The UFT's rebuttal to Hoxby's study; fighting The Blob
The answer actually depends on how policymakers weigh the goal of improved student achievement against other worthy goals, such as greater educational equity and meaningful diversity. And on these other objectives, nagging questions dog the charter sector.
For example, Hoxby finds that 92 percent of charter students are black or Hispanic, compared to 72 percent in district schools and concludes that “the existence of charter schools in the city therefore leaves the traditional public schools less black, more white, and more Asian.” Such racial segregation is consistent with research on charter schools in other states including North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere.
Although this statistic is likely to be a function of charter schools’ location in largely black and Hispanic neighborhoods, Hoxby also reports that fewer white students are applying to the charters; although 14 percent of residents in the charter school neighborhoods are white non-Hispanic, only 4 percent are applying.
So, for years the unions accused charter schools of creaming/skimming, taking fewer disadvantaged students. Yet now that charters (at least in NYC) are deliberately locating in the worst neighborhoods, to serve the neediest students, and even within these neighborhoods try to target black and Latino students (who, every study shows, are further behind than white students), the union line of attack has shifted to charters contributing to increased racial segregation of our schools! As I said, ya can't make this stuff up...
This raises a larger and VERY important point: while creating great schools and teachers, putting up great numbers, and closing the achievement gap are critically important for charter schools (and the school reform movement in general), we shouldn't think that this will quiet our enemies -- who I call "The Blob", meaning not just the teachers' unions, but the entire entrenched system -- or make it smooth sailing when it comes to passing reform legislation. In fact, the better we do, the MORE The Blob will try to kill us because our success is an even greater threat to the cherished (and immoral) status quo.
For years, I feel like we've all been pushing an enormous ball up a hill -- brutally hard, time-consuming, painful work. For the first time, I feel like we're now pushing the ball on a flat surface -- not downhill yet, but at least flat. The Blob became lazy, complacent, bureaucratic, inept and careless, which caused it to horribly misplay its slam-dunk winning hand -- after all, it outnumbers and outspends us at least 1,000 to 1 -- so now it's scrambling to cope with bombs going off all over the country. The Blob is back on its heels -- maybe even on the run -- but IT IS NOT GOING AWAY. Every day, in every city and every state, year after year, decade after decade, thousands of members of The Blob wake up and spend every day focused on a clear agenda:
higher pay, better benefits, shorter work hours and greater job protection for the adults in the system. They have been extraordinarily effective at achieving these aims -- in all of these areas, the trends have been very favorable for decades.
The Blob has also been very clever to embrace the children, such that any attack on it or its interests appears to be an attack on children and children’s interests. In fact, however, the interests of The Blob are often completely contradictory to the interests of children. For example, it is obviously in the best interests of children if ineffective teachers and principals can be removed quickly, yet their unions fight – generally very successfully – to make it extremely difficult to remove even the most ineffective performer. Or, among the unions favorite prescriptions to fix our schools is to reduce class size, which obviously benefits unions because it requires hiring many more teachers, yet the evidence shows that this is very costly yet does little to help students – and may even harm disadvantaged students.
School reformers must make it clear that they, not The Blob, are the ones who are putting the interests of children first, and gird themselves for an enormous, expensive, bloody, brutal war that will last for decades, because The Blob will not go down without a fight.
Hoxby’s Other “Stubborn Facts”
Sep. 23, 2009
by Jonathan Gyurko
Stanford University economist Caroline Hoxby released yesterday an update to her 2007 study of charter schools in New York City.1 In the study, she compares the state examination results of students enrolled in the City’s charter schools (i.e. those students “lotteried-in”) to the results for those students who applied to a charter but were not selected for admission (i.e. the “lotteried-out”). In many respects, this is a good approach as it aims to account for the possibility that charters enroll more motivated families and that it is this motivation, rather than any particular charter school effect, that is the cause of stronger student achievement.