Teachers unions seem to hate charter schools

Report from the Boston Foundation would seem to indicate these schools do better than the competing "pilot" schools in Boston. So Michael Jonas wonders:

Exactly what will it take for state leaders to raise the cap on Massachusetts charter schools, which have thousands of students on waiting lists clamoring for a chance to escape the mediocre classrooms that define too many of the state's urban district systems? ...



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    That study

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    The Boston Foundation study was pretty amazing.

    It tracked everyone who applied to charter random admission lotteries, winners versus losers. That way it was apples-to-apples.

    This method addressed all the concerns that perhaps charters get "more motivated parents" or that less able kids depart.

    When Harvard economist Tom Kane released the study yesterday, he started by saying "The results were so shocking to us, charters did so well, that we fretted for 6 months that maybe we set up the study wrong."

    Basically, Boston charter lottery winners (mostly black kids) start out almost the same (very low) point as average Boston students (though slightly above), but end up about the same as BROOKLINE students.

    Charter lottery losers start out in exactly the same place, but make no progress, and end up lagging just like average Boston students.

    I know this is out of character, but unions aren't the problem

    It really isn't shocking that charter schools perform better on standardized tests than regular public schools. Unlike public schools, charter schools don't have to accept students who have learning disabilities, behavioral/emotional issues, or MIA parents. Fail to live up to the laundry list of rules and academic standards created by the charter school and your child is kicked out and cycled back into the public school system.

    Public schools on the other hand have a duty to educate everybody, and their scores reflect it. Combine a the score of a 10th grade college bound public school student with the score of a 10th grader with a 5th grade reading level and it's no small wonder why public schools don't measure up when it comes to standardized testing. Private and charter schools cherry pick the most motivated students and leave everyone else to fend for themselves. Charter schools may help a lucky few but it doesn't solve the problem of failing inner-city schools.

    Yes and No

    Some charters not only accept special needs students, but cater to them. In fact, they are required to accept SPED students and accomodate them.

    I know a couple of parents who got totally fed up with the public schools short-changing their special education students and put them in the charters. In the carter schools, they got appropriate attention beyond "well just pull them out of half of every single class period to work on reading some more. We'll just repeat what has already failed and ignore their assessments again".

    Furthermore, there are charters that are specifically designed around the special needs of working students, returning drop outs, students who are also parents, etc. These are populations that the standard schools can't serve, or where there is an economy of scale in aggregation of targeted services.

    I have heard a great deal of talking points whining about charters from teacher unions, my city school committee and stuporintendent ... but not a single damn one of these whiners has ever actually ASKED any single parent who put their kids in a charter school why they did it. It's always "these awful evile parents are stealing tax money!!!!" So much easier to frame it in terms of "evil parents" than to face the farking music that you aren't doing your job! That's because they are simply NOT INTERESTED in finding out that they are losing the students and their funding because the school administration frustrates, ignores, avoids, and denies parent concerns, and does as much as it can to do as little as it can get away with for special needs students.

    An interesting experiment in Boston

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    BPS has approved a K-8 Boston Teachers Union Pilot School in Jamaica Plain, to open this fall. Put up or shut up time, I guess.


    Chapter 766 was created to specifically cater to special education students. It basically states that if school districts must make accomodations regardless of cost. For some kids this means an IEP, for others it's half day "mainstreaming", while in other cases (like with my younger sister) it means ponying up for tuition and transportation for a specialized program that's located 40 miles away. If the district fails to do make these accomodations then you've got a lawsuit on your hands.

    Practical Reality

    Three Choices:

    Public School - half-assed "tutoring" approach that wasn't addressing issues, dismissive attitude toward parents, and refusal to allow outside assessments when inside assessment process was geared to minimize costs.

    Charter school: works with parents, designs individualized curriculum based on assessments that does not center on removing student from classroom multiple times each day (which would require further make-up tutoring ...).


    Which would you pick for an intellectually normal child with a learning disability? What would be your path of least resistance?


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    "Unlike public schools, charter schools don't have to accept students who have learning disabilities, behavioral/emotional issues, or MIA parents. "

    This assertion is false. Charter schools have to accept any student provided they win the lottery to enter the school and the lottery is random.

    It long ago stopped being about the students

    A few years ago I was part of a group attempting to site a charter school in Taunton. The teacher's union got to a certain local politician, (think "bad toupee"), and we never had a chance. It's no accident that the MTA owns the building next to the State House.

    If you a parent of school

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    If you a parent of school age children, regardless of what type of school your children attend, I would put forth the following advice:

    Charter Schools provide CHOICE, and they largely provide a high-quality alternative to students across a wide spectrum of racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Aside from any studies, the parents of Charter School students and the students themselves are the best testimony to the quality of this type of school. Note the size of the waiting lists for entry into these schools. If they were not doing an effective job, would this be the case?

    With this ability to choose comes the responsibility for parents to do some work and investigate the alternatives. It is important to visit ANY school that you are considering for your child. One size does not fit all.

    A Charter School is a public school. Anyone who suggests in any way that they exist in “opposition to Public Schools” is categorically wrong. This type of rhetoric tends to come from the political insiders (and their powerful constituents) that advocate having every school revert to control by the local school districts.

    For this reason, it behooves all parents to stay united as we are all in this together -- regardless of what type of school their children attend. We should NEVER put themselves in a position where they allow their public officials in the name of “fairness” or any of this other misleading rhetoric to divide them against each other.

    There are countless examples of attacks on the establishment of Charter Schools in MA, and you can read all about them by simply searching with Google. One of the most heinous examples was the attack against the Advanced Math and Science Academy in Marlboro. Even after the school’s charter was lawfully granted, AMSA literally had to fight for its life to remain open in a court case (funded by several school districts and the usual collection of political insiders) that went all the way to the SJC.

    What was most unfortunate here was how this episode provoked unnecessary and unproductive feuding among citizens in the charter communities, and needless re-direction of precious education dollars to legal fees.

    Our taxes pay our public officials’ salaries and benefits, so they all work for us. In return for our hard-earned tax dollars, we deserve accountability, the honest truth, and quality service -- including the ability to have a choice when it comes to educating our children.