"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Charter School Advantage is Built on Discrimination and Inequity

Heilig writing from Express-News:

. . .The achievement gap is real, and it must be fixed. But I don't believe charter schools writ large have found the magic elixir. Charters are diverse, with many models. In recent years, so-called corporate charters have swept into San Antonio, dazzling the media with high test scores and college-going rates. These franchises include KIPP, IDEA, Great Hearts, BASIS and Carpe Diem.

The reports from some of these corporate charters of 100 percent graduation rates and 100 percent of students attending college seem too good to be true. They are. A closer look shows they come at a cost. For example, KIPP has posited it serves mostly low-income and minority students and still gets better results than public schools. What they don't brag about are the high attrition rates that cull their classes to the most high-achieving students.
A nationwide study of KIPP by researchers at Western Michigan University criticized the high attrition rates —about 40 percent for African-American males — and the fact that they serve few students learning English or with disabilities. KIPP also spent around “$18,500 per pupil in 2007-08, about $6,500 more per student than the average for other schools in the same districts,” according to Education Week.
Same story with BASIS. At the original campus of BASIS charter school in Tucson, Ariz., the class of 2012 had 97 students when they were sixth-graders. By their senior year, the number had dwindled to 33, a 66 percent drop.
Families churned out of such charters end up back at their neighborhood public schools, which welcome them, regardless of race, class or level of ability.
Great Hearts employs a different model. By marketing to high-income parents, not providing transportation or lunch, and charging fees for extracurricular activities, the school ends up with a selective crop of students. Such policies make them more akin to private schools. As a spokesman for Great Hearts told the Texas Tribune in November, “For us, diversity is really hard.”
There is nothing wrong with offering families more choices. But choice should not be limited to those who test well or who come from wealthier families. And, finally, every parent should have the choice to send a child to a traditional public school in the neighborhood as well resourced as the schools in the Alamo Heights, Northside and North East school districts.

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