What? Charter schools are not improving college graduation rates? You must be kidding me – this is what a charter school is all about

First Dr. Ravitch shifts her position and then a not for profit decides to address the blinding glare of low  college graduation rates…..what is the world coming to? Thank goodness the sun rose today in Northern California.

Although I am fascinated by data and could spend the next month looking at all 50 states in the union, I live in California so I will put my focus there. Since charter schools are a business model (whether for profit or not, it is still a business venture), it remains to be seen what will come of it and how well we invested our money in the option.

 In 1999, Aspire Public Schools opened the two (University Public and University Charter) of what would be a long list of charter schools. Both schools are K-5 which means a student starting in K in 1999 would be in the middle of high school today, assuming the child started K at age 6 and there were no times a student was held back. The first crop of data relating to the students from those schools will not start the clock ticking for two more years. In 2012, it will be interesting to see how many students who started in K made it to graduation from high school and entered the halls of higher ed. By 2016, it would  equally interesting to see how many students from these two schools graduated or were on their way to graduate from institutions of higher education.  Over time, Aspire added many schools up through high school. Although it is fair to state that only having a student for four years is not enough time to make them college bound, Aspire did indeed market this as their goal. In fact, so did KIPP.  KIPP does not have a website with user friendly data so it is a little bit more difficult to track down the when things happen. 

KIPP Origins

KIPP began in 1994 when two teachers, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, launched a fifth-grade public school program in inner-city Houston, TX, after completing their commitment to Teach For America. In 1995, Feinberg remained in Houston to lead KIPP Academy Middle School, and Levin returned home to New York City to establish KIPP Academy in the South Bronx. These two original KIPP Academies became the starting place for a growing network of schools that are transforming the lives of students in under-resourced communities, and redefining the notion of what is possible in public education.

These are the two high profile charter school organizations I know of and I will now be watching to see how their results improve the data from Completecollege.org, who some how managed to get data from the State of CA showing college graduation rates.

As of yet, I have found nothing from either charter school organization to indicate they are getting more students into higher education and more students are GRADUATING from said institutions.  The proof will be in the data and perhaps Dr. Ravitch is not so far off base in her ideas. Since it would be unfair to use data for students who have had less than ‘stellar’ school affiliations (i.e. anything which was not a charter school) the clock can only begin on students who went K-12 in a charter, preferably the same system and then this data can be compared with the other data of students who weathered the storms of regular public education. 

For the sake of hoping the charter school business model is right/correct, I would think more than 60% of the population graduating with a college degree is in order, however,  this is the highest number collegecomplete.org could throw on the table and hope to achieve. 

Finally, charter schools will have to show some of what I believe is called transparency as this is the first time anyone has really looked at anything more superficial then the data charter schools put out in the process of marketing themselves.  Dr. Ravitch is right – this little experiment has not been monitored by what scientists would call high standards, rather charter schools were allowed use state testing as the barometer for their success.

What makes me sad is how so many people saw NCLB and the advent of charter schools as the panacea to all that was wrong with education (heck, I bought into the guilt until I taught for one).  What would it all have looked like if we just demanded parents began parenting and being responsible for their children and stop making self esteem and other excuses? One of the many lessons I walked away with was anything which requires this much marketing (charter schools) should be clear and use data sets along the lines of what completecollege.org has managed.  Anyone can hire a spin doctor – very few people can educate a child.


http://www.completecollege.org/state_data/  pick the state of your choice; I looked at California.  You can download a whole .pdf file with amazing data.