Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spinning charters

Travel day today. So I missed the Sun-Times story about the latest study showing, once again, that Chicago's charter high schools as a group, fail to out-perform the very neighborhood high schools they are supposed to replace under the Mayor's Renaissance 2010 initiative. But my brother Fred picked it up and says what needs to be said.

I'll just add one point. Two weeks ago I was part of a discussion at Loyola's Law School, that included the head of the local charter school association. She used the forum to make wild, unsubstantiated claims about the superiority of charter schools as a class. Obviously, the research doesn't back up her claims.

She got very angry and upset when I argued that charter schools, like other public schools, should not be assessed as a single group, or compared with or pitted against neighborhood schools as a group. Whatever good charter schools have going for them (and there are several good ones in Chicago) they don't necessarily share it with other charters or with other public schools. Also, as Gutstein's study shows, they don't recruit the same proportion of poor kids as do the neighborhood schools.

Charter schools are here to stay and have a role to play, albeit a limited one, as acritical force within the public school system and a place for experimentation and innovation.

What they don't need are any more cheerleaders and invested spinners, exaggerating results and pitting them against other public schools.


  1. What are your thoughts on teacher experience? I read the study you are referring to and one of its findings was that charter schools tend to hire teachers with less experience. In your opinion, does teacher experience really impact student outcomes?

  2. Of course. Who else are young teachers supposed to learn from?

  3. Hi Mike,

    Do you have a reliable source which compares the charter school enrollment at various urban school districts? Oakland is up to 16% of the district's enrollment.

    I found a few figures and calculated Chicago's at 5.2%. Does this sound right?

    By the way, you and your brother might be interested in reading my post about the charter invasion of OUSD (Feb. 11, "National Model or Temporary Opportunity?").

    And are you the Mike who posted the statistics on Bridging Differences today? If so, they are unspeakably profound.

  4. Quite close Perimeter Primate ... Chicago's charter school enrollment is at 6%. Two independent research studies on Chicago schools were released 2/17/09 that deserve your attention.
    Both point out that Chicago public schools is using flawed data resulting in bad decisions. One compares charter and neighborhood high school performance on ACT, as well as student enrollment and teacher factors (not so great for charters). The other on Chicago's current proposal to close or "turnaround" 22 school which data show are primarily in communities of color experiencing gentrification or rapidly changing demographics. This study proposes a new method to measure utilization rates – a common reason cited for closing schools.

  5. Primate,
    I was also impressed by Mike's comments about Chicago reform on Bridging Differences. But I can't take credit.It's obviously another, much more statistically-competent Mike. He lives in New Jersey (definitely not me) but writes well about Chicago reform.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.