Charters & Choice

The New York Times continues to provide a generous medley of education reporting, including, of course, from their controversial "On Education" columnist Michael Winerip.? Alas, Winerip is not among the three recent stories I want to highlight here:

Troubled Schools Mimicking Charters This is an intriguing piece by Sam Dillon, about school reform in Houston, but I stopped short when I got to this line:

In the first experiment of its kind in the country, the Houston public schools are testing whether techniques proven successful in high-performing urban charters can also help raise achievement in regular public schools.

First of its kind?? I ran this by my friend Hal Kwalwasser, who has just finished a book (for which I provided some editing advice), describing improvement strategies in many traditional school districts.?? Writes Hal in an email:

There are lots of districts around the country that are doing the things that Houston is now about to do. Nothing new here?.? The big question is not that Houston is trying them out now, but why hundreds if not thousands of districts have not done the same thing - and not done it many years ago.

Time to Revive Home Ec This is a gem of an essay, written by Michigan State historian Helen Zoe Veit.

Reviving [Home Economics] and its original premises ? that producing good, nutritious food is profoundly important, that it takes study and practice, and that it can and should be taught through the

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This week we took a look at what impact, if any, charter authorizer type (e.g., non-profit, educational service center, school district, or university) has on a school's academic performance, how high poverty urban schools perform, and why one Buckeye State charter school authorizer deserve to lose its right to sponsor schools. Today, with the continued help of our friends at Public Impact, we take a look at Ohio's E-School or Virtual School academic performance. These schools provide full-time instruction to students online. Twenty-seven charter e-schools operated in Ohio in 2010-11 and served nearly 30,000 students who hail from all but three (of 610) districts across the state. E-school students account for nearly one-third of Ohio's charter school students.

Chart 1 compares the distribution of Performance Index Scores of e-school charters in Ohio to the distribution for traditional schools in districts enrolling e-students. (Performance Index is a measure of student achievement across all tested subjects and grades; the score ranges from 0-120, with 100 being the state goal for all schools.) As can be seen from the graph below, Ohio's e-schools trailed behind traditional schools in districts where e-school students are enrolled. Eighty-five percent of e-schools received a PI score between 65 and 85, while 77 percent of traditional schools received a PI score between 90 and 105. The highest PI score for an e-school- 92- was also significantly lower than the highest score for a traditional school- 116.

Chart 1: Distribution of Performance Index...

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Mickey Muldoon

????On his presidential campaign website, Ron Paul describes his policy positions on twelve different issues, including abortion, health care, and the economy. Education is not among the headings. But ?homeschooling? is.

Michelle Bachmann homeschooled her children. So did Rick Santorum. Herman Cain appeared at a Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators conference with Paul and Bachmann this March. Mitt Romney is on the record as a supporter.

Does this mean that homeschooling is finally going to get the education-policy attention it deserves? I hope it does.

Consider the fact that in the United States, there are almost exactly the same number of students being homeschooled as there are in charter schools (about 1.5 million, as of 2009). Why do the charter kids get all the attention? The obvious reason is that like private-school students, homeschoolers don't really interact with the government. They don't receive money, and they occasionally have to take basic tests to prove they are learning something. That's about it.

But there are plenty of reasons to believe that state governments should seriously consider making it easier for parents to homeschool their children. The first is a simple fact of labor efficiency: Thirty-three percent of adult men and 44 percent of adult women in America are not working. Certainly, many of those people are disabled, incarcerated, and otherwise disqualified from teaching kids. But if we could reasonably put just a fraction of that labor pool?especially parents, friends, and relatives?to good work in...

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Yesterday, Jamie wrote about both the academic achievement and progress of students in Ohio's urban public schools.?? Today's analysis marries these two performance metrics together.

Ohio, like most states, issues data on both schools' annual achievement (a snapshot of performance) and academic growth over time. Ideally, schools will have high proportions of their students achieving at (or above) grade level and making measurable growth or progress in test scores over the course of the school year.

Chart 1 plots Ohio's Big 8 charter and district schools by both achievement and growth. Each square represents an elementary or middle school (high schools do not receive a value-added ??? growth -- score in Ohio). The upper-right section of the matrix is the ideal: high achievement and high growth. The vertical placement of each square represents a school's achievement; the higher a square, the higher the achievement. The horizontal location of each square represents a school's value-added category only (that is, a square on the left side of a box does not necessarily have lower value-added than one on the right; they are both in the same value added category).

Chart 1: Urban charter schools vs. Ohio 8 district schools, Performance Index growth in reading and math (2010-11)

Source: Ohio interactive local report card

Overall, it doesn't appear either type of school has the performance advantage.?? While charters have an...

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If you step back from day to day vitriol that characterizes the current education-policy ?debate,? and glimpse the larger picture, two worldviews on education reform emerge. One, articulated by the likes of Linda Darling-Hammond, Marc Tucker, David Cohen, and others, obsesses about curricular ?coherence,? and the lack thereof in our nation's schools. The other, envisioned by Rick Hess, Tom Vander Ark, Paul Hill, and many more, seeks to unleash America's trademark dynamism inside our K-12 education system. Though these ideas appear to pull in opposite directions, they might best work in concert. [quote]

Let's start with the Coherence Camp. Its argument, most recently made in David Cohen's Teaching and Its Predicaments, is that America's teachers are being set up to fail by a system that is fragmented, divided, and confused about its mission. Teachers are given little clear guidance about what's expected of them. Even when goals are clear, these teachers lack the tools to succeed: Pre-service training is completely disconnected from classroom expectations, and never ending ?reform? pulls up the roots of promising efforts before they are given time to flower.

The Coherence Camp looks longingly at Europe and Asia, where many (national) systems offer teachers the opportunity to work as professionals in environments of trust, clarity, and common purpose. (Japan envy yesterday, Finland envy today?) The members of this camp praise national standards, a national (or at least statewide) curriculum that gathers the best thinking about how to reach these standards and shares this thinking with...

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