Last monday I filmed some footage of the educational forum in Louisville at Quinn Chapel AME Church. Dr. Howard Fuller came to rally the troops about public charter schools. This part really stood out to me as a great way to show the different roles everyone has in policy CHANGE. This is just a taste of what he covered, but I will post more from this later!
Information about charter school performance from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is sketchy and inconclusive. An important part of the problem is that the NAEP student sample sizes for charter schools have been rather small, which creates a lot of measurement error in NAEP charter school scores. The large measurement error in turn makes it impossible to detect small to modest trends.
Still, given that the trends shown below may not yet have risen to the point where they can be declared statistically significant, there does seem to be a trend in the nationwide NAEP Grade 4 mathematics results for students of different races who are eligible for the federal free and reduced cost lunch program (a proxy for poverty). The trend favors charter schools.
Here is how the NAEP results for white students eligible for the school lunch program look according to the NAEP Data Explorer.
Notice that in 2003 (earliest charter data collected in NAEP), charter school poor whites scored a point behind poor whites in traditional schools across the nation. As of the latest data for 2011, that has changed, and poor whites in charter schools now outscore their public school counterparts by 4 points.
Also note that between 2003 and 2011 poor whites in charter schools improved their scores for fourth grade math by 11 points, while their public school counterparts only gained 6 points.
Now look at the data for blacks.
The score differences for blacks have shifted around a bit, which may be due to the inadequate sampling sizes in charter schools, but over time the trend does seem to favor charter school students in the lunch program. I ran a regression of the change in scores over time, and there is a positive slope to the best fit line. That supports a trend favoring blacks in charter schools.
Lunch eligible charter school blacks improved their score by 12 points while blacks in traditional public schools only improved by 8 points.
Finally, here are the results for Hispanics in the lunch program.
The trend in the difference scores is the most dramatic of all, with lunch eligible Hispanics in charter schools moving from two points behind to six points ahead of their traditional school counterparts.
Lunch eligible charter Hispanics increased their scores from 216 to 232 between 2003 and 2011, a 16-point rise. Their public school counterparts only improved by 8 points.
I need to point out some caveats to this data. There is no information on exclusion rates for learning disabled and English language learners broken out by charter and non-charter schools. Different levels of exclusion could bias the data.
Also, it is reported that a lot of poor students in charter schools don’t join the federal lunch program simply because the charter schools they attend do not offer it. Those kids are still poor, but they don’t show up that way in the data. That could bias the charter school information, as well.
These caveats further highlight the limits of the NAEP data, of course. Hopefully, NAEP’s collection of charter school performance will improve in the future.
Charter school expert Dr. Howard Fuller provided the Kentucky House’s Education Committee lots of frank food for thought on February 14, 2012. He didn’t gloss over things, and he didn’t make charter schools out as a magic fix to everything. He did make a strong case that charter schools are a valuable option in places where good charter school laws have been enacted and that Kentucky, as a charter late-comer, can benefit from the mistakes of others if we set up charter schools now.
Fuller is a co-founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. He has been involved with the charter school movement since the beginning. Dr. Fuller has lots of experience with school choice options in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
You can hear Dr. Fuller’s full testimony here:
WFPL reports that after 12 years of operation, the Kentucky Virtual High School (KVHS) program is shutting down.
The Kentucky Department of Education operated KVHS offered a variety of on-line study options from high level Advanced Placement courses to standard high school courses and even remedial options.
As I discussed several years ago, KVHS turned out some very impressive results for its math and science AP courses, where final test averages for the virtual students exceeded the averages for students receiving traditional classroom presentations. However, deficiencies in the statewide testing program precluded gathering accurate information on the relative course performance of the standard high school courses and the remedial courses.
I think at least in the short term, this program will be missed. As former KVHS consultant Bob Fortney points out, KVHS has served a fairly consistent 700 students each year. The education department says it will now help those students find private providers of digital learning courses, but there is no indication in the WFPL article about how that will be funded. KVHS was funded at about $800,000 annually from state funds and charged tuition fees to local school districts for students who enrolled from those districts.
The Kentucky Department of Education will in the future act as a ‘gatekeeper’ for digital learning offerings from other sources such as private companies. In time, this may more than take up the slack left by the KVHS departure, but there may be a growing curve issue.
As Fortney points out, and as we have discussed in other Bluegrass Institute publications, there currently are not many digital learning programs around the state, and quality varies considerably among those that do exist.
One program that does have potential to help with this developing situation is the Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning (BAVEL). BAVEL will accept a transfer student from anywhere in the state so long as the student’s home district agrees to the transfer so that state and federal funding can follow the student.
We’ll be asking questions as the Kentucky Department of Education shifts its role from course provider to course monitor. Hopefully, there will be lots of student learning to monitor, provided those alternate digital learning courses are worthwhile and get approval for use in Kentucky.
Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday has some sobering comments about how increasing health care costs for state employees and retirees are unsustainable.
In his discussion of the ballooning costs, Holliday simply declares:
“The current path is not sustainable.”
Holliday candidly admits this is “well above my pay grade” to solve, but his department and the education system it supports clearly is feeling the brunt of the legislature’s continuing failure to address this mushrooming problem.
One of the more interesting presentations at the February 1, 2012 meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education was offered by the Kentucky School Boards Association’s (KSBA) ‘eMeeting’ team.
eMeeting is a computer-based meeting support program for groups like local and state boards of education. It allows automated development of the meeting agenda and support documents and then allows entry of meeting minutes in real time as the meeting is actually held.
eMeeting can capture personal notes from individual board members in a not-for-public view file as the meeting progresses. That is a nice way for board members to insure they don’t forget questions that come to mind before or during the meeting.
eMeeting also has an automated process to capture the votes on issues on a member-by-member basis.
At the close of the meeting, a draft set of minutes is ready for the board members to immediately review for accuracy while events are still fresh in their minds. This is potentially a much better process than the old, manual method where draft minutes are mailed to board members days or weeks after the event.
The KSBA eMeeting team reports that around 60 local school boards in Kentucky are already using their system, which is KSBA-developed.
The Kentucky Board of Education will now consider adopting eMeeting or possibly one of the other products now available on the market. It sounds like eMeeting or a similar computer-based system could add a lot of transparency and efficiency to the operation of the Kentucky Board of Education, and it will be of great benefit to the board’s support staff, as well.
Other boards and similar government groups around Kentucky might want to look into this new software development, as well. The ability to improve the technical support to the many boards that operate in this state would add transparency and efficiency to those boards’ operations, as well.