizing body.

How many of us know what the specific rules are in our state?

The CREDO report, while acknowledging that Charter schools can do well:

Students do better in charter schools over time. First year charter students on average experience a decline in learning, which may reflect a combination of mobility effects and the experience of a charter school in its early years. Second and third years in charter schools see a significant reversal to positive gains.

Gives a very strong warning to those of us who support Charters:

Further, tremendous variation in academic quality among charters is the norm, not the exception. The problem of quality is the most pressing issue that charter schools and their supporters face.

The report especially calls out authorizing bodies in their role. Basically, unless authorizing bodies start taking their job more seriously and weed out more of the failing charter schools, the entire system could fail. We can see that here at DailyKos. People are arguing for the end of all charter schools because of the failures of some. Those who make that argument are on the reverse spectrum of those claiming that the public school system is failing. Neither are right.

My personal conclusions after reading the report:

1. We seriously need to take a look at charters for High School students. If they are failing in such numbers as to bring down the entire percentage for all charter schools, then the models being used are obviously flawed.

2. Because charter schools don't seem to help middle class students near successful public schools but do seem to help students in poverty, we need to find ways to expand the charter model in communities that they can best serve.

3. The problems with charters needs to be tackled on a State by State level, changing laws in those states where Charters Schools are most struggling and improving laws in other states to best optimize the system.

Now, all of this said, we need to remember a couple of things. First, there are people who believe this entire report is flawed. One person in particular, Caroline Hoxby, has written about what she sees as a serious statistical mistake in the report. You can read both her letters and CREDO's responses on the bottom of this page.

The report bases all of its information on standardized test scores. Most of us here at DailyKos have a serious problem with student performance being judged solely by tests. That should make us think twice about some of the findings in this report as well.

I found it interesting that there was never a head to head comparison of schools, only a comparison of charter schools students to public school students through the Virtual Public School model created by the study's designers.

With that said, we in the community need to make a choice about using this report to support our points of view. If you claim part of it, should you claim all of it? I'm not fond of people who cherry pick the good and fail to share the bad. I've done my best to give you an honest assessment of what this report has to offer.

What I hope happens, especially here at DailyKos, is that we stop demonizing Charter Schools and start seeing them as part of a broad system of education alternatives.
If we hope to once again have a vibrant education system in the United States, we need to pull out all the stops and use everything at our disposal, including successful charter schools.

Interested in other conversations about education? Follow us at Education Alternatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  since charter schools push kids "back to district" (6+ / 0-)

    when they have-- or, to be fair, when they cause-- problems,
    but districts have pretty much no place to send those  kids until they drop out...

    I should darn well hope they can produce better results some of the time.

     

    It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

    by sayitaintso on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 05:12:17 AM PDT

    •  Is this a problem in your specific state? (5+ / 0-)

      Charter schools are working with all types of kids and, in the state of CA, are not allowed to 'cherry pick' their students.

      Yes, parents do begin the process so I will agree that from the beginning, charter schools have an advantage in that students who attend most likely have at least one parent interested in their education.

      But I don't agree that charter schools across the board kick out students that don't succeed.

      Unless you have some evidence to offer that this is happening, it makes it hard to have a conversation about this topic. Bring some specifics, please.

      •  I have heard from other parents of the hurdles (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, ubertar

        to remaining in New Jersey's boss-controlled charters.

        Also to getting in.

        If the laws are not enforced by agencies that wish to enforce them,  or have the resources to do so,  then unaccountable,  self-selected school leadership will flout them.

        Now,  elected school boards and appointed officials will do the same.  Ive worked with a couple of families whose daughters were pretty much told "drop out and go to Adult School"  by Irvington HS.  

        It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

        by sayitaintso on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:48:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Speaking personally (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, princss6

        My kids are in choice programs that are not charters, but rather are part of our regular district, and I have definitely seen this happening in those programs.

        Parents of kids whom the teachers perceive to not fit the program model - kids who are not succeeding academically or who are causing behavior problems in the classroom - are strongly encouraged to move their children into the traditional neighborhood program.

        I'm not sure that has been demonstrated statistically (you probably could show that there is attrition from the choice programs, but you wouldn't know why without asking the families) but I've seen it happening with families I know. So while I don't have personal experience with a charter, I definitely would not be surprised if it is happening.

        Thanks for a balanced diary.

        •  You're welcome. (2+ / 0-)

          I think it's a shame when any school runs kids out of a program because they 'don't fit.'  Especially if they don't have a true alternative to offer the family.

          I do believe that there are good fits and bad fits - I know that some families definitely want to have grades and would have a hard time in a system that didn't give out letter grades. However, I can't see pushing that kid out, especially in elementary school, unless the teacher saw the program as detrimental to that child (rather than that child being detrimental to the program).

          As a parent with kids in such a program, do you think anyone benefits when this happens?

          •  Well (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            princss6

            It's a tough question. I think there are situations where the child may be better off in a traditional program. For example, one of my children is in a language immersion program in the early grades. Some of his classmates have had academic trouble and have left. It could well be that those students are better off in an environment where they don't have the additional hurdle of learning a new language in addition to the other learning the child needs to be doing. So I think there are certainly cases where the decision is a good one. However, it can definitely be a situation where the school or teacher just doesn't want to deal with the more challenging children. I once had a teacher ask me if I would give my more "spirited" child "the gift" of a transfer to a different classroom; in other words would I give her the gift of getting him off her hands. (I didn't, but it was a tough year.)

            •  Sorry for asking tough questions :) (5+ / 0-)

              So basically, it seems to me, that is comes to an issue of trust.

              We have to trust the parents and the teachers to make good decisions together.

              I can remember a time when we lived in Germany and we had to make a decision about whether to put my son in first grade or to keep him in German kindergarten (it's a three year program, unlike ours). First of all, I was shocked to have a choice to make.  There was no firm deadline for being a first grader. They actually had a three month window of time and even that, I think, was flexible. Your parents and your teacher would make the decision together. I thought at the time that it was inspired. It is a system that was built on trust - the system trusted the parents and the teacher to make the right decision for that student which, in turn, would be the best decision for the school as a whole. Amazing, really, isn't? That is could be that simple?

        •  Hi pat! (2+ / 0-)

          Your comment reminds me of the cherry-picking that happens in public schools.  It also reminds me of the meme that the parents who care "the most" opt-out of traditional public school and thus "magically" it seems their kids do better.  What that thinking doesn't address is the parents who seek out alternatives who are unable to enter the school and/or parents who are forced out of those alternatives.  But we are supposed to believe that the only difference between successful kids and unsuccessful kids is that "their parents care about education!"  The reality for too many that I know doesn't line up with the common wisdom.  

          I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

          by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 12:30:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Charter schools were introduced (5+ / 0-)

      in order to provide BETTER educational opportunities for kids who couldn't benefit from their local public schools or one reason or another. UNLESS they do that and UNTIL we are properly funding public schools for all children, yes, they should be outlawed. Multiple educational systems are expensive and until we are back in an environment where gutting school funding is no longer an option, we just can't afford them – and debating whether they are adequate or mostly accomplishing about the same as public schools is beside the point. If an overwhelming majority are doing no better, they should be eliminated. If 75 percent of them are doing better than public schools, we can have the conversation, along with where we are going to get a large increase in school funding so that maintaining charters doesn't punish public schools.

      Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

      by anastasia p on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:04:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, multiple systems are expensive, (6+ / 0-)

        although most charters actually get LESS money than a comparative traditional school.

        But the traditional system is not working. And how are we to know how to improve it if we don't experiment with other models? Charter schools, at their best, are research. Research is expensive, but it always pays off in the end.

        "We live now in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

        by tb92 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 09:53:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Are there any programs (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Linda Wood, ubertar

          you can point to, anywhere in the country, where a public school system has spawned a successful charter school and the charter school methods were then adopted back into the public school and the charter school re-integrated?

          Or any charters where the school's charter specifically states the purpose of the school as research and defines measurements and actions based on the definition?

          •  Check out the Urban Education Institute (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelajean, Clues

            They run four charter schools on the south side of Chicago, are VERY involved in doing research on best practices, and then promulgating them.   Very research and data driven, and doing a very good job.

            http://uei.uchicago.edu/

          •  My family left a private Waldorf school (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelajean, nyskeptic

            and moved to a charter specifically because we wanted to share that teaching method with as many other people as possible. In our case, we know from decades of experience that our system works. Our experiment involves how to translate that to a public environment. The schools main priority, of course, is to educate our children. But the administration, teachers, and many of the parents know that our eventual goal is expand and try to help others. And I know of other charter schools which are successful and trying to expand so that their system can be used by more kids.

            In my area, the school district really doesn't want to learn from us. We are trying to reach out to them. But if they refuse to learn from those who are succeeding, the answer is not to close the charters, but to work toward changing the traditional system.

            "We live now in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

            by tb92 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 12:47:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am especially glad to see your comment. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              angelajean

              I do not have school age children (they are grown) so I don't have first hand experience in Waldorf.  My daughter, however, has done extensive research on alternative methods, and has pulled me into her research.  Out of all the readings we have done, we like the Waldorf method the best.  She's had her son in the parent child early education class, but not in the regular school.  So although we don't have a lot of experience in Waldorf, we have some.  It's really gratifying to see positive comments on this style of education.  I am well aware of the number of Waldorf style public schools, but we don't have any here in NY.  Too bad, because of course, private school here is prohibitive.  It would be the best of both worlds to have a public Waldorf school as a choice.

              "..faith is believing what you know aint so." Mark Twain

              by nyskeptic on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 03:42:41 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  could you start a charter in that community? (0+ / 0-)

                Of course, it would mean finding the teachers to back the school, but I bet you could find a group to work towards this.

                http://www.uscharterschools.org/...

              •  My cousin's son (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean

                went Waldorf through 8th grade, I believe, and is now in college, healthy and happy. One of my friends in another state has her three kids in Waldorf and is happy with it. It's something we were always interested in but didn't have one nearby so we had to experience it vicariously. I did know someone who homeschooled using Waldorf ideas, but it seems such a community-based method that I wonder how it worked ultimately. I know of some charter schools and even a magnet, I think, in our old school system that used Montessori. I don't know why one couldn't charter or magnet a Waldorf school.

                There's a reason Democrats won massively the last two cycles, and it wasn't because people were desperate for "bipartisanship". --kos

                by Debby on Thu Jun 23, 2011 at 08:26:14 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  I'd be much more inclined to (9+ / 0-)

    support charter schools if it were illegal for parent groups who wanted to start a charter school to outsource management to corporations, particularly the for-profit variety.

    Peak Oil is NOW! Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

    by alizard on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 05:24:39 AM PDT

  •  It Strikes Me as a Search to See if Something (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, MadRuth

    different can be eventually developed or found that works better than what we already know works.

    17% provide superior eduction; superior to what? The best 17% of public schools? I'd suspect out of the gate that the wealthiest 17% of public school districts deliver some superior education.

    An interesting project for R&D, nothing remotely interesting in a public interest sense for rolling out into national education.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 05:38:22 AM PDT

    •  Comparison was to virtual twins, not to schools (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nextstep, congenitalefty, princss6, VClib

      They found a student that fit the same description as the student in the charter school to see how they were doing:

      For each charter school student, a virtual twin is created based on students who match the charter student's demographics, English language proficiency and participation in special education or subsidized lunch programs. virtual twins were developed for 84 percent of all the students in charter schools.

      There was not straight comparison to any public school.

    •  I was thinking the same thing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      congenitalefty, princss6

      until I wrote a comment above that got me thinking about school boards.

      A big problem with charters is the ones that fail... and the ones that are failing should disappear fairly quickly accept that the authorizing bodies don't always do their job. The authorizing body is very often the school board.

      The school board is the same lynch pin that causes problems in many, many school districts.

      What is it that we can change about school boards but still keep them essentially a group of people elected by the local community? It seems like a lot of them have a hard time making the tough decisions (like most politicians). Are we stuck with that? Or can we change the status quo somehow?

      •  Nothing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean

        The charter owners have too much power. They dismiss school boards that ask inconvenient questions. This has happened all over Ohio, where the entire charter school setup is corrupt.

        Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

        by anastasia p on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:08:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Do you know the answers to these questions (0+ / 0-)

          for Ohio:

          Who is the authorizing agent for charter schools? Is there only one or more than one?

          Are there limits to how many charter schools may operate in the state in a single year?

          Also, I wondered if you are part of a movement in the state of Ohio to get rid of charter schools?

        •  The school board in Los Angeles... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angelajean

          have certainly flexed their muscles and not renewing charters of charter schools.  Just today there was a story about them cracking down on the worst of the bunch.

          I think in Ohio with your red state politics it has become particularly bad, including in the charter realm.  In a blue state like California the charter approvers are much more empowered to ensure charters comply to the nth degree.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:41:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  But if you cannot get into the 17% superior public (5+ / 0-)

      school are you supposed to sacrifice your child in the process?  I  won't.  

      My daughter attends a public charter International Baccalaureate school.  She is receiving a first rate education, not available at the "George W. Bush School" down the street.  It is a K-12 program in its first year -- and yes some of the 6-12 kids are struggling because they did not receive a great K-5 education, like my daughter is receiving.  But the school is working with them.

      Every kid deserves an excellent education, but what are parents supposed to do when that is not what is available?  Our kids spend 6 to 7 hours a day in school.  I want that environment to be as productive and positive as possible.

      And yes, I work with/volunteer at my daughter's school.  At the school down the street, it would take an army of parents to help the over 50% of the kids who are behind.  The truth is the parents who should be concerned there are not present in the flesh or after hours.

      "Since when did obeying corporate power become patriotic." Going the Distance

      by Going the Distance on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:26:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Every kid does indeed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clues

        Your child in the current system is tragically robbing two or three other kids of their shot. Not your fault; your position is understandable. As a childless taxpayer, however, I tend to be an advocate for ALL kids, not just those with heavily engaged parents. We need good schools that benefit every child, and to not continue to siphon off resources from schools that serve the poorest and least supported kids in order to give more engaged parents more free options.

        Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

        by anastasia p on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:10:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What about the charters that are doing a better (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          job for populations of kids that usually aren't served well?

          I was struck by the fact that charter schools help kids in poverty but don't really help your average middle class kid.

          I can also see why you have little to no faith in charters... I notice that in this CREDO report, Ohio is on the list of states where Charter schools aren't doing so well.

          •  One point of analysis... (1+ / 0-)

            that is missing vis-a-vis this point...

            I was struck by the fact that charter schools help kids in poverty but don't really help your average middle class kid.

            It doesn't give you the relative position of the low-income child or middle-income child academically.  The middle class child could already be at the ceiling, i.e. receiving a decent education and within our educational system not have more room to grow.  Where as the low-income child could have more room for growth because they started at a lower position.  That is something missing in the discussion of the Credo report.  It makes sense to me that middle-class kids aren't really seeing gains so...

            I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

            by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 12:44:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's an interesting question (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              princss6

              I think you raise a good point. There is only so much growth one can expect if you are already doing well.

              The question that comes to mind is - (while I don't think we are there right now in terms of evaluation results) suppose in future the data end up showing that alternatives don't matter for middle / upper class or suburban students but are a net positive for lower income students. What would the policy implications of that be?

              Another random thought - one charter school I am somewhat familiar with (or have read about anyway; I don't personally know anyone who attends it) is a performing arts charter high school in a nearby district. It is supposed to be very good. Now this is a situation where the students who attend it would in all likelihood do fine academically at their home school. (Many of them anyway; the district, which is large and urban, is mixed on the success of its high schools.) This charter, in a sense, is not there to meet unmet academic needs. The argument which I seem to be reading from some nonparents in this thread is that as taxpayers we should only be meeting the minimum academic requirements and should not be paying more to offer students an "extra" education for particular interests. They wouldn't see that as a good use of their tax dollars. I personally totally disagree with that and I think it's great that such an option exists for those students, even if it means expending some additional resources. Those kids would not have the same options at their home schools to further develop in their area of interest.

              •  Were you speaking of me (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Linda Wood

                when you said this?

                The argument which I seem to be reading from some nonparents in this thread is that as taxpayers we should only be meeting the minimum academic requirements and should not be paying more to offer students an "extra" education for particular interests.

                If so, that doesn't reflect my views on it.  My view is that sometimes, programs of this type are what keep marginal kids in school and learning, and they can be very important.

                But I also understand that school budgets and issues are all local.  If you live in an area that somehow happened to escape our current economic devastation, then you have more options than someone trying to budget for schools in Detroit.

                If you have no money to even make sure your school buildings are safe for students, and you've fired 25% of your teachers and you now have 50 students per class, then the last thing you should be doing is planning to open a charter school for the performing arts.

                If you DO have the money and want to invest it  in arts, music, languages, and other enrichments, why build a separate school so that just some of the kids can participate in just one of those options?  Why not offer those programs to all the kids?  

                In short, I like the idea of offering those things if you can afford them, what I don't like is that automatic assumption that it has to be removed from the general school population, and that only a few kids can get that advantage.

                •  But you can't (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  princss6

                  offer them at a highly intensive level to all students, or if you did only some students would want to take advantage of them at that level. Just like not all students want to take French, although those classes should be an option for all who want to take them. I think these "extras" should be available at a certain level at all schools but that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be additional resources at a higher level for a concentrated population. Just like the High School of the Performing Arts in NYC, special math and science focused high schools, or schools with a health science focus - they provide specialized services for the relatively low percentage of the population who would like that. It doesn't have to be a charter, it can be done within the regular system, but I think there's a place for variety.

                  Yes, we are facing cutbacks. My children have so much less than I had in my own public education - at my elementary school we had a full time art teacher, a full time music teacher, a full time PE teacher, a cafeteria, school buses, full time librarians, a school nurse, lots of things. My kids' schools have none of those things. And now the state wants to cut more and "do more with less." They're barely getting by now. I want more for kids, not less.

                  •  I think you could do it (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    tardis10

                    We had a progressive educational system waaaaaay back when I was growing up, and there was the idea that you could have "tracks" within a school.  There were advanced math/sci tracks for kids who excelled at that, and similar programs for lit and languages and art.  The deal was that you had to qualify for the programs by first, having decent grades in the basic subjects, then by showing an aptitude for the track.

                    And you're right, not every student could into a track they wanted to be in, but that would happen anyway if the track is moved out to a charter in an entirely different school.  If you have, for example, a performing arts track, and you add 2 each singing, dancing and acting teachers, you're now in a position to rotate those students in and out of those classes and provide more spots than you might have in a separate school.

                    Most schools have already taken small steps toward this approach with AP classes and remedial classes, but very few have expanded this to include different areas of interest and/or ability.  It's an idea that could provide a small-school environment within a larger framework that provides economies of scale.

                    •  Okay (0+ / 0-)

                      That sounds fine, but I'm not necessarily convinced it would be cheaper to do that at every high school than offering it in a self-contained program and leaving other schools to focus on other things.

                    •  You've made a good argument for bringing (0+ / 0-)

                      the children from the 'arts' school into the mainstream school in order to economize.  The only thing lacking in your argument is an analysis of whether bigger is really better.  I don't have any statistics to back me up, but my personal feelings are that the larger the school, the easier for children to be lost in the system.  No mattter what the focus of the school is, I think we should be shrinking the environment, not expanding it.  I wish I had more time to address this.  Large classrooms with hundreds of kids in the halls every time a bell rings is placing a child in a really unnatural environment.  The sense of depersonalization becomes worse as the school gets bigger.  We need smaller and more personalized in our schools, not larger.  

                      "..faith is believing what you know aint so." Mark Twain

                      by nyskeptic on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 03:56:50 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  My personal taste (0+ / 0-)

                        is for smaller as well.  I like villages, not cities.  However, this approach, if done correctly, can provide a small school experience.  You have groups of teachers who all work within the same areas, groups of students that all attend the same tracks of classes.  The class sizes are not dictated by this approach, but by district finances, and if you've saved money on infrastructure, you can keep the class sizes smaller.

                        For a student in this environment, the experience is somewhat like having  a group of different schools all on the same grounds.  They see lots of different students, but they move from class to class mostly within the same group of kids, and work with the same group of teachers.

                        Really, the only thing being consolidated are the physical plants and the things that support them.  Administration can be somewhat consolidated, but you can have an administrator in charge of each track.  There are a lot of ways you can configure a school like this, depending on finances,  and the end result you want to produce.

                        A side benefit to this approach is that students get exposed to a wide variety of people this way, rather than spending their school years in a group that can sometimes be very similar in background, interests, and demographics.

                        •  I like your approach and your thinking outside of (0+ / 0-)

                          box.  I would go you one better.  What about small buildings for each track.  Just trying to push it along. :-)  doesn't necessarily mean a different school, but maybe a different building creating an atmosphere of small and taylored.

                          "..faith is believing what you know aint so." Mark Twain

                          by nyskeptic on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 04:56:06 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

              •  Well since ya asked, lol :) (3+ / 0-)
                The question that comes to mind is - (while I don't think we are there right now in terms of evaluation results) suppose in future the data end up showing that alternatives don't matter for middle / upper class or suburban students but are a net positive for lower income students. What would the policy implications of that be?

                I think this is what we currently have and we see the implications.  What works for the middle is what we will have.  This is why I get so frustrated.  For every single criticism of charters, one can make the same argument for traditional public school.  

                I've been reading comments on my comment and I am completely agreeing with almost everything you and angelajean are saying.  I'm not sure those who are gifted in performing arts would fare as well.  As a taxpayer, I have no qualms paying for all forms of education because part of the problem as I see it, is that we have one size fits all and it pretty much is serving very few who need to utilize the system in some districts.  yes, we need to develop kids in many different ways!

                I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

                by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 03:03:29 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yeah... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  princss6

                  I guess one thing I was thinking is that the implication might be that alternatives perhaps should ONLY be available, say, within certain zip codes or where a certain percentage qualify for free / reduced price lunch - and I just have a hard time seeing that as a viable policy in this day and age.

                  All these interesting ideas sadly are really moot because it's clear that no new money is forthcoming - where even the progressives care more about their tax bills than about education for other people's kids it is not likely to happen any time soon.

                •  I really admire your cutting (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  princss6

                  to the chase.  If I may paraphrase, I like your stance that one size fits all doesn't really fit anyone.  Bravo.

                  "..faith is believing what you know aint so." Mark Twain

                  by nyskeptic on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 03:58:27 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  I don't get it when you say.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          Your child in the current system is tragically robbing two or

          three other kids of their shot.

          If charters are teaching kids generally for less money per student, how is that robbing, rather than instead helping the kids in the traditional public school?  And when did empowering people to improve their children's lives become a bad thing?

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:47:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The study doesn't say... (0+ / 0-)

        that 17% of schools are better.  The study says that 17% of students do better against a "virtual twin."  Do all 17% come from the same school?  I would find that hard to believe because that would be just too neat.  In the real world nothing is ever that neat.  It has been some time since I've read the report so maybe I'm missing something...

        I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

        by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:33:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped & recc'd, thanks for the analysis. (7+ / 0-)

    I oppose charter schools for reasons that have little to do with education. The objection is a political and economic one. I have never denied that some charters are effective, though it irks me that the ones that get the press often get extraordinary funding from foundations. Having read Milton Friedman and Naomi Klein, I see charters as part of an effort to privatize public education. For me, this is the issue. This suspicion has been bolstered by my having watched the charter movement in Arizona. My state is run by conservative ideologues, charters are their solution. We have had charters for a long time and under some of the loosest regulations. We have a couple of what I call "Potemkin Charters", but we have witnessed a range of abuses and failures connected with charter schools. This report, from my local paper, will give you some idea of what I'm talking about. Again, my objection is political and economic. I maintain that some things should be public and non-profit, education is one, health care is another. Those who advocate charter schools, no matter how pure their motives, are co-operating with the long term privatization campaign of the corporate Right.

    Thanks again for the discussion, and for the hat tip. For your next assignment, here's the University of Arkansas study of school choice in Milwaukee.

    •  Thanks for another assignment ;) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, congenitalefty

      I might pass for now and write some diaries about my experiences with homeschooling.

      Did you hear the NPR story last night about funding for schools? I can't find the link but I guess they're accepting grants from foundations for public schools as well as charter schools. I thought it was PA. I wondered how you thought about that?

      From the rest of your comment, I assume that you agree the fight against charter schools is best fought state by state? Or do you still believe that we should get rid of charters across the board?

      •  I suppose there will always be those (4+ / 0-)

        seeking an alternative. Let them have charters, but charters should be strictly regulated and non-profit. To the extent that charters receive Federal dollars, Federal regulation is appropriate. Vouchers ? Never! Keep an eye on the larger issue, privatization is their goal, let's not help them. Privatization is always wrong.

        ¡Viva Baja Libre!

        by Azazello on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:22:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My daughter's high school (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, princss6, VClib

        was created with funding from the Bill Gates Foundation.  It is a public school.  

        Her school is an early college high school which works with the local Community College system to replace high school classes with college classes.  It works great.  My daughter will graduate in 2012 with a high school diploma and 2 AA degrees.

        Prior to this (middle school), she went to a charter school which was created my our then mayor, Jerry Brown, now Governor of California.  

        •  + 2 AA degress - wow that's impressive (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6, Kamakhya

          Congratulations to your daughter and you!

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:29:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Two years off of college... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Kamakhya

            That could make a huge difference is the financial stability of a young person.  

            I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

            by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:27:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sadly, it doesn't work like that (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              princss6, VClib

              For some bizarre reason, I'm discovering that colleges won't accept any of her college credits that also served as high school credits.  It's all unbelievably complicated and a bit biased.  I'm pretty frustrated because I expected to cut out two years college too, but that is simply not the case.  If she had graduated high school and then took these classes, they would count, but because she did them while in high school, they won't.  

              But this is a very cool new alternative that has been accomplished via public schools and the Bill Gates Foundation.  The school cannot reject anyone, all they can do is say, "You really don't want this".   It is a tough program, but 99% of the graduates go on to a 4-year university.  

              This is one way public schools can change.  This school actually does the early college curriculum far better than any of the other charter schools in the area.  That said, I am open to all options, charter, public, and private.  Choice helps parents find the best option for their kid.

              That said, I am absolutely opposed to for-profit schools.  Completely and utterly and without hesitation.  They are a complete scam and should be illegal.  

            •  However (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              princss6

              I do want to note that over 50% of her school qualifies for free lunch and white students are like 5-10% of the student body.

    •  Do you know if Arizona (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, congenitalefty

      Allows unlimited charters to form in a single year?

      Or if they have multiple authorizing bodies for charter schools?

      Those seemed like pretty big issues in this report.

      •  Arizona Republicans, led by Supt. of (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, congenitalefty, ubertar

        Public Instruction Lisa Keegan, "the Voucher Queen", were rebuffed when they tried to implement a voucher scheme. They settled for charters and threw the doors wide open. It's the Wild West and just about anybody can open a charter. They are regulated by the State, and to their credit, some of the very worst have been shut down.

        ¡Viva Baja Libre!

        by Azazello on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:33:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My guess is that they are one of the states (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Azazello, congenitalefty

          with problems with authorizing bodies... I noticed that they're on the list of states that have poorly performing charter schools.

          I guess, at this point, I would also like to see a study comparing progressive charter models to conservative charter models but I think that will be a long time in coming.

          If I lived in Arizona, I'm not sure what I would do about the charter system. Obviously, something has to change.

          •  You can see how my views (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ubertar

            have been colored by our experiences here in Wingnuttistan. I've been following this issue for years and to come on this site and see people saying, "Hooray, Hooray, Charters are coming," I could hardly believe my eyes.

            ¡Viva Baja Libre!

            by Azazello on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:20:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I do get it. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Azazello, congenitalefty, VClib

              I've lived in both California and Texas... both extremes, if you will.

              I was surprised by how few charter schools existed in TX when I first arrived and then reminded myself about how progressive charters are and then realize that it made sense. Most Texans don't want a progressive education for their children.

              I guess that's what surprises me the most in all of this, that progressives/liberals/Democrats are so willing to give up an education model that we essentially created as a solution to one size fits all education. I get angry because it seems like we always end up ceding good ideas to the right - can we, for once, keep an idea of our own without it getting heavily distorted by the right? Yeah, charter schools have been 're-labeled' by the right. I'm afraid they now own the term and will run with it.

              •  In some ways progressives are always (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean

                fighting conservatives on their own turf.  No matter what a progressive body creates to address society's needs, the conservative movement has the ways and means to eventually coopt the solution and destroy it from within.  For example, liberals wanted to move from traditional conservative public schools to more freedom of education.  This prompted the opening of free schools as an alternative.  Now the conservatives come in and coopt the plan of alternative education in order to destroy public schooling.  That leaves the liberal/progressive looking for an alternative to public school education on the side of the conservatives.  Along with that, because public school teachers belong to a union and progressives traditionally support unions, anything that appears to threaten the teacher's unions has now become anathema to the liberal/progressive position.

                "..faith is believing what you know aint so." Mark Twain

                by nyskeptic on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 04:06:54 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  The real mess with all schools (5+ / 0-)

    Is that we have 51 different state (plus DC) sets of school law in this nation. A "charter" doesn't exist as a national thing. As somebody who works in a charter in PA:

    Good: We can't screen out students in admissions, we have to follow all state laws and take all state standardized exams, we have a ton of input as teachers in a lot of the long range and day to day planning of the school, our small size allows for a lot of curricular flexibility.

    Bad: We only get between 65-70% of a sending district's per pupil funding to educate that child, the $ doesn't exist for good libraries/computers/student activities, staff HAS to leave at some point because we're all paid 1/3rd less than staff in good public districts, there is no automatic union representation (and labor law favors management in unionization drives), and some charter operators (not mine thank God) run sweat shop working conditions, and the lack of funding slows down curricular purchases.

    •  Looks like they missed PA in their study. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, congenitalefty, princss6

      Do you know if:

      PA allows unlimited charters to form in a given year?

      PA has a single authorizing body for charters or multiple?

      Do you know if there is a movement in the state to address the inequalities of salary for charter teachers?

      Sorry for so many questions, but I really am trying to figure this stuff out.

    •  Well, where does the funding come from? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, Azazello, Clues, Linda Wood, ubertar

      In Ohio, if it's state funding you actually get more than twice the funding per pupil than the public school does. if you're talking the local property-tax funding we passed as levies, we didn't pass those so your kid could cart "his share" to a charter school. You don't have a "share." You have a public school your child and every child can attend. Once you start looking at money as a "packet" your child owns, you're talking a welfare check I pay for with obscenely high property taxes, and then as a childless taxpayer, i think I deserve to get an equal "packet" – a total refund of my property taxes.

      This points up a huge problem with maintaining alternative schools. The cost of maintaining an infrastructure — libraries, computer labs etc — does not increase or decrease in response to the number of pupils. So to ask that the funding be equal to maintain multiple infrastructures simply – to have adequate schools — would require massive tax increases. In the current Ohio system of largely failing for-profit charters, I'm not willing to go there. I'm not increasing my taxes to make David Brennan wealthier and to give him more money to maintain his ownership of the Ohio Republican Party, to which he has given millions.

      Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

      by anastasia p on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:16:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What you classify as "bad"... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26

      pretty much is dispositive against the case being built against charters.  Some of the good, too, but I'm not really familiar with charter schools in PA from a personal perspective.  I only know of teachers and parents who love their kids' school or have recommended charter schools.  

      I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

      by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 12:49:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Charters make parents happy (6+ / 0-)

    The parents I know with children in charter schools are happy to have their students in an environment where they believe the parents have more influence than in a traditional public school. Because the parents have more influence they are happier, and parent satisfaction is as important as student test scores. Charters are an important element in providing parents more choice in our public school system.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:24:33 AM PDT

    •  The study didn't address that at all. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      congenitalefty, VClib, princss6

      They acknowledge it towards the end of the report.

      They plan on doing two more studies that look more closely at actual operations of charter schools and how charter schools impact the schools in their neighborhoods.

      I wish they would look at how charter schools change parents perceptions of their ability to have a say in the system. To me, plays a pretty important role.

    •  I agree VClib (6+ / 0-)

      Charters have made me a happy parent!  A couple of BIG factors for me in choosing charters were school safety and location/convenience.  

      As an education researcher involved in analyzing school discipline and behavioral data I became darn near terrified to have my child in the local traditional public school. You might be shocked by all the incidents that go unreported! Roving gangs, security guards, metal detectors, etc. were not a part of my childs daily life as a young student and that is the way I wanted it and the way it should be! I was so happy to have the choice to send her somewhere "safe".

      As a single mom who prefers living in a large city near downtown, it is disturbing that traditional public school options in these areas is tragically lacking - I suppose in part because people like me choose to send their children elsewhere! Schools are closing and consolidating at a rapid pace - neighborhood schools are relics of a bygone era! I looooove that charters occupy some of these beautiful old buildings. It made more sense to me to send my child to the small charter right next door to our house than to ship
      her off to the cornfield on the outshirts of town to the shiny new building
      with thousands of other kids and metal detectors and security guards and all the ambiance of a factory floor. It is hard to juggle work and school activities when it's a half hour commute just to get to the school. What a relief it is to know that my child can get to and from school and any activity she so chooses without me having to cart her around. Plus she gets exercise walking! And I save a fortune on gas! And we reduce our carbon footprint!  Whew, a little less to worry about!

    •  I am sure the parents (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clues, Linda Wood, ubertar

      of kids who get vouchers at my expense to go to private schools are "happy" too. But I don't pay taxes for that. I would rather that we maintained excellent public schools in ALL communities so ALL parents could be "happy" — not just a select few. Anyway, it's not my job as a taxpayer to make YOU "happy" but to provide quality schools for all kids, especially those who don't have strong family support.

      Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

      by anastasia p on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:17:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The pursuit of happiness (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, angelajean, princss6

        for one's child, including their ability to succeed academically and in their future lives, is what moves parents to try to improve their schools. If public school districts fail to improve, parents will work to provide better schools however they can.

        I agree with you wholeheartedly that,

        it's not my job as a taxpayer to make YOU "happy" but to provide quality schools for all kids

        But we wouldn't be having this debate if public schools were succeeding.

      •  Vouchers and charter are completely different!... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        princss6, angelajean

        At least in the other 49 states and DC, charters educate kids for less than conventional public schools.

        Again, maybe Ohio is the outlier, I can understand your frustration.  But many of us live in states where charters are a positive option for parents and are helping, rather than hurting, the overall public school system.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:59:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  VClib, is the goal of public education (0+ / 0-)

      to make parents happy ? I suspect there are parents who would be happy if the schools merely kept their kids out of their hair all day, if they fed them McDonald's and allowed them to play video games and watch TeeVee. Education is not a consumer service, it is a public good. An understandable confusion, I guess, in a country where the average citizen consumer watches television 4 hrs. a day, but the imperatives of retail marketing have no place in public education.

      ¡Viva Baja Libre!

      by Azazello on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:57:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it matters a lot. (5+ / 0-)

        But then, I've got two kids in public schools, so obviously I've got a bias.

        I think it matters if parents are satisfied with public education. The more satisfied families are, the more likely they are to use and support their local schools. Even from a public policy perspective, dissatisfied parents who leave for private school are less likely to vote for school levies and other financial support for schools, and are more likely to vote in people who don't care about public education. People who are dissatisfied aren't going to be volunteering, donating and raising money for their local schools either.

        •  Making the customer happy (3+ / 0-)

          is a commercial imperative. It's good if parents are happy with their schools for the right reasons, but consider; millions of people are happy with McDonald's meals, does that make this diet healthy ? We can imagine a chain of corporate schools taking advantage of the backlash against testing to abolish it altogether "Kids love Wal-Schools," the ads might say, "No more icky testing." There are all kinds of problems with treating education as a consumer product, and parents as consumers, but the whole privatization movement rests on this misconception.

          ¡Viva Baja Libre!

          by Azazello on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 09:21:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Okay... but ... (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Azazello, Linda Wood, VClib, princss6

            I guess I will give parents a little credit. I'm sure there are some out there who don't care whether the kid is learning or not and would be fine with them spending 7 hours a day fooling around, but I think most do want their child to succeed academically and to learn.

          •  You're not trying to say that the majority of (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib, Azazello, princss6

            parents in the United States wouldn't make good choices for their kids, are you?

            You know this brings up an interesting topic. What would happen is we treated education like a consumer product in that we didn't make it something you had to have but something you could chose to have. What if kids didn't have to attend school at all?

            I bet people would be chomping at the bit to get there kids into public schools. There would be fewer complaints about the system. We generally only complain about things that we take for granted, you know.

            •  Interesting question, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ubertar

              do the majority of parents make good choices about their kids' eating habits ? Then why the obesity epidemic ? Do they make good choices about their kids' media habits ? When commercial values enter education, when it's about "choices", we can expect schools to compete like any other retail business, with advertising. Again, this is the goal. Is it really what we want for America ?

              ¡Viva Baja Libre!

              by Azazello on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 10:19:26 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The obesity epidemic could be blamed on many (2+ / 0-)

                factors:

                • Lack of access to healthy foods in poor communities
                • Lack of access to parks and playgrounds in poor communities
                • The existence of high fructose corn syrup in foods that traditionally have not required sweeteners - like hot dogs, lunchmeats, and cheese, not to mention their addition to foods like yogurt and ketchup that may have been sweetened in the past but with better alternatives.
                • The cost of food - a soda is more affordable than a glass of milk.

                I believe the majority of parents make good choices for their kids within the choices they are given.

                As long as a decent public school exists in every neighborhood and every child has the opportunity to attend one, why not leave that choice to the parents? We just might learn how much people really care about their local schools. I bet it's an awful lot.

                •  Also, time. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  angelajean, princss6

                  More working parents with less time to cook nutritious meals, and busy kids whose activities conflict with mealtimes (as an example, my son had baseball practice from 6-9 last night - try having a sit down family meal when one kid has to be out of the house at 5:45 and one spouse doesn't get home until that time).

                  The obesity epidemic is not limited to children. It started and continues among adults as well. It's Americans as a whole, not just parents who are experiencing it.

                •  Right on the "money!" (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  angelajean

                  I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

                  by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:25:28 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  It does matter (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angelajean

          but the comment was that making the parents happy matters as much as test scores.  I'm not a big fan of standardized testing, but I still disagree with that comment.

          I think it's also important to make the public happy as well as the parents.  Parents tend to forget the rest of us have a stake in education too.  In the end, we all have the same goals -  good schools at a reasonable cost.

          •  Well (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib, angelajean, princss6

            I dunno. I'm not sure I agree. If families can tell their children are learning and doing well, or conversely if they are really unhappy (for example, for a structural reason, like the principal is unhappy and causing a lot of educator turnover) I think that matters at least as much as the scores.

            •  Your example (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib, ubertar

              may be used better as a barometer than a goal.

              If there are a lot of unhappy parents that's an indicator that something may be wrong.

              However the reverse isn't necessarily true -  a lot of happy parents may not mean the educational achievement is the best it can be.

              The McDonald's example above really hit home with me.  We'd all like to assume that parents as a group have educational achievement as their number one priority.  But look how many will feed their kids fast food for dinner, or look how many Jamie Oliver has to educate about feeding their kids properly.  Some don't even have good intentions, and then some who DO don't have the knowledge to make the best decisions.

              •  There is some truth to this but (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean, princss6

                I do believe that parents are for the most part doing the best they can. It's a lot easier to point out mistakes from the outside than to be the one doing the job every day. And that goes for a lot of things, not just parenting but also in our political climate.

                High test scores don't necessarily mean achievement is all it can be, either - it is much more likely to mean that the community is of high socioeconomic status than to be a reflection of the quality of education at the school.

              •  I think you underestimate most parents (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                princss6

                - most parents understand the difference between being 'happy' and being 'content.' Most parents don't look to a school to entertain their child; they're looking for a school to educate their child. They understand that their child is more likely to learn if 'content' with the school.

                And I agree with pat of butter, parent satisfaction is important. It's important like teacher satisfaction is important. Education is a team effort and I think taking measurements of all those things would be a great way to assess a school's success.

                It makes me think of Costa Rica, the country with the most 'happy' populace in the world. They assess the success of their country on things other than GDP. Sometimes, I think we would be better off doing the same. Maybe our schools would be a good place to start.

                •  Most do. (0+ / 0-)

                  But a significant enough portion either don't care, are too busy to care, or care but don't understand enough about education to be anything but a nuisance.  

                  We've had a lot of conversations about schools where the performance is poor because of lack of support from the homes.  The parents don't encourage the kids to read, they don't feed them properly, they don't make sure they go to school or do their homework....

                  If this is a big enough problem that it gets used as a reason to advocate charter schools, then it can't also be argued that enough parents care to make parent happiness a measurement of school success.

                  •  Would you agree that when this is the problem: (0+ / 0-)
                    The parents don't encourage the kids to read, they don't feed them properly, they don't make sure they go to school or do their homework....

                    schools actually need a program to interact with these parents?  Aren't there successful school models that are helping parents to learn along side their kids the importance of reading and of good study skills?

                    Content parents are part of the mix, whether they should be or not. And, let's be honest, the best teachers in the world can't make up for a home life where parents don't care about reading and education. How do we find ways to engage parents that seemingly don't care about their child's education? Means we need another experimental model, right?

                    Again, this just points out that one size fits all education models don't work and that each community has it's own special needs. We can't craft a fix for all of them by mandating broad policy. We need local communities to be a part of the process.

                    •  Well, I wasn't thinking so much about (0+ / 0-)

                      parents who don't care about reading and education, I was thinking about the single mother with two jobs, the parents who are poor, overworked and underpaid, etc.  There are some parents who just don't really care (and probably never should have been parents!)

                      I can't imagine approaching a single mother working two jobs as someone from the school with a "program" I need her to join.  These kinds of people can't take time off work.  They don't get paid if they don't work.  

                      I feel a bit like an alien who needs a translator sometimes in conversations about schools, because most of us here discussing the issue are NOT poor.  We don't worry about making it to work (if we even have a job) with a car on its last legs and no public transportation.  We don't worry about what happens when we have to miss work because one of the kids is sick.

                      When I read things like "Most parents know whats best for schools and the goal of a school is to keep the parents happy.", you know I get a really vivid picture of suburbia, or some progressive enclave somewhere.  I think it's REALLY important to remember that everyone is not just like us, and everywhere is not just like where we live.

                      But then I"m fairly old and I've been around the block a few times.  I've been that poor person, and I've been the suburbanite, and I've lived in places where people think progressively, and now live in a place where ONE person supported Dem candidates in 2008.  In the area where I live now, even the middle class people seem to play by Tea Party Rules when it comes to interest in education.  By that I mean, they know very little about it, and pay very little attention to it until some hot topic grabs their interest, and then they become the "Interested Parents With a Stake in Education".  ...just for a little while.

                      It's difficult to discuss state or national educational trends when, as you said, all the communities are different.  But we have to really remember the differences when we are talking about state and national policies and approaches, because the policy that creates a wonderful progressive oasis in one community could easily be used to create an anti-science, revisionist-history enclave in another.

                      •  Bingo... (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Linda Wood, angelajean
                        because most of us here discussing the issue are NOT poor.

                        Nor do most of the people here discussing education live in poor neighborhoods.  So many people won't even enter education discussions because they are treated horribly if they do not follow the common wisdom at dkos.  I dibble and dabble a little bit but I get tired of seeing parents like me in shitty school districts demonized or the prodding that I offer my kid up as a sacrificial lamb while many of the people here do not live within shitty school districts.  Or have no idea the choices I have to contend with and are far more willing to believe that based on my zip code, if my kid isn't academically successful it is because I feed him McDonalds.  Or who do not get the real world context in which poor people live in or understand or recognize the propoganda campaign that has gone on for decades about children like my son and parents like me.  But I'm told I'm "unversalizing" my experience while people are free to make broad brush statements against the people I call friends and neighbors.  

                        I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

                        by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:22:32 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  A laptop into every home... (0+ / 0-)

                          and make bloggers of them all.

                          That would make a hell of a movement, wouldn't it?

                          We just bought an iPad to help my husband with school (yes, at 43, he's back in school again). I am amazed at the learning opportunities provided by that little machine. I can envision a school where every child has an iPad to take home at will and to explore the world through it.

                          Of course, an iPad can't fix everything but it can make up for old and aging textbooks... it could even make up for mediocre teaching, in my mind. Give a kid a world to explore, and they start to teach themselves. We just need to give kids a place to explore, whether they live in the inner city or in a farm town.

                          Oversimplifying? A little. Some here might call me disingenuous, but I'm not really. I like to dream.

                      •  But we also assume that because people are (0+ / 0-)

                        poor, they won't have time and/or inclination to have a say in the system.

                        That's why so many of these solutions have to be local ones. Teachers and administrators need to find ways to engage parents, no matter what their social status. We should stop assuming that being poor makes it impossible to contribute - yes, it makes it harder but it doesn't make it impossible.

                        We get stuck into a framework of teacher meetings and after school conferences. Can't we find different ways to hold meaningful dialogue?

                        Here in Argentina, my kids bring home a red book. My teenager brings it home once a week. My 12 year old everyday. It's a place for teachers and parents to communicate - without telephones, without computers, with whatever time is available in the day. It's a possible solution to better communication.

                        I would imagine that kids living with a mom that works two jobs need less homework, not more. Can a teacher adapt to that? I would imagine that kids with a mom with two jobs need more after school care... or, heaven forbid, overnight care? Could school programs adapt to that? Why aren't we asking these moms what they need to make school work for their kids? Or are we... is there a model that is working this way?

                        I bet if we included more families in the planning of schools, we could design schools that are more responsive to the community.

                        Anyway, I think we're more on the same page than not, don't you?

              •  Clues - I think you raise important issues (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean

                Is it the responsibility of parents, or society, to educate children? That is a really fundamental question. I come down on the side that the ultimate responsibility of education falls on the parents, both at home and at school. My children are now adults, but when they were in public school I was very frustrated by the fact that I had no influence even though I was very active in the PTA, the chair of the annual fundraising effort, the largest personal donor to the fund raising effort, and an in-class math and science resource. This was before charters were available, so that was not an option, but I wish that it had been.  

                "let's talk about that"

                by VClib on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 12:21:12 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  The mcdonald's example... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Linda Wood, angelajean

                is a false equivalence.  The money with which you have to feed your family says nothing about how much you care about education.  

                I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

                by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:24:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  I think sometimes the public forgets that (1+ / 0-)

            they have a stake in public education as well :)

            Especially when they refuse to raise taxes or to pass bond measures to improve education in their own areas.

            •  Some of them do (0+ / 0-)

              I am personally acquainted with a few of them.

              But it's good to remember that we're nearly in a depression.  Foreclosures have turned some areas into ghost subdivisions.  Real unemployment was around 17% the last time I looked.  So when you go to ask people for money these days, you have to be very crisp on the budgets and where and why the money is being spent.

              Now, I've heard about your charter school and it seems like a very good idea to me, but if I was a taxpayer in your district I'd be asking why you need a whole building to do this?  (along with all the associated costs of that)  Why can't you have x number of classrooms in an existing building and use their infrastructure and save some money?

              There may be perfectly legitimate answers to some of those questions, but they are perfectly legitimate questions too, especially coming from someone who has lost their job and is desperately trying to hang onto their home, or from a retired person with a fixed income and rising expenses and taxes.

              •  Actually, when we first started with the charter (0+ / 0-)

                they were using an abandoned campus out in the Twin Ridges School District. The District ended up in some legal difficulties and we found that we were going to have to give up the great space. I believe, to this day, that space is still unused. If I remember rightly, we paid for heat, electricity, and part of the water (the school district still use the playing fields) and for maintenance and upkeep.

                We then found a building in town that had office space and space for two small classrooms. This was sufficient for the type of teaching at our charter. We rented that building at a great price because the owners were desperate to rent and to rent to a program that looked like it would stay for many years.

                This same charter also held classes further out in the community in neighboring school districts (legal in CA) and we tried to do exactly what you suggest - use classroom space in existing schools. They wouldn't let us in. They didn't want the competition with their own homestudy program. They didn't feel like the funds we would bring were enough. I'm sure there were other reasons.

                Basically, most schools aren't making decisions that are best for all students (in the school district, in the state, etc.). They're only making decisions that they think are best for their students. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the parents we were taking about up above, doesn't it? Sigh. Maybe there really aren't any solutions in all of this.

  •  I think you are missing some points (5+ / 0-)

    I can't speak for others, but as I have posted fairly often on educational issues here on DKos, I am not blindly opposed to any and all Charter Schools. Nor have I ever said that there is no such thing as a good Charter School.

    What the report does show is that the propaganda spewed by the education "reform" (privatization) movement exaggerates the success of Charter schools and exaggerates the problems of public schools.

    As Charter Schools were originally proposed in fact, I think there were some good ideas. The Charter movement was started by the late Al Shanker, a much admired leader of the teacher union movement and head of the AFT (but teacher's unions are uninterested in reform, right?). Shanker's idea was to actually have teachers and parents, rather than bureaucrats and administrators run schools. In other words, teachers would have been allowed to teach, rathern than be micromanaged. Such schools also would have put much less emphasis on high stakes testing and on more diverse curricula.

    But this is *not* what happens in most Charter Schools. Taken as a whole, the Charter movement has been captured by corporate interests who are promoting their own corporate style of education.

    I appreciate your desire for discussion, but I think that the way you presented the issue was a bit on the disengenuous side.

    •  Disingenuous? (3+ / 0-)

      I can only speak from my own experience in recent diaries. My intent has not been to be disingenuous. My intent is to really find out what charter schools are worth keeping and which ones we should get rid off. My intent is to fine tune the discussion so that we can build a system that uses the best from both successful charters and from successful traditional public schools.

      Here is the link to mylast diary on charter schools.

      I had folks tell me that charter schools need go. Period. End of sentence. Not just one or two. But all.

      I'm glad you see the benefits to charter schools. I agree with Shanker as well - parents and teachers running schools is a great idea. That's the kind of charter I was involved in and it's the kind of charter I would like to see repeated in more locations.

      •  That was my impression too (0+ / 0-)

        Your posts have this affectedly naive, disingenuous quality, pretending not to know the whole picture. Maybe it's just your writing style.

        Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

        by anastasia p on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:19:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maybe I'm just naive. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6, JustDontKnow

          I'm writing about a subject that I don't pretend to know everything about. I'm trying to learn more. I'm well read but obviously don't know enough.

          I think the topic is complex but it's important.

          I'm trying to figure out what needs to get solved on a local level and what on a national level.

          I have time to dedicate to political change and I need to figure out where that time is best spent.

          Writing diaries and talking about the issues hopefully will get me somewhere in this quest.

          So, you may think me naive and you might even think me disingenuous. But I don't think I'm either. When people used this report as a reason to get rid of all charter schools, I would have been naive not to follow up and read the report. I learned a lot from this report. I hope that maybe you have too. And that we can use it to further the conversation, not end it.

      •  There's a disconnect here (0+ / 0-)

        in that your goal is to

        find out what charter schools are worth keeping and which ones we should get rid off.

        For some of us, the goal is to find out how education can be improved for all pupils.  We don't necessarily accept that we've already found the solution to that and that the answer is charter schools.

        If you are already starting from a place where you've picked your solution, then there's not much discussion to be had on the topic of improving education.

        •  No, I didn't mean that charter schools are the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          only solution. Not by far. I'm sorry if I implied that.

          I just think they're part of a system that can work.

          I'm a homeschool mom, first and foremost, and see homeschooling as part of the mix as well.

          But in the conversations about charter schools, yes, I think that we need to figure out which ones are worth keeping and which ones we should get rid off. And I think we should find very definite ways to analyze the difference and not rely only on test scores to do so.

    •  I keep seeing the claim (5+ / 0-)

      that most charters are thinly veiled excuses for privatizing public education.

      But I don't recall seeing any evidence (numbers and analysis) to support this. A few anecdotes, a lot of rhetoric and speculation, but not analysis.

      Now angelajean is examining a major study of charter schools in a rational manner. I don't think that's disingenuous at all.

      There are charters that do what those who pioneered the idea proposed. All the anti-charter invective is tainting their accomplishments.

      "The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret" -- T. Pratchett, The Truth

      by congenitalefty on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:11:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are asking the impossible. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ubertar

        I've seen this objection before'"Show me the studies that prove that charters are a part of the right-wing privatization agenda." There are no such studies, nor can there be. The meetings where the corporate right plots it's strategies and tactics are closed to the public. We are left to infer the movement's plans from their actions. That privatization is one of their priorities is undeniable, we have public statements on that, as well as legislative proposals, from all over the country. You have to where how, and where, the charter movement has grown to discern its purpose. Follow the money, see who funds the movement, you'll find your answer there.

        ¡Viva Baja Libre!

        by Azazello on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:48:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Follow the money... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Azazello, Linda Wood

          That money is starting to show up in public schools as well. Foundations and grants are available to them from private organizations.

          What are we going to do? What actually needs to get stopped in this process? Is it the money from the private organizations that is bad? Is it the private organizations themselves? Or is it the schools that accept the money, both charter and public schools? Should we hold them accountable instead?

          My argument is that we point fingers where the specific problems are - at specific schools, if need be but to quit saying all charter schools are bad. I don't want to see charter schools declared illegal - I just want to see them held accountable.

          I've already noticed a shift in conversations from many people... they're discussing what is going on in their state rather than making blanket statements. That's the first step towards solving problems.

          •  OK, thanks again for the discussion. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Linda Wood, ubertar

            I leave you with this final comment, I promise.

            $500 Billion/year

            That's what we spend on K-12 in the US. Big Biz wants a piece of that, that's the issue. They don't believe that any thing should be public or non-profit. They are trying to privatize everything, it's not just education; it's infrastructure, prisons; everything. We already enjoy a corporate, for-profit health care system. How's that working out ? We pay more than any other country and get less. Why would we want the same thing for education ?

            ¡Viva Baja Libre!

            by Azazello on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 10:39:43 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I ask this question sincerely... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean

      is there no "propaganda spewed" by other players in the mix.  It is way too easy to just dismiss it as propaganda.  

      I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

      by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:14:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Essentially I believe (6+ / 0-)

    comparing schools is like comparing children.  It's too subjective.    Too many variables.  
    Even twins, virtual or otherwise, are affected by too many variables to make a scientific study really mean too much.

    Yes, I know in our "competitive" mentality in society, we MUST test or how would we know anything.  Well, in Finland it seems to have served them well to do no "standard" testing until a child's education is near completion.  
    Of course, throughout schooling in Finland, a teacher's "assessment" is used because teachers are actually respected as "professionals".    

    I understand some people believe home schooling and charters fit "their" needs for "their" children.   But in the end, in a system where teachers are not viewed as experts, that is sadly no surprise.
    But true professionals know kids are developmentally different.  We also know environment is a huge factor: everything from nutrition, to family stability, to health, to climate, to family finances, parental style, etc.    Even children in the same family develop at different rates.
    In countries where teachers are trusted professionals, parents entrust their children to them.
    But here, in too many places, teachers are viewed as daycare and sometimes parents believe they can control the curriculum, how the teachers delivers lessons and who their children play with.  
    Over the years I have had parents come in and demand I teach "intelligent design" (I refused and told the parent to take it to the school board); demand I be fired for talking about Halloween (on Halloween) because I was teaching the religion of Wiccan; take Harry Potter books off the shelves; keep their child away from another child and not allow them to play on the playground together; grade harder, grade easier;  don't dare tell my child "no they can't".   And on and on and on and on.
    In between I managed to do my job but to me "charters" have become in too many places the answer for disgruntled parents who do not believe teachers are professionals.  

    While the concept of local control and parental input are good things, there are lines that have been crossed that, imo, are not healthy for kids.  

     I understand many charter school proponents don't see or don't care about the "not-so-hidden" agenda of getting rid of collective bargaining.  In the end, that hurts all teachers including the charter school teachers.  
    Students matter.  But so do teachers.  Teachers being treated as trusted professionals has a positive effect.   Teachers treated as sweatshop works with no rights has a negative effect.  

    If I had time I could write tons of stories of how having a strong union protects people against unreasonable demands, unreasonable accusations.  All things that affect teachers, affect their students.  
    Want to empower students?  Empower their teachers.  
    And yes, I know some charters have been started by teachers themselves.  In the beginning, it seems the ideal.  Doesn't work that way because ANY organizations evolves into one where leadership is required, rules require and where people will have differing points of view and thus conflict.  

    In the end, I think the idea of an "equal playing field" for all students should be the goal.   And while public education has flaws, the charter movement is being spun as the answer.  In reality, I believe now what I have said before.  Charters NOW are being used as a stepping stone to end "public education" and thus end those damn teachers unions'.  We all know it.  If the idea of charters is to provide a unique alternative for that small percentage of the population with unique needs, then fine.  When it is there to replace schools that were neglected due to poverty, and circumstances not controlled by the teachers, then it's obvious.  Urban areas are targets of the charter school companies for one reason.  The corporations will not get nearly the battles nor the scrutiny they would get in areas where parents have more political clout.   It's a trend seen all over.   It's wrong.  Just wrong to me.  Abandoning children to the corporations is just another way to kill democracy.

    •  Again, you've written a diary for a comment :) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      congenitalefty, Balto, princss6

      You make it tough to hold a conversation about this. I feel like we're always lecturing each other.

      What do you think about this report? That's what this diary is really about, what this report has to say.

      Do you think it's worth taking a look at or do you think it's so flawed we should just throw it out?

    •  I agree with so much of what you say here. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean, ubertar, princss6

      I do believe there is a corporate conspiracy to privatize schools and to control curriculum for corporate purposes. I also believe that corporate control has been a part of public education in the United States for generations. Destroying teachers' unions and destroying students' rights to an excellent education are part of the same agenda. Tracking systems and unequal educational programs within schools and within districts have been carried out by teachers for generations, either by following blindly the edicts of corrupt policy or by carrying out such policies knowingly and approvingly.

      Teachers are professionals. But the proof is in the pudding. If parents are being told their children can't read because their parents don't earn enough money, parents begin to question the whole system. Teachers are going to have to take part in this discussion about instruction whether they like it or not.

      •  Teachers have mainly been locked out of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linda Wood

        the discussion. No one in power consults teachers about these issues. It's all about administrators, who often lack experience in the field. Take Bloomberg's Cathie Black fiasco in NYC, for example.

        "We can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few or we can have democracy, but we can't have both."-- Justice Louis Brandeis

        by ubertar on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 12:34:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  But that's the thing.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linda Wood

        teachers are NOT a part of the conversation. I spent nearly 40 years in public education with over 30 years IN THE CLASSROOM.  Yet, Michelle Rhee who spent three years in a classroom and ONCE had substantial jumps in scores (which she lied about) and now she is given credence by Arne Duncan, by the news media.

        For the record, no teacher I know (and I know a lot) ever told parents "your child can't read because you are poor."

        *However we have had to explain to parents that when a third grade student is in his fourth school, it may have an impact.  
        *We might recommend highly to a parent to "talk, have conversations with your children daily, when at home, on the way to the store....etc. etc.
        *We may tell parents, not pointing out anyone in particular, how important nutrition is.  
        *We used to hold an annual health fair at our school, with the help of the county health department, so parents could get info on shots, or places to go when children were sick.
        *We worked with out local Rotary Club who sent volunteers for weekly mentoring.  Also they bought books from our book fair (so we could get the credits from scholastic) and then gave every child in our school two books.

        In the end, we did all we could do.  We talked to parents, to the community and in the end, they closed our school?
        WHY?  Because the district needed to save money and so they combined our school with a school a few blocs away.  Meanwhile schools in the zip code on the north end (richer part) of town, also losing enrollment, were not closed because their parents have political clout.  

        Schools in urban poor areas have problems. Poverty is one.  The transitory nature of those neighborhoods is another.  The fact that teachers get blamed make it hard for those teachers to want to stay long (and the research is really clear...in urban neighborhoods, a big part of the ability to get parents and students to buy in to the value of education is to establish trust).  In a system where no matter how hard you work, no matter how much the kids improve, the staff is derided because funny thing...those other kids keep learning too to the "median" score does not stay the same.   Sure there's lip service given to "we don't compare the schools" BUT IT'S BS.   One year we made a 300% growth in math.  Did we get accolades?  NOPE.  But the school a few miles up the road got a huge banner for making it to the top...one of the top ten in the state.  News media was there.  All kinds of hoopla.  (No one mentioned that this school housed the "gifted" programs for the whole district.  And many of the top students including two from our school went there.  THAT school not us, get their scores).   Of course their growth was from like the 90th %ile to the 93%ile or something like that.  

        The corporations don't care about kids...they care about making money.  Failing urban schools are prime areas for the privatization........now of course they want them to be "charters" for a while until they get the "voucher" legislation passed.  They see $ signs on the foreheads of poor children and they don't really give a damn about those kids...just what they represent.  

        Until and unless the public recognizes this game, the battle between the corporates and the advocates of public ed for all goes on and the corporates will win because they have convinced many progressives to join them in this.

        •  I agree with you totally on all (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          of what you have said here. I am 100% for public schools and opposed to profit-making schools funded by taxpayers. I am a deeper conspiracy theorist about the ruthlessness of corporate control over education than the current debate covers.

          I don't believe teachers or their unions are the problem, but I do believe teachers are vulnerable to falling under the spell of instructional methods that may be questionable and that may have led to disintegration of reading and math skills in this country and subsequently led to parent disaffection and the charter school/private school problem.

          I hope teachers are open enough to consider the possibility that instructional methods, especially in basic reading and math skills in early grades, have been questionable over the last decade and that parents have had a right to expect success, regardless of family income.

          •  The problem is, as I have observed, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Linda Wood

            in the past years of teaching/subbing, it is all dependent on how secure people are about keeping their jobs; how dictatorial their admin/principals are.  

            Principals are under the gun, so to speak, with all kinds of pressures and threats.   People like me, before I retired, with decades of experience and superior evaluations never felt threatened.   None of my principal's questioned my methodology even if I refused to use the damn scripted, stupid texts.  

            But young teachers were scared and easily bullied into following the scripts despite how bad it is for kids to follow some stupid script for learning.

            •  Thank you so much for this information. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              angelajean

              Your diary, Here's the Deal..., is the most profound essay on this subject that I have read. And your description of particular tests and the ways in which students' writing may be evaluated under current circumstances shocked me. People need to hear about this from teachers. And maybe it has to come from retired teachers. Thank you again.

              So here we are. Bushworld. We really are in a war over this. Difficult, infuriating stuff. Let's hope the struggle continues to be non-violent and that the kids win.

        •  Big business makes the most ed money... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Linda Wood, angelajean

          on selling text books, testing services and special programs to the conventional public schools!  That is the huge money making proposition!

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:04:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You got it! (0+ / 0-)

            Get rid the amount of standardized testing requirements we have to currently meet for Federal Standards... obviously we need to lobby nationally to get that one done.

            Get rid of textbooks and replace them with Kindles or iPads... that one needs to be lobbied locally. Initial costs would be high but the long term savings could be huge.

            Special programs - I'm not sure about. Some are good and some are bad. Definitely an issue to take up locally.

        •  Your response to my statement was fair, I think. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angelajean

          I said,

          If parents are being told their children can't read because their parents don't earn enough money, parents begin to question the whole system.

          And you responded,

          For the record, no teacher I know (and I know a lot) ever told parents "your child can't read because you are poor."

          I believe you. But you continue with,

          *However we have had to explain to parents that when a third grade student is in his fourth school, it may have an impact.  
          *We might recommend highly to a parent to "talk, have conversations with your children daily, when at home, on the way to the store....etc. etc.
          *We may tell parents, not pointing out anyone in particular, how important nutrition is.  
          *We used to hold an annual health fair at our school, with the help of the county health department, so parents could get info on shots, or places to go when children were sick.
          *We worked with out local Rotary Club who sent volunteers for weekly mentoring.  Also they bought books from our book fair (so we could get the credits from scholastic) and then gave every child in our school two books.

          Your response, along with the current mantra that poverty is the cause of the achievement gap, makes me feel you may believe students can't read because they are poor, but that you wouldn't say that to their parents' faces. Why not? Why not tell them the truth if you think it's important?

          I apologize if that is an irresponsible question. I understand you to mean that each of the separate problems you list may effect student achievement to some extent and that none of these problems is exclusive to poor children. Higher income parents also move a lot, fail to communicate with their kids, fall into the junk food trap, send kids to school without jackets, get divorced, experience stress, and have belongings that may not include a sufficient number of books.

          What I object to in your list is the absence of any reference to what children experience in school. In a world in which all American children experience equally excellent instruction, then maybe the factors you list are the problem. But I don't think we have that situation. We have never had it historically, and I believe the controversy over early reading and math instruction in this country is what is missing from the debate.

          •  Years ago when I was at a poor school, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Linda Wood

            poor in socioecomomic ways, the whole NCLB testing was starting.  This was around 2002 or so.  Anyway, our school was under the gun and local conservative radio was constantly talking about the scores.  
            One year, they announced, for everyone to hear, (as the radio host was interviewing a "private/charter" school proponent who was itching to have our school close so he can rent the building, and run his own charter), that A (the school I was at, was the "poorest school, in the poorest neighborhood, with the poorest teachers...."

            It caused a real ruckus in the neighborhood.  The next day, as school let out, tv trucks had come to school...as apparently people from that area, had called in angry at the description, as well as a few teacher had called in.
            As the trucks pulled in, a group of our 5th graders who were just being dismissed for the day, spontaneously started chanting: "We're not poor. We're not poor!!!"

            People don't like being described that way.  I grew up in a poor neighborhood only when I was little I did not know or think we were poor.  I only recognize it in retrospect after hearing from my college friends, descriptions of their childhoods, seeing their houses.

            So is it being a hypocrite?  No. It is not just a lack of money that makes one poor.  In my childhood neighborhood, despite our poverty, we were not transitory.  We had extended family.  Many of today's poor are quite transitory, looking for jobs.  
            Even in poverty, in my neighborhood where, btw, I was the only kid who went to college right after high school, kids could grow up and go to work in the steel mill, or in the textile mills.  They may not have gotten rich but they had benefits and security, knowing back then in the 1960s their jobs were safe.  They were union jobs.

            NOW, poverty is not just about money.  It's about knowing you could be evicted, lose a job, have to move, or wonder if you can access health care.   KIDS know this stuff.  It's unsettling.

            Poverty is never good but I think in the past 20 years, things have gotten worse.
            Poor families in the 1950s, 1960s, and even 1970s, saw education as a valuable asset, as a path to do better than the generations that came before.  

            There is no such thing where every child gets "equallly" excellent of anything.  As long as teachers are HUMAN, education delivery is different from year to year.  It's comparing apples and oranges.  No two teachers are the same and no two students are the same.  
            NO ONE TEACHER can be excellent for 100% of the kids 100% of the time.  To even believe that is possible is to deny the variables of human.  From voice quality to sense of humor to pacing, all teachers are different.

            When I think back, my two favorite teachers were my sixth grade teacher and my high school math teacher who I had junior and senior year.   They were as different as night and day and yet both, imo, excellent.  But I would bet a year's salary, that if you asked every kid in any of my classes, their answers to whether those two teachers were the best ever, would be quite different.  Some may have even disliked them.

            The goal is an equally excellent education for all children. I get that.  I strive for it.  But in 12 years of school, a child will have dealt with at least 20+ different human teachers.
            You can write all the standards you want, you will never standardize human beings.

            If you do not believe poverty (or for that matter, illness, parental support, lack of parental support, nutrition, size of family)  or any other variable you can think of, affects one's education, I am not sure we have much to discuss.

            •  You are my favorite writer on this subject. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              angelajean

              I agree with everything you say. I identify with your age group, your family background as you describe it, your larger world view, and your common sense, which is to say, I truly learn from you when you personalize your values by describing your real life experiences as an American, as a kid in a family within a neighborhood, and as a teacher. I have a lot of similar experiences.

              In a diary by plthomasEdD, Strawman Argument Is All They Have, I commented that the diary's link to the Berliner report on the effects of poverty on children's school lives is absolutely convincing. I completely understand and believe what is reported there. It doesn't mean there aren't additional crimes being committed against children in the form of teaching methods either designed to disable children or inadvertently flawed.

              So while I think it's important to look outward at family life and environment when examining the Achievement Gap, I also think it's important to look inward at teaching methods.

              I want to thank you for making the point here about the changing nature of poverty and its relationship to education, both historically and currently. And with complete respect for Berliner, I want to say that one of the ways in which poverty is worse now is that it effects nearly all children, not just because of the effect of other children's poverty in their classrooms, but because families with higher incomes also suffer stress over money, nutrition, health care, pollution, depression, divorce, crime, and inferior teaching methods.

              •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

                I agree....the amount of stress on students, as well as on teachers, pushed and pressured to use scripts,  just saddens me.
                I loved my forty years of teaching and I still love subbing (because I ignore the scripts and no one pressures subs).  But I am sad to say I am glad to not be teaching now.

      •  True... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        conlakappa, Linda Wood, angelajean
        I also believe that corporate control has been a part of public education in the United States for generations.

        If we are being honest, neither the government or the corporations care about "urban" poor kids.  So that leaves each parent on their own and trying to find a solution.  

        I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

        by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:00:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Angelajean... good thoughtful piece!... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, princss6

    In my mind the elephant in the room are the criteria we use to evaluate our schools.  You call that out...

    The report bases all of its information on standardized test scores. Most of us here at DailyKos have a serious problem with student performance being judged solely by tests. That should make us think twice about some of the findings in this report as well.

    Scores on standardized tests are so easily and readily "gamed" by the curriculum and collusion of the school staff to bump up their scores.  I think until we go to more robust holistic evaluation of schools and other learning environments we are not going to be able to make good judgments on the quality of a given school.

    What I hope happens, especially here at DailyKos, is that we stop demonizing Charter Schools and start seeing them as part of a broad system of education alternatives.

    I agree here completely!

    If we hope to once again have a vibrant education system in the United States, we need to pull out all the stops and use everything at our disposal, including successful charter schools.

    Though charters are very limited still, based on the evaluation model, in what they can do, I still think they are the only "growing edge" out their for our school system's evolution from being solidly locked in the 19th Century and moving to the 21st.

    What other effort to change the face of public education in our country, besides charters, involves communities to any significant degree?  I am not aware of any.  

    All other current education reform efforts involve foundations, commissions and state and federal bureaucrats, along with powerful competing special interests of text book, testing, and special ed program business interests.  They tinker incrementally with the system from on high, while we parents, kids and teachers watch and hope that someday, something will actually change for the better.

    My mom taught me to be an activist - don't complain... do something about it.  Without the opportunity to launch charters, we the people can basically only complain and hope that our elected reps and their gathered experts will solve our problems for us.  As we continue to sit quietly at our desks waiting for the answer.

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

    by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:00:11 AM PDT

  •  Why can't public schools do (5+ / 0-)

    all that charter schools do and more? In fact,I believe they can. If the goal as a society is to get the best education for the largest number of students,then it seems to me that the approach has to be to fund and fix our public schools,not siphon funding to private for-profit entities. (understood that not all Charters are for profit) Public schools can be creative,accepting of parental involvement,multi-tracked and with different styles of instruction.Charter schools don't hold a monopoly on change.

    Are you familiar with the Say Yes to Education Program? Here are a couple of links. This is the approach our rust belt town is taking. The incentive of a free college education for completing HS is huge but it is only a part of what the community is trying to accomplish.

    http://www.sayyessyracuse.org/...
       

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:49:13 AM PDT

    •  I think they can too (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, angelajean, Linda Wood

      I commented in a previous diary about our district which is very responsive to parents, provides a lot of choices for parents and people are very happy with our district as a whole. Very low private school uptake. To me this is the ideal, allowing various options but keeping education within the traditional structure, having strong unions and not privately run.

      However, I know there are people who live in areas where district bureaucracies are not nearly as responsive. Particularly if you live in a very large district I imagine it could be hard to make your voice heard or effect any real change. That is a tougher situation.

    •  Because charters offer a range of approaches... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean, Kamakhya

      to learning.  All traditional schools are essentially the same, particularly in their governance and methodology.  

      Traditional public schools have a hierarchical governance model where all important decisions are made at the state level, which then gives marching orders to the districts, which then give marching orders to the principles, who then give marching orders to the teachers, who then give marching orders to the students.  I'm kind of exaggerating a little to make the point of how a hierarchy works.

      Charters at least can bring in teachers and community members in a governing board and therefor get real community input.  Some innovative charters are actually run by the teachers without a principal.

      Traditional public schools more and more require their teachers to follow state-dictated or district-dictated teaching methodologies like "Open Court", rather than letting the teacher, as a professional, use a methodology that they feel works best based on their style and their students.

      Charter schools are more free to use alternative methodologies, particularly more holistic ones, or give their teachers more latitude to employ their own.

      When it comes to curriculum, some traditional "magnet" public schools offer special curriculum in a particular area of special interest, but my take on this approach is that their entire program, its 90% state standardized and maybe 10% special.

      Bottom line, there is no mythical "best single way" to run a school.  There are many valid educational paths, and no single way can serve every kid, no matter how much it is reformed and buffed up.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 09:02:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Check out the link posted (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tardis10, Linda Wood, ubertar

        in tardis' comment.

        In many cases charter schools are approved by the same boards that people claim are restricting alternate choices in the public schools.  

        Do we have a situation where the board approves these alternate methods with the caveat that they must take place in a separate building and for only a subset of students?  It seems nonsensical.

        If a school board is going to approve an alternate method of teaching, they may as well do it in a program within the regular public school district.  In fact, there's really no reason that a public school can't have multiple programs and methods being used within a school.

        The whole idea that we must duplicate infrastructure costs in order to teach differently seems to be a core principle of the charter school movement, and it doesn't make a lot of sense given our economic troubles.

        •  You're right. There is no reason why those things (0+ / 0-)

          couldn't happen.

          But they don't. How would you suggest we start getting them to change?

          •  Play the money angle (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelajean

            Most communities around the country are hurting now and nobody has extra funds just lying around.

            Instead of approaching a school board for a charter that includes a completely separate school, as for the charter and then tell them you have a fabulous idea for saving money in the district, and get it sold as a "School within a school".  

            Now the charter is close enough to the public school to affect change there.  If the charter is working well and attracting an additional percent of the school's students, expand it within the school.

            •  I don't think the staff of the bulk of the... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              princss6, angelajean

              conventional public schools in the country have the expertise to launch an alternative holistic school.  Now maybe if the district gave space on an existing campus to bring in a separate staff to run the holistic alternative, maybe that could work.  But I just don't see it happening.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:23:02 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I suspect most school districts would even... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6, angelajean

          begin to know how to mount a Dewey, Montessori or Waldorf school, nor have district teachers capable of teaching within those methodologies.  You can't have a Montessori version of "Open Court", it just does not work that way.

          And I don't think charters suck money for conventional public school, it is just the opposite.  In most states they educate for less per student than regular schools (even though they do often get money for start-up costs) so they may well be relieving the financial crunch of particularly some large school systems.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:20:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Are you saying the (0+ / 0-)

            majority of charter school teachers have never taught in traditional public schools? Or that these Montessori/Waldorf etc. teachers are trained solely in stand alone Montessori/Waldorf programs? Certainly not true up here nor in Northern Cali,the two areas I know best. I thought that you were accepting of many paths in education but the broad brush condescension re:public school teachers has me a bit befuddled. Demonizing public education or deriding educators is a foolish path to tread,imo. There are many in this country that absolutely do not want to pay for public education anymore than they want to pay for public healthcare. In fact,such sentiments even come up here from time to time. Crafting a progressive & fair education strategy that serves the interests of all children is our goal isn't it? I believe we can get there but not by parroting RW memes about incapable teachers or evil,lockstep administrators.

            As I've mentioned before we have homeschooled, private schooled and public schooled. Believe me,I get the need for varied options. Hopefully the conversations here lead to some real world improvements.

            "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

            by tardis10 on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 12:08:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  "Relief" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            tardis10

            Relief of a financial crunch by paying staff a lower salary doesn't feel like relief.

      •  Public schools do not have to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ubertar

        be traditional although perhaps it is more common for non-traditional models to happen within smaller communities.

        "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

        by tardis10 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 10:54:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's an excellent question. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princss6

      Why can't public schools do what charter's are doing?

      It seems that as the charter movement got started, it got more public schools interested in looking at alternatives - some would say that was because the competition spurred them on.

      Public schools will only change when there is political will in the community for that change to happen. Or maybe political will from up above, for that matter. I'm not sure I can tell where it needs to come from the most.

      The great thing for starting a charter is that it requires much less political will - you need teachers and parents to form a council, write a charter for a school, and get approved by the local authorizing authority.

      Imagine the paperwork headaches of starting a new public school? I'm not sure a parent could even jump start that process, if they wanted to.

      Charter schools started to succeed because they cut through bureaucratic nonsense... now some not-for-profit companies are taking advantage of that.  

      Let's stop them from taking advantage of the system, state by state, and let's continue with the progress that good charter schools have started. It's shouldn't be an all or none proposition for charter schools. Not at all.

    •  checked out your link (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, princss6

      I notice that they're proud of the public/private partnership:

      Say Yes is a unique collaboration between Syracuse University, Syracuse City School
      District and Board (SCSD), Syracuse Teachers Association (STA), the City of Syracuse,
      Onondaga County, Say Yes to Education, Inc., the American Institutes for Research (AIR), and a
      diverse group of Syracuse-area corporate, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations.

      Looks like a very interesting program and worth keeping an eye on. I believe Detroit is going to follow this model as well. There was an NPR story on it yesterday. However, I think they may plan on having charter schools included in the mix.

      •  Not the same.Detroit is using charters to bust (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mostel26

        the unions. I don't know if it allows for-profit cos. or not. The Syracuse system is not about union busting or for-profit entities.

        "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

        by tardis10 on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 01:38:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  For profits are a part of the program in Syracuse (0+ / 0-)

          as well.

          How do we tell which program is union busting and which isn't?

          I'm not trying to be a pain in the ass. I'm trying to figure out how we can tell? If we can't draw lines in the sand, then it becomes harder to convince folks which programs aren't worth fighting for and which ones are.

          •  What for profit schools are you referencing? (0+ / 0-)

            Or do you just mean that some of the philanthropic partners in the program are corporations? That have no ability to make money from this at all.

            "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

            by tardis10 on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 04:58:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Then why are they a part of the program? (0+ / 0-)

              Only philanthropic reasons?

              Maybe this is how we tell the difference? When a business gives money with no intent of receiving anything in return other than a tax break for making a donation?

              I'm just trying to figure out when it is okay to have business involved and when it isn't.

              •  some conditions (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                tardis10, angelajean

                I might say that it is no longer philanthropic when:

                - they push a high stakes standardized testing based curriculum
                - they push a long school day and/or school year
                - they ONLY seek to give philanthropic assistance to non-unionized employers
                -their "philanthropic" donations are really a way of getting their hooks into schools. If you're around my age (34) you remember the lame chanel 1 news program we were forced to watch every morning as a condition of getting "free" TVs in every classroom from Chris Wittle.

  •  To complicate things further, (4+ / 0-)

    there is the question of how to best judge a school's success. Many of us believe that generic testing is a terrible way of determining how children are doing in general, and that it is especially useless in schools which do not teach to the test.

    Is a school that teaches only to the test and gets good scores really any better than a school that teaches creativity and scores poorly? And if you have a charter that has a high non-native speaker population, should their test scores be expected to equal others?

    In the Waldorf inspired Charters, our second graders tend to test at 20%. But our fifth graders test at 50% and our eighth graders test at 80%. Our system does not teach in the same order, and yet, eventually teaches better.

    We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that standardized test scores actually tell us whether are children are learning what they need to succeed in our culture.

    "We live now in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

    by tb92 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 09:49:16 AM PDT

    •  I would imagine that a lot of progressive models (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tb92, princss6

      would follow this same progression:

      In the Waldorf inspired Charters, our second graders tend to test at 20%. But our fifth graders test at 50% and our eighth graders test at 80%. Our system does not teach in the same order, and yet, eventually teaches better.

      Most progressives value play as a form of education and prefer to wait for more structured learning until kids are older. Thus, we get those kinds of results.

      •  I would say... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean

        not only play but showing what you know in multiple modes.  If only my kid could build everything to show he understands concepts, lol!

        I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

        by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:35:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have builders too... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          it's amazing what they can do given the proper tools.

          •  And no instructions!!! lol (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelajean

            Funny story...my niece purchased a huge armoire from IKEA.  So of course, my son was chomping at the bit to help her build it.  She places one piece on and my son looks at it like, hmm that's not right.  She of course ignores him.  The armoire was huge so they went pretty far but decided to bring in a friend the next day.  The friend finishes and then he gets almost to the end of putting it together and says, something isn't right.  He had to take it apart and sure enough the piece that my son said was put on wrong was indeed backwards, lol.  

            He has been building things for me since he was at least five.  And Legos.  He spends hours on Legos!

            I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

            by princss6 on Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 06:34:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  If you want him to branch out into different (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              princss6, Debby

              dimensions and are looking for presents for birthdays or for Christmas, I recommend Zome Tools. They have sales and their bundles are not a bad deal.  After we started with a starter kit, we started buying the big bag of whatever pieces at a huge discount, once a year or so.  I started about 5 years ago, so my kids can build some huge contraptions.

              http://www.zometool.com/...

              We love these because they are used by real scientists to model real life problems and solutions. A toy with very practical applications in science.

    •  A school's success is judged by demand (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tb92

      Word of mouth beats everything. If more parents from outside the neighborhood want their kids to go to that school , then that school is a success. That is why I beleive every public school should have a quota set aside for other neighborhoods in the same funded region. If a few schools have more demand, you know those schools are better.

      you can call me praveen.

      by pravin on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 10:25:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's how our district is deciding (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, Linda Wood

        what schools to close. The district is open, so you can sign your child up for any school. Those who get the fewest students are closed. There are some serious drawbacks to this, especially for poor families who will have to bus their kids across town, but it certainly rewards those schools who are pleasing parents, and that seems to be the best group to judge.

        "We live now in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

        by tb92 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 10:36:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I would prefer to see the schools with fewer (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          children remain open and see if the smaller numbers could make a difference. Of course, the school district can't afford to keep teachers because they don't have enough funding. Sigh.

          This happened in the last school district we lived in in CA. The parents are in the process of trying to turn their old elementary school into a charter school. They don't want to bus their kids across town.

          •  Lower enrollment wouldnt help the school improve (0+ / 0-)

            Public schools work the best when the neighborhood consists of members who are vested in the kids education and the local people have the right priorities, as a group, for the kids. But when you lack such a composition of families, there is only so much a traditionally run public school can do. This is why I can  believe the report you cited where it says charter schools make more of a difference in dysfunctional neighborhoods than regular ones. Such neighborhoods may require out of box thinking as the kids are not returning to a stable environment.

            But anyway, I am going on a tangent. Focusing on your point, a faling school is USUALLY going to be a failing school regardless of numbers or money. Of course, yo dont want to close the physical building. But I think the poorest performing school could be game for a charter to operate with the reduced numbers and see if they can come up with better solutions with the same per capita revenue for the students.

            you can call me praveen.

            by pravin on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:40:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This stuck out big time: (0+ / 0-)
              more of a difference in dysfunctional neighborhoods than regular ones.

              The report didn't say that. It said that students in poverty and students who are learning English are better served by charters. Those don't necessarily makes those communities dysfunctional.  Their public schools might have been, but we don't know because the report didn't do a head to head comparison with local schools.

              Small may not always work but I would choose a small school over a large one any day of the week (for elementary ages), whether charter or public.

        •  You've opened a very important question. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angelajean, princss6

          When you say,

          There are some serious drawbacks to this, especially for poor families who will have to bus their kids across town

          Why would a town have good schools in higher income neighborhoods and failing schools in neighborhoods where children are poor?

          I anticipate the answer from people who believe family poverty is the cause of student failure will be that when poor children arrive at the better schools they will not only stay behind but lower the overall achievement of those schools. I hope your district proves them wrong.

          But the question also remains, if the new policy assumes those children will benefit from the move, why wouldn't the district have improved their schools instead of closing them?

          Watch for educational inequality within the new schools for these children. In districts that bussed children presumably for this purpose long ago, lower income children were re-segregated once again, within the new schools, for lower achievement in lower tracking programs.

          •  This district has both decreased enrollment (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelajean

            and an increase in student/teacher ratio, so they "need" fewer classes. This is entirely a financial decision and has nothing to do with the welfare of the children.

            The only reason I don't think we'll see much in the way of multiple tracks is that we simply don't have the money to separate children out. If they can't keep up, I think they're just out of luck. I can't imagine anything more tragic.

            I do think, though, that a lot of good could be done if we just establish a pool for education money. Every student should receive the same amount of funding, no matter how nice his neighborhood may be. If the rich want nicer things for their kids, they can help raise the bar for everyone. To believe that your own child's education is all that matters is selfish and short-sighted.

            "We live now in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

            by tb92 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 01:01:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  This has been proven wrong in Montgomery... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Linda Wood, angelajean

            County, Maryland.  High concentrations of poverty seems to be the issue, let me clarify, high poverty SCHOOLS.  In Montco, Maryland some high poverty kids went to school that were high income and some low income.  The low income kids in high poverty schools did better.  

            The kids were randomly selected so you don't have the argument that more engaged parents sent their kids to low poverty schools.  

            As someone said above, the schools can't fix everything but neither can "engaged parents" if their kids are in horrible schools.  Another thing, the kids got a better education but their household income, family make-up, parental engagement stayed the same as their peers who were lo-poverty.

            I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

            by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:33:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  2 reasons why I don't like that approach (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, ubertar, tardis10

        First, I don't think you can run an educational system on a "free market" approach like that.  Letting the market speak does not always produce the best results.

        Second, there are many reasons why a parent might choose one school over another that have nothing to do with educational quality.  Football comes to mind.

        •  then football is their priority (0+ / 0-)

          There are only so many students that can make a football team. if a family is stupid enough to decide on a school ONLY based on its football program, they deserve the school they get.

          I know many Asian American families would let the football school flounder. Give families the freedom to choose what kind of school they want to send their kids to. Not all schools should be similar.

          you can call me praveen.

          by pravin on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:47:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I understand what you are saying... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood, angelajean

      and certainly I'm a proponent of learning to learn.  I guess I also have to be mindful of whether my kid can past the next tests and the next tests, ultimately leading to college.  

      On the one hand, the testing for us is a double edged sword because he does absolutely well but the day to day classroom is another story.  When he doesn't perform in the classroom, a different mode as is expected of him based on the test scores, he is considered willful or lazy.  

      I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

      by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 06:38:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think that's one lesson a lot of homeschool (0+ / 0-)

        families learn early on... that their kids can get into college without fitting into the test, test, test model.

        If we could get more parents in the public schools to understand that, testing would lose it's importance in the system.

        You do know that you have the right to withdraw your child from the yearly testing, don't you?

  •  Indeed... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linda Wood
    Last week, I wrote a diary sharing my experience with a small charter school in Northern California. I opened a can of worms that, though not completely unexpected, was much larger than I had imagined. I found that we have Kossacks who literally hate all charter schools across the board (and homeschooling, too) and Kossacks who support the growth of charters in a responsible manner. We succeeded in confirming only one fact - self proclaimed progressives are not on the same page when it comes to education. Not at all.

    And you will find that dkos tilts towards one view which ignores huge swaths of the Democratic base and IMO makes excuses for our failing to provide quality education to all children equitable in America.  Indeed.  

    I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

    by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 11:52:58 AM PDT

    •  May I ask which swath of the Democratic base (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princss6

      is missing in this conversation? I ask, not as a Democrat, but as a progressive Independent who has found a place here at DailyKos. I'm expanding beyond my normal military diaries and finding a whole new world in here.

      I can tell from your tagline that you're for more conversation, not less :)  

      •  Hi angelajean... (3+ / 0-)

        if I had known the topic of your diary last week, I would have read it.  Sorry, I assumed it was more charter-school bashing, pro-union, anti-family, anti-poor people education diaries that are typical for dkos.  I'm sorry I missed it.

        Well this website is 95% white, disproportionately male and wealthy.  My black single mom inner city self is few and far between here.  I'm a Democrat but the demographic here does skew to older people as well overall.

        So my peers who are in the process of raising our kids and trying to provide a decent education is missing here.  I find the conversations on education are pretty much controlled by teachers, union reps or people who are married to teachers.  The parents who are who don't face the same reality I face.

        I know how you were treated for stepping out of line, here, lol!  Sorry, I missed it.  

        I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

        by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 12:05:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This makes me think of... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean
    Why do charter schools work for some populations in some places and not in others? This is actually a question a lot of us were asking in the comments of last week's diary. To me, this is the very heart of the matter. This is why charter schools are important. When we see where they succeed and where they fail, we can use those examples to improve the entire public school system.

    The statement too big to fail.  Now when in relationship to corporations, DKOS hates the term too big to fail.  not so much when it comes to public school, though.  

    I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

    by princss6 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 12:01:47 PM PDT

    •  Interesting. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princss6, Linda Wood

      I had never seen those two statements side by side:

      Public Schools are Too Big to Fail.

      Corporations are Too Big to Fail.

      I see your point. Maybe what we need to talk more about is Public Education as opposed to Public Schools.

      I have to agree that some public schools are failing and are doing so on a grand scale. And some are not. Some are succeeding remarkably well. Maybe, like charter schools that fail, public schools that fail need to close. But I believe something needs to take their place, even if it's another public school. Kids need schools in their neighborhoods, not a bus ride away. Especially elementary school kids.
       

    •  princss6... great insight!... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princss6, angelajean

      got to think more about that one!

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 07:19:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Parents know which school to send their kids to (0+ / 0-)

    IN genreal, it is easier for a parent to intuitively know which is the best school for their kids. It is tougher for the average parent to run for the school board and force change from that position. That is why I believe in school choice, whether it is within a pool of public schools, or a mix of public schools and public non profit charters.

    As far as transportation, let's get creative. Not every school needs a yellow school bus. Car pooling, (if one parent bears the bigger burden for a bunch of families, let there be a mileage reimbursement arrangement or some other creative way to get kids to the school).

    you can call me praveen.

    by pravin on Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:44:29 PM PDT

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