Saturday, March 22, 2014

Latest CREDO Study Identifies Strengths in Los Angeles Charter Schools

Latest CREDO Study Identifies Strengths in Los Angeles Charter Schools

By Holly Yettick on March 17, 2014 8:40 PM 

The latest of a series of reports by a Stanford research center has found that Los Angeles charter schools are outperforming charters in California and also nationwide. The city's charter school students are also making slightly more academic growth than their peers in local regular public schools.

The study, released early Saturday morning by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, examined 2nd through 11th grade reading and math assessment results from 2008 through 2012. It found that charter school students made, on average, slightly more growth in reading (.07 of a standard deviation) and math (.11 of a standard deviation) than students in regular public schools located within the district of more than 640,000 students. 

By often-used social science standards, these differences would be considered negligible because they do not meet the threshold of  .2 of a standard deviation, at which point they would be labelled "small."  A "large" effect would be at least .8.

"It's still small, but relative to what they found in other contexts, this is pretty impressive," said Gary Miron, a professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at Western Michigan University, who both studies and critiques the charter school movement.

To put the Los Angeles results in perspective, a study released by the Center in 2013 found that California charter school students were outperforming their regular public school peers by a much smaller margin in reading. The Los Angeles charter students' advantage was more than twice as big as the California charter school students' advantage.

 In math, California charter school students made slightly less growth than their peers in regular public schools. By contrast, the Los Angeles charter school students exceeded the growth of regular public school students by a significant amount.

Los Angeles charter school students also outperformed regular public school students by a bigger margin than their charter peers nationwide, according to that same 2013 Stanford study, which also contrasted charter and regular school performance in 26 states. That study found that, nationwide, unlike in Los Angeles, charter school students made less annual growth than regular public school students in math.

Nationwide, the 2013 study did find that charter school students demonstated more annual growth in reading than did regular public school students. But the Los Angeles charter schools' annual advantage in reading was seven times more than the annual reading advantage of charter school students nationwide.

The Los Angeles results are also strong when compared to the findings of research syntheses that use quantitative methods to pool the results of multiple charter school studies.

For example, a 2012 meta-analysis of 90 different studies found no difference between the achievement of students in charters and regular public schools. The meta-analysis, which did find positive effects for private, religious schools, appeared in the peer-refereed Peabody Journal of Education and was conducted by William H. Jeynes, an education professor at California State University at Long Beach. (Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are freed from some of the regulations imposed on regular public schools and managed by a variety of different types of organizations, including for-profits, nonprofits, and public agencies, including school districts.)

 University of California San Diego economists Julian Betts and Y. Emily Tang conducted a meta-analysisof 31 experimental and/or longitudinal studies that examined reading and 33 that examined math. These studies examined achievement in elementary schools, middle schools, or both. Although results varied by grade span, the authors found no overall differences between the reading achievement rates of charter schools and regular public schools. Charter schools had a slight advantage in math. Differences were not "statistically meaningful" for high school reading or math.

Betts and Tang also found that charter schools obtained better results in urban areas  and with students of color. The enrollment of Los Angeles Unified is 75 percent Hispanic. Though under-represented, Hispanics still comprise the majority of students in charter schools (58 percent), according to the Stanford study. The study found especially strong results for low-income Hispanics, who made bigger gains in both reading and math than their low-income, Hispanic peers in regular public schools. These gains also outpaced those of the overall population of charter school students. When the results of lower and higher income Hispanics were combined, their growth rates were on par with those of the overall charter school population. 

Betts and Tang, whose study was published in 2011 by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, found evidence not only of student-based differences but also of differences based upon the type of organization that managed the school. For instance, students in middle schools operated by one particular charter-management organization (the Knowledge is Power Program or KIPP) performed especially well.

The Stanford study did not break out results by particular educational management organizations. But, like the Betts and Tang study, it did find that, as a group, schools operated by charter-management organizations like KIPP made bigger reading and math gains than "mom and pop" or one-off charter schools. That said, when compared to regular public school students, students in charters operated by both types of organizations made more growth in reading and math.

Overall, the Stanford study found that 48 percent of Los Angeles charter schools outperformed regular public schools in reading and 44 percent outperformed regular public schools in math. By contrast, the 26-state Stanford study found that, nationwide, 25 percent of charters outperformed regular public schools in reading and 29 percent did better in math.

In a news release that accompanied the study,  Center for Research on Education Outcomes Margaret Raymond credited "strong authorizing coupled with focused school operations" for the positive Los Angeles results.

California Charter Schools Association President and CEO Jed Wallace also applauded the Los Angeles charters.

"We are delighted that CREDO's research confirms our own findings that Los Angeles charter schools are performing incredibly well, especially with historically underserved students, and are improving over time," said Wallace, whose charter school membership organization maintains offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. "This explains a great deal about why parent demand for charter schools has led to enrollment tripling over the past six years."

According to the National Alliance for Public Schools, a charter schools advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles charters enrolled 120,000 students in 2012-13, more than any other district in the nation. Between 2011 and 2012 alone, charter enrollment, which currently represents 18 percent of Los Angeles Unified Students, increased by 23 percent. Nationwide, only six other districts saw charter enrollment increase at a higher rate.

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Yes, NYC charter schools are working

Yes, NYC charter schools are working

Foes distort the evidence to claim otherwise

By Marcus A. Winters / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 5:33 PM

Critics frequently argue that New York City's charter schools are no more effective than its traditional public schools. As proof, they almost invariably point to research by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) showing that charter schools and nearby traditional public schools are equally effective on average.

In the context of the New York City discussion, however, this is a blatant mischaracterization of CREDO's work.

CREDO's research uses a sophisticated matching strategy to compare the achievement of charter school students to similar students attending nearby traditional public schools. They have conducted this research in 27 states and cities to date, pooling the results to reach their nationwide conclusion.

The national scope of CREDO's work is enormously valuable. However, it is essential to keep in mind that their research is not really a national evaluation of charter schools. Rather, it is better understood as a combination of several local studies of charter schools. In fact, CREDO finds that charter schools' effectiveness varies dramatically from place to place.

CREDO used their methodology to study New York City's charter schools in particular. They found that attending a charter school in New York City had a large positive effect on student performance in mathematics, and a mild positive effect in reading. The positive effect was especially large for charters in Harlem and for those affiliated with a charter management organization (the controversial Success Academy Network is one of the largest and best-known CMOs).

New York's charter opponents have developed the habit of citing the nationwide result, rather than the local one — a tactic that can only be called misleading. Nationwide, CREDO found little difference between charters and traditional public schools. But that result came from combining the results of states where charters are ineffective with those where charters are very effective, such as New York City. When specifically discussing the effectiveness of charter schools in New York City, it makes no sense to consider the effectiveness of those in Ohio, Arizona, and elsewhere.

CREDO's findings confirm other research done on the Big Apple's charter schools utilizing a superior randomized field trial methodology. Three studies — one by Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby and two by Harvard economist Roland Fryer and Princeton economist Will Dobbie — compared the achievement of kids attending one of New York City's charters to those of kids who applied to a charter but were denied a seat through a random lottery. This procedure is often referred to as the "gold standard" of social science research. Each of those papers found that students benefitted substantially from attending a New York City charter school. The city's charter school opponents willfully ignore these papers, two of which have been published in a prestigious academic journal.

CREDO's finding that the effectiveness of charter schools varies considerably across school systems is interesting but not surprising. The laws and regulations governing charter schools differ across states. The challenges faced by students vary across states. And the most effective charter schools have targeted certain areas and not others.

Perhaps the most important area for future researchers to focus on is developing an understanding of just why some charter schools, and some charter school sectors, are more effective than others. There is a great deal of work to be done in this area. To date, the best evidence comes from Fryer and Dobbie's research in New York City, where they found that the most effective charters are those that exhibit characteristics such as frequent teacher feedback, use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time and high expectations.

The empirical evidence, including the CREDO research, consistently demonstrates that on average New York City students are benefitting from attending a charter school. The frequent mischaracterization of the lessons of CREDO's research for New York City is a disservice to the important public debate about the future of the city's charter sector.

Winters is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusAWinters.

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KIPP girls hoop wins charter school title

KIPP girls hoop wins charter school title

Courtesy Photo


Alex Huffman led KIPP Academy to a Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization championship, scoring her 1,000th career point during the tourney run.

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014 3:00 am

By Joe Gill / For The Item | 0 comments

Going into Sunday's Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization Basketball Tournament Championship Game, KIPP Academy only had one thing on its mind and that was capturing its third title in a row. Standing in the way of a potential Panthers three-peat was a familiar foe, the Wizards of Prospect Hill Academy. Led by 26 points by Alex Huffman and 18 points by Pleilerkay Gaye, the Panthers cruised to a 63-35 win at UMass-Boston.

"Prospect Hill does a great job packing a tight zone and slowing us down offensively, "said KIPP Academy coach Nat Jones. "After a while, we were able to tire them out and then pick up our game."

Huffman scored 10 of her team's first 17 points, including the first six points of the game. The Wizards continued to fight back and forth with the Panthers. The Panthers pulled away as they concluded the half on a 14-3 run. In the first half the Panthers held the Wizards to only four field goals.

The second half was extremely similar to the first half as the first portion of it saw back and forth action until KIPP Academy put together a 12-0 run late in the half, which sealed the deal for the Panthers.

"They (the Wizards) are taller than us, but (teammates) Marie (Kamba) and Helen (Maldonado) played big and boxed out well," said Huffman, who was named the tournament MVP for the second time in as many years. "It feels pretty good to win again, especially for the people who doubted us this year. We kept our name and lived up to our reputation."

The MVP award for Huffman comes just a day after she scored her 1,000th career point.

"It feels pretty good to get my 1,000th point as a junior, especially when most people do it as a senior," said Huffman.

Huffman joins Catherine Stinson and Diondra Woumn from Lynn English, and Jennie Mucciarone and Brianna Rudolph from St. Mary's as 1,000-point scorers in the City of Lynn for the 2013-2014 season.

"It goes without saying she is the best player that I have ever coached," said Jones. "I am pretty lucky. I have coached her for six years and she is the best manager of a team on the court that I have seen in high school, including the Division 1 or 2 players that I have seen. I would not trade her as she is a luxury that no one else has. My complementary players are exceptionally better because she is on the court."

KIPP Academy finishes the season with a 14-1 record.

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Bill Gates calls on teachers to defend Common Core

Bill Gates calls on teachers to defend Common Core


Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images - "There are many voices in this debate but none are more important or trusted than yours," Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told educators at a conference Friday. He asked them to help parents understand the new Common Core academic standards.

By Lyndsey Layton, Published: March 14 E-mail the writer

Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder who is spending part of his considerable fortune trying to improve U.S. public education, called on teachers Friday to help parents understand the new Common Core academic standards in an effort to beat back "false claims" lobbed by critics of the standards.

"There are many voices in this debate but none are more important or trusted than yours," Gates told several thousand educators gathered in the District for the inaugural conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit organization that runs a voluntary system to certify teachers. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was a sponsor of the conference; it has awarded about $5 million to the board since 2010.

The Gates Foundation has spent more than $170 million to develop and promote the Common Core standards, and is their biggest nongovernmental backer. Forty-five states and the District have fully adopted the standards, which call for wholesale changes in the way math and reading are taught from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The standards are a set of expectations about knowledge students should have and skills they should possess by the end of each grade. The standards are not curricula; decisions about what and how to teach are left up to states and local school districts.

Until now, every state has set its own standards, and they varied widely in quality.

Gates said common standards could transform U.S. education, reduce the number of students taking remedial courses in college and enable American students to better compete globally.

Standardization is especially important to allow for innovation in the classroom, said Gates, who used an analogy of electrical outlets.

"If you have 50 different plug types, appliances wouldn't be available and would be very expensive," he said. But once an electric outlet becomes standardized, many companies can design appliances and competition ensues, creating variety and better prices for consumers, he said.

If states use common academic standards, the quality of classroom materials and professional development will improve, Gates said. Much of that material will be digital tools that are personalized to the student, he said. "To get this innovation out, common standards will be helpful," he said.

But Gates said he worried about "bumpy" implementation in some states and some of the political attacks that have been lobbed at the Common Core.

"There is one thing that worries me, though," he said. "It's the false claims that some people keep making about the standards. We have to make sure people know that it's not the federal government setting standards or that it's a block to innovation. Often, people are talking about problems that aren't really there. It's important that we stick to these facts."

He suggested that critics are uninformed.

"It's just another case when I was naive — I thought people who spoke out against the Common Core would be people who read the Common Core," Gates said during a question-and-answer session after his remarks.

The real problems with the Common Core have been "bumpy" implementation in some states and districts — places where teachers complain that they have not been given enough time, training and quality materials to teach to the new standards, Gates said.

Leaders of the nation's two major teachers unions support the standards but have decried the way states are implementing them. Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, said it has been "completely botched" and that seven of out 10 NEA members surveyed complained that the implementation has been poor. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has called the rollout worse than the debut of the Affordable Care Act.

Union leaders want more time for implementation, especially when it comes to plans by states to judge teacher quality based on the way students perform academically under the new standards.

Gates and other Common Core supporters say the standards emphasize critical thinking and analytical skills, as opposed to rote learning.

Opponents span the political spectrum, from tea party activists who say the standards amount to a federal takeover of local education to progressives who bristle at the emphasis on testing and the role of the Gates Foundation. Some academics say the math and reading standards are too weak; others say they are too demanding, particularly for young students.

Meanwhile, parents are left to wonder about all the changes taking place in the classroom.

Gates urged teachers to talk with parents and explain the value of the new standards and said that was the most effective way to shoot down false claims.

"We don't have time to answer every false tweet and post," Gates said. "The most authoritative voices will be teachers who've had this exposure [to the standards]. . . . I hope you can communicate with parents. This is not just another policy thing. It's pivotal to the effort to improve education."

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Big business takes on tea party on Common Core

Big business takes on tea party on Common Core 


Tennessee is considering a delay to Common Core implementation. | AP Photo/The Tennessean

By STEPHANIE SIMON | 3/14/14 5:00 AM EDT

Tea party activists have been waging war for months against the Common Core academic standards. Now, in a coordinated show of muscle, Big Business is fighting back — and notching wins.

The urgent effort stems from a sense among supporters that this is a make-or-break moment for the Common Core, which is under siege all over the country.

A coalition including the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch a national advertising blitz Sunday targeted at Republicans skeptical about the standards. Spots promoting the Common Core will air on Fox News and other conservative outlets.

The campaign — a major ad buy that could last months — aims to undercut dire tea party warnings that the standards amount to a federal power grab, akin to Obamacare. The TV spots and online ads will project a positive tone, featuring teachers praising the Common Core.

In a parallel effort unfolding mostly in deep red states, thousands of small-business owners and corporate executives have been bombarding state lawmakers with emails, calls and personal visits to press the point that better standards will mean a better workforce and ultimately, a better economy. They've been joined in some states by military officers who argue that not just the economy, but national security is at stake.

The strategy: Give conservatives reasons to support the Common Core — and make clear they will reap dividends if they do.

"We're telling the legislature that this is our No. 1 issue," said Todd Sanders, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. "We will be watching."

The tea party might be loud, but the chamber spends tens of thousands on local campaigns each election year. Sanders wants lawmakers to remember that. "They are going to have to make a choice in terms of which constituency is going to be the most important to them," he said. He said the chamber will have no qualms about dispensing its political funds to reward standards supporters, or punish dissenters. "My board is absolutely unanimous about this," Sanders said.

The business coalitions, working with allies from the education community, have scored some key victories in recent weeks. They blocked a bill that could have torpedoed the Common Core in Georgia. They derailed a similar bill in Arizona, too, though that fight is not yet over. They slowed a breakneck drive to get alternative standards approved in Indiana. And they blocked a bill in Wisconsin that would have empowered the legislature to shape new standards.

"It feels like there's a bit of a momentum shift," said Cheryl Oldham, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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