Thursday, July 22, 2010

Changing the Subject. Charter Schools

To qualify for federal school improvement funds, a high-poverty Vermont school had to replace its hard-working principal, reports Michael Winerip in the New York Times. The story blames African refugee students who speak little English for the school’s low scores. Winerip writes that 37 of 39 fifth graders are refugees or disabled, although only 22 percent of students are black.
Let me mention a few facts about Vermont. First, the stress that "only 22 percent of students are black" is blatantly weird here. Realize that this is probably the whitest state in the nation ... less than 2% of the population of Vermont is minority of ANY type, including the adopted kids. Second, when you have 37 of 39 students as refugees or disabled, then you have a school that looks nothing like the surroundings. Firing the principal is stupid because you have no basis for saying she is doing a poor job. NECAP testing compares this year's cohort against last year's cohort with the expectation that both are groups who have gone through your system. The students didn't go to school here until the beginning of this year, who are refugees from another country -- well, you figure it out.
The district’s turnaround plan was to convert the school to an arts magnet, thereby attracting more middle-income students, reports the Burlington Free Press. Changing the demographics may raise overall test scores, Klein writes, but it does nothing to improve the reading, writing and math abilities of the school’s low-income students.
So here's the real whopper. They are changing to a charter/magnet school so they can attract different kids, presumably smarter and higher-scoring. Just like KIPP. Just like every charter operation in the country. Changing the subject, changing the students, changing the scores.

You don't improve the teaching, you "improve the student body" by adding more students who raise the scores and remove those students who would lower the average -- like immigrants who want to learn English, not Arts.

That's how you "improve" a school.
That's why this whole voucher / charter / choice thing "works."
And that's why it sucks.

Joanne Jacobs asks, but can they read? The answer is "yes," but "they" have changed.

There won't BE many low-scoring, low-income students. Low-income parents want their kids in an academic program, not an Arts magnet. Same for refugee parents. and remember we are talking about a class of 39 fifth graders here. 37 of those were refugee or SpecEd. The whole group will transfer out, with a possible exception of a SpecEd kid who is big into Arts.

In fact, you will automatically have an increase next year because you will be testing a NEW group of kids - all from the area and totally different from this year's kids who didn't even speak English.

1 comment:

  1. These things make me so mad. Now, in places I've lived there have been good charter schools and good magnet schools, but they weren't made like this. Charter schools that are created like this to replace "failing" schools are just a snowjob.