A new report from ProPublica provides dramatic evidence about a real threat to student success when only local school districts are allowed to authorize charter schools.
ProPublica’s article points out that in some areas of the country local districts are authorizing charter schools so the district can hide poor student performance and make its regular schools look better. The district authorizers are not holding the charters accountable. They are manipulating the process to make their regular schools look better.
ProPublica’s article includes a map that provides an additional warning for Kentucky. The map identifies school districts with more problematic alternative schools.
Here is an enhanced blowup of the Kentucky section of the map.
Notice that school district enrollment is identified by the size of the circle. The degree to which each district’s alternate schools appear problematic is identified by the shade of pink inside the circle, with darker shading indicating more issues of concern.
Unlike the vast majority of states, especially those east of the Mississippi River, Kentucky is covered border to border in these pink “measles.” Furthermore, while you need to look closely since most Kentucky districts are small, many of the state’s circles are in darker shades of pink, indicating ProPublica has a whole lot of concerns about many alternative schools here.
Keep in mind that Kentucky currently has no charter schools, so all of the high concern alternative programs in the Bluegrass State are being run directly by the school districts. This shows that such abuses are not unique to charter school states or charter schools, either. These problems are a feature of ineffective, if not outright inappropriate, motivations on the part of local public school districts.
ProPublica says this problem manifests itself in places like Florida’s Sunshine High School in the Orlando area. I confirmed with the Florida Department of Education that Sunshine High is indeed a district authorized charter school. In fact, virtually all of Florida’s charters are district authorized. So, while Florida has plenty of “measles” on the ProPublica map, this is actually a traditional school district problem because the authorizer of a charter school is supposed to be the first line of accountability for a charter school. Per ProPublica, that isn’t happening with district authorized charters in Florida.
By the way, if a Kentucky district brought in a separate ‘hidden dropouts’ charter school, that charter school’s performance would be separately reported, making statistics for the district’s regular schools look better, just like is happening in Florida. We don’t want that temptation here.
So, here are some messages for Kentucky legislators.
- Our pending charter school legislation needs to insure districts can’t engage in such abuses with any charters established here.
- It clearly would be much better for Kentucky to allow independent charter school authorizers who face no temptations to hide bad performance for school districts.
If Kentucky only allows local school districts to authorize charter schools, those ProPublica map measles – already far too numerous – are likely to expand even more in the Bluegrass State.
And, Kentucky’s kids will pay the price.
(Blog updated with minor wording changes and the blow up map, 21 Feb 17 at 7:38 pm)