Thursday, August 20, 2015
The Myth Of Charter School Academic Excellence.
If you read the newspapers, the Republican Presidential candidates, and even many Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ron Emmanuel, you get the impression the charter schools are the answer to academic excellence. However, the truth is very different.
Sure some charter schools have proven academic success but that's because these few schools practice policies that exclude many English Language Learners, Special Education students, and impose discipline policies that remove behaviorally challenged students from their schools. These charter schools like Success, and KIPPS are compared to the neighborhood public school when it comes to test scores but these same politicians and media outlets ignore the disparity of "high needs" students between the public and these charter schools. Moreover, the news media and politicians turn a collective "blind eye" on the failure of these high-performing charter schools to "backfill" the openings by accepting new students. The result are smaller and smaller cohorts and class sizes from third grade on, the testing grades. I wrote about this previously Here.
A favorite trick these schools do is to encourage parents to withdrawal their academically struggling child at the end of second grade by telling the parent that they will need to hold the child back if they insist in keeping the child in the school. However, if they remove the child from the school and go to the public school, they will advance them to third grade. The result is the high performing charter school keeps their test scores high while dumping the academically struggling student onto the public school. Moreover, if the student is behaviorally challenged, the high achieving charter school will expel the student and dump them as well onto the public school. Finally, these high achieving charter schools will plead lack of resources or expertise when it comes to English Language Learners or Special Education students and will discourage these "high needs" students from attending their school.
Excluding these few high-achieving charter schools, the vast majority of the charter schools cannot afford to turn down students, even when they are amply funded by hedge fund managers and well-heeled individuals and struggle academically, many of them having lower test scores than the neighborhood public schools. While some of these schools hire ex-police officers as Deans and discipline is better enforced, these charter schools suffer from the biggest libility, "quality teachers" that the public schools have.
The big bug-a-boo, even in the high achieving charter schools is the transitional and unstable teaching staff. Even in the best charter schools, there is a nearly complete turnover of the teaching staff in three years. In many charter schools almost all the teachers are replaced yearly and in a story I published previously, one charter school had seven Science teachers for one position in the 2014-15 school year!
This year a charter school teachers told me that the school had teacher orientation and the staff consisted of discontinued or terminated (under 3020-a) teachers, Teach for America "newbies" and teachers suspended by the DOE for incompetence under section 3020-a for the school, year. While some of these teachers probably were unfairly charged or discontinued by the DOE, not all of them were, and the Teach For America "newbies" have no classroom management skills or curriculum knowledge whatsoever. For this charter school, its not about "quality teachers" but a warm body.
Even in the high achieving charter schools, none of the students from the Success Academy were academically proficient enough to be accepted by the many specialized public schools in the City and the reason is probably a combination of the lack of a stable and experienced teaching staff and the mindless test preparation at the expense of real education at these schools .
When I continue to read the newspapers and hear the politicians singing the praises of the charter schools I only snicker because the truth is the charter schools are academically struggling and do little to add real knowledge educationally to the student. It's all "smoke and mirrors" when it comes to real academic success for the average charter school student.