"using a rubric that views a whole population itself as problematic"
September 15, 2016 10:32 AM   Subscribe

 
This is my surprised face.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:39 AM on September 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm a special education lawyer and some of the most common complaints we get from parents of kids in charter schools surround discipline issues. They're quick to suspend and expel, and they often do so in ways that are totally at odds with the procedures for disciplining disabled children. That they're working to push kids out more seriously than the neighborhood schools seems clear from working at it on the ground, but it's nice to have data.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:41 AM on September 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


These are not schools in which black students are being suspended or expelled in favor of white students-- they are predominantly if not entirely black in the first place. That's actually the controversy-- parents feel that the level of strict discipline would never be imposed in a middle class white school, but at the same time, parents want a place for their children in which more discipline is taught than is available at the local mainstream public schools.
posted by deanc at 10:50 AM on September 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


I posted this last winter, so.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:50 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Argh. If you want to write a hit piece on charter schools, then write it honestly, damnit. Compare apples with apples, and let the data dictate your conclusions, rather than the opposite.

I will admit up front that I am not the unbiased source you seek in the world: my wife is a principal at one of the charters in Boston. The one which routinely beats its extremely wealthy, extremely white counterparts in the western suburbs, despite much lower per capita spending and a lower rate of expulsion/suspension than any other school, public or charter, in Boston. I'm not as in-the-bag for the institution as you think, but I absolutely cannot stand the disingenuous reporting behind the whole issue, and particularly the wholesale bullshit coming out of the state's ballot initiative this year. There are real questions that are worth discussing (charters' min-maxing for test scores at the expense of things like art and music and gym class, the fact that the highest-performing ones succeed primarily by taking 23-year-old TFA alums who want to save the world and working them 70 hours a week without the benefit of a union and then spitting them out so burnt out that they no longer want to teach in district, etc.), but no one ever wants to talk about them.

So, in response to the specific arguments around Boston charter schools:
These racialized geographic disparities also abound in Boston, according to the latest available state data. Over the 2014-2015 school year, though Boston charter schools only accounted for 17 percent of the total student population, they made up 20 of the 50 schools with the highest percentages of student discipline incidents, which include suspensions and expulsions.
That's very possible, given that the top 50 schools comprises 40% of the total number of schools (no idea the percentage of students, but I'm guessing more than that) of schools in the city, and there are many schools in-district that categorically refuse to suspend or expel students as a matter of principle.
Charter schools also made up seven of the 10 schools with the highest percentage of students suspended (counting both in-school and out-of-school suspensions).
Also very possible, though not at all comparable to the reporting in the previous paragraph where we're talking exclusively about out-of-school suspensions. There are also more than a few schools in the city that don't do in-school suspension at all, because of the resource-intensiveness of devoting full-time teachers to watching a room full of bored kids.
As in New York and D.C., the majority of these schools, charter and public, were clustered in neighborhoods with Boston’s largest black populations, such as Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.
Which would be very damning indeed, if Boston assigned schools based on neighborhood. Which it does not do, and has not done for 40 years.

At least they didn't resort to that very oldest of chestnuts, "they kick the low-performing kids out {right after the accounting deadline | the week before the state test | whenever seems most beneficial to the school's numbers}."

Charter schools that are run as for-profit education centers, and make money for their investors off the backs of minority students, are the lowest scum of the earth, and deserve to be the first ones against the wall. Not all states are like that, and if national policy looked like Massachusetts' policy, it would be impossible for those abuses to happen. Which is why it would be nice if we could stop seeing pieces like this that don't distinguish between the two models, or who have written their concluding paragraphs before they've plugged in the respective numbers.
posted by Mayor West at 10:52 AM on September 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


The whole point of charter schools is to take public schooling out of the hands of public schools. It's motivated by a fear of bureaucracy and the belief that public schools fail because of that bureaucracy; it's also motivated by the imperfect analogy between the "free market" and schooling. If you take schools away from the bureaucratic protections that have been evolved, and encourage them to become more competitive (in a crude analogy equating test scores with product), then it's no surprise that charter schools will do whatever it takes to avoid dealing with the problems public schooling was set up to solve.
posted by Peach at 10:52 AM on September 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


That said, I have friends who have started charter schools, and there is no doubt they are interested in creating a more effective education. However, they are not the majority.
posted by Peach at 10:53 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


AHAHAHAHA this surprises no one I know.



At least they didn't resort to that very oldest of chestnuts, "they kick the low-performing kids out {right after the accounting deadline | the week before the state test | whenever seems most beneficial to the school's numbers}."

Okay but this actually happens. My personal data (source: teaching in a really challenging public school in DC) shows that charter schools disproportionately ADMIT students the week they do the attendance count to determine funding and then, so weird, the next week the kids are back in their regular DCPS classroom. UNCANNY.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:59 AM on September 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


Okay but this actually happens. My personal data (source: teaching in a really challenging public school in DC) shows that charter schools disproportionately ADMIT students the week they do the attendance count to determine funding and then, so weird, the next week the kids are back in their regular DCPS classroom. UNCANNY.

I can't speak for DC, but in Boston this is the Great Pumpkin of school debate. Specifically, if anyone, anywhere, in any public school, could provide a single name of a student who they think was removed from a charter school at such a time as to benefit the school's performance, there are three separate routes they could go to trumpet this news from the rooftops. Since charters here are regularly up for renewal, and the state is absolutely vicious about revoking the charter (which is synonymous with shutting down the school entirely) of any school found to be (a) underperforming local public schools or (b) breaking any of the great tome of laws devoted specifically to the governance of charter schools, such a report, if corroborated (and the paper trail would be pretty clear, given the record-keeping requirements and the absurdly high barriers to expulsion [think: weapons or drug infraction on-campus] here), would spell instant demise for the school that tried to get away with it. It would guarantee an overnight review of their charter, and a relentless march to shut it down immediately. Yet, of the dozens of people to whom I have spoken about this, no one has been able to name a name.

I'm not being idly contrarian here: I'll take the complaint to the state DOE myself. Or to one of the state senators or local news teams who is vocally anti-charter; they'll probably do a better job escalating it. Find me a student who was grist for the mill. I'd be so pissed off that I'd wage a PR war on that charter school myself. Like I said, any private institution trying to enrich itself on the backs of students deserves summary execution. But I have never been able to find a MA teacher, paraprofessional, or administrator who has actually seen this happen with their own eyes, and I've been asking for ten years.
posted by Mayor West at 11:11 AM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Not being sarcastic when I say it is fantastic that Boston is so on top of things; DC is not, unfortunately. Also, the barrier to actual, official expulsion may be high, but lots of stuff happens unofficially in DCPS schools. For example, there are lots of kids who aren't technically suspended but their parents are told to come pick them up and not bring them back for a couple of days which means there's no official discipline record and parents are used to this. In DC at least if a charter school tells you "sorry, your kid can't go here anymore" a lot of parents will take that at face value.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


and the paper trail would be pretty clear, given the record-keeping requirements and the absurdly high barriers to expulsion [think: weapons or drug infraction on-campus] here

Except expulsion isn't the only tool available. You can suspend kids so regularly that parents give up, you can "send kids home for the day" every day until the parents give up, you can "suspend" the student, but never give the parent paperwork, you can schedule a 30 day IEP review and suddenly all the staff members decide that the student doesn't need so many services, so the parent goes back to their neighborhood school to get services the kid really does need. Hell, you can just have an administrator drop the kid off at home with no paperwork or formal suspension or anything. All these examples are drawn from life (not all charter schools). I get paid to sort through these paper trails, and I think the paper trail would be a lot more complicated than you think.

I'm not saying I'm sure this happens in Massachusetts, maybe your charter schools sytem really is fantastic, but Massachusetts is one of the 40 odd states that have charter schools; the experience of the rest of those states is real, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:27 AM on September 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


Jinx?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:31 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


"There are also more than a few schools in the city that don't do in-school suspension at all, because of the resource-intensiveness of devoting full-time teachers..."

This and This, etc, et.al.
I can talk of this now, my wife worked at the counties last program for suspended students/alt. Education. Her work was with the students mostly there for being in trouble. As an aside, my wife and I attended the same privledged school at the southern part of the county, this program was in the Northern part of the county, an area mired with poverty for near 60 years. The school we attended was all white and would suspend you for saying Hell or even littering. I was suspended twice in one semester, took to wearing a panama hat, upon watching The Blacklist, why wife calls me 'Raymond'. But things have changed. The central idea was to keep these students in the classroom enviroment and even though the graduation rate was 30%, my wife looked at it as; that's 30% who overcame overwhealming odds.
My point is that chronic suspension does increase drop out rates.

This is a great thread on a subject I care very much about. And I offer proof of myself. After many suspensions, possible military school/ joining the Marine at 16, went to the recruiter age 15 because what beats math then being a child solder.
I never graduated, no GDE but I went to a major university.
It's the Panama Hat.

I believe that all students deserve the chance to change. Hence the more emotional aspect of this comment rather then forming a real thesis.
posted by clavdivs at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


That the schools' charters are dependent on student performance, but not dependent on retention makes this outcome almost certain.

I don't expect this to be fixed any time soon: the beneficiaries of exclusion have nothing obvious to lose and the wider school choice movement is predicated on the idea that many students (and teachers!) are irredeemable anyway.

I wonder at the long term consequences.
posted by ethansr at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


MA is a special circumstance by the way. Check out this Brookings Institute report: They are just run really well and are doing great.

It's funny I was just putting together a post for tomorrow about the MA vote this fall. MA's charter schools are better than everywhere else in the country. But, and I'm in a twitter beef with the Brookings author about it right now, at what cost? Could that money have been better used in the school districts? Is the end game to replace the public schools with public charters? If the real issue is segregation then doesn't this just kick the can down the road on a solution to that?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ask me how the principal of my white, middle class (in access and educational terms at least) child's primarily white and upper-middle class charter elementary school directly asked me to take my child out because my kid was "difficult"!

Charter schools may have genuinely been a good idea once. God knows I was miserable in the old system of massive, uniform, inflexible public schools. But they are now just completely broken and the whole idea needs to get totally revamped to stop the flagrant rule-breaking to say nothing of the way they are rampantly escalating segregation in this country.
posted by latkes at 1:21 PM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Charter schools may have genuinely been a good idea once.

No, no they never were. They were always a privatization strategy and people forget No Child Left Behind with the teeth to have shuttered schools and a voucher system meant to tinder the early markets of profits and competition. Hey, if health care delivery is better privatized, are our children not important enough to be? I'll ask Mayor West (or anyone) for the citation of a single US for-profit school still operating that's not subsidized by starting grants. Misinformation comes from every angle and the invective used in the thread for some Charters versus others struck me as novel. From Day 1, Charters were a cherry-picking exercise along a few metrics that were a "response" to "failing" schools and "violent" minority neighborhoods, and some projected and political profile of some poor, poor Americans that, though they couldn't afford a private school, deserved something better.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


Is our children, I meant to say, IS.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 3:01 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Charter schools that are run as for-profit education centers, and make money for their investors off the backs of minority students, are the lowest scum of the earth, and deserve to be the first ones against the wall. Not all states are like that, and if national policy looked like Massachusetts' policy, it would be impossible for those abuses to happen.

If I recall, although charter schools in Massachusetts are non-profit entities, they're still allowed to contract management and educational services out to for-profit companies such as this one which runs a charter school in Springfield.

Operationally, is there really any difference between that company's "non-profit" charter school in Massachusetts and the "for-profit" charters they run in other states? Does it really matter if a school is non-profit if the people making day-to-day decisions have to answer to investors?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:35 PM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Except expulsion isn't the only tool available.

When I attended a Massachusetts charter school in the mid-1990s, the administration had no qualms against making life "difficult" for people they didn't like.

I was kept out of classes, pulled off field trip buses for bullshit permission slip "inconsistencies" , "suspended" for the most trivial offense (when we complained to the DoE, it turned out the suspension never actually occurred! Imagine that!). I had overdue homework suddenly appear and adversely affect my grades weeks after I was out sick and had to deal with vicious rumors spread throughout the community about my family.

And I wasn't the only one. When I first enrolled in the school, there were lots of decent, hard-working people from academia, business, and the community who truly were committed to providing an exceptional education. But one by one, they all had a falling out with the administration and went quietly (or not so quietly) into self-exile.

Needless to say, I'm voting "no" in November.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:52 PM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


The Yes on 2 people in Massachusetts are also running disingenuous ads that claim passage will mean "more money for public education." No, it won't. It will just shift money from real public schools, ones run by publicly accountable school committees, to charter schools run by boards not directly accountable to the public. At least they deleted a tweet quoting a parent at the "O'Byrant School" about how wonderful the school is, given that the O'Bryant School is, in fact, a Boston public school. Not that that proves the pro-charter effort is run by out-of-staters or something.
posted by adamg at 7:01 PM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


While there are many charter schools with impressive commitment to worthy missions, charters as a whole they represent a corporatized grab for tax dollars by privatizing one of our most essential public services [*].

The quality of the filmmaking in this response to the handjob-for-charter-schools that was Davis Guggenheim's "Waiting for Superman" may be subpar-bordering-on-amateurish, but it presents some compelling arguments nonetheless, and cites some pretty disturbing statistics on the "mysterious" way many charters' enrollments seem to drop as their test scores rise.



*with bonus union-busting!
posted by dersins at 7:50 AM on September 16, 2016


The school that is right next to my (very much in Massachusetts) house and that my son would have attended was turned (partially) into a charter. The test scores that went up were the students not under the charter company's purview (ironic since the company seems like it runs the educational equivalent of a "pump and dump" stock scam), there were several gigantic personnel issues, they had to beg people to sign their kids up, and the principal quit under DCF investigation regarding improper restraint...

...but please, tell me again how well MA's charters are run. Being not as bad as the total clusterfuck in other states isn't much of an achievement.

Before being chartered up it was a "Level 4" school because of massive ELL, SpEd, and low income populations, but was making good progress and had a real community, almost all of which has moved elsewhere into remaining public schools in the district. I would have been happy for my son to continue from PreK into K there.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 6:33 PM on September 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


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