Wednesday, August 17, 2005

CST Results & Charter/ Small Schools

Charter & small schools are ridiculous: "The ship is sinking! The ship is sinking! Let's rip planks from the hull and build a small life raft! Come on, the water's getting higher! Rip those planks up faster, there's almost room for like 1% of us on this raft!"

Teach For America taxied me into public education, and I climbed on board for a variety of reasons, but mainly this one: America ought to represent mobility and opportunity, and for this long-repeated promise to become a reality, our schools must function, and function well. I hate inequality. I hate it in all forms. I hate the achievement gap that exists between white and others, rich and poor, suburban and urban/rural. I hate that the charter school movement has created another gap between those with the resources (parental, time, transportational, informational) to attend and those who do not.

I especially loathe the way charter/small school have entered my school District: without a plan, without a rationale, without anything in the way of forethought. My cluster -- four elementary schools and my middle school -- have long been the lowest performing in the District. Not uncoincidentally, they also served the most extreme populations: lowest SES, highest ELL concentration, greatest threat from gangs, etc. In the past three years those schools have experimented with schedules, collaboration models, curriculum, and have improved substantially. Three schools were sub-500 API; now all are over 600. All were meeting AYP goals. How does the District respond? Three charter/small schools are fostered upon these schools, all of them operating within the physical plant of these schools, and existing as a clear and direct drain upon all resources, human and financial.

This is a zero sum game. After multi-year growth, schools in my District who were affected by the birth of these charter/small schools saw their scores drop. For some schools, it was the first drop in over five years.

At "Angry Elementary" 3rd grade scores have risen for the last four years. Last year, "Silly Small School" comes in, dividing the 3rd grade. Suddenly Angry Elementary sees their scores drop by more than half, while scores at Silly Small School come in at slightly above what Angry Elementary did in the previous year.

At "Jealous Middle" sixth grade scores have always been near the top in the District. Last year, "Ridiculous Academy" comes in, recruiting from the highly successful feeder schools that used to go to Jealous M.S.. Now, Jealous sees their scores plummet, while Ridiculous, bolstered by their hand-chosen school, scores slightly above what Jealous had been doing.

A simplistic analysis sure, but the numbers are simplistic. Where charter/small schools have diluted the talent pool and ability level, community schools see their scores plummet, while the charter/small scores bring in results usually a little ahead of the previous success rates. They push the highest kids a little higher, and offer no solutions to address those truly being left behind by the education systems. The long and short: The (intellectually) rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Given that drop-off in the schools whose populations were effected by the charter/small school incursion, I'm not convinced there was a rise in the incidency of proficiency incommensurate with the historic upward shifts. I'm not convinced anything was accomplished except moving those kids to a different building.

1 Comments:

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