Forewarning: I do not have a strong statistical background so I am always skeptical when I read something as I need to think about and evaluate the information a bit longer than others to make sure I understand. If I miss a detail, please be kind enough to send a correction.
Charter schools are a business entity. They are considered non-profit due to how they re-apply their ‘earnings’ instead of giving the earnings to shareholders. In what one might call a twist up of words, non-profits are supposed to be for the benefit of the community which is why they have certain tax advantages, etc. This means instead of being an individual shareholder obtaining dividends, you in effect become a stakeholder in your community and should receive the type of social dividends which benefit your community and make it better.
With this in mind, I find it important for charter schools to be accurate in reporting their statistics in the same manner a for profit corporation on the NYSE reports. There are GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) rules and any accountant should be able to read and interpret the information in the same way if the books are not cooked and the aim of the company is not to mislead the shareholders. Unfortunately, charter schools are by and large allowed manipulate the books in a variety of ways (this includes grant reporting and ADA monies) and they do. This then allows them to also manipulate and actually distort the data as there are even less people willing to spend the time on non-financial information evaluations. Charter schools follow ‘data’ on how to appeal to specific groups of people as indicated by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey which was conducted June 21 through July 22, 2013. This data demonstrates how different categories of parents think, hence, it is easier to market targeted materials.
The issue at hand is how charter schools report out students who go to college, graduate college and indeed produce a social dividend for a community. This is how all great non-profits should be evaluated. Unfortunately, charter schools have never been called to prove the social dividend. I had to question this issue as I worked for a charter school and later continued questioning the morality and ethics of charter schools based on what I now know about the background story. The story of self promotion to those who wish to promote charter schools rarely matches the reality, thus, there must be a marketing department to distort and mis-convey the facts.
Here is another look at data from a different view.
According to Jill Tucker over at The San Francisco Chronicle, I should note there is a difference between college ready, expecting to get a high school diploma or taking the GED. I believe this is called journalist clarity.
In 2009, about 600 African American males started high school in the Oakland school district with Thomas and Olajuwon. Of those, an estimated 80 to 100 graduated college-ready. Another 200 were expected to get their diplomas, but not with UC or CSU admission requirements. Others took the GED, or would continue in adult school. Still others spent time in jail.
During those same four years, 31 Oakland public school students ages 11 to 19 were killed across the city. Most of them were shot and most were African American males.
I note this as college ready does not mean the same thing as going to college, completing college, obtaining a degree and providing social dividend. For charter schools to actually do something different from any other public school, they need to produce the same amount or greater of students who actually attend college and graduate as every other public school in America is charged with getting students college ready – the goal of public education. This being said, it should be easy peasy for Aspire Public Schools (the largest in California) and KIPP to produce statistics which demonstrate this trend. This, to my knowledge has not occurred. In fact, what has occurred is the actual removal from Aspire Public Schools of the map showing where their graduates go to college and no evidence can be found on the website for how many students (after 20 years in business) have graduated college, producing a societal dividend substantially different from other public schools.
Out on 21 August 2013 is data from ACT showing:
“The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired,” said Jon Erickson, president of the Iowa-based company’s education division.
The ACT reported that 31 percent of all high school graduates tested were not ready for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills. The other 69 percent of test takers met at least one of the four subject-area standards.
Just a quarter of this year’s high school graduates cleared the bar in all four subjects, demonstrating the skills they’ll need for college or a career, according to company data. The numbers are even worse for black high school graduates: Only 5 percent were deemed fully ready for life after high school.
The report’s findings suggest that many students will struggle when they arrive on campus or they’ll be forced to take remedial courses — often without earning credits — to catch their peers.
The data reveal a downturn in overall student scores since 2009. Company officials attribute the slide to updated standards and more students taking the exams — including many with no intention of attending two- or four-year colleges.
Under ACT’s definition, a young adult is ready to start college or trade school if he or she has the knowledge to succeed without taking remedial courses. Success is defined as the student’s having a 75 percent chance of earning a C grade and a 50 percent chance of earning a B, based on results on each of the four ACT subject areas, which are measured on a scale from 1 to 36 points.
My sense would be every charter school in the U.S. would wish to report out their great ACT and SAT scores for the reason it resonates to some extent the READINESS for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills. Any charter school should be tooting their horn regarding the average scores of their students.
I do not have the documentation (hopefully as you read this, you will be able to supply it to me if you know the piece I am referring to), however, I did hear a piece on KQED which regarded how getting a student to college is not enough. In fact, not all colleges are the same and getting children of color to college if the college is not top tier, does not improve rocking the boat and changing the social dividends – in stead it perpetuates it as status quo.
Aspire Public Schools has managed to use data from CREDO (The Center for Research on Education Outcomes – Stanford University) in an odd context. When I read the full report, noted in the URL above, there is a distortion of how one would perceive what is in the full report vs. the carefully selected portions Aspire pulled out to use.
CREDO uses data to show the minute detail of how charter schools have developed their students over time in comparison to other similar schools. In looking at the data over a 20 year time period, there is an improvement although I would be negligent in stating this improvement is earth shattering or worth of great praise. I will let the data speak for itself.
The national study shows the following for reading and math: Although there is study improvement, 56% of charter school students have no significant difference in reading scores as measured by CREDO than regular public school students. 25% have shown a significant improved difference and 19% show a significantly worse difference. There is no specific data from Aspire as they are lumped into the national study. In either way, they neither benefit from or substantially detract from the rather sad statistics.
If I break this down, it means only 25% of students in charter schools have shown gains while 75% of students in charter schools were comparable or worse……..Is the effect of changing 25% of students enough social dividend in reading? Should the amount of students positively effected be greater as Aspire has been around for 20 years. Aspire touts how they have the best teachers, systems and data….the statistics are not demonstrating, in my mind, substantial social dividends which I could not have gotten with just improving the public schools over all.
For math, the data is even worse. 40% of charter school students showed no significant difference in gains for math, 31% of students in charter schools fared significantly worse and 29% of students fared better. This means 29% of students in charter schools nationally had improvement while 71% fared the same or worse. Again, this is not sufficient data to show any charter school has leveraged a better system overall.
When more students show no benefit or worse benefit, there is something wrong with your program. It should be the other way around. If this were a business having to report to shareholders instead of stakeholders, this company would fold.
As a social investment, I am not seeing where charter schools are delivering the goods.
Careful where you set your aim. The charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is mainly driven by opening higher- performing schools and by closing those that underperform. Our analysis suggests that the standards of performance are set too low, as evidenced by the large number of underperforming charter schools that persist. The point here is that, as with students, setting and holding high expectations is an important feature of school policies and practices. More focus is required of authorizers and charter school governing boards to set high performance and accountability standards and hold charter schools to them. – CREDO
This is where the Papa John’s piece on Yahoo comes in. You can call your ‘ingredients’ whatever you wish. You should also be willing to let outsiders examine the ingredients and most of all, you should be proud enough to add in your own data as comparison. In this instance, Aspire Public Schools has failed. I am guessing this is the same for other charter schools as there have been no interesting news flashes in any of the usual educational journals which would love to pounce on this great news.
Another aspect of this issue is how Aspire is spreading to Tennessee. Aspire needed to do this as financially they could not make it on the same budget as other public schools in California. They were ‘drowning’ and in fact have not merited the same amount of donations year over year as they had hoped for. The CFO has been cautious in how he couches this scenario, however, the original goal of Aspire was to EXCEED the other schools in the region on the same budget. This has not happened or at least not in a statistically relevant manner. This relates to the piece from The New York Times on how Philadelphia is borrowing money to open the schools and people are questioning if the schools are even worth opening, which leads back to the quote two paragraphs up from CREDO.
While charter schools continue to advertise their wares, I continue to be skeptical. I need to see the following and wish CREDO could produce the data:
Just how many students of charter schools have gone to college, how many have graduated in 4, 5, 6 years?
After 20 years, I would think Aspire Public Schools has to have some of this substantially important data.
This would tell me if the taxes I pay which pays the ADA of charter schools is yielding social dividends in my community.