By now, you probably would have to live on another planet – or strictly confine your reading only to what the Kentucky Education Association publishes – to not know about the huge charter school miracle going on in Louisiana. These public schools have created a post-Hurricane Katrina miracle. And, even the crowd that published some rather negative statements about charter schools back in 2009 is now taking notice.
In its recent update report on charter schools in Louisiana, The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University published some incredibly impressive statistics on what happens to students in Louisiana charter schools as they spend more years in these traditional public school alternatives.
Here is the relevant graph from the CREDO 2013 update report on Louisiana.
Imagine that! By the time a student spends just three years in a Louisiana charter school, he or she gains the equivalent of more than 100 days of extra instruction in both reading and math compared to traditional public school counterparts! By the time the student has spent another year or two in charters, they are almost a full school year ahead.
It’s no wonder that somewhere around 80 percent of all the kids in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are now in charter schools.
What is a wonder is how Kentucky’s legislators have steadfastly refused to allow the Bluegrass State’s children an opportunity to experience this sort of really high quality education.
C’mon, Kentucky. I know you care about kids. Isn’t it time for us to give Bluegrass State children a new chance with solid charter school legislation like Louisiana has?
I have been writing and speaking about major problems with Kentucky’s recent, wholesale adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards as the only K to 12 public school standards for science in the state.
Already, evidence of the deficiencies I have been talking about is cropping up.
For example, I recently discussed a Kentucky high school student’s complaints that his or her school doesn’t even offer the math and science courses needed to get into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs in college. Another student even said his high school, which had offered physics, is dropping that essential STEM course. His school apparently understands that physics isn’t in the state’s new standards, so there can be no penalty for dropping that course.
This situation will likely grow worse. The Next Generation Science Standards don’t cover most of the material taught in either standard high school physics or chemistry courses.
And, now there is more evidence of the potential for NextGen Science deficiencies to cause problems, because it is clear that exiting high school chemistry courses in Kentucky leave something to be desired.
A January 13, 2014 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, “More than 5,000 sign up for University of Kentucky’s free online chemistry course,” says two UK chemistry professors were highly concerned about the inadequate preparation of Kentucky high school students in chemistry. So those professors created a new, on line course to fill the gap. The response from Kentucky’s students was “massive.”
This situation provides interesting indications about serious inadequacies in existing upper level high school science courses in Kentucky’s schools (the deficiencies the professors noted in math preparation for chemistry are undoubtedly repeated in physics). Certainly, UK is to be saluted for standing in this breech in public education.
However, the university should not have to do this work at all, at least not for free.
If Kentucky had decent science standards, our K to 12 schools would already offer high grade chemistry and physics courses. Without changes, Next Generation Science Standards absolutely will not fix this problem. Subjects from both high school chemistry and physics are essentially all omitted in the new standards package. It’s as if no-one running our public education system cares about the existence, let alone the quality, of the higher end high school science courses in Kentucky’s schools.
So, it looks like UK is going to have to offer their online chemistry course option, for free, for a long time. And, the university needs to add something similar for physics, as well (which I am told is under early consideration). That’s just not right.
Here’s one problem: since the UK course is optional, and only part-time, high school students who enroll don’t get any credit towards high school graduation for their work.
Furthermore, neither UK nor the professors are getting paid for this effort to fix problems with high school chemistry offerings, which really is a K to 12 responsibility.
It’s clear that the Kentucky Department of Education needs to add real standards in high school chemistry and physics to their inadequate Next Generation Science Standards. That would open a way for UK’s on line course to be formally included in a credit-bearing chemistry course in all our schools – and maybe allow UK to get some well-earned reimbursement for making better education for our students possible.
A new report on the superior performance of Boston’s charter schools got me thinking about a comparison with Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public Schools.
Both Boston and Jefferson County are large, city-based school systems, but I honestly thought the student demographics in Boston would give that city a notable advantage over the Louisville area schools in any comparison of educational performance. After all, if Boston’s students were richer and less diverse than Jefferson County’s, any argument about Boston’s charter schools would fall on deaf ears in the Bluegrass State.
But, when I checked the actual data, boy did I turn out to be wrong!
The real student demographics in Boston and Jefferson County indicate the Kentucky school system actually should have huge advantages in any comparisons (click the “Read more” link to see details on demographics).
That made Boston’s and Jefferson County’s new reading and math proficiency rates from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA) especially troubling. Basically, Boston beat up on Jefferson County although the student demographics strongly indicate this should have gone the other way.
For the three primary races in both cities – whites, blacks and Hispanics – Boston outperformed Jefferson County in every area except Hispanic reading. And, many of those differences are statistically significant.
Jefferson County didn’t have enough Asian/Pacific Islanders to get NAEP scores reported. And, neither city had enough American Indian/Alaskan Native citizens to get scores for that racial group, either, so no comparisons are possible there.
However, the overall message is stunning. Jefferson County had advantages that should have led to it universally outscoring Boston’s schools. That simply didn’t happen.
But, could Boston’s charter schools have played much of a role in the NAEP results?
I didn’t find information on the percentage of Boston’s children who attend charters there, but the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association reports that a 2010 change in Massachusetts law allows charter enrollment to run at 18 percent of all enrollment.
Also, it sounds like the charters quickly grew to absorb that allowed growth, and the growth was centered in high needs areas (Which I assume includes Boston). So, it looks like the enrollment in Boston’s charter schools is large enough to have an appreciable impact on the overall NAEP scores above.
That raises a new question: just what does Boston’s charter school performance look like?
How about this quote from a recent 2013 Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study on Massachusetts charters:
• The average growth rate of Boston charter students in math and reading is the largest CREDO has seen in any city or state thus far. At the school level, 83 percent of the charter schools have significantly more positive learning gains than their TPS counterparts in reading and math, while no Boston charter schools have significantly lower learning gains.
Yes, this is the same CREDO organization that reported in 2009 that only a small percentage of charter schools outperformed traditional public schools across the country. The CREDO crowd does not hand out praise for charters lightly.
CREDO isn’t alone with praise for Boston’s charter schools, either. Another report on Boston’s charters, using a random-sample-like, lottery-based study method I think is superior to CREDO’s, also was released by a research team from MIT and Harvard in 2013.
Here are some of that report’s astonishingly good findings based on the MCAS test, which is the Massachusetts state assessment program:
• Each year spent at a charter middle school boosts MCAS scores by about a fifth of a standard deviation in English Language Arts (ELA) and more than a third of a standard deviation in math.
• High school gains are just as large.
For those of you who are not into the standard deviation “stuff,” a table found in the CREDO study mentioned above indicates those middle school scores would equate to about an extra 7.2 months of extra learning in English and over a year of extra learning in math. Wow!
Here are some more findings from the MIT/Harvard team:
• Charter enrollment produces gains on Advanced Placement (AP) tests and the SAT.
• Charter attendance roughly doubles the likelihood that a student sits for an AP exam and increases the share of students who pass AP Calculus.
• Charter school attendance also increases the pass rate on the exam required for high school graduation in Massachusetts, with especially large effects on the likelihood of qualifying for a state-sponsored college scholarship.
• Charter attendance induces a clear shift from two-year to four-year colleges.
The teachers unions have raised a fuss that charter schools supposedly under-enroll learning disabled students, so this last MIT/Harvard finding was particularly noteworthy:
• We also report estimates for a special education subsample, a group well represented at Boston’s charter high schools. With the exception of Adams Scholarship qualification and a possible delay in high school graduation, special education students seem to get as much or more from charter attendance as does the general applicant population.
This is EXACTLY the kind of performance we need in the many low-performing schools found in Louisville. If we had the option to convert them to charter schools using a well-crafted law such as that in Massachusetts, we could boost performance not only in Kentucky’s largest city, but also in other areas where education chronically underperforms in the Bluegrass State.
Why do our legislators keep fighting the obvious? Well-designed charter school programs benefit those who need it the most, students who are traditionally under-served by the standard public school system. We need to start thinking about what is best for kids, not adults, in our schools.
“Kentucky’s pension records are not subject to the open records law,” wrote Lowell Reese in Sunday’s Courier-Journal “They are shrouded in secrecy.”
Reese, publisher of Kentucky Roll Call, also authored “Future Shock,” a series of Bluegrass Institute reports on Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
The final of those reports offers 16 solutions for lawmakers to consider in fixing the pension system. No. 1 on the list: transparency.
Here are some interesting facts from the Alliance for Public Charter Schools, with a few added comments from me:
• Children who attend charter schools are more likely to graduate from high school than their traditional school peers. And dozens of charter schools across the country have 100 percent college acceptance rates for their graduating seniors.
• New Orleans has a higher percentage of children in charter schools than anywhere else in the country. Students attending public charter schools in New Orleans learn an additional four months in reading and five months in math more than their peers attending traditional public schools.
• Statewide, students attending public charter schools in Louisiana gained an additional 50 days of learning in reading and 65 days in math compared to their peers attending traditional public schools.
(And, in 2013 ACT college entrance testing, both Kentucky and Louisiana tested 100 percent of their graduates on the ACT. Louisiana outscored Kentucky for every single racial group that ACT lists in its state profile reports for these two states)
• At one charter school in Arizona, BASIS, students scored higher on an international test called the PISA than students from anywhere in the world.
• At the Success Academy charter school in Harlem, every fourth grader passed the state’s science exam.
While the Alliance didn’t identify the specific school, all the Success Academy charters in Harlem list almost exclusive minority enrollment.
In Kentucky, statewide only 68.5 percent of our elementary school students were proficient in our hold-over, watered down CATS-era science test. Even in Kentucky’s most upper-scale elementary school, the Anchorage Independent School, only 93 percent were proficient on this watered down test. (Source: Kentucky Department of Education’s School Report Card website)
• In 2012, every high school senior at an Uncommon charter school took the SAT exam, achieving an average score that was 20 points above the College Board’s benchmark for college readiness.
Here in Kentucky, in Louisville’s top magnet high school, Dupont Manual, only 84.7 percent met the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s (CPE) college readiness benchmark score for the ACT math assessment. For reading, only 88.5 percent of Manual’s students met the CPE benchmark. (Also from the Kentucky School Report Card website)