AP Loves Me, AP Loves Me Not

I lapsed in judgement, yet again. I accepted  an AP (Advanced Placement) student  for tutoring after February. Once again I fell for the line, “I just need a bit of help with test taking skills.”

I had to be the person to explain in May, ten days before the exam, how the student lacked the depth of familiarity with the content (Biology) and their writing did not meet the minimum a reader would seek for a college level survey class.  I had to do this so the student and parents could set realistic expectations: (1) Student will get credit for high school science. (2) Student could suddenly have a burst of understanding regarding photosynthesis (light/dark reactions), Krebs Cycle and other known subject areas of the test AND construct short essay answers which would demonstrate understanding, interpreting, prediction and application, if not synthesis of information – although this was highly unlikely.

Based on two tutoring sessions a week apart (after the first one I was pretty sure the student lacked the depth of knowledge), and wishing to give the student the benefit of the doubt, I met for the second session. The first session could have been nerve-wracking by expecting the student to get through at least two to three of the ‘six short free response questions’ pulled from a series of release questions on the College Board website…. At our first meeting, I had to provide the student with sticky tabs to label sections of the book. By the second session, the student could not locate the section of the book with the pancreas, insulin (hormone) and the feedback process. I knew I had to be honest.

Section 1 lasts 1 hour and 30 minutes and contains 63 multiple choice questions and 6 grid-in questions.

Section 2 lasts 1 hour and 20 minutes (plus a 10 minute reading period), and contains 8 questions consisting of 2 long free response questions and 6 short free response questions.

I am not sure who was more sad or relieved. The student and parents clearly had no clear understanding of what an AP class was about or they would have done things much differently during the school year. I was able to ask a few questions and prove this out easily.

The AP exam, for any subject, is not an easy class. AP classes allot a student college credit for the basic  level 101 English, U.S. History, Biology, Psychology, etc.  upon the student demonstrating by exam they have college freshman level skills in the subject. This means the high school course is a ‘survey’ course of content the student should have already had one exposure to and/or it is a subject area they are passionate about (example: student interested in med school will LOVE the content in Biology and/or Chemistry and eat, sleep, dream about these subject areas so the AP course will be pure joy).

AP does not mean intelligence or smarts. The most common misnomer by parents is the one which is something along the lines of, “College prep coursework in high school must be the lowest track. Honors is for smart students. My child is brilliant and going to college so they must take AP courses to demonstrate. beyond a doubt, they are brilliant”.

For whatever reason, no one bothers to ask and read about http://www.totalregistration.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=494&Itemid=118  or https://www.collegeboard.org/releases/2014/class-2013-advanced-placement-results-announced which has the numbers of students who register for the test and the percent of students who pass with a 3, 4 or 5 score (1 and 2 ratings are not applicable for college credit).  No high school counselor managed to have a meeting with families to explain the actual rigors and expectations of an AP course and what the actual outcomes look like, in numeric form.

The reality is, upon reading past the College Board marketing, approximately 50-80% of students PASS the AP exams each year in any given subject area (achieving a 3 or higher). This indicates not all students pass with college credit, even though all students are allowed to register for the class.  20 -50% of students who apply for the exam (Not all students in the class apply for the exam!), take the AP course for the year and show up for the exam(s) do not pass….This is truth in numbers. It depends as much on subject content as study habits as persistence. The numbers tell a story no one pays much attention to regarding what types of classes students should be taking in high school.

Sometimes the student has not had a previous in-depth exposure to the subject area and is surprised by the sheer volume of information involved in a college level course. Sometimes the AP course teacher is not an experienced teacher and neglects to get students WRITING (for the courses which require this portion of the exam) in October so students have time to practice and/or determine if they want to put in the effort necessary to pass the AP exam.  Sometimes peer and parental pressure make the student persist.  Sometimes students actually believe they can handle two or three AP courses and sports and some other activities and work themselves to a frenzy where the spring season is hell in the form of not feeling well, not being rested and definitely not successful at something as something has to ‘give’ in a manner of speaking.

The genuine issues students and parents should think about have more to do with outcome than the numbers demonstrating an ‘increase in students taking the AP exams’. Is your child best suited for the level of rigor required to be successful in an AP class AND can you accept not passing the exam while getting high school credit for the class.

Students who have the ability to pass the AP exams have four significant and important skill sets.

  1. In depth exposure to the content area at least once prior to the AP class. This can mean reading _________ for Dummies in August preceding the AP class and/or a general love of the content area.
  2. An understanding of study skills  including flashcards, Cornell notes, multiple sources of media, study groups and practice.
  3. Obtaining a tutor early on so they can adequately review content and practice writing over a long horizon line.
  4. Specifically deciding the one or two things they can commit to for eight months AND will not flip out if one of these items does not work out exactly as planned.

I have given up trying to think through why parents would expect something from their children so extreme as AP coursework. I believe in some ways it is parental narcissism, in the same way it is important to have a child who applies and is accepted to only Ivy League Universities or similar.  Based on the numbers, my experience with tutoring and talking with a wide variety of parents from all socioeconomic classes across America, AP exams are not for everyone AND they do not save anyone money if you have to hire a tutor/coach (doctor, psychologist, etc.) to help your student through the death march of May.  A good tutor can equal the cost of  a 100 level course at a community college. If saving money is your goal, think again. If proving your child is successful, think about what success means and how it is fulfilled. Personally, I would love to have a student who actually understands the pancreas and insulin as we live in the age of diabetes. The student who understands enough biology to be concerned about their own health, the health of their family and care about the environment is far more practical than passing an AP exam.


The New-New Thing In Education: Being Aware/Being Involved



Many years ago I worked for Charles Schwab Inc. while in Denver, Co. People  (family, friends, etc.)were constantly telling me how privileged/fortunate I was since Schwab had such high values and cared about the common folk. The implication was that Schwab was the best house on the street since that was how Schwab was marketed. How would I know to  think otherwise- I was recently out of college. My father had invested with Schwab since the dawn of the operation when they were in Sacramento http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Schwab_Corporation and they seemed to honestly care about making everyone an investor so they could obtain part of the American dream. In fact, at the time I worked there, Schwab was the  darling of San Francisco and anyone with an inkling of liberalism.

All was well in theory until Charles Schwab Inc. and the board of directors determined that going after big money would make the firm more profitable – it was exactly what every other firm on the street was doing so why not Schwab?  They sold their soul and the 1% got wealthy, the 99% (including employees who were not directors or unit presidents/vp) got stock option rights to buy shares of Schwab at a discount because paying employees what they were worth would not be profitable. Unless you were the 5% who made Schwab a  life career, you took a bath in very dirty water about 1998 and forward as Schwab, now wealthy like other houses on the street, began to disband employees over profits. I had left the firm (I felt Schwab was losing its mojo and cache) to pursue a larger dream – Peace Corps.  I, like most employees, who worked for Schwab during the go-go 90’s took a cold bath of reality and in realizing I was underpaid when I worked for them (remember the stock options). I later  took another bath when stocks went down and I needed to sell. Schwab, like every other firm was also affected by the most recent Wall Street and banking debacle, in spite of how it is worded on Wikipedia.

Who lost out? Well, it would appear the average investor or the 99% including me as I was once a ‘believer’. Whether it was mortgage-backed securities or not – investors took a hit, not the corporation. This is along the lines of ‘the house never loses’ in Las Vegas.

I bring all of this up as an example of perception versus reality and how we so wish to perceive what is being fed (read: marketed) to us that we truly overlook what is going on in the middle of the situation.

As with making money, education is not without a ‘fee’ for service. The fees paid take many forms: studying, fund-raisers, PTA, support of school teams, attending events. The list is too onerous to complete here.  No matter how much the new-new thing is touted, the new-new thing becomes yesterdays cold bath in the light of day if you do not pay attention.  In the late 1990’s to now (2012), charter schools were touted as the panacea for this ailing nation. We went from the’ everyone will go to college (the implication of this meant everyone would obtain a college degree – understatement is great marketing)’ to the light of day where reality crept in and getting to college is not as easy as it looks, no matter who is in the White House. Sadly, charter schools were supposed to improve everything.  The two articles above are but a very thin slice of a bigger picture that  charter schools, like Charles Schwab Inc.,  do not possess the luster the marketing and PR firms would like them to endow upon them.

As with the reforms being voted on in Congress and hopefully applied to banks, brokerages and mortgage lenders, charter schools themselves were given a revisit.


The issues at the top of this page are small in comparison to the marketing ploys of charter schools. It is doubtful that anything of value will come from the CA State Board of Education ordering new rules in 2011  to clarify how charter schools are granted statewide operating privileges. The action comes in the wake of a July 2010 Court of Appeals ruling that found the CA State Board of Education  improperly awarded statewide status to Aspire Public Schools, a charter school company founded in 2000.  The reason: being aware versus wanting to believe.

The parents of children at Miramonte Elementary School in  Los Angeles probably believe a charter school would be far better then LAUSD in light of recent events. Since Aspire Public Schools did not make the lawsuit(s) above newsworthy, parents will be fed exactly what they wish to believe.

Hopefully parents will realize it is about involvement – day in and day out. It is about being aware and it is about paying the ‘fees’ for their children to be educated.  These horrible events happen everywhere – unfortunately they happen most when people are not watching and not aware.


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.


What am I missing with the headlines?


Los Angeles Times 27 January 2010 Wednesday A10/Howard Blume Making their pitch for schools

All over California, superintendents of school districts are decrying the sad state of the California budget and the effect it will have on their districts.  Nowhere have I seen equal clamor from the charter school sector, which, too my knowledge gets school monies from the same trough of funds. 

Either charter schools are not complaining as they have figured out how to drum up money via grants and donations to cover the shortfall or there must be some programs/services which charter schools do not provide with categorical funds so they are not feeling as much of a squeeze.

My experience has been that charter schools are schools of  ‘choice’ so they skirt the funding issue by not having to provide the myriad services of regular school districts as parents ‘waive’ their rights to needing such things at the far superior charter schools.  In addition, parents at charter schools tend to put more out of pocket money into the various school programs.  Donations from various groups flood into charter schools as everyone wants their name or their company associated with the do goodness of charter schools.  In essence, charter schools ‘manage’ their money situtation differently.

Due to the strictures of regular public school budgets, public schools can not pull the same smooth moves without raising the ire of parents who expect the school to do everything for their child.   It would seem appropriate that since charter schools have long stated they can teach everyone a thing or two about running a school, they should be out there offering their services or at least sharing their ideas.

There surely seems to be something amiss from my view. Are public, non-charter schools really doing something so drastically different that we all need to jump on the train before it passes or are charter schools skirting issues and this will be when we find out how economics of scale work OR is then when we find out what charter schools don’t do?

For all intents and purposes, it would seem that SFUSD would want to bring in as many charter schools as possible to solve their problem, which is not enrollment issues.  Why are charter schools not gaming up for the big take over opportunity?

All of these unanswered questions make me wonder what is really going on, beyond the money issues. I doubt it there is some scary cabal, however there is definitely a difference in the two types of public schools.

Call in the MBA’s, but stop whining


It seems oddly humorous to me that the very organizations which wanted to be considered businesses are running around complaining about financial market issues, which are a huge part of the financial cycle.  While everyone was sleeping, education became a business, much to the dismay of professional educators. It happened very slowly but the marketing was outstanding. Those upset with running the business apparently never had the opportunity to obtain an education degree and as is typical with all business plans,  the CEO’s (principals) were busy listening to the marketing department, not the people with the education degrees.

During my lifetime I have watched education attempt to be made into the Ford Motor Corporation, each student a widget on the assembly line. Next I watched it become  Mattel and Parker Brothers, whereby fresh new colors and shiny objects were going to improve the widget and how it turned out if the widget would just play. Then it became IBM  where the advent of the silicon chip was going to revolutionize the learning process and make the widget smarter, faster and finally, now it is seen as  WAMU, a bank that was well marketed but actually had no business acumen.

At no point did I see education become a walk in the woods, an interaction between parents and children, a trip to the library, travels, time away from TV, nutritious food, creative/innovative as those things do not turn a profit, they merely turn out better students.  I watched carefully. I was one of the teachers who was supposed to be thunderstruck with each new business model.  At the height of all this business transformation, I was supposed to follow the wisdom of business guru Jim Collins in Good to Great, the non-profit version since non-profit makes it sound less corporate.  The business model never worked without help from Mr. Bloom (Bloom’s Taxonomy) and other great educators.

To this day, all of the schools run as businesses have yet to do anything different from what an ordinary, regular neighborhood school is expected to do – prepare students for attending college and get most of the students through higher education to obtain a job in the workforce and improve the economy of the nation.  The major difference is that schools run as businesses have fancy data and graphics and market the hell out of themselves- they have yet to substantially and consistently reduce the  margin of discrepancy between White and Asian students vs. Black and Latino  student test scores in a statistically valid manner.  Schools run as businesses have not improved crime rates, have not slowed poverty, have yet to produce more doctors, lawyers, MBA’s, etc.  per capita.  The school as business was merely modeled after showing ‘test scores’ or quality control if you will.

As I sit back and watch the media circus around the issue of budget cuts in education, I chortle. The cheapest, most effective thing which should have been done in gross (cheaper in gross!) is to get parents involved and responsible in raising their child and following up on the child’s academic performance.  There is no ‘business’ in the education model  – it is a public service, funded by tax dollars and audited, if you will, by the parents and public at large to see that students get into and through higher education.

So, perhaps we need to find a good CPA (cleaning, pressing and alteration of the books) to fix the problem or we need to remove the business model strategy from education.  I did not obtain a degree in business – I was convinced a business degree  would ebb and flow like the financial markets.

College For Certain….Or Not

Being all consumptive about data (heck, I am a fan of Edward Tufte), I have been puzzling over the following conundrum and look forward to input from others to assist me in extrapolating meaning:

Most charter schools have a tenant, pillar, strong point which relates to college attendance.  Generally speaking it is a broad statements about students graduating their high school and going to college. The statement is broad enough to include attendance at community colleges as well as larger public and private colleges/universities in the U.S. and abroad.  The statement is generally broad enough to make one believe that students not only graduate high school and attend college, but the student completes college.   Now, I admit, my last sentence may be far broader in interpretation than what charter schools actually mean and I am sorry for the broadness of my statement (which makes me concerned about how many other people got sucked into ‘believing’ college graduation is part of attending college). I would   be willing to accept attending college meaning part time, at a community college for one year with grades of C or better as meeting the goal of college – some college is always better than none.  With all of these interpretations out there, I have tried and successfully failed to find the college data from any major charter school.

First off, let me state that I point blank wrote e-mails to the people involved who would ‘have access’ to the data most readily in hopes these people would have some one from their IT department put up a posting on their respective web sites.  See blog     https://whereiskatima.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/current-charter-school-data-which-i-seek/                    I have attempted all reasonable methods of obtaining the data, short of going to the actual schools and looking at yearbooks and then trying to match up Facebook pages, etc.  I am not keen on violating personally privacy where names are being used.  These are the web sites I have checked in news and data:  http://www.kipp.org/, http://www.greendot.org/, http://www.aspirepublicschools.org/, http://www.caminonuevo.org/,  and http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/si/cs/ap1/imagemap.aspx  where I went through and plucked out various charter schools which provide Gr 9-12 education and have been open 5 or more years, indicating they have one group of high school gradutes in college at this time.

My second statement is the following: If I were the person in charge of a charter school organization where I had been using the marketing of my program as higher test scores and college attendance, I can assure you I would have data posted. I would indicate number of graduates per year and follow through with the students who wished to stay in contact with their high school alma mater, going so far as to have links to the various students blogs, Linkedin accounts, anything which was appropriate for public consumption as I would want the not yet graduated students at my school to regularly observe the success of their peers and see what can be achieved.  I would track numbers of students who completed community college, college programs taking four and five years and which students were applying for higher ed such as M.D., J.D., various masters programs, Peace Corps, etc.  I would stay in contact with the parents of said students as most of them may have been the first in the family to graduate high school, never mind the first to attend college.  There would be  an active post of $ funnelled to these various students in the form of grants, scholarships, etc. (Ex:  three students have a total of $40k /year in scholar athlete money from public colleges) since these students have much to be proud of in their success of higher ed.   While it would be great to break it down by race, age, etc., I believe that is a bit too personal and gives away more information than is necessary – that is strictly for the academics. By having this data, I would be demonstrating that I support what I have stated as my charter school(s) success stories.

My third statement regards parents/students of charter schools:  It seems odd that the very people charter schools are supposed to benefit are not seeking this data, especially when going to enroll their children at a charter school. This would be data, along with API scores that I would ask for simply because this is what the charter school is marketing to me.

So, I have a few things that I must now assume as I am lacking in data: (1) The charter schools did not collect the data. (2) The charter schools collected the data, however, it is so dismal, it is not worth actually posting and it might in some way counter indicate the API successes at various schools. (3) The data is not important unless parents ask for it….even though my tax dollars fund these public schools and I would like to see the return on my tax dollars as being better than the regular public school around the corner which is charged with the same accomplishment – get kids to and through college. (4) The data is astoundingly great and there are statisticians working on it to make the presentations easy to follow (Edward Tufte style). 

Other than those four choices, I am hard pressed to know where the College For Certain data might be and when it will be shared with the public.

Please,  forward me data if you have found it and/or share your reasonable ideas .  Remember, these schools will need to present some data to obtain the second tranche of federal funds for education so the ideas presented have to be doable.  I would love to know that all charter schools are successful in changing the face of education, unfortunately there is no data to support a change from any other public school.

This was found on 4/22/09

The New York Times (4/22, A14, Dillon) reports that while “it is no surprise that more students drop out of high school in big cities than elsewhere,” a new “nationwide study shows the magnitude of the gap: the average high school graduation rate in the nation’s 50 largest cities was 53 percent, compared with 71 percent in the suburbs.” The report by the nonprofit America’s Promise Alliance titled Closing the Graduation Gap also shows that “some big city school districts,” such as Philadelphia Public Schools, “that have worked to improve their graduation rates have made significant progress since the middle of the last decade.” The graduation rate in Philadelphia schools increased “to 62 percent in 2005 from 39 percent in 1995, the report said.”

        “In all, 13 cities saw double-digit improvement in their graduation rates, according to the study,” the AP (4/22) adds. In addition to Philadelphia, Tucson, AZ, and Kansas City, MO, “made huge gains over the past decade, boosting graduation rates by 20 percentage points or more, the study found.” Still, “urban schools…have a long way to go. On average, only half the kids graduate in the 50 biggest cities, the report said. Those cities are home to half the country’s population and are driving a national graduation rate that is estimated at 70 percent.”

        According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/22, Torres), “The report based its findings on data ending in 2005. Researchers calculated graduation rates using a formula that tracks the four steps students must take to earn a diploma on time — three grade-to-grade promotions until, after grade 12, graduation.”


Study Shows Large Gap In Graduation Rates Between Urban, Suburban Schools.

Updated 4/30/09  

The New York Times (4/30, A22, Medina) reports that nearly “six years after a lawsuit forced” New York City “to pledge to keep better track of students who leave public schools without graduating, the number leaving high schools has continued to climb, according to a report to be released Thursday by the public advocate’s office.” In 2007, more “than 20 percent of students from the class of 2007 were discharged — the term for students who leave the school system without graduating” — and 7.5 percent of those students were ninth-graders.” Comparatively, “17.5 percent from the class of 2000” were discharged, with 3.5 percent of those being ninth-graders. The Times notes that “students can be classified as discharged for a number of benign reasons, including a transfer to a private school or a move out of the city.”

Number Of Discharged New York City High-Schoolers Increases.



Rigorous Curriculum, Curriculum Mastery Seen As Predictors Of College Readiness.

Philip Cicero asks in New Jersey’s Newsday (6/25), “Will the high school diploma issued to the 2009 graduates give them any chance for success in college and the workplace?” According to Cicero, “There is alarming evidence suggesting that the success of many of today’s graduates may have little to do with their future achievements in college or at work.” The reason for this, he wrote, is that their learning was based on “a very basic curriculum focusing on minimum competencies — one essentially being driven by the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind law.” The predictors of college readiness, Cicero contends, are “a rigorous curriculum” and curriculum mastery. A lack of both “may help explain why many students leaving high school need remediation upon entering post-secondary institutions.” Concluding, Cicero wrote that “instead of focusing on basic competency,” policymakers should seek to “provide all students with a rigorous and meaningful curriculum that is relevant to their post-secondary choices.”

Current Charter School Data Which I Seek

There’s a telling description of genius by Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher of romantic pessimism…..”Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target, as far as which others cannot even see.’ ……But if ordinary mortals cannot spot the bull’s eye, how do they know whether it has been hit?   An excerpt from The New Yorker – Anthony Gottleib’s Book Review of “A Nervous Splendor” regarding the Wittgenstein Family. P. 74  Apri 6, 2009

This quote appealed to me as the seeming genius behind charter schools is the ability to masque if (1) was there a target (2) was the target really hit?   Based on the lack of supporting evidence,  I am not sure if there was ever more than a methaphorical target (API Scores) and I don’t know if the true target has been hit as there is no quantitative data one way or the other.



http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/   This is a related blog about “what works” in education as reported.

Please note, this was added on 4/2/2009, AFTER my asking for the data from the two charter school organizations below.  Hopefully Item A will respond – they need to one way or the other for more education money. Please note, names of people, schools and organizations have been intentionally removed to avoid any issues considered libelous.   These are questions I am asking as I attended Teachers College at Columbia University in NYC for graduate school and was taught to ask questions, collect data.  I am intrigued by what is not printed as opposed to what is printed since charter schools can pay for marketing.   The avoidance of presenting data (when organizations state they are data driven) would indicate (A) the data is not being collected (B) the data would not fit into the paradigm of what the organization wishes to portray.   Since President Obama and Arne Duncan are pushing for more charter schools, it stands to reason they want as much data as possible to evaluate in determining what makes a successful charter school.  In my own mind, API is insufficient for any  college prep school to claim success.  If a school is indeed following its original intention of college prep, it should create a situation where more students attend college and more students complete college.  Any other public school is held to these same standards and it is the generally accepted domain of public education to adequately prepare students for college and completing college.

The New York Times (4/2, A15, Dillon) reports, “Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the nation’s governors on Wednesday that in exchange for billions of dollars in federal education aid provided under the economic stimulus law, he wants new information about the performance of their public schools, much of which could be embarrassing.” The second phase of funding to be dispersed later this year “comes in a $54 billion fiscal stabilization fund for states.” To receive a portion of the funding for their states, “governors must pledge to improve teacher quality, raise academic standards, intervene in failing schools more effectively and carry out other education initiatives.” The data required to show that “they are carrying out those pledges” include “Student math and reading scores on local tests, as well as on the National Assessment of Education Progress.”

        States Must Report On Teacher Quality To Receive Some Stabilization Funds. “As part of the teacher-quality assurance states must fulfill to receive fiscal-stabilization money…the department plans to demand that states report for each district the number and percentage of teachers and principals scoring at each performance level on local teacher- and principal-evaluation instruments,” Education Week (4/2, Sawchuk, Robelen) adds. Furthermore, states also must “be prepared to connect student-achievement data to individual teachers, and to track students from high school through college graduation.” Education Week points out that both requirements conflict with the efforts of teachers’ unions, which “have successfully lobbied legislatures to outlaw teacher-student data linkages in states such as California,” and with some states that “prohibit the sharing of data across systems for privacy purposes.”


Item A (e-mailed on 3/24/2009) 

Dear —— and ——-,

I would like to get some clarification on the following:  “I think about the fact that our first seniors to graduate ——— will graduate from college this spring, I know we have the will, skill and passion to rise to the challenges ahead.”

(1) What was the size of the graduating class when the first seniors graduated ———-while —————- was Principal?

(2) How many students in numbers are still in college today?

(3) How many will graduate Spring 2009?

(4) How many students are anticipated to graduate in Spring 2010 as I know it is more common currently to do college in 5 years.

The reason I ask is that I know ———- is very data driven and it would seem this is something you would want to share publicly. 

Item B (e-mailed on 3/24/09)

Dear ——-and ———,

I have been following the ——– phenomenon for quite some time. It occurred to me that there should be data surrounding students who have started college and students which have graduated.

I have been unable to find any of this data on the web site or through ancillary research.

If the ——— ———- began in 19– with Grade – students, that means the first graduating class would have been 20–.  These students would have now completed college and there would be another cohort following and one to graduate this spring.

(1) How many students were in the first graduating class?

(2) How many students (in numbers) graduated college from the first cohort? the second?

(3) How many students are anticipated to graduate Spring 2009?

I realize API scores are an important data measure, however, it has always seemed to me that the true test of a college prep charter school is the number of students who complete college and being able to compare that number with the surrounding district, county, state and country rates.

Thank you for helping me with the research.

As of  3/26/09, there has been no response from the CEO and/or home offices of either charter school organiztion.

As of 3/30/09, there has been no response from CEO and/or home office for Item A above. I e-mailed a second request.  As of 4/1/09, there has been no response from Item A above.   As of 4/5/09, there has been no response from Item A above so I am submitting a third request.  On 4/5/09, I received a response from one of the two people in Item A asking me to no longer e-mail them, they no longer worked at __________.  I apologized as they are still listed on the website of _________ and I then forwarded the chain of e-mail to another person on the website.

On 3/27/09, the group know as Item B above responded with a professional request for what I wanted to use the data for and how it would be used.  Since I responded on 3/28/2009, no further contact has been made and no data has been given to me. Please see the responses and NOTE:  all names of people and specific identifying organizations have been removed to protect myself from a libel lawsuit by requesting this information.







1.       Proposed Title of the Study:   

 This study is informal, although I feel that it would be valuable to use the data publicly.  I have been keeping a blog and put my request for  data in the blog   https://whereiskatima.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/current-charter-school-data-which-i-seek/    , although, truth be told, I have removed all names of people, organization, schools, etc. due to believing my questions would raise the ire of      and create a lawsuit.

It  seems reasonable to me that this is a MAJOR portion of what  is about and so the data exists somewhere, and I would like a copy for my own evaluation as a public school teacher.


2.       Principal Investigator(s): Include the person’s name, mailing address, e-mail, and telephone. If there is any affiliation with, please note that here. (If this person is not the main contact for the study, please give name and complete information for contact person.) Please attach CV(s) for the principal investigator(s). 


I am the principal investigator as an individual citizen of the U.S. who pays taxes in the State of CA and the U.S. and my taxes are used to fund a portion of the ADA which  is given as a public charter school.  My name is                          . You may review my Linked In page. 


3.       Affiliation/Research Unit: Name of affiliated university and program, research group or other organization.   None – this is my own personal interest.


4.       Co-Investigators and Affiliations: List others who will be working on the study, and their affiliation(s). None – this is my own personal interest.


5.       Background and Purpose: Please provide a clear statement of the key question this study seeks to answer. Provide relevant background, including references/citations where applicable. Please do not attach a full research proposal, but simply summarize the key question and background of the study. The            will request the full proposal if necessary.


If there is  data to support what I am thinking, I am interested in applying for a PhD program at a major education university.  Having taught for a charter school, I am evaluating what did and did not work.  While I have felt strongly that charter schools are valuable enterprises for educational change, I am alarmed at the lack of data when these institutions, particularly                              are DATA DRIVEN.   I am trying to understand what myself and other teacher colleagues, who have left charter schools, are missing out on  understanding the charter school promise of fulfillment to get more students through college by providing them with an exceptional pre-college education which prepares them adequately for the undertaking of college success.  College for certain means to me, completion of college, not merely arriving at the school.  If  charter schools are keeping their promise to America, we, as a nation, should be seeing the success rate of student graduation from college based on cohorts which attended various charter schools.


6.       Background and Expertise of Study Team: Please describe the background and expertise of the research team.  I have an MA from Teachers College at Columbia University in NYC and a CA Teaching Credential.


7.       Study Funding: If funding is required, who will be providing financial support? None. I would be pleased to share my evaluation of the data with              .


8.       Potential Benefits: Discuss the positive outcomes you hope to achieve with this study. In addition, please discuss any ways in which       could learn from or benefit from the findings of this study. For example, how could your findings help        improve teaching and learning in        schools? 


I believe that showing more than a correlation to getting high API scores and getting to college is needed to demonstrate charter schools as successful education change ventures.  Thus far, charter schools are not receiving the kind of press they initially did and are not presenting data other than API scores as their measure of success. The API scores are often a misrepresentation of reality due to high student and faculty turnover, which leads to the idea of charter schools being great filters, but not  actually accomplishing their original goals.   I have been following           and anything  published  on their website as official data, as well as following other charter school web sites and the data which they release.  I would like to understand how my tax dollars are improving education, both as a citizen and as a credentialed teacher. There is value for  and the public in seeing what works, what is  a correlation and what does not work in order to fix our public education system.


9.       Potential Areas of Concern: What are the obstacles you can foresee to the successful completion of this project?  Charter school organizations can afford marketing and do not want to release the “data” as it  could demonstrate something which is counter to their own marketing.  People will be interested in my research which could cause         and other charter organizations to have to become more transparent with the data they release publicly on their websites.


10.   Project Timeline: Please provide a timeframe for this project, with as many details as possible, including when anticipate results and findings will be available.

I would like to finish my blog as soon as possible and keep a public update available so others can read what I am finding out.


11. Research Methodology:  Please describe how the research will be conducted, providing the following:

  • Research sites: Identify each proposed site where research will be conducted.  Thus far, my reading of data on public websites and public information.
  • Subjects: Describe who you want to study, such as teachers, students, parents, and where they are located   Graduation from college rates of students which attended       schools.


  • Nature of the involvement of the research subjects: Describe how you plan to gather data from your research subjects. For example, are you planning interviews, surveys, focus groups, etc.?  Obtaining the numbers from      .
  • Time requirement: Estimate the time commitment required for your subjects, by year and over the course of your study. Are you planning to compensate subjects for their time?  I believe the data I am requesting of       is public access and should not need to pay        .
  • Other research methods to be used: List school or classroom observations, and any other data collection processes proposed for the study.  Evaluating the number of students from similar schools K-12 in the district, county and state which attended college (4 years, 5 years, never).
  • Other data to be requested from                 : If you will be requesting any additional data from                     , please describe that here.
  • Methodology rationale: Please describe how the selected methodology will best allow you to answer your key research question.  The raw numbers of students which graduate           schools each year since inception, attend college, graduate in 4 years, 5 years or never).


12.  Required Consents: Describe any consents required for study participants.  None – just a data release from       . I do not need names. Specifically, I would like data by cohort starting at a        school, graduation (4 year, 5 year, never) from college, m/f, portion of population stipulated in charter school materials indicating the students were low income/poverty students during time at          and upon going to college.


13.    Additional Assistance from          : If you anticipate that you will need any assistance from                  beyond data requested above, please describe this in detail here (i.e., sending out email to potential participants, etc.).  None.



14. Brief Description for Proposed Participants: Provide a brief paragraph that could be used to explain your study and motivate potential research subjects to participate in it.  I do not believe this aspect applies to the release of data which I am requesting.



15.Publication/Presentation of Findings: If you anticipate that this research will be submitted for publication or presented to an audience, please provide as much information about this as possible, even if only preliminary.   My blog, as listed above and, should I attend graduate school, this would be a portion of my PhD, subject to all the necessary publication requirements of the university.


16.   Any other information: Is there anything else you would like to include to help understand the value of your study?  Being a strong supporter of President Obama and his value of transparent data, including where my tax dollars go, I feel this data is valuable to me and the public in demonstrating the positive change  and other charter school organizations (including Bill Gates, The Fisher Foundation, etc.) have provided in improving the educational process in America.



Side note/Update:


Education Week (3/31, Gewertz) reported, “Federal regulations have opened a door that allows schools to get credit under the No Child Left Behind Act for students who take longer than four years to earn a high school diploma.” Under “regulations issued last October” by then US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, states can “apply for permission to use one or more ‘extended year’ rates alongside their respective four-year rates.” This “would allow the states to get some credit” under No Child Left Behind “for students who took five or more years to complete high school. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has not yet announced “whether he would change the regulations.” But he has said that limiting states to a four-year rate may “create some unintended consequences.” Education groups, meanwhile, “are trying to figure out a ‘next-generation’ accountability system that delivers the right pressure and credit to high schools, and the right opportunities to students.”



NCLB Rules Would Grant Schools Credit For Students Graduating Late.

Another side note:  http://www.ireport.com/ir-topic-stories.jspa?topicId=203607   I report -Are your schools all they could be?

School Improvement Data Tied To Second Round Of Stimulus Funding.

Updated 4/29/09 http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/04/29/30koretz_ep.h28.html?tkn=NVOFrov3C%2FZ3K6N23ailiNrQcSf4%2BT6T6jHI

Rigorous Curriculum, Curriculum Mastery Seen As Predictors Of College Readiness.


Philip Cicero asks in New Jersey’s Newsday (6/25), “Will the high school diploma issued to the 2009 graduates give them any chance for success in college and the workplace?” According to Cicero, “There is alarming evidence suggesting that the success of many of today’s graduates may have little to do with their future achievements in college or at work.” The reason for this, he wrote, is that their learning was based on “a very basic curriculum focusing on minimum competencies — one essentially being driven by the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind law.” The predictors of college readiness, Cicero contends, are “a rigorous curriculum” and curriculum mastery. A lack of both “may help explain why many students leaving high school need remediation upon entering post-secondary institutions.” Concluding, Cicero wrote that “instead of focusing on basic competency,” policymakers should seek to “provide all students with a rigorous and meaningful curriculum that is relevant to their post-secondary choices.”