Thoughts on Choice: The Big 'Why'

All students are entitled to high quality education. None are entitled to a charter.


Editor's note: The following was written as a letter to the Santa Clara County Board of Education, and is reprinted here.

As we reach the end of this so-called “National School Choice Week,” I offer these thoughts on “choice” in public education.

Writ large, “school choice” can refer to charter schools, private schools, home schooling, magnet public schools, open enrollment policies, inter-district transfers, enrichment, web-based learning, MOOCs, private tutors and more. “Choice” can even mean “democracy” and “local control” when a community chooses a new slate of school district Trustees on election day. There’s a wealth of “choice” in education, but practically speaking, this word “choice,” so much used in the current national education reform context, has been commandeered by the charter movement. Today, in California public education circles, “choice” usually just means “charter.” OK then, I’ll play along—herein, I’ll use “choice” to mean just “charter”—which is regrettable, since I’m a supporter of choice (broadly speaking) but I’m not always a supporter of charters.

I believe there are gaps and problems in California charter law that create significant unintended, negative consequences for students, districts and communities, and the root cause is lack of clarity between various levels of
public education administration vis-a-vis their respective missions, roles and responsibilities.

I’ve read various portions of the California Constitution, Education Code, Department of Education web site, and other sites published by groups like the California Charter Schools Association, Students First, the Santa Clara County Office of Education and others. I’m struck by their near-universal emphasis on two things: “high performance” and serving “needy students.” I’m not implying these shouldn’t be emphasized by both the public education establishment and reformers, what strikes me is that these top-level priorities are too often buried in the rhetoric about charter schools.

The mantra we hear from the charter movement—and what usually gets printed in the paper—is often inarticulate, ungrounded, undifferentiated “choice” and “parent empowerment,” as though reaching for such high-minded and vague
ideals is sufficient to accomplish explicit, written goals of “high performance,” particularly for “needy students.” In reality, choice untethered from the hardscrabble mandates of public education can just as easily result in demographic segregation as pedagogical stimulation. I repeat: When “choice” can be deployed in pursuit of vague ideals and personal taste rather than the
unmet needs of students it can lead to discrimination. We know this because it’s happening today, and it’s on the rise.

Here’s why it matters: Public education serves all students. Allowing niche groups to opt out to form “schools of choice” undermines the “commons” model of public education, partitioning the system to create separate and unequal education. Should we allow such dislocation and disruption if it’s not absolutely necessary for achieving high quality education? A well-managed, high-performing system of public education for all is not improved by introducing segregation and discrimination.

What’s most important in all this? If you’re in the education trade, nothing is more important than student learning; your craft is instruction, your value add is erudition. Naturally, the mission of the California Department of Education is to “provide a world class education for all students.” Presumably, all programs, priorities and administrative strategies developed and operated by the CDE are designed to help achieve this mission. Tom Torlakson, Superintendent of Public Instruction (the CEO of the CDE), developed, adopted and publicized a “Blueprint for Great Schools” that specifies nine broad strategies for
achieving CDE’s mission. Not one of these strategies includes expanding charter schools in the delivery of California public education. Apparently, after a 20-year charter experiment, the CDE sees no benefit in a broad roll-out of charters, and the reason for this is simple: districts and charters are neither equals nor peers, and the CDE prefers traditional districts.

Geographic school districts have been the fundamental operating unit in California public education under the state Constitution since 1849, while charters have been permitted since 1992 under the Education Code. The California public school system is built on bedrock districts run by locally elected governing boards, so the CDEs priority is helping local districts do a great job. The CDE is not in the business of replacing, disrupting or unduly interfering with its school districts. Rather, it has a vision and a plan for strengthening them because they are the dominant and preferred delivery model.

Said another way, traditional school districts with elected boards acting as local administrative agents of the CDE are the rule and charters are the exception. I’ll be even more direct: charters are neither an educational goal nor an improvement strategy of the CDE, they are merely an experimental alternative to the traditional district delivery model. They’re often unnecessary, and they’re certainly no one’s entitlement. All students are entitled to high quality education; none are entitled to a charter.

There is no serious disagreement or doubt that charters are intended to remedy educational shortcomings. Charters are meant to improve public education, with a particular emphasis on addressing needs of students under-served by traditional district programs. Charters are just one tool for improving education for students who aren’t otherwise thriving in a traditional district school. Choice in public education must always be employed as a means to achieve pedagogical improvement.

Choice purely for the sake of choice is an illegitimate application of charter law because it puts non-educational (usually parental) goals and objectives above actual educational needs of students. Charters are not an end in themselves, they are a means to an end. And where educational goals are being achieved by other means, such as by a traditional district program, a charter is simply unnecessary. Educationally unnecessary charters must be avoided because “choice” comes at a high cost.

Any charter school established and operated separately within a district increases the cost of education delivery. It duplicates administrative functions, reduces economies of scale and introduces facilities allocation constraints and inefficiencies. It can partition a community’s education assets (campuses, buildings), giving over a portion of them to a non-democratically controlled competitor vying for limited resources. It can even introduce costly and counter-productive legal conflicts.

“Choice” employed for its own sake, not as a special remedy for unmet educational need and without regard for cost implications, can never be legitimate within the public education enterprise.

California Governor Jerry Brown said in his January 2013 State of the State address to the Legislature, “This year, as you consider new education laws, I ask you to consider the principle of Subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the idea that a central authority should only perform those tasks which cannot be performed at a more immediate or local level. In other words, higher or more remote levels of government, like the state, should render assistance to local school districts, but always respect their primary jurisdiction and the dignity and freedom of teachers and students.”

Local school districts that are well-run and high-performing, achieving performance goals set by the CDE, must be allowed to thrive unfettered. Locally elected governing boards that are, by objective measures, responsible, effective administrative agents of the CDE have earned the right to be free from disruption, both from within and from without. Where local governance succeeds, no higher or more remote level of government should interfere. High quality education is the goal and local control is how we achieve it, and where it succeeds, it should not suffer interference.

So we have a system of public education established by state constitution, overseen by state-level officials through local agencies. But we also have county-level administrators and boards. What is the relationship between local and county-level education boards and superintendents? According to the CDE website, “There are 58 county offices of education that provide services to the state’s school districts. County offices of education support school districts by performing tasks that can be done more efficiently and economically at the county level.”

County offices of education are service agencies intended to provide support for local districts, to help them achieve their goal of providing a world-class education for all students. Any county office of education or county superintendent that intervenes in the operation of a high-performing local school district is in breach of its fiduciary, has abandoned its mission, and unjustly deprives the community served by such high-performing district of well-earned local control.

As we wind down this “National School Choice Week,” let’s make it a priority to get back on top of some of these questions and issues. Let’s mend gaps in state law that result in confusion between our various education administrators with respect to their roles and responsibilities. Let’s give credit to the successes of both districts and charters where it’s due, but also remember that districts and charters are simply not created equal. High-performing districts throughout the system is the goal, vastly preferred over ad hoc charter experiments, but charters just might be one way we identify a new scalable model. Let’s
celebrate the achievement of our many high-performing schools and districts and concentrate our “reform” energies on those schools and districts that truly need remedial support.

If we do all this, we stand a far better chance of achieving the CDE mission of “a world class education for all.”

—Joe Seither

NOTE: These views are my own, and are not necessarily representative of, or offered on behalf of, any organization I volunteer for, including:
• Huttlinger Alliance for Education, founding Director (2012-13)
• Los Altos Educational Foundation (LAEF), Co-President and Director (2007-2013)

Joe attended California public schools and graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where he met his wife, Los Altos native Kelly Packer (Springer/Blach/LAHS). The Seithers’ two children attended Oak Elementary and Blach Intermediate schools. Joe has served on the Board of the Los Altos Educational Foundation since 2007 as Director, Marketing leader and Co-President. The Seithers have volunteered in support of many school programs over the years, and Joe has been recognized for his significant contributions to the students of Oak School and LASD with the California State PTA ‘s most prestigious “Golden Oak” service award. joeseither@me.com

Joe Seither February 03, 2013 at 05:24 PM
If I was Tom Torlakson, I'd dig into API scores to learn whether CA charter schools provide real educational improvement. I suspect when he looks at this data, he sees (as I do) no benefit versus traditional district schools: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B94-ujEy_rZ2NEE0WWo2VFRVbEk/edit
GingerPye February 03, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Joe Seither, I couldn’t agree with you more on the loose use of word ‘choice’, especially in this community. I have repeatedly heard the slogan: “We choose our neighborhood schools.” What if I live in a neighborhood north of El Camino, which has no neighborhood school, and I can’t afford private school so the only ‘choice’ I have is to attend is my local public school? What if my ‘neighborhood school’ is more than a half mile from my home (so not really in my neighborhood) and I can’t afford to move so my only ‘choice’ is my local public school? In these instances, what are my options if I want foreign language or enrichment programs as part of core curriculum for my child? Los Altos is the ONLY school district around here with no CHOICE. Unlike Palo Alto, Cupertino, or even a smaller district like Mountain-Whisman, LASD is offers no alternative public choice porgrams for its students. You would think a high performing district would recognize that its high performing students would benefit from some ‘choice’, just as our neighbboring districts have. MtnView Whisman Dual Immersion: http://castro-di.mvwsd.org/ Palo Alto Choice Programs:http://pausd.org/parents/programs/choice_schools.shtml Redwood City Choice Programs: http://www.rcsd.k12.ca.us/domain/40 Cupertino Language Immersion: http://www.edline.net/pages/CLIP Given the oversubscribed nature of BCS, it seems there is a need for public school alternatives in our town.
GingerPye February 03, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Sorry, I ran out of allowable space in my prior post, but I think you are wasting energy debating the need for charter schools. Charters are here to stay because the public school system is failing all around this country, and the charter movement is growing. Obviously LASD is not one of those failing districts, but charter growth is happening not only in districts with low performing, but high performing students. I think most of us would agree that high performing students deserve options just as much as low performing students. Given our area's diversity, choice makes sense. I support charters because they are accountable in ways unimaginable in the red tape world of public schools. Paying teachers on performance and not tenure; being held accountable for students test scores; having to attract new students every year in order to stay in business – these are foreign concepts for most public schools. These are basic tenets of charter schools. BCS originally become a county charter program on appeal because LASD rejected to sponsor it as an in-district program. That was a big big mistake (in a long long list of many other mistakes the District subsequently made.) It doesn’t matter to me how this school was founded or the drama behind its creation. That’s all ancient history now. The baby’s been born, and you can’t send it back. As a community, we now need to start figuring out how to feed, shelter and educate it, not debate its right to exist.
GingerPye February 03, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Another Big “Why”: The other big Why I have is the nature of your involvement with the Huttlinger Alliance? I bring this non-sequitur up because you are on their website as a member of their Board of Directors. Why have you not listed this association in your background, along with your long list of other education-related recognitions? http://www.huttlingeralliance.org/home/about-hae The Alliance, a 501(c)(6) so any donations are NOT tax deductible, can do things like endorse political candidates and file amicus briefs and further complicate the already very complicated legal situation going on with the LASD/BCS Prop 39 situation: http://tinyurl.com/HAE-amicusbrief
Joan J. Strong February 03, 2013 at 07:13 PM
"Sorry, I ran out of allowable space in my prior post, but I think you are wasting energy debating the need for charter schools." Yes, yes, nothing to see here. Move along. Nobody--nobody!--should come to understand that the founders of the charter school movement have reversed themselves and are now turning on it: http://dianeravitch.net/ If the government gave out free crack cocaine, that too would most certainly be "oversubscribed". In certain areas of our country a "KKK charter school" would be jam packed full of applications. Ditto for every imaginable whim that is suddenly government funded in the name of "choice". Choice for choice's sake is morally unsupportable. I don't expect Grace Yang, however, to understand complicated concepts like, "morality" however, given her utterly amoral behavior in the last six months.
GingerPye February 03, 2013 at 07:19 PM
Bring up any anti-union language, and the Mr. Hyde side of JJS pops up immediately....Who's logging into the account this morning?
L.A. Chung (Editor) February 03, 2013 at 07:35 PM
@Grace Yang: The writer's background is probably known among many community members, but he did include a short version of his long list of education-related community involvement for this piece. This includes his current work as founding director of the Huttlinger Alliance for Education, which is plainly stated here.
Joe Seither February 03, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Grace, thank you for adding your POV, I think you represent the 'other side' of this discussion very well. Your raison d'être for charters wanders:  - Irrespective of need, I want a charter. (You want it because you just want it - and because others have it.)  - Public schools are failing so we need charters. (Except LASD schools aren't failing and charters don't improve outcomes.)  - Demand is justification enough. (You clearly agree with former county Superintendent Dr. Charles Weis who once bizarrely wrote, "The provision of charter schools to accommodate school choice was a political solution by the legislature not a pedagogical solution. The charter school is not a remedy for a problem.")  - BCS is here so it deserves to be here. (The is-ought logical fallacy - you can't derive an "ought" from an "is." If we could to turn back time and "do over" our local situation, we wouldn't - nor should we replicate our situation in another community, so we must cure it here. What "is" here today "ought" not to be.)  - Unions are the problem. (Except all the top-performing CA school districts are unionized.) Either charters are justified by need or they're not, either they're educationally effective or they're not. We have 20 years of data: Stanford’s CREDO study shows only 17 percent of charter schools provide a better education than traditional schools and 37 percent provide a worse education. Student outcomes are all that matters and charters are certainly no panacea.
GingerPye February 03, 2013 at 09:27 PM
Sorry, I missed it. Yes he did plainly state it. But my big 'Why' still remains. Why does this organization exist? Why does it fund political campaigns and not have to disclose donors? Why does it threaten additional litigation?
GingerPye February 04, 2013 at 01:53 AM
Joe, here’s a more recent analysis that discounts the CREDO study you cite for its methodological flaws. It also cites dozens of other charter school studies which does show significant improvements charters have made on public education. http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Charter-School-Studies-PB.pdf As I have said earlier, a fruitless debate on the justification of BCS’s existence will only serves to create further divide and discord. Our family didn't choose BCS just for the sake of choice. We, as have hundreds of other families in our District, chose it for very specific reasons, such as: 9:1 student teacher ratio Smaller class sizes than LASD schools Longer and more school days than LASD which amounts to hundreds of hours of more school per year Daily foreign language in core curriculum Focus on music and performing arts Co-curriculars and extra-curriculars Individualized learning goals tailored for each student BCS is here because it is filling a need in education that our current public school system is clearly not providing. It’s also held to a standard called market-based accountability. Just as with any good or service, the success or failure of educational effectiveness is driven by demand. Instead of questioning BCS’s right to exist, I would question why demand for BCS keeps growing? And what should LASD schools perhaps consider doing with its own programs to compete with and satisfy some of this unmet demand?
Joan J. Strong February 04, 2013 at 05:15 PM
1. BCS does not have a "9:1 teacher student ratio". Its real ratio is somewhat lower than LASD but that has to do with the fact that BCS calls lots of different personnel "teachers" whereas LASD does not. 2. "Smaller class sizes" is the same as the above. Odd that you stated the same assertion twice two different ways. 3. BCS represents a "bundle deal" for extra-curricular activities. Parents pay $5000+ per year in exchange for a pre-defined set of ECs. LASD students can and do get exactly the same thing or more, but it's done ad hoc, and allows each parent to decide how much they want to spend (yes that's right, LASD offers more "choice" in this regard). 4. BCS's sole bundled language program is Mandarin until later. This again is no different that what LASD parents can and do procure separately. 5 & 6. Again, repeating yourself: BCS is a extra-curricular "bundle". 7. LASD has individualized learning goals for all students. Finally: * BCS is here because they closed a campus (later re-opened) some billionaires wanted to stay open continuously. It does not fill any educational needs and was never meant to. * BCS like all charter schools is a "lock in strategy" in that once you have chosen the product its very hard to un-choose it. It is most certainly NOT like any "product" you buy at the grocery store, wherein you can simply choose another next week. Individual charter schools are not subject to "competition" anymore than Microsoft was in the 90s.
Joe Seither February 04, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Thank you for providing a link to this paper by Liv Finne, Director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, who doesn't appear to have done any analysis on the CREDO study herself, but instead cites criticism from "research experts and statisticians." I'm not inclined to dismiss CREDO's work on this basis. Her paper observes, "The 'opt-in' nature of charter schools indicates parents generally place a higher value on a charter school education than do the authors of the CREDO study." This comes as no surprise, since the mere act of expressing a preference (choosing), irrespective of student need, parent motivation or educational outcome, can lead to increased satisfaction. Once again, this is consistent with Chuck Weis' view of things: charters serve political purposes, not educational purposes. But the CDE is not—and should not be—solving for parent satisfaction, it's solving for high performing public education for all. And the CA data is clear: "schools of choice" are performing no better than traditional schools on the tests by which the CDE measures performance. (See link above) The focus of my op ed was education and charter policy at the state level, and not once did it mention your particular school, just one of nearly 10,000 CA schools. I understand the temptation to personalize the issue, but I encourage you to think more expansively. Think n=10,000 rather than n=1. This isn't all about you or your school.
GingerPye February 04, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Joe, Again, I caution your overzealous generalizations with regards to charter schools. You risk throwing the baby out with the bath water because you specifically have a widely-known beef with the BCS administration. If you want to dismiss the success of BCS (and yes, it is a success), please look at other case studies like Rocketship charter schools before you cast your vote: http://www.rsed.org/about/Academic-Performance.cfm
GingerPye February 04, 2013 at 08:42 PM
JJS, Since you have never enrolled any children at BCS and are full of misinformation about its programs, I don't believe you are in a qualified position to comment. While it's very easy to criticise with a pseudonym, some people find it disingenuous and cowardly. For the record, BCS is a free public school. Check out the website first before making unqualified statements.
Joe Seither February 04, 2013 at 09:05 PM
I completely accept that some students and communities can benefit greatly from a charter school, which is precisely why I opened my Op Ed saying, “I’m a supporter of choice (broadly speaking) but I’m not always a supporter of charters.” I am not categorically anti-charter. I support charters and other reforms when unmet needs of students justify disrupting an under-performing traditional district or school. But since you mentioned Rocketship, I’m totally with you that Rocketship Mateo Sheedy is a success worth trumpeting and an example worth replicating. But really, Grace, are you equating your school with Rocketship Mateo Sheedy? (85% Low-SES, 66% ELL) In case you haven’t seen it—ever, or recently—I encourage you to review this excellent analysis by our own Steve Waldbusser: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B94-ujEy_rZ2c0hSVkVfNUVmRkk/edit Regarding use of the word “charter” to refer equally to both your school and Rocketship Mateo Sheedy, I suspect Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride) would say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Joan J. Strong February 04, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Grace, We have discussed all of these things in our Facebook discussion here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/347812728589673/ I have made no statements without thorough research and discussion with many BCS personnel, parents and supporters. As for remaining anonymous, Grace, your own despicable personal attacks on individuals who are not anonymous have shown everybody exactly why I remain so. As one LASD parent said a few months ago (I paraphrase from memory), "Joan J. Strong should be commended for having the forethought of coming into this discussion with the proper amount of body armor". This was in the context of discussing the antics of one Grace Yang. There are many honest, decent parents at BCS. Grace Yang is not one of them.
GingerPye February 04, 2013 at 09:43 PM
Joe, I brought up Rocketship because of your earlier suggestion to not make this discussion on charters just about 'my school': You write: "The focus of my op ed was education and charter policy at the state level, and not once did it mention your particular school, just one of nearly 10,000 CA schools. I understand the temptation to personalize the issue, but I encourage you to think more expansively." If you speak with John Danner, CEO of Rocketship, I believe he would absolutely consider BCS a brethren charter school blazing new roads of educational excellence. He believes charters have a place for high performing students just as much as they have a place for lower perfoming students. We've already debated the Waldbusser study ad nauseum....it picks three conveniently flawed and narrow filters. As I've previously stated, if LASD were a company, would you be spending your dwindling R&D budget on a piece of propaganda to convince fleeing customers that the product they all want is no good? Or would you be spending those funds to re-vamp product to better meet changed market demand? Why not spend some of your anti-BCS energy studying this real report from the well-respected Harvard professor, Roland Fryer, which talks generally about charter school strategies which can help all public schools: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/fryer/files/charter_school_strategies.pdf
GingerPye February 05, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Wrong again JJS. I feel optimistic stating that an overwhelming majority of BCS parents would disagree with you that I am not decent and honest. I can also say with complete confidence that almost all these honest, decent BCS parents find your misrepresentations extremely dishonest and indecent. Last but not least, thanks for reminding me again of the off-color behaviors which many of us felt were unbefitting that of a SCCBOE candidate. Hopefully my actions as a concerned citizen helped contributed to the short-lived nature of this individual's misguided political career. Here are the snapshots which I'll share again here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/347812728589673/permalink/435900373114241/ https://dl.dropbox.com/u/33202778/Dave%20Cortright.pdf http://www.facebook.com/groups/347812728589673/permalink/436246603079618/?comment_id=438261782878100&offset=0&total_comments=88
Joan J. Strong February 05, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Funny you should mention John Danner--he just resigned Rocketship. He said in reference to his resigning, and I quote, "It's a good day when you don't have to do politics every day". In other words, he's sick of being a cronypreneur and wants to be a real entrepreneur again. As for what makes charter schools "tick", a better study is one funded by Bill Gates and the Walton families, who give millions to buy elections across the country to further their privatization cause: http://bullischarterschoolthoughts.blogspot.com/2012/07/charter-schools-polishing-data-turd.html By and large, charter schools are successful because they selectively market to the most advantaged students and they expel the ones they don't want. That, and they get tons and tons of extra money from billionaires (which would be fine if it lasted forever or could scale to every school in the USA but it will dry up in a few years and it could barely scratch the surface in any case). So charters get more money to do an easier job. It's actually pretty mind-blowing that so many can't even manage to be successful in these conditions. If you gave the same advantages to public schools, they would handily trounce that of charter schools every single time.
GingerPye February 05, 2013 at 02:09 AM
JJS, instead of promoting your own self-serving and misinformed blog, please peruse these following links. http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=10850 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/07/public-charter-school-mov_n_1865151.html http://www.uplifteducation.org/domain/21 Bottom line: most charter school criticisms are myths created by the almighty but still threatened teachers union. Is it coincidence or lack of creativity that this is the same criticism used against BCS?
GingerPye February 05, 2013 at 02:11 AM
Here are some more for your reading pleasure: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/18/1092908/-Some-Truth-About-Charter-Schools# http://www.sandiegofamily.com/resources-by-age/big-kid/581-top-5-charter-school-myths http://www.taosnews.com/opinion/article_159f624a-8400-11e1-b0c8-0019bb2963f4.html http://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/top-5-charter-school-myths http://governor.alabama.gov/downloads/CharterSchools.pdf http://www.calcharters.org/fact_sheet_charter_myths_vs_reality.pdf http://www.masscharterschools.org/schools/myths.html
GingerPye February 05, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Finally, last but not least, I encourage you to watch this video on Rocketship. I think it helps explain John Danner's motivations to make the switch. He's a start-up type of guy and Rocketship is well on its way to opening many more schools at this point. His personal change of focus for him may ultimately yield higher impact on educational outcomes for students. If you don't have time to watch the full 10 minutes, watch from 4:30. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/july-dec12/rocket_12-28.html
Joan J. Strong February 05, 2013 at 03:09 AM
Thanks, Grace. I particularly love the fact that you actually think your actions (a smear campaign against a school board candidate) are honorable. That's priceless. Keep talking, please.
Ron Haley February 07, 2013 at 02:26 AM
I wonder why so many LASD parents are opting out in favor of the charter. One could take the position that they are stupid, but seeing their children outperform all other public school students in LASD, then that's a tough one to make stick. Applications for 2013-2014 are up more that 20%, adding to an already unacceptable backlog. Add to this the change in demographics, and you are going to see some pretty empty LASD schools. By just 2014, LASD kindergarten classes will be 50% of capacity. Hard to raise a bond based on those numbers!
Alan February 14, 2013 at 12:16 AM
"If you’re in the education trade, nothing is more important than student learning..." Perhaps. But if you are in the California's Teachers Union, nothing is more important than making sure that student test scores are forbidden to be used to evaluate and fire teachers.
Joe Seither February 15, 2013 at 08:03 PM
Grace, I finally got around to hitting that link, and I notice it’s the same paper you’ve shared other places at other times. My takeaway is that (just maybe) you haven’t actually read the Fryer paper. His research shows that a combination of factors can have a statistically significant positive impact on student test scores in the most dire public schools, in this case, nine of the lowest performing schools in Houston, TX. Here are the factors: a) high expectations, b) increased instructional time, b) highly trained staff, c) lots of tutoring, d) data-driven approach to instruction. Not one of these success factors is unique to charter schools, and the performance gains in Fryer’s study are achieved in traditional public schools. Let’s think about this another way: where student performance is lagging and these factors are not present, there’s good reason to believe that performance could be improved by implementing these strategies. Charter vs district is irrelevant. We certainly don't suffer here in LASD from a) low performing schools or students, or b) a lack of these factors. Ergo, the implications of Fryer's research can hardly apply to us. Elsewhere, perhaps so.
Joe Seither February 15, 2013 at 08:05 PM
As to your comment about Waldbusser’s analysis being ‘flawed,’ I’ll remind you that he judged charters by three criteria: a) how well they improve student performance, b) how well they target communities in need and c) how well they serve the neediest students. I think Fryer and Waldbusser are very much on the same page: Where students and schools are not achieving at a high level, we’ve identified reforms that can help, we ought to focus our remedies on the needy, and we can & should judge charters by their results. I endorse the conclusions of both Fryer and Waldbusser, they’re focused on actual student needs, not on disrupting successful public school districts to provide choice for its own sake. If you have read the Fryer paper, I suspect your aggressively pro-charter goggles are preventing you from reading the real message. (The ‘Harvard’ branding is impressive, I agree. When I cite this Fryer research in the future, I’m sure it will add weight to my argument.)
GingerPye February 15, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Sorry Joe, I can no longer engage in this discussion with you. It's come to my attention that Patch has decided not to publish my last 3 comments to you, though they have no issue publishing unfounded comments from anonymous posters. Since Patch has decided to exercise its editorial descretion by limiting free speech, I will no longer participate in this biased forum. Good luck!
Joe Seither February 16, 2013 at 07:27 AM
Grace - can't help with that - let's have coffee. joeseither@me.com
Yon Kers March 02, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Joe used up all the words--nothing left


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