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Friday, June 26, 2009

Evaluating Charter Schools

The topic of charter schools oftentimes brings about passionate discourse. Apparently some people have some very strong opinions on charter schools as they do on traditional public schools. Are charter schools doing a good job or a bad job of educating children? The same question may be asked of traditional public schools.

Frankly, I think the question is way too general. All schools cannot be lumped into a single category. There are way too many school systems. Furthermore, to answer such a question honestly and objectively requires a person to examine each school individually and to consider the resources available to the school.

Many methods and processes have been developed in evaluating both traditional public schools and charter schools. More often than not, we hear about evaluating the traditional public schools and we hear a lot of personal opinions on the performance of the traditional public school system. But what do we hear about evaluating charter schools?

Back on May 13, 2009, I wrote the Roland Hansen Commentary Glass City Academy: Charter School Uproar in Toledo, Ohio to which there were some responding comments, not all of which were kind and some of which took strong exception. I suggest you review that Roland Hansen Commentary and its comments before continuing on here to read more comments some one else wrote about it elsewhere.

Okay, now that you have hopefully done that, I will continue. I not only write this blog in addition to my other blog, Roland's Ramblings, but I also write and/or comment on other blogs and internet social networks. It is not uncommon for me to include links within my internet commentary input. Such is the case with the above referenced Roland Hansen Commentary regarding the charter community school, Glass City Academy.

On one of the social networks to which I placed that link, there was an interesting exchange between another person and me just a few days ago, actually it was on June 23, 2009, that I have copied and pasted below. (I am omitting the identity of the other person in that the social network is one in which identities are shared only amongst those who approve one another in the network.) Here is the exchange:
*** (link posting to Glass City Academy: Charter School Uproar in Toledo, Ohio.

Respondent: Interesting. I read all of it, including the comments and I only have one question.
I had heard that Obama and company were against any kind of charter schools, because it would take kids out of their indoctrination centers. Even our own governor was heard to say that he wanted to close them all.
In light of your party's opposition to charter schools of any kind, don't you think that this discussion is rather moot?
PS. I am FOR charter schools of ANY kind. They are the only salvation for this country. Schools must be made to compete with each other. Schools that get money from the government, can be controlled by the government. This is dangerous in my eyes.

Roland Hansen: I do not understand your question concerning "(my) party's opposition to charter schools of any kind." You must know something about MY party that I do not know.
Regardless of that aspect, it appears you assume that each and every person who identifies with a specific political party also supports every single plank of that political party platform. That is a gross over exaggeration of a stereotypical generalization.
Having been intrinsically actively involved in electoral politics and having been a college instructor of Political Science, I can say without hesitation that your assumption is totally erroneous.

Respondent: I guess. But, I have major problems with our public schools, and what I see this government (both state and federal) leaning toward, is making sure that the public schools are our ONLY choice. I will home school if I have to. And if they take that away from me, I will send them to the public schools, and then when they get home, I will RE-school them with the truth.

Roland Hansen: Perhaps you should take a more proactive role by running for election to a seat on your local board of education.

Respondent: I know where you are going with that. I flunked speech class. :-) However,
_______ (note: another person is named) and I are on the same page on this issue, so I WOULD campaign with her to get her elected on the board. Now, SHE would be awesome! She is a phenomenal public speaker!

That exchange again got my thoughts reflecting on the seemingly continuing controversial debate on the subject of charter schools and the traditional public school system. That is a subject near and dear to me, and of which I have spoken and written to some length over the years. As a matter of fact, in addition to this entry and the Glass City Academy entry, there are two other previous entries here on Roland Hansen Commentary concerning the topic of charter schools; they are:
December 9, 2008, Cultural Diversity School: A Charter Idea
November 27, 2007, Marc Dann: Charter School Buster!

Now then, let's get to the subject of today. I found the above-cited exchange on the social network to be quite ironic. I use the word ironic because two days ago, just this past Wednesday, June 24, 2009, the day after that exchange on the social network, I read an article, actually it was an editorial piece in the local newspaper (The Blade Pages Of Opinion) that caught my interest. The editorial piece was in regards to charter schools, and it mentions an address given by Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education, at the annual meeting of the National Alliance for Public Charters, Barack Obama, and a report on charter schools that has been issued the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. If you really want to read that newspaper editorial, click on over to The Blade, Charter school challenge.

On the other hand, there are several other interesting reports about that Stanford U CREDO report that I strongly suggest you read. Should you choose to do so, just follow my links to:
Reuters, New Stanford Report Finds Serious Quality Challenge in National Charter School Sector
Yahoo News, U.S. News, Charter Schools Might Not Be Better
NPR.org: Report: Charter Schools Aren't So Exemplary (from which you may click the link to listen to an interview by Michel Martin of National Public Radio with Nelson Smith of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Not to be left out is the full CREDO National Charter School Study itself from the credo.stanford.edu website where you may read the press release, the executive summary, the full report, the technical appendix, and the various state reports.
For that, all you need do is click this.

So, the report is in, but the question remains: What are your thoughts concerning charter schools?

Especially to those persons who vehemently criticize traditional public schools in their passionate strong support of charter schools, I ask: What about evaluating charter schools?

3 comments:

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Roland,

As we have never used either the Public School System nor Charter Schools for our children's education, I can only speak about the issue from a taxpayer's point of view.

I do believe that Charter Schools and Public Schools should compete for tax dollars in that the tax dollars for education should be credited to the child, and follow them where they and their parents choose to send them, Assuming that both/all systems meet (or exceed) the same minimum educational standards.

Schools that cannot cut the mustard SHOULD fail and have their support dropped and schools that excel should qualify for additional support. That is IF education is the real and only goal...

Judy said...

With regards to evaluating charter schools in Ohio, there is a school report card that shows the progress schools have made based on four measures of performance. They are State Indicators, Performance Index, Adequate Yearly Progress and Value Added. The combination of the four measures is the basis for assigning state designations to districts, buildings and community schools. The six designations are:
*Excellent with Destinction
*Excellent
*Effective
*Continuous Improvement
*Academic Watch
*Academic Emergency

With respect to Glass City Academy, for the past three years, they have been in Continuous Improvement. The attendance rate for GCA is way below the state requirement of 85%. GCA's attendance rate last year was 56.5%.The state requirement for graduation is 90%, GCA had a graduation rate of 22.2% last year.

The Lucas County Educational Service Center (LCESC) has the best team who provide expertise to community schools. But they can only do so much by state law, kind of like you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink!
It takes everyone working together to make sure our schools are the best they can be, public, private or community schools!

Tim Higgins said...

Roland,

I was a product of private Catholic education, but my children were all in public schools for k-12. Quite frankly we moved during their school years in order to get better schools in the public sector, going to a suburban district in Columbus and leaving the city.

I believe fundamentally however in the concept of competition to get improvement. If Charter schools or private schools can compete 'on the same level playing field' I believe that it benefits the process and children.

I also believe that this is far to complicated a process to answer simply. Federal regulations, state mandates, ridiculous funding methods and union contracts that protect everyone except the kids are part of it. Overworked, apathetic parents contribute as well.

I finally believe that this is best handled at the lowest local levels. It is easier to participate, to influence, and to garner enthusiasm at a local level. The more control devolves to state and federal levels, the less control local people feel that they have and the less likely they are to show enthusiasm and participation. Keeping education at a local level as much as possible allows good people of conscience to lead, to assist, and to simply participate.