Friday, April 30, 2010

Ravenswood school board extends Stanford New Schools charter

A friend with spot-on arguments (and devastating data) on the Stanford Ed School's charter school, which got a conditional renewal for its the high school (the article is below):


I don't know if you saw that the Ravenswood school district voted to approve the modified charter for LDH's charter school experiment for kids in the high school.  Kids in K-4 "will be transferred to other Ravenswood district elementary schools, where Stanford University faculty will continue to work closely with their teachers."  I'm not sure if having the Stanford ed school faculty continue to work closely is really what the students need. 


Anyway, I know that you've included some comments from Sandy Kress on the high school's performance, but it is shocking to me that LDH and her colleagues keep peddling and the press keeps buying this notion that they have done such a good job with the charter high school. 


Stanford University School of Education Dean Deborah Stipek claims that "the high school is doing extremely well."  The primary evidence provided by Stanford is the percentage of graduates who are accepted to or attend college.  EPAA marketing materials highlight that "[m]ore than 90 percent of the school's graduating seniors were admitted to postsecondary institutions last year."  The press keeps quoting a 96% figure.  Indeed, LDH and Stipek have been touting the 90% college entrance rate figure since the first class to graduate under Stanford New School management in 2006.  For the class of 2007, 25 or 30% were admitted to colleges with selective criteria, according to Stanford.  The rest apparently attended junior college, which in California is open to all with a high school diploma or a GED.  I'm all for the students continuing their education at junior college, but highlighting those numbers as part of a college admittance rate is completely misleading.  For last year, Stanford claims that 53% of all EPAA graduating students who went on to college were accepted at four-year institutions.  


Again, it's great that kids are going to college, but here's why those numbers don't say as much as Stanford would like.  First of all, the California State University System admissions are heavily dependent on high school grades.  SAT scores might have no bearing on admission to CSU schools if a student's high school grade point average exceeds 3.0.  Because course grades are not standardized between schools, using criteria dependent on grade point averages is an imperfect comparison tool at best.  High schools essentially can boost their own college acceptance rates through more permissive grading.


In addition to college admittance rates, LDH, in defending the school, also wrote recently that the school's "Early College program now enrolls 125 students a year (half the students in the school) who earned 550 college credits this past year.  40% of students earn "A's" in their college courses (a better track record than the college has among its own students) and many graduate with close to a full year of college credits under their belts."  When you stop looking at just at grades and look at an objective measure like student AP scores, 70% of the AP tests taken by the school's students in 2007-2008 received a score of 1.


You can't avoid looking at test scores if you want to compare schools.  There's no doubt that the Stanford-led high school is doing better than their failed elementary school.  There's also no doubt that the school is not "doing extremely well."  The other charter high school serving East Palo Alto is an Aspire school, and its test scores are much better than those at the Stanford School, despite the fact that the Stanford school's expenditure per pupil is 48% higher than Aspire's.  Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the publicly available data do not allow direct comparison between students at the Stanford-run high school and students from East Palo Alto attending traditional public high schools in Sequoia Union High School District, which serves high school students in East Palo Alto and surrounding communities.  If one disaggregates the data, however, it appears that Stanford New School students do no better than students in equivalent cohorts (e.g., non-native English speakers, socioeconomically disadvantaged, etc.) attending traditional public high schools serving East Palo Alto residents.


EPAA high school students also have the lowest average SAT scores in San Mateo County. Last year, the average score increased to 1168 out of 2400.  In 2007, the school's average score was only 1030 out of 2400.  That was among the lowest in the entire State of California.  Mind you, Stanford was touting its college success that year, too, despite having dismal data on the primary college entrance exam.  Perhaps that's why EPAA is the only high school in the district not to include SAT data in its School Accountability Report Card.   Approximately 55% of EPAA high school students take the SAT.  That percentage is higher than at many comparable schools, so the larger pool size may negatively impact the average school score.  Still, if 55% is about the same percentage that Stanford trumpets as being accepted at four-year colleges, the scores do give a pretty eye-opening objective snapshot of Stanford's claims about college acceptance and students doing better in college level courses than actual college students. 


It just seems that this is a crazy definition of a high school that's "doing extremely well." 


Ravenswood school board extends Stanford New Schools charter

East Palo Alto Academy High School charter extended two years; most elementary students will transfer back to Ravenswood schools.

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