Sunday, May 10, 2009

Twisting the Facts on Charter Education by Akindele Akinyemi

I am reading a very disturbing article on Michigan Charter School in this week's Sunday Free Press written by Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki. It's disturbing because there are some mis-information in the article.

I am reading information like this in the article.

"For the most part, charter schools have failed to live up to many of their promises."

If that was the case then how come over 104,000 students attend charter schools statewide? Charter schools have waiting lists. Think about this for a second.

Then the article said this:

"They are providing a wealth of choices for parents, but a Free Press review of state test data shows they have not outperformed traditional schools by many measures."

The following highlight proficiency comparisons in Math and English Language Arts for students in public charter schools against the statewide average as well as similar districts:

  • 131 public charter schools, or 57% of all charter schools, earned individual grade/subject test scores exceeding the statewide average for all public school students. At the same time, 57 public charter schools outperformed statewide proficiency averages on a majority of their MEAP tests.
  • 52 public charter schools have been recognized as "Beating the Odds" by MDE for achieving over 60% proficiency in Math and ELA while having at least 60% of their students eligible for free or reduced priced lunch. This compares to 42 schools earning this recognition in 2007.
  • The performance advantage for charter students when compared to those in similar traditional districts* widens at nearly every grade level, supporting the assertion that length of time in a charter environment contributes to improved academic performance.
  • Overall, 73.0% of charter students in were ranked proficient in Math, compared to 68.6% proficiency for students in similar traditional school districts.
  • Overall, 69.3% of charter students in were ranked proficient in ELA, compared to 64.5% proficiency for students in similar traditional school districts.
Then the article continues:

"Overall, charter schools have not delivered on the promise that they ... are going to cure all that is ailing in education," said Sharif Shakrani, co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.

This man, who I have followed for years, should know of all people, that charter schools is not the Jesus Christ or salvation of public education. Charter schools provide educational options for parents so they do not have to lie about their residence to enroll their children in a good traditional public school.

In Detroit, when comparing the 40 charter schools to the local district:
  • 67.0% of charter students were proficient in Math, compared to 58.9% proficiency for DPS students, a 13.8% advantage.
  • 63.5% of charter students were proficient in ELA, compared to 55.9% proficiency for DPS students, a 13.6% advantage.
Again, think about this. The article continues:

"Academic performance in the state's 232 charters is, on average, no better -- and by some measures, worse -- than traditional schools."

Is that why the Michigan Department of Education Legislative Report on Public School Academies (which is what I go by not some damn paid off professors at these universities) state how students in the state's public school academies continue to demonstrate continued improved academic achievement? Let's see what the ACTUAL report says instead of the Detroit Free Press.

Highlights of the 2008 Public School Academy Report to the Legislature include:

  • 232 charter schools served more than 100,000 students in the state.
  • Nearly 75% of all charter schools are located in the 20 traditional districts comprising the "host districts" for use by the MDE for the purposes of baseline comparisons.
  • PSAs are publicly accountable as 15 authorizers, which include colleges, universities, ISDs and local school districts, are active in their monitoring efforts and provide needed resources for their charter schools.
  • Students in charter schools generally outperform students in host districts when measuring MEAP performance.
  • 52 charter schools were identified as "Beating the Odds" by having more than 60% proficiency in Math and English while serving a majority of at-risk students (based on eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch).
  • African-American students in charter schools performed better than African-American students in traditional public schools statewide.
  • Charter schools experienced higher attendance and graduation rates than host districts.
  • Public charter schools receive an average of $1,778 less per year in per-pupil revenue than schools in host districts.
Allow me to explain how important this report is to those who may not understand charter schools. This is what I call a bargaining chip. I can take this report and LOBBY on behalf of charter schools. This includes expanding the cap, additional funding and the likes.

Of course, and unfortunately, groups like the Michigan Educational Association and the Michigan Federation of Teachers are working around the clock to systematically destroy charter schools. They push people like Gary Miron, a Western Michigan University education professor who studies charter schools. Gary is a MEA lapdog and most of his data cannot be trusted. I hate to say that to a professor but truth is truth.

As a person who has worked in charter schools for over 10 years I can clearly tell you why parents chose charter schools. The biggest reason is safety. Parents do not want to see their children in a body bag when they get home from work.

Another reason is the one-on-one attention. Children whose class size is over 50 in a room cannot concentrate especially if the children are raising themselves. How many times have we seen this in regular urban public schools?

For charter schools that are failing none of these reports tell you why they are failing. Being in on the inside gives me a better scope of things and concepts. If Detroit Public Schools are failing and those same educational leaders come over to a charter school, without changing their behavior or practices, what do you think is going to happen to that charter school they are running. If the school they ran in DPS was a failure what makes you think they are going to be successful in the charter school.

That is a spirit of poverty that they are carrying over from one system to the next.

Think about the politics of this also. Former Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. received an endorsement from the AFL-CIO because he opposed charter schools. The result? He lost hid bid for mayor to Dave Bing, who supports charter schools. The timing of this article in the Detroit Free Press is interesting also. Dave Bing won the seat of the mayor and this article is published on the Sunday after the election because Bing is for educational choice.

Let me tell you something. Charter schools are here to stay so you can write a billion negative articles on them and parents are STILL going to beg for choice. There is pressure on both Wayne County Community College and Bay Mills Community College to open up charter schools. But I also want to share with parents this information as well.

Traditional public schools can charter schools also. Detroit Public Schools are in the business of chartering schools. Yet, you have anti-educational and anti-intellectual groups like BAMN protesting against charter schools when DPS charter schools in their own district.

Community colleges can charter schools. So how come Henry Ford Community College, Oakland Community College and Macomb Community College are NOT chartering schools? By law they can do this. In fact, a unlimited number of them.

Intermediate school districts can charter schools also. Wayne RESA charter schools, however, Oakland Schools have NEVER chartered one school. Neither has Macomb ISD.

Charter advocates have to stop being pushed around. Organize focus groups in support of charter education. Write letters to the editor and most importantly lobby BOTH these ISDs and community college as well as your state lawmakers to make education a choice for parents and children. You can no longer just sit and be quiet. Groups like MAPSA need our help as well as us at the grassroots level.

If you want to make charter schools innovative then allow young adults who are in touch with the 21st century to practice educational entrepreneurship and allow them to be creative in their approaches to education. A 20th century educational dinosaur who has been in a failing public system for 20 years will not change charter schools around.

Education is both a civil right and SILVER RIGHT. Let's not sit on the sidelines with this one when it comes to our children and defending our Michigan Charter Schools.

1 comment: said...

Thanks for telling the truth and fighting for parents and kids, A. Wish the press had as much integrity.