Saturday, May 29, 2010

Charter-School Advocates Raise Cap

STOP THE PRESSES!!!  I hope you're sitting down, but the NY Assembly, which was not long ago owned lock, stock and barrel by the teachers' unions, passed a decent – not great, but decent – bill yesterday lifting the charter cap in NYS!  In a state like NY, this is nothing short of revolutionary and miraculous.  I really have to pinch myself daily to see the wave of reform sweeping the country – and the key role played by a little guerilla organization, Democrats for Education Reform.  HUGE kudos to its Executive Director, Joe Williams, who nicely summarizes what happened yesterday in NY in this WSJ article:

"It was classic Albany sausage-making: at the end of the day everybody got something," said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, which spent millions of dollars pressing legislators to lift the charter-school cap without adding rules that it believed would strangle the charter industry.

…Once it becomes law, the plan "drastically improves New York's chances," said Mr. Williams, who has been watching similar moves among other states in the competition. "New York was far behind, but we made up a lot of ground today."


  • MAY 29, 2010

Charter-School Advocates Raise Cap

Ending Weeks of Suspense, Lawmakers Agree to Boost to 460 from 200 the Number of Charters Allowed in New York State


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Empire State Charter Victory

Here's the editorial in today's WSJ:

·         MAY 29, 2010

Empire State Charter Victory

But unions extract some pieces of Silver.

The charter school movement scored a victory in New York State this week, though not without the usual union attempts to sabotage reform.

On Friday, Albany lawmakers voted to increase the cap on charter schools to 460 from 200 over the next four years. The vote came just in time for the state to meet a June 1 application deadline for $700 million in federal Race to the Top grant money. State officials believe New York was passed over in the first round of the contest due in part to the charter school cap, which the unions have fought to preserve.

Teachers unions oppose charters because many of them operate outside of collective bargaining agreements. To block their growth, the United Federation of Teachers has typically turned to political allies such as Democrat Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

During the latest negotiations, Mr. Silver and the UFT tried to strip the State University of New York of its powers to authorize new charters. SUNY is one of only two state-wide charter authorizers in New York. The other is the State Board of Regents, which is effectively controlled by Mr. Silver and the Assembly. Fortunately, the power grab failed.

But in other ways the union obstructionism was more successful. Mr. Silver managed to include a provision banning new charter contracts with for-profit management companies. Never mind that students at nine of 10 for-profit charters recently outperformed surrounding districts schools in math and reading on standardized tests. Which suggests that prohibiting for-profits from opening new charter schools has everything to do with slowing their growth, not helping kids.

To the extent that President Obama's Race to the Top contest has helped convince states like New York to enact long overdue education reforms, it's been a useful exercise. State officials have dollar signs in their eyes, but the better reason for Albany to act was the 40,000 kids now on charter school waiting lists. Whether or not New York's grant application is successful, these children and their families will be better off with more school choice.

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New York State Votes to Expand Charter Schools

The teacher evaluation bill passed in NY this week as well – another huge step that would have been unthinkable a short while ago.  Here's a well-done NYT article on the latest events:

In another effort to improve New York's chances, the State Senate approved a separate bill on Friday to tie teacher evaluations to students' performance on standardized tests, as other states have done; the Assembly voted for the measure earlier this week.

New York could obtain $700 million from the grant pool, money that would blunt the impact of state budget cuts and perhaps avert some of the thousands of teacher layoffs that are expected this year.

In New York City, both City Hall and the teachers' union, which has opposed the growth of charter schools, ultimately found enough to like in the legislation.

Although more charter schools will be created, the bill increased oversight of the schools and added regulations on how they are formed and operated.

In a statement, Mr. Bloomberg, an enthusiastic supporter of charter schools, cautioned that while "it is not a perfect bill," it "preserved the key components of the nation's most successful system of charter schools."


May 28, 2010

New York State Votes to Expand Charter Schools


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Parents earn an A for helping make history

Joel Klein with a well-deserved shout-out for parents who fought for their kids (and DFER):

At the same time, the Empire State made no such progress. It's no wonder that New York finished 15th out of 16 in the final round of the first Race to the Top funding competition.

Flash forward four months and things have changed.

The state Legislature yesterday voted to increase the statewide limit on charters from 200 to a remarkable 460.

What's changed?

I think a New York Post news piece actually captured it best the day the state's first Race to the Top application was due, way back in January: "Angry parents yesterday ripped Albany."

You see, nothing will get in the way of parents who know they can do better by their children.

Since that day, thousands of parents have attended school enrollment lotteries, organized rallies, and led petition drives to make sure they get the charter seat they want and deserve.

There are 40,000 students on New York City charter school wait lists. It was only a matter of time before they stood up to be counted.

Yesterday's cap lift is due to the remarkable work of many people: Gov. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Commissioner David Steiner, and Joe Williams of Education Reform Now among them.

But more than anyone else, it is due to parents who banded together to say that enough is enough.



Parents earn an A for helping make history

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DFER Press release

RTTT is driving MAJOR reforms in many states.  Colorado, where DFER has been particular active, has made incredible strides, as summarized in this DFER release:


The Race to the Top play of the month, and in all likelihood the year, is hands down the passage of Senator Mike Johnston's (D-Denver) teacher evaluation and tenure reform bill (SB 191), which was passed on the last day of Colorado's legislative session and signed into law by Governor Ritter on Thursday.  The bill was quickly hailed as a national model, and for good reason. This should move the state from the middle of the Race to the Top pack – the state placed 14th out of 16 finalists – to the front.

Our incredible team at DFER-Colorado was instrumental to passage of the legislation, working closely with the bill sponsors and supporters to build a broad coalition to endorse the bill, develop public awareness and media outreach efforts, and lobby legislators. (Go Moira!)

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Democrats gone wild

Here's an editorial in the Denver Post about the remarkable developments in CO, and the key role DFER played:

To truly grasp the magnitude of Democratic Sen. Michael Johnston's teacher-effectiveness bill, you had to catch the late, late show of the state legislature Tuesday night.

…But the endless debate, non-sequiturs and awkward analogies offered up that night — which made made me want to weep — signaled that this also was a watershed moment in national education reform. A tipping point, if you will.

Democrats in Colorado (albeit only a few of them) had wrested control of education policy and politics away from the CEA, which reportedly spent thousands of dollars on ads to defeat the bill.

"A lot of folks nationally thought the only way the [union] could be beaten was in a state with a Republican majority or in a not-strong union state," said Van Schoales, director of Education Reform Now, a national advocacy group. "A lot of folks can now look at Colorado, folks in Ohio and Michigan, and say if we can get urban Democrats on board, align ourselves with Republicans, we can get stuff done."

It's unfortunate how much the bill divided Democrats. It's also unfortunate the battle became about beating the CEA. Had the union found a way to support the bill, it would have brought down the noise under the dome.

But the protracted fight led to something very valuable: an unprecedented coalition of business leaders, education reformers and civil rights groups that came together with a bipartisan team of Colorado governors to say this was the right thing to do for kids.


Democrats gone wild

By Dan Haley
The Denver Post

Posted: 05/16/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT

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Policy and Politics Mark Race to the Top Accord

It looks like there's a deal in NJ as well – and, yes, DFER played a key role:

In the end, it was an agreement notable for both its policy and its politics.

After two weeks of negotiations, the New Jersey Education Association yesterday afternoon emailed state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler a letter supporting his bid for federal Race to the Top money, a contentious proposal of reforms in teacher and school accountability.

Although the actual application has not yet been released, compromises appeared to come on both sides, with the union agreeing to new and fundamental changes in how teachers are evaluated and the Christie administration leaving tenure laws mostly intact.

…Still, a fundamental shift came in how all teachers—as well as principals and supervisors—are evaluated, with student performance for the first time an explicit and significant factor in the evaluations.

The proposal calls for 50 percent of an educator's evaluation to be decided by "multiple measures of student learning," including test scores, according to the union.

Still, much will rest on the details of what those measures are, with the proposal calling for a committee of stakeholders to devise the statewide evaluation system.

Groups championing major reforms in the state said they were watching closely in how this teacher evaluation piece settles out.

'Whether that is watered down is a big concern," said Kathleen Nugent, state director for Democrats for Education Reform. "But we're guardedly optimistic."



Policy and Politics Mark Race to the Top Accord

Compromises from the teachers' union and the Christie administration help turn contentious bargaining into 'win-win' situation


By John Mooney

In the end, it was an agreement notable for both its policy and its politics.

Related Links

NJEA's Letter of Support

Christie and NJEA: Three Topics on the Table

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A Tale of Two Students

A long, poignant story in today's WSJ about two similarly situated low-income, Latino kids in Oklahoma City, one of whom ends up on a very different path thanks to a charter high school:

In middle school, Ivan Cantera ran with a Latino gang; Laura Corro was a spunky teen. At age 13, they shared their first kiss. Both made it a habit to skip class. In high school, they went their separate ways.

This fall, Ivan will enter the University of Oklahoma, armed with a prestigious scholarship. "I want to be the first Hispanic governor of Oklahoma," declares the clean-cut 18-year-old, standing on the steps of Santa Fe South High School, the charter school in the heart of this city's Hispanic enclave that he says put him on a new path.

Laura, who is 17, rose to senior class president at Capitol Hill High School, a large public school in the same neighborhood. But after scraping together enough credits to graduate, Laura isn't sure where she's headed. She never took college entrance exams.


The divergent paths taken by Laura and Ivan were shaped by many forces, but their schools played a striking role. Capitol Hill and Santa Fe South both serve the same poor, Hispanic population. Both comply with federal guidelines and meet state requirements for standardized exams and curriculum. Santa Fe South enrolls about 490 high school students, while Capitol Hill has nearly 900.

At Santa Fe South, the school day is 45 minutes longer; graduation requirements are more rigorous (four years of math, science and social studies compared with three at public schools); and there is a tough attendance policy.

This year, the majority of Santa Fe South's graduates will attend a vocational, two- or four-year college. About one-third of the graduates from Capitol Hill plan to get a higher education.


  • MAY 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Students

In middle school, Ivan and Laura shared a brief romance and a knack for trouble. Then they parted ways. Now he is college-bound and she isn't. How different schools shaped their paths.


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Interview with Maria Bartiromo

I did an interview with CNBC's "money honey" Maria Bartiromo recently on education reform for her weekend show, Wall Street Journal Report.  It will air on Sunday at 11:30 am on WNBC-4 in New York and on CNBC nationally at 7:30 pm Sunday.

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Public Schools Need a Bailout

Here's Randi's op ed in the WSJ, calling for emergency federal funding to address likely big layoffs.  I hope you're sitting down, but I actually agree with her – as long as the aid comes with sensible conditions like no layoffs purely by seniority.  I just learned that in NYC, if layoffs were done by merit (meaning some high-cost but lousy teachers would be laid off, rather than just the lowest-cost junior teachers), it would save 27%!  (In other words, 27% fewer teachers would have to be laid off to save the same amount of money – this is a REALLY important number.)

According to a survey of more than 80% of school districts by the American Association of School Administrators, 275,000 teachers and other school staff will receive pink slips. It's not that these schools will educate fewer children, or that students won't need the personnel and programs that will be cut. But the cuts could rob an entire generation of students of the well-rounded education they need and deserve. Class sizes will swell, and students will lose important classes and programs, such as art, music, physical education, Advanced Placement classes, and counseling and intervention programs for those who need the most help.

I have been traveling the country, watching teachers, administrators and unions striving to implement some of the most progressive and effective reform efforts in decades. But genuine school reform can't be accomplished with fewer teachers, unmanageable class sizes, and fewer intervention programs for struggling students. Children don't have a pause button—they need a great education during good economic times and bad.

The federal government didn't let Wall Street fail. Why would we do less for our public schools, which undeniably are too important to fail? Almost every state will be unable to provide adequate funding for public schools until the financial situation improves.


  • MAY 20, 2010

Public Schools Need a Bailout

Washington didn't let Wall Street fail. Why should we do less for our kids?


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Brill Responds

The AFT didn't take to kindly – surprise! – to Steve Brill's BRILLIANT article in last Sunday's NYT Magazine (The Teachers' Unions Last Stand;, so they attacked it in a ham handed way, including outright lying about a quote from Randi that Brill used.  Here's Eduwonk's Andy Rotherham on the AFT's charge and Brill's scathing rebuttal:

AFT V. Brill Buried Lede!

The AFT has sent out a talking points memo to counter the Brill NYT Mag story.  Most of it is the usual stuff you'd expect but they bury a big lede; down at the bottom of the list of bullet points is this doozy (emphasis mine):

It's also disappointing that Mr. Brill made up a quote in the article and attributes it to Randi [AFT President Randi Weingarten]. He falsely quotes her blaming President Obama for creating an environment to demonize teachers. Brill's fabrication of her quote – which tries to pit her against President Obama – only gives license to those who seek to further polarize the debate around public education reform. Randi had staff with her when Brill did the interview and he didn't have a tape recorder. No where in the notes reflect her saying this about the President, nor would she. President Obama and Randi may have legitimate philosophical differences in their approach to improving our schools, but they share a commitment and passion to achieving the goal.

Wow.  The entire article was fact-checked with sources.   Keep an eye on this one because both sides can't be right and that's a serious charge to bring.  I assume the AFT is referring to this graf in the NYT Mag story (again, emphasis mine):

The teachers' unions have become accustomed in recent years to fighting off reform efforts by Republicans and think-tank do-gooders. They ignore the rhetorical noise, while sticking to the work of negotiating protectionist contracts with the politicians who run school systems and depend on their political support. But what happened last month in Washington could signal a new era in which the unions have to worry that Democrats, like Washington's mayor, Adrian Fenty, not only won't yield in contract negotiations but will also support laws and programs aimed at forcing accountability. That is the threat posed by the Race. "Deliberately or not, President Obama, whom I supported, has shifted the focus from resources and innovation and collaboration to blaming it all on dedicated teachers," Weingarten says.


Brill Responds

Per the post below where the American Federation of Teachers' talking points memo accuses him of fabricating quotes in The New York Times Magazine, Steven Brill writes to say:

If I were going to "fabricate" a quote, why would I pick one that is so unsurprising? After all Ms. Weingarten's own website quotes her on March 13, when President Obama announced plans to include more Race-like contests into traditional federal school aid, as declaring that teachers "should be empowered and supported—not scapegoated. [Emphasis mine.] We are surprised and disappointed that the Obama administration proposed this as a starting point for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act."

In fact, in my initial draft of the article I had that quote in there, too, but took it out because it was semi-redundant with the one Ms. Weingarten now disputes — and which my notes (written on a reporter's pad while standing as we left a restaurant) reflect.

That this quote is not reflected in Mr. Powell's notes is no surprise to me; I didn't see him take any, and he certainly wasn't taking them as we were leaving a restaurant and Ms. Weingarten, after remarking that Race to the Top "doesn't really involve that much money," added her point about President Obama. In fact, as it happens, when I talked repeatedly with her last summer for the article about Rubber Rooms and I mentioned the upcoming "Race," she said almost exactly the same thing, as my notes then also reflect.

I appreciate all of the time that Ms. Weingarten and her colleagues gave me in my preparation for this article, and I regret that they feel compelled to challenge this quote. However, I am gratified that they did not challenge any of the other reporting in the article and look forward to Ms. Weingarten's cooperation and her keen willingness to engage candidly on these issues in the future.

Steve Brill

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John Legend- ed reform warrior

I met John Legend on Tuesday evening at an event to raise money for his Show Me Campaign, and I was incredibly impressed.  He is an ed reform WARRIOR!  He's on the board of Harlem Village Academy charter schools, and appeared on Morning Joe with founder Deborah Kenny:, and wrote this powerful article, Education Reform: The Civil Rights Issue of Our Time ( 


At the event this week, he showed the trailer of Waiting for Superman (great stuff; only 2 ½ min: and then another film about his life, how education made all the difference for him, and how he wants every child to have the same opportunities he had. 

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John Legend

John Legend is also supporting ed reformer Reshma Saujani (as am I) in her bid to unseat Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic primary for the Congressional seat representing the Upper East Side and Queens.  Legend is doing a private concert to benefit her campaign in NYC at 6:30pm a week from today, Thurs, June 3rd:


Dear Whitney,


I've got incredibly exciting news! On Thursday, June 3rd, six-time Grammy award-winning artist John Legend will be hosting a private concert in support of Reshma Saujani's campaign for Congress!


John is not just a respected musician, he's also a strong advocate for education reform. John and Reshma both agree that we are long overdue for new and innovative policies that put students first. That's why John has been so supportive and why he's agreed to participate in this special event.


For more information or to RSVP click here.


For additional details or to join the host committee please contact Bridget at


Thanks so much for your continued support. I really hope you can join us.


Annie Mullaly Weir

Finance Director

Support the campaign by making a contribution and volunteering.

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More Scrutiny as Charter Schools Look to Expand and NYSUT Hit Piece On Charters (Yawn)

The NYT's coverage of the education issue has been getting a lot better (especially the editorial page), so it was surprising to see such poor piece of reporting in this article on charter schools in NY state.  The reporters admit that the article was spoon fed to them by the union ("a review of public documents shows that many charter schools have spent money in questionable ways and have experienced significant conflicts of interest. The documents were obtained by New York United Teachers, the state teachers union, and provided to The New York Times, which corroborated the data.") and it basically parrots the union's talking points.  Of course, among 200 charter schools in NYS, there will be some that are lousy and/or do things they shouldn't – these schools should be reprimanded or shut down.  But one thing I'm sure of: if you did a close examination of the 200 public schools nearest to the charter schools, you'd find 10x the amount of mediocrity and malfeasance!

Charter school advocates, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, are vigorously lobbying for a bill that would more than double the number of charters in New York State and would send at least $2 billion in taxpayer money a year into the charter system.

Supporters want the bill to pass before the June 1 deadline by which states must apply to win a share of $700 million in Race to the Top federal education grants that place a premium on an expansion of charter schools.

Charter school advocates argue that the schools' freedom from traditional rules enables them to make dramatic improvements, but that same freedom can present some problems: a review of public documents shows that many charter schools have spent money in questionable ways and have experienced significant conflicts of interest. The documents were obtained by New York United Teachers, the state teachers union, and provided to The New York Times, which corroborated the data.

The problems underscore what many critics say is New York's weak system for policing how charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately run, spend money.

Anyway, this is old news – the union's report was released last month – and the reporters didn't even call the NYC Charter Center or the New York Charter School Association for comment/rebuttal.  Had they done so, they might have included this scathing rebuttal by Peter Murphy:


The state legislature will again be considering in the next 30 days whether to raise the cap on charter schools along with other reform measures to better position New York State to compete for round 2 of the application process for federal Race to the Top funds.

The New York State United Teachers, knowing this, came out with another hit piece on charter schools (here). We've seen this tactic before; for example in December 2006 when outgoing Gov. George Pataki proposed raising the cap, and again this past January before the application deadline for the first round of Race to the Top.

The Daily News editorial today said perfectly what this whole NYSUT anti-charter exercise of innuendo is about, by describing it as "propaganda in a battle to stop the Legislature from raising the cap on potential charter school openings. The union is fighting tooth, nail and insinuation because teachers in most charters are not unionized." (In fact, fewer of them are getting unionized with the recent news of KIPP teachers in NYC voting to drop UFT representation.)

Ironically, NYSUT's report reveals the substantial documentation and oversight of charter schools by their state overseers, SUNY and the Regents. The report's bevy of insinuations shows the lack of evidence of anything awry in many of the incidents discussed in the report.

…Accountability for thee, not for me, sayeth the teachers union. Hopefully, that will change someday.


More Scrutiny as Charter Schools Look to Expand

Published: May 25, 2010


Thursday, April 29, 2010

NYSUT Hit Piece On Charters (Yawn)

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New legislation just signed by Gov. Rell in CT

In contrast to the ongoing drama and (so far) lack of action in NY, here's a summary of the new legislation just signed by Gov. Rell in CT by ConnCAN's Alex Johnston:


Here's what we got:

Goal 1: Measuring effectiveness. For the first time, every district in the state will be required to evaluate teachers based on their students' achievement growth.

Goal 2: World-class standards. The state board of education agreed to adopt the Common Core Standards to create internationally benchmarked goals to strive towards in Connecticut public schools.

Goal 3: Superstar principals. A new pathway to certification is now on the books for our most talented classroom teachers to become principals.

Here's what we didn't get:

Goal 4: Money Follows the Child. The Race to the Top law lifts the caps on the number of seats allowed in our high-performing public charter schools but it doesn't lift the other cap that comes from a lack of money for those seats. We are still one of just three states that fund our charter schools on a line item in the state budget to be fought over year after year. It is high time that we move to a commonsense money follows the child system of public school funding, and we didn't win that this year.

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National study finds disparity in public funding of charter, traditional schools

In the debate over charters, critics ALWAYS fail to point out that charters start with one hand tied behind their backs: they're funded at significantly lower levels:


National study finds disparity in public funding of charter, traditional schools


The nation's public charter schools received, on average, $2,247 less per pupil than traditional public schools in the same school district, according to a new analysis of 2006-07 school year data from 24 states and Washington, D.C. The study, funded by The Walton Family Foundation and administered by Professor Holmes Finch, is the most comprehensive and rigorous review of public charter school funding undertaken to date. "A comprehensive and dispassionate view of the data is needed to help advance the conversation and debate on educational funding," said Finch, Ball State Teachers College professor of education psychology and one of the study's principal investigators. "That's the purpose of this study, to infuse the discussion with high-quality data."

The state-by-state analysis reveals how charter revenues compare to dollars provided to traditional public schools. For a typical 250-student charter school, the disparity amounts to nearly $562,000 annually. The differential was even larger across 40 focus districts, most of which are located in major metropolitan areas.

"This report indicates that differences in charter school funding continue in many states," said Finch. "It also suggests how important it is to have all public funding follow a student, regardless of the school a child attends."

Titled "Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists," the new report is a follow-up of a 2005 survey by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. It includes the original 16 states and Washington, D.C., scrutinized in that study as well as eight additional states. All told, the research encompassed 93 percent of all charter school students in FY 2006-07 — the last full year for which all of the appropriate statistics were available.

The most recent report also represents an improvement in the method of analyzing state-level disparities to provide a better estimate of how much funding charter schools receive compared to their traditional public school counterparts that would have otherwise received the same students.

Several members of the 2005 survey research team, including Bryan Hassel, Larry Maloney and Meagan Batdorff, worked for two years collecting and analyzing data for the latest study.

The findings paint a picture of an ongoing funding challenge for charter schools. Among the chief conclusions:

·         Overall, charter school funding lagged significantly behind district schools. On average, charter schools received 19.2 percent less support than traditional public schools, or $2,247 per pupil. Student demographics only accounted for a small percentage of the differences.

·         Funding disparities were even wider in most of the 40 focus school districts examined. In cities, where almost half of all charter schools in the study are located, the average disparity was 27.8 percent, or $3,727 per pupil. For eight focus districts, however, charters received at minimum 40 percent less than traditional public schools.

·         Local funding accounts for the largest disparity, because many states' laws do not allow for allocation of local funding to charter schools. The local funding gap is $1,884 for each charter school pupil, or roughly 84 percent of the of the total $2,247 disparity. "Disparities in local funding suggest a two-tier public education system," said Larry Maloney, one of the study's researchers. "The data clearly show that charter schools enroll some of the country's most high-need students, and yet this study demonstrates that charter schools continue to receive diminished support."

The authors also compared the current results to the 2005 Fordham report and determined that:

·         Although the statewide funding disparity was slightly lower than in the 2005 report—by 3.3 percentage points—improvements in data quality, rather than true policy changes drove the shift.

·         Across the 40 focus districts, the disparity increased by 4.6 percentage points.

·         Although data quality has improved, high-quality data were still difficult to collect in a timely fashion and therefore is largely inaccessible to the general public. For example, the research team tried for 18 months to acquire data from a single state. Meanwhile, New York and Florida have no financial reporting requirement for charters beyond the submission of routine or occasional audits.

The full report and individual state chapters may be found at:

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Wendy Kopp spoke at Marquette’s commencement last Sunday:

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Charters vs. public schools: Behind the numbers

The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss, who runs a blog called "The Answer Sheet: A School Survival Guide for Parents (And Everyone Else)," didn't check her facts when she reprinted false accusations about Harlem Success Academy that were posted on the blog ( of union apologist Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters (an organization that is apparently not aware that there's overwhelming evidence that reducing class size is one of the least effective (yet most costly) ways to improve student achievement).  Here's the excerpt from Strauss's blog, in which she even has the chutzpah to lecture about the truth, while having her own facts very wrong:

But Brill has it wrong. The student bodies aren't the same. Here's a breakdown, according to the NYC Public School Parents blog.

At P.S. 149, 20 percent of the kids are special education students; and 40% of these are the most severely disabled, in self-contained classes. Eighty-one percent are poor enough to receive free lunch, and 13% are English Language Learners. In 2008 (the latest available data) more than 10% were homeless.

At the Harlem Success Academy, 49% of the students are poor--a difference of 32 percentage points. Only 2% of the students are English Language Learners (compared to 13% at P.S. 149 --more than six times as many). The school says it has16.9% special education students, (compared to 20% at P.S. 149) and of these, few if any are the most severely disabled. The charter school had three homeless students in the 2008-09 school year, less than 1 percent of its population (compared to P.S.149's 10 percent).

It is worth noting that education historian Diane Ravitch reported in her book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System that only about 100 of the 40,000 homeless schoolchildren in New York City public schools are enrolled in charter schools.

Charter school advocates don't have to make bogus comparisons to boost their argument in favor of an expansion of these institutions.

The truth may not be as compelling, but it has the virtue of being, well, true.


Here's Harlem Success's rebuttal to Haimson and Strauss, with the actual facts:


Special education:


1. PS 149 in fact tests FEWER special education students than we do at HSA.  They had only 3 children with IEPs take the 3rd grade test while we had 9 children with IEPs take the test in 2009.  (See PS 149 report card, page 14, attached).  PS 149 either doesn't have as many students with IEPs in 3rd grade or is not testing them.




1. HSA actually tested more students classified as "economically disadvantaged."  HSA tested 43 economically disadvantaged students while PS 149 tested 39.  True, as a percentage of the overall students tested, PS 149's percentage is higher.  However, and this is a big however, poverty was not a determinant of our students' performance.  Of our 43 "economically disadvantaged" students who took the test, 93% passed the ELA and 33% got "4s."  Our "economically disadvantaged" students had a significantly higher percentage of "4s" than our not "economically disadvantaged" students.  In fact, while 100% of our not "economically disadvantaged" students passed the test, NONE got "4s."  On math, poverty was also not a determinant in performance.  100% of our "economically disadvantaged" students passed the math test and 63% got "4s."


2. The stats she cites for poverty are incorrect.  If you look at the attached report cards for PS 149 and HSA -- we have the SAME EXACT percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch -- 70%.  They do have a higher percentage of students eligible for free lunch, however, they certainly do not have the 81% free lunch that the bloggers claim (it's 68%).  And again, our students eligible for free priced lunch still aced the tests, so it's really not an excuse.


3. There are many schools you could compare HSA to that have far fewer economically disadvantaged students that nonetheless have far lower scores.  For example, PS 6 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan has just 10% free and reduced students (and 9.6% of 3rd graders tested are "economically disadvantaged") and HSA still outperformed them. 




1. PS 149 only had 2 Limited English Proficient (LEP) students take the 3rd grade test in 2009.  While HSA did not have any LEP students take the test, I don't think that a difference of two students is significant enough to draw any major conclusions.  We do have LEP students taking the test this year, so we'll be able to see in the coming months whether we were able to help LEP students pass the tests or not. 


2. While we are not arguing with the point that we've had trouble attracting LEP students, we have for next year given preferential admission to them in the lottery, so I suspect the disparity will be gone next year. 




1. We don't track or report students in temporary housing so I don't know where the first blogger would have gotten her information.  I know anecdotally that we have dozens of families across the network in temporary housing, but I unfortunately don't have hard stats on this one.


2. I can though say that the blogger's assertion that PS 149 has 10% homelessness is false.  In 07-08, PS 149 had 476 students, 13 of which were in temporary housing.  That's 2.7%.  Here's the link to verify:


While it doesn't list 08-09 stats, it seems unlikely that their homelessness stats increased to 10% from 2.7% in one year. 


Charters vs. public schools: Behind the numbers

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Ravitch displays her ignorance/bias (again)

It's blindingly obvious that Diane Ravitch is nothing but a shill for the unions, yet people continue to see her as an objective researcher, fairly and accurately presenting both sides of an argument.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The latest evidence of this is this excerpt from an interview she did with the Dallas Morning News, in which she talks down both KIPP and Harlem Success, displaying total bias and ignorance:

Let's go back to charter schools. Dallas has one KIPP Academy. Houston has more. Do you think they are good charters?
It depends. Michael Feinberg (a KIPP founder) invited me to Houston in October and I'm going down. They do a good job, but they had a high attrition rate in a Bay Area sample. They took 100 kids at random and 60 percent dropped out within three years. For those who remained, they can say they are succeeding. For those 40, it is good. But they don't tell you the success is with the survivors.
I liked the original idea of charters: A group of teachers could form a small school and use it as a research lab for public education. They would take unmotivated kids and take what they learned back to the school and say this is how we solved this problem. These are now the minority among charters. Most now want to compete with schools, not make them better. They want to drive them out of business.
What's an example?
The Harlem Success Academy. It's a chain of four schools. The head gets $400,000 for running four campuses with a total of 1,000 kids.
How do they compete with public schools?
They compete for the kids who get high scores on the state test. They get fancy solicitation letters to come there. They are now moving to the South Bronx, where they will skim off the highest-performing schools.
Before I respond to her specific allegations, I was curious whether she's ever visited the schools she so likes to criticize and see what they're doing with her own eyes, so I checked: she last visited a KIPP more than a DECADE ago, and she's NEVER visited any Harlem Success school.  So why would anyone believe a word she says about these fine schools, when she can't even be bothered to hop on the subway and visit one???
As to her specific allegations about KIPP's attrition rates, this is a story that's more than three years old, which I covered at the time:  In short, a few of the KIPP schools in the Bay Area had high student attrition and critics were claiming that this explained KIPP's rising student achievement: namely, that KIPP forced out low-performing kids, which of course would have the effect of raising the average test scores as each class of students progressed from grade to grade.
This is an important issue, so KIPP hired an independent firm, SRI, to investigate this and published the report along with a letter from KIPP's CEO, Richard Barth, on the main page of its web site at  The report is still available at:
The findings can be summarized as follows: at some new KIPP schools, attrition is high.  KIPP isn't for everyone.  But at nearly every school, attrition falls and at our mature schools, attrition is generally LOWER than comparable nearby schools.  Here's a summary from an article by EdWeek's Eric Robelen (full article below):
…several experts cautioned against drawing strong conclusions based on the attrition data. Student mobility, they pointed out, is high in general among low-income and minority urban families, KIPP's prime target.
Also, they said, many of the schools are still quite new, and enrollment is likely to be unsteady early on, especially for schools of choice with the high demands KIPP has for students and families.
"I would expect to see more of that kind of attrition when schools are new," said Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank that supports charter schools. "I don't see anything there that makes me doubt the value of what KIPP's providing."
Steve Mancini, a spokesman for KIPP, said the organization is committed to keeping attrition as low as possible. "It's something we're taking very seriously, trying to understand and get better at," he said.
Rates Drop Over Time?
Data the KIPP Foundation provided Education Week from a sampling of five schools show some preliminary evidence that attrition rates drop over time.
A campus in Newark, N.J., for example, has seen a steady decline in annual attrition, from about 26 percent during its first year to 8 percent four years later. At KIPP Bridge College Preparatory in Oakland, which showed a high level of attrition for its fall 2003 cohort of students, early data indicate the annual exodus is going down.
"As schools become more established, there's some evidence that the schools are doing things that are leading to more students' staying with KIPP on an annual basis," Mr. Mancini said. "That data is very promising."
Attrition rates seem to vary widely across the network, according to the data KIPP provided and an Education Week analysis of enrollment at 23 KIPP schools nationwide.
For instance, a KIPP pre-K-elementary school in Houston, housed on the same campus as one of the first KIPP middle schools, has seen annual attrition of less than 4 percent in its first three years, the network's data show. KIPP Ways Academy, in Atlanta, saw annual attrition fluctuate over its first three years, from 21 percent up to 30 percent, then back down to 21 percent.
Data from the Fulton County, Ga., district show that South Fulton Academy, in East Point, had 75 5th graders in 2003-04 and roughly half that number of 8th graders—39—this academic year. Those figures do not account for students who repeated a grade or students who entered the school later, though KIPP schools typically add few students in the upper grades.
In sharp contrast, two Houston middle schools—KIPP Academy Middle School and KIPP 3D Academy—had 8th grade enrollments last school year that were 95 percent or more of the 5th grade class three years earlier, state data show.
'Serve Every Student'
KIPP principals say they are communicating more across the network about strategies to keep more students, and to learn from those who succeed.
"We're going to do everything we can to serve every student who comes through our doors," said Molly H. Wood, the principal at Bayview Academy in San Francisco. "We are getting better at explaining why we do what we do, and why the high standards are worth it."
As for Ravitch's charges against Harlem Success ("They compete for the kids who get high scores on the state test. They get fancy solicitation letters to come there. They are now moving to the South Bronx, where they will skim off the highest-performing schools."), she couldn't be more wrong.  Harlem Success, more than any other charter school I've seen, tries to get EVERY parent who lives near their schools to apply to their lottery so they can serve ALL students – this is something Ravitch should be celebrating, not scorning (ah, but recall that she always does the bidding of her buddy Randi, who's been on a decade-long, thuggish, personal vendetta against Eva Moskowitz, which Ravitch has joined with gusto (if not with facts)).  If Harlem Success is seeking only the "kids who get high scores on the state test", then why would it spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to reach EVERY family, and why would it have applied to NY state for special permission (which was granted) to give PREFERENCE to English Language Learners in next year's lottery (see  And where is Ravitch's evidence that Harlem Success is skimming?  The attached data shows that Harlem Success is serving equally if not more disadvantaged children than nearby district schools.


Diane Ravitch on testing, accountability, curriculum, charters and much more


12:05 AM Mon, May 17, 2010 | Permalink | Yahoo! Buzz
William McKenzie/ Editorial Columnist |  | News tips


KIPP Student-Attrition Patterns Eyed

High mobility rates at certain schools attract criticism, despite suggestions that problem is easing over time.

By Erik W. Robelen  

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Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

 It's good to see Doug Lemov's brilliant book, Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College (; my comments are at: (for more on Lemov and his work, see this NYT Magazine article: is selling so well – it's #52 on Amazon right now (and it's equally good to see that Ravitch's worthless book is #207).

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Supreme Court to hear school choice case

I think it's very likely that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of school choice, given its earlier Zelman decision and the fact that new Justice Sotomayor attended Catholic schools:


Supporters of school choice programs that provide children with educational opportunity will once again have their day in court—in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.  The Court decided today that it would hear an appeal to a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that declared an Arizona school choice program unconstitutional. 

This marks the second time in U.S. history that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a school choice case, after its 2002 ruling in the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case declaring school voucher programs constitutional. 

The Supreme Court's decision to hear the case provides school choice supporters with an opportunity to once again demonstrate the constitutionality of school choice programs, according to the American Federation for Children. Amicus briefs filed by eight states and a multitude of civic organizations have called for the Ninth Circuit's decision to be overturned.

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Help KIPP Infinity Elementary win a playground

This took me less than 1 minute, so please help KIPP Infinity Elementary win a playground!


Four Clicks Help 5 Year-Olds Win Playground!


KIPP Infinity Elementary has applied to win free playground equipment from KaBOOM! and we need your help!  You can help our future Kindergarteners have fun at recess by going online and becoming a fan of KIPP Infinity Elementary.  To become a fan:


1.      Go to the link:

2.      Click on "Become a Fan" (on the right side of the page, under the red box) and register with an email address.  KaBOOM! will send you a confirmation email.

3.      Open the confirmation email and click on the link to become a fan of KIPP. 

4.      Make sure you scroll down and click "Done". (You do not have to write anything, but make sure you click "Done")


Voting ends Monday, May 31st so please vote today!  The contest is worth $22,000 of fun with a free Imagination Playground in a Box.  Our KIPPsters will be able to build, create and play for years to come!

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Robbert Bobb and Detroit

John Merrow with a good piece on PBS about Robert Bobb's attempts to address the educational disaster area that is Detroit:

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DOE''s CMO competition

An email from Scott Pearson at the US DOE with exciting news for CMOs looking to expand/replicate (note the deadline of July 7th):


We just opened our first ever "CMO competition" with grants to expand or replicate high-quality CMOs:


A new grant competition has just been announced by the U.S. Department of Education's Charter Schools Program.  The CSP grant competition for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools will provide $50,000,000 to assist non-profit charter management organizations, and other entities that are not for-profit entities, in replicating or expanding high-quality charter schools with demonstrated records of success.  Applicants must have experience operating more than one high-quality charter school.


Applications are due by July 7, 2010, and must be submitted through the Department's e-Application system, at  A pre-application meeting will be held on June 8, 2010, in Washington, DC.  For those interested in attending, either in person or by phone, please RSVP to  More information is available at


Also, we continue to look for great peer reviewers for this competition:


The Office of Charter School Programs (CSP) is seeking peer reviewers (field readers) to read and evaluate grant applications for the following competition:


Charter Management Organizations and Other non-Profit Entities Replicating and Expanding High Quality Charter Schools - to replicate or expand high-quality charter schools with demonstrated records of success based on the charter school model for which the eligible applicant has presented evidence of success.


The CSP is seeking peer reviewers with expertise in at least one of the following areas:


State Education Agency (SEA) Charter School Program (CSP) grant administration

Charter Management Organizations

Charter school planning, program design and implementation

Charter school assessment and evaluation

Charter school policy and research

Charter school authorizing

Charter school technical assistance and resources

Charter school leadership and professional development

Charter school administration and operation


REQUIREMENTS:  In addition to the expertise highlighted above, Peer reviewers will independently read, score, and provide written comments for grant applications submitted to the U. S. Department of Education under the CSP programs.  Expectations for peer reviewers selected are:


·         The application review will be conducted electronically from the reviewer's location.

·         The reviewer must have access to the Internet, a phone, a printer and have the ability to interact within a web-based environment.  

·         The reviewer must be available to participate in an orientation session by conference call prior to evaluating the applications and participate in daily conference calls during the application review, typically a two week review period. 

·         The reviewer must provide detailed, objective, constructive, and timely written reviews for each assigned application.

·         These reviews will be used to recommend applications for funding.


IF INTERESTED: If you would like to be considered as a peer reviewer for the CSP, please e-mail a copy of your current résumé or vitae to noting your desire to serve as a peer reviewer for the CMO competition.


Resumes will be kept on file and panel reviewers will be notified on an as needed basis.  Reviewers will receive an honorarium for their services.


CONFLICT OF INTEREST:  Please remember that if your organization intends to apply for a grant under any of the fore mentioned competitions, you may not be eligible to serve as a reviewer. As a reviewer you will have a conflict of interest if:

·         You helped prepare an application, regardless of financial interest in the success or failure of that application;

·         You have agreed to serve, or if you have been offered a position, as an employee, advisor or consultant on the project; or

·         Your personal financial interests will be affected by the outcome of the competition, which would include any family members, employees or associates of the project applying for funding.


PROGRAM INFORMATION: For more information about the CSP, go to 

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