This is really good from the Washington Post

How do schools respond to competition? Not as you might expect.

By Emma Brown

This article appeared in the Washington Post on March 26. Included below is the first few paragraphs. Click the link to read the rest of the story.

The school-choice movement is built on the philosophy that competition forces schools to improve.

But new research on New Orleans – arguably the nation’s most competitive school market — suggests that school leaders are less likely to work on improving academics than to use other tactics in their efforts to attract students.

Of the 30 schools examined in the study, leaders at just 10 — or one-third of the total — said they competed for students by trying to improve their academic programs or operations. Leaders at far more schools — 25 — said they competed by marketing their existing programs, including with signs, billboards, t-shirts, home visits and incentives for parents to refer potential students.

Seventeen school leaders said they added extracurricular or niche programs, such as arts-integration or language immersion programs, in order to distinguish themselves from the competition. And leaders at 10 schools exercised some sort of student recruiting or screening, even though almost all of them were supposed to be open-enrollment schools where such selection practices were not permitted.

“These school leaders do not always respond to competition in the ways that policymakers hope,” said the study’s author, Huriya Jabbar, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

The study was released Thursday morning by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, a partnership that is based at Tulane University and is attempting to inject objective and useful information into what are often pitched debates over education policy. The alliance includes representatives from Louisiana charter schools, Louisiana teachers unions, local school boards and other education organizations, and its funders include the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation.

Pa. charter schools wary of the fine print in Gov. Wolf’s budget

Pa. charter schools wary of the fine print in Gov. Wolf’s budget

By Kevin McCorry

Originally posted here:

Cautious optimism flutters in the hearts of Pennsylvania educators, but less so among the state’s charter schools.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s first budget proposal showed an intention to invest substantially in public education.

Over four years, Wolf would like to boost the state’s share of preK-12 education spending by $2 billion through a comprehensive set of tax increases, tied to a plan to offer relief from the local tax primarily used to fund education, the real estate levy. In Philadelphia, the tax relief funds would go to cut the wage tax.

Traditional public school districts and charters alike have much to gain if the Democrat can successfully navigate his vision through the capitol’s Republican-held legislative chambers.

Despite their support for the improved funding, charter school leaders have been scratching their heads at some of the fine print.

Under the Wolf plan, beginning with 2014-15 school year, charters would face annual audits and be forced to return any funds beyond their yearly expenditures to the home school district — depriving the charter of its ability to have an emergency fund.

Scott Gordon, CEO of the Mastery Charter system in Philadelphia, gives Wolf “a tremendous amount of credit for taking a courageous stand and stepping out of the box” with his overall funding initiative. But Gordon says eliminating charter fund balances is “problematic, because that creates an incentive for poor financial planning.”

Continue reading here

A Shout Out!

I just want to give a shout out to Prof. David Baker who is one of my dissertation committee members and someone I work with on a regular basis. His book “The Schooled Society: The Educational Transformation of Global Culture” was selected as the winner of the 2015 AERA Outstanding Book Award, sponsored by the American Educational Research Association.

It is a great honor for Dave to win this award. I feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to work with him. Great job Dave!

This charter school bombshell was dropped last week

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a study last week that reported urban charter schools outperform their traditional public school counterparts in math and reading.

I’ve read a lot about this, ranging from discussions about how they created their metric (they converted standard deviations into “days of learning”) as well as “what does this all mean?” type articles. Plus, I am well-versed in the debate about charter schools overall.

Here is my take on the CREDO study:

1) I do not believe in silver-bullet interventions. I believe that contexts are important. So I disagree with anyone saying that “charter schools are the solution to educational problems.” That being said, if one considers math and reading outcomes as his or her sole metric for success, the charter school advocates scored a big one with this study.

2) To nuance my first point, I do think many urban school district organizational environments are in sour shape. This means to me that an intervention like charter schools (different in organization than the original districts) is more likely to do better than the schools that were performing poorly. I am not surprised by these findings as they relate to cities. However, I bet the findings would be different in non-urban districts that have strong performance already.

3) Charter schools are not going to solve all of the problems that urban schools face and it is unfair to think that they or traditional public schools are capable of doing so. These charter schools may be doing better than their counterparts, but they are still not going to compete with a local school in a wealthy neighborhood. Often we measure student poverty when we think we are measuring school effectiveness. Read here for an interesting post about this.

4) Test scores are only one limited metric of school success. Knowing that students in these charter schools have scored better on a few tests is important, but we need to go into these cities and look at the entire picture in order to really create value judgements based on these schools.

All of this being said, this report is a pretty big “win” for advocates of charter schools. It will be interesting to see the push back.

More on Wolf’s Budget

On Wednesday I posted about cyber charters and Wolf’s budget in PA. Today’s post is more general. I had the good fortunes of hearing Randy Albright, Secretary of the Budget, speak on Wednesday night. It is clear that Wolf has plans to pump money back into traditional school districts — a practice much different from that of the previous administration. Some charter enthusiasts think this is the end of charter schools (and cyber charter schools) in PA. I do not think it is that dire, but traditional school districts certainly did get a shot in the arm.

Here is a good PennLive story.

What Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal means for charter schools, your district

Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2015-16 budget proposal revamps charter and cyber school funding, a move one charter school advocacy group said would shut down Pennsylvania’s charter schools.

Charter schools are privately operated public schools, funded by taxpayer dollars funneled from a student’s home school district.

Wolf’s proposed $400 million increase in the state’s basic education subsidy restores a roughly 10 percent charter school tuition payment reimbursement for school districts. The practice of reimbursing districts ended under the tenure of Wolf’s predecessor Gov. Tom Corbett.

Continue reading here.

A cyber charter school perspective on Wolf’s PA Budget

Below is a letter that was in PennLive on Monday.

The author fears the Wolf budget will hurt cyber charter school funding and thus undercut this schooling option. I tend to think that the single rate for cyber charter schools is a good policy plan because school districts have got drilled with varied costs. Within this framework the debate becomes: How much is enough for cyber charter schools? Wolf used a formula that does seem to cut the tuition rate drastically. Details of this and other charter school funding conversations can be seen here.

Interesting stuff. This just continues to show the need to dig in and do more exploring about what cyber charter schools do and how much money they really need to operate!

Gov. Wolf’s cuts would destroy cyber charter schools: PennLive letters

Virtually lost in your March 4 story about Gov. Wolf’s education funding proposal are draconian cuts that would gut public cyber schools and destroy the ability for parents to choose the school that is best for their child — two longtime goals of those who favor a status quo system that continues to fail our children. 

It’s clear by his proposal that Gov. Wolf puts the desires of his financial supporters above those of Pennsylvania families and the needs of their children who want to choose a public cyber school that best helps their children. 

I’m sure Gov. Wolf will say he doesn’t want to close public cyber schools, but his budget proves otherwise. Our schools already receive 30 percent less than brick and mortar schools. We are a model for providing a good public school education that is less expensive for taxpayers. But none of that seems to matter to Gov. Wolf. He’s more interested in rewarding his donors, not supporting children who need a different form of public education. 

Gov. Wolf, please don’t treat our children as second-class citizens.

LAURA COFFEY, Chanceford Twp., York County 

The writer teaches in a cyber charter school.

Technology Enthusiasts, Pragmatists, and Skeptics among Practitioners and Policymakers: Where Are You?

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

I wrote this post five years ago this month. In it, I mentioned two recently published books that divided advocates of and opponents to technologies in schools into two camps: enthusiasts and skeptics. For the past few months I have been thinking anew about those policymakers, pundits, and practitioners (including blogging students and parents) who write about technology. I want to broaden the familiar continuum of positions on technology in schools beyond those at either pole. I want to include a rich array of those who inhabit the middle. So here is a revised and expanded post.

In reading Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America (2009) by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson, they, like many other writers on technology, create a continuum of advocates and critics of technology in schools. At one end of their continuum are the “Technology Enthusiasts” and at…

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