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Raising Bar on Charter Law Shouldn’t Wait

A recent Bangor Daily News editorial incorrectly uses conclusions and data from CER’s State of Charter Schools report. The quote below is about judging an individual charter school, yet is used as ammo for an argument about why lifting the charter cap in Maine shouldn’t happen.

“It remains the case that the single most effective way to evaluate whether a charter school is succeeding is to measure value-added growth over time, including how that growth, retention, and, yes, parent satisfaction compare to the same factors in the schools those students would otherwise be attending,” Allen wrote in the Center for Education Reform’s 2011 analysis of what works and doesn’t work in the realm of charter school performance accountability.

There’s judging schools, and there’s judging school laws, and the editorial unfortunately mashes the two together in its argument against changing Maine’s charter school law. Yes, “performance based accountability is the hallmark of the charter school concept”, but giving charter schools a chance to thrive depends on the quality and implementation of charter school law. Having a limit on the number of schools allowed is not an indicator of a strong charter school law. Limits stifle the chances for innovation and growth, thus stifling the potential for great schools (that can be held accountable and judged based on all the factors mentioned in the quote above!).

Mississippi’s Modest Step Forward

April 17, 2013

Just hours ago, Governor Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013 into law.  When this legislation was first headed to the governor’s desk, the Center for Education Reform acknowledged this as a step forward for Mississippi, but emphasized that this legislation is not as bold or aggressive as the parents and students of Mississippi deserve:

“We join our colleagues in acknowledging that this is a step forward for Mississippi, but after sixteen years of debate in a state where only 21% of 8th graders can read at proficiency, parents and students deserve better and more aggressive action from their elected officials,” said Kara Kerwin, CER’s VP of External Affairs.

“Strong laws create strong schools. A conclusion we’ve made since 1996 evaluating the nation’s 43 charter school laws,” said Kerwin.

“Mississippi lawmakers had two decades of proof to see what works and what doesn’t in charter policy. They missed the mark on most of the key components of strong policy. Incrementalism is not good for all children.”

Click here to read the full press release

(Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Posing as Reform in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia) is not an honest broker. With more than $50,000 in contributions each year from the city’s teachers unions, the public should know that the reform bill he is backing for charter schools is about destroying, not reforming; about raising up the status quo, not real reform of our schools.

His reports and allegations, of widespread problems in charter schools across the state, are misleading and plain wrong. For example, he alleges that most charter boards have conflicts of interest with those with whom they work or depend for services. But that would also suggest that the largest employer in the school system is riddled with conflicts. Who isn’t related to a teacher or a child or a board member or a vendor in any district? Everyone with a pulse has overlapping interests. The only time it’s a conflict is when their views and their work is at odds with what’s good for kids.

Conflict of interest is code for keep charter schools small and insignificant. Demands from opponents for accountability is code for shut them down.

The charters are efficient, effective, albeit underfunded public schools that are oversubscribed and, in most cases, achieving above and beyond the traditional public schools.

Why would you try to save money on schools that are already underfunded and over subscribed? Why not save money on schools that are failing on a system that has a larger administrator/adult -student ratio than most comparable districts?

Philadelphia District:
15-to-1 teachers to students
655 administrators making over $100,000/dollars a year! (100 of who are teachers)
2980 in total all education administrators — Average salary is $104K

There are about 150,000 students in district public schools – 50 students for every administrator! A charter school survives with half as many administrators – an average of 100 kids for every administrator!

Read More …

Why Truly Independent and Multiple Authorizers Are Important

February 28, 2013

It’s not surprising that Louisiana’s charter school authority expansion fell flat in its first year.

Louisiana’s experience is proof that not all efforts to improve laws are created equal. Strong charter school laws do not require new groups to apply to become authorizers. It is actually a disincentive to do so.

Strong laws permit universities and other publicly accountable non-education entities to become authorizers without asking permission and hold them accountable for the outcomes of their schools. That’s because the purpose of independent and multiple authorizers is to establish new pathways for school creation and oversight separate from existing state and local education agencies.

States that allow for truly independent authorizers, granted by law to operate with unbridled freedom, yield greater charter school growth and quality.

The hits just keep on coming

dontchangeThe opening of Virginia’s latest charter school (one of only four operating around the state) has been nothing but a roller coaster ride, not to mention a textbook example of the more-often-than-not contentious relationship between school districts and their charter schools when districts hold all the cards under a weak charter law:

Since the start of their dance with Richmond Public Schools (RPS) in the spring of 2008:

Patrick Henry was forced to go through the RPS approval vote process three times

Patrick Henry was initially left out of this year’s RPS budget

Patrick Henry is to be held to higher standards than other RPS schools, but will receive 21 percent less funding

Patrick Henry was “generously” granted leased space from RPS at a cost of $1 per year – facilities which came with a crippling renovation price tag of close to $1 million

Enough already?

Apparently not. Yesterday, a school more than 2 years in the making, one that will offer families a longer school year and a curriculum focus not available in traditional Richmond schools, was faced with the possibility of being on the receiving end of one more hit – the potential refusal by RPS to hire their first principal just as the final preparations for their inaugural school year get under way. (more…)

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