The Empire Strikes Back

The educational establishment is calling in its markers with the mainstream media, and beating the drums against charter schools in particular, and school choice in general.

Of course, it’s the same set of out of context factoids they trot out every 2-3 years.

Finances:  Some charter schools have a hard time making a financial go of it.  Of course they do; they can’t run to the taxpayer and crank up the local education mill levy (“for the children!”) whenever they spend their way into a hole, the way the district schools can.

Grades:  Some charter schools, especially schools in urban areas catering to black, Latino, Asian, immigrant and Native American kids. lag the public districts in terms of achievement.  We’ve been through this; back in 2009, after Nick Coleman joined into a previous round of catcalling charters, I ran through the stats.  Some charters – including many urban charters full of minority and immigrant kids – spanked the public districts.  Others lagged.

Paternalism:  The great unstated fact that none of charters’ opponents ever addresses; 80% of urban charter kids are minorities and immigrants.  Every black, Latino, Asian, Native or Somali kid that leaves the public school system is leaving the the reservation that the DFL is counting on to train its future voter base.

But charters in the city – especially the ones catering to older kids – have two handicaps, as I showed in 2009:

  • Burnout:  They take a disproportionate number of kids who’ve been terribly failed by the district schools, and have had their love of learning – something pretty much every child is born with – beaten out of them pretty decisively.  It takes a good charter some time to help a kid back to the point where he or she gives a crap again.  With some, it never works.  With others, it does – but rarely overnight.
  • Cooked Testing Books:  After age 16, the big district schools can shunt their less-enthusiastic students, or the ones with difficulties (criminal records, kids of their own, and on and on) off into the “Alternative Learning Centers”, or ALCs.  There, they’re off the books; their test scores aren’t held against the district.  Charters have no such option; every kid’s score counts.

If someone in the educational-industrial complex ever wanted to get the fact about charter schools versus public schools, they could do two things:

  1. Cut The Umbilical Cord:  Let public schools exist on their per-student allotments and whatever money they could raise themselves.  I know.  It’ll never happen.  If it did, over half of public schools would shut down in a year.
  2. Longitudinal Testing:  Every single current comparison of public and charter school achievement relies on straight-up comparisons on how students are doing right now.  They are the average score of every student in the charter school, versus the average of every kid in the public school that hasn’t been shunted into a diversion program.  But if they did a longitudinal study comparing how individual students did over time – specifically, comparing how students who left public schools with low achievement fared over the rest of their educational career, versus control groups of similar kids who stayed in the public systems – that would be more accurate (and, given the graduation rates for Twin Cities public schools, more damning.

But we’ve been through all this before.

The real question today is, what’s behind this latest round of out-of-context piss-balloon-throwing from the educational-industrial complex?  Why are they attacking charter schools this time?    Why is Big Education’s propaganda machine going to work to slag the hundred labors of love that make up the Minnesota charter school sector?

Why?  Oh, why?

Oh, right.   Minorities getting all uppity.   And as they leave the public districts, that’s a lot of jobs, and funding, for the political class that are harder to justify.

It must be stopped.

And that’s why the left’s useful idiots are attacking charters this year.   And next year.

17 thoughts on “The Empire Strikes Back

  1. You seem to only focus on the public education ‘establishment’, while leaving out the dirty story of the for-profit education INDUSTRY. That’s a major national shame, at all levels, and tends to be another total right wing failure.

    The reality is that your precious charters mostly don’t work, can’t cut it, and are a waste of tax payer $$$$. Let ’em hack it, if you’re so pro-choice-education and so pro-free-enterprise, as entirely independent private schools just like any other private or parochial school.

    Charter schools just don’t make the grade. Much the way there is zero evidence that vouchers provide any improvement in educational outcomes.

    Here is the reality; once you disaggregate for poverty levels, our public school — but not so much our charter schools — perform extremely well, competitively internationally, mostly number 1.

    Here’s what the mainstream media will NOT tell you about 2012 PISA. When comparing U.S. schools with less than 10% of students qualifying for free/reduced lunch, here’s how U.S. students (of which almost 25% are considered poor by OECD standards and of which nationally on average about 50% qualify for free/reduced lunch) rank compared to all other countries including one I chose to purposely compare – Finland (of which about 5% are considered poor by OECD standards):

    U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=556 [1st in the world]

    Finland – ranked 4th in the world

    Reading literacy

    U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=559 [1st in the world]

    Finland – ranked 5th in the world

    Mathematics literacy

    U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=540 [5th in the world]

    FInland – ranked 11th in the world
    The NCES also disaggregated the mathematics data further based on seven total proficiency levels (Below Level 1, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 5, and Level 6). The outcomes, as expected, were perfectly aligned with what we would expect in terms of the levels of poverty our students endure. For example, on the mathematics literacy scale, U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced lunch had 94% of students score at a “Level 2″ proficiency or above (a “Level 2″ proficiency equates to being able to use basic mathematics in the workplace), whereas schools with more than 75% free/reduced lunch had 54% of students score at a “Level 2″ proficiency or above, of which 46% of the 54%, scoring at a “Level 2″ proficiency or higher, scored at a “Level 2″ or “Level 3″ proficiency with only 6% scoring at a “Level 4″ proficiency, 2% scoring at a “Level 5″ proficiency, and so few scoring at a “Level 6″ proficiency, the reporting standards were not met. Virtually no students from schools with less than 10% free/reduced lunch ranked at the “Below Level 1″ proficiency (reporting standards were not met), and a mere 5% were ranked at “Level 1″ proficiency. On the flip side, a whopping 46% of students in schools with more than 75% of free/reduced lunch scored at a “Level 1″ proficiency or at “Below Level 1″ proficiency (28% and 18% respectively).

    The dissagregated data for science and reading, based on the various proficiency levels, followed the example set in mathematics, although maybe not quite to the extent of variability when comparing schools with less than 10% free/reduced lunch to schools with more than 75% free/reduced lunch..

    This is not a new phenomenon. For every administration of PISA and TIMSS, when controlling for poverty, U.S. public school students are not only competitive, they downright lead the world. Even at home nationally, when controlling for poverty, public school students compete with private school students in Lutheran, Catholic, and Christian schools when analyzing NAEP data. This is my own synopsis of the Braun (2006) study using large samples of NAEP data and using HLM to compare private school students to public school students
    In 4th grade reading (after adjusting for student characteristics – so an apples to apples comparison can be made based on SES and other student characteristics) it’s a wash – there is no difference in scores between the private schools and the public schools. In 4th grade mathematics, after adjustments, public schools outperformed private schools significantly. In 8th grade Reading, after adjustments, private schools outperformed public schools significantly, with the exception of Conservative Christian schools, which performed similarly to public schools, both of which were outperformed by Catholic and Lutheran students. In 8th grade mathematics, it’s another wash except for a very important caveat. While Catholic schools followed the trend with and without adjustments, Lutheran school and Conservative Christian schools didn’t. Lutheran schools were significantly higher, increasing the average among private schools, while Conservative Christian schools were significantly lower, decreasing the average among private schools.

    One has to wonder why our media continues to barely report the connection between child poverty and their performance at school. The school reformers want nothing to do with it other than to claim there are miracle schools and teachers out there, although upon further analysis these are the schools that usually game the system and do a ‘data dance’ – most namely, charter schools.

    The reports continue to be all about our failing or “mediocre” schools and incompetent teachers. I like the simple observation made by researchers in the past – if the argument is to be made that U.S. public schools and teachers are failing, then we have huddled all of our incompetent teachers and principals in our urban and rural schools, for they are the ones that struggle or “fail” – this is evidenced in the PISA data I provided and appears at every turn when outcomes are disaggregated based upon child poverty. Or are our urban and rural schools and teachers “failing” or “struggling” any more than our urban or rural police forces? Response times are higher in urban and rural areas (for different reasons), and crime rates are higher in our urban areas, so does this mean that our urban and rural police officers are failures? Can you imagine police unions if we were to erase officer tenure, step ladder structure for pay increases, LIFO, and bust their unions – and then demonize them because they can’t seem to solve the crime problems of our urban areas? Can anyone say value-added modeling for police officers estimating their effects on crime rates during their beat? The difference between police officers and teachers, specifically in this analogy, is that we are push-overs, ah-hem, I mean caretakers.”

    Teachers are not the bad guys. Teachers are not the problem. The public education ‘establishment’ is not the problem.

    Increasing wealth and income inequality is the problem. No amount of pandering to your damned charter schools will fix the problem because you don’t correctly identify and define the problem.

    And you oppose what WOULD fix the problem — a better, stronger, more generous, more comprehensive social safety net. That is what distinguishes every country outperforming us in educational outcomes; they have better social safety nets, like Finland.

    The other factor which demostrably improves education outcome is what Dayton wants to improve — more early childhood educatoin. That also conservatives oppose.

    You sir, are the idiot, but NOT a useful one. You embrace ideology, while ignoring any facts that don’t fit or support that ideology. And that is apparently a failure of your own education to instruct you in the value of intellectual honesty.

  2. “You sir, are the idiot, but NOT a useful one. You embrace ideology, while ignoring any facts that don’t fit or support that ideology. And that is apparently a failure of your own education to instruct you in the value of intellectual honesty.”

    Back to masturbating with one hand again eh DG?
    Speaking of education you should ask St Olaf for a refund.

  3. Wow, DG, that’s a great exercise in how to lie with statistics, but it does point out a simple solution to the problem of the public schools’ failures: We simply prohibit all those poor kids from going to school and dragging down the averages. Heck, to be “fair,” we could give each of them a TV and cable, and a $250,000 check when they turn 18. They would learn more and the taxpayers would save a ton of money. You seem quick to dismiss those public, private, or charter schools that seem to do far better with poor kids than the mainstream urban public schools. Why? If it is /possible/ to teach poor kids, why aren’t the schools doing it? Why shouldn’t ALL US kids be #1?

  4. By the way, DG, you didn’t talk about the COST of the splendid education we receive here in the US. Only one OECD country spends more than we do, and our public schools outspend privates and charters, often by 2:1, so based on simple value per dollar, many public schools fail. Not only that, if you run all the statistics, it can be shown that, for Minnesota public schools, the more money we spend the worse the academic results.

    It’s kind of like poverty. The more money we spend to eliminate it, the more of it we seem to get.

  5. DG,

    Everything you wrote – leaving out useless dross like any quote from worthless Big Ed flak Diane Ravich – supports my point. Not yours.

    Your talk at length about how well the school system at large does – but this post is about parents and kids in urban districts, who have objectively missed out on all the happy talk. Yes, our school systems can do OK – outside the city.

    Which is what this post is about. Not, apparently, that you bothered to notice.

    Do you ever actually comprehend what you’re writing about?

  6. DG wrote:

    You embrace ideology, while ignoring any facts that don’t fit or support that ideology. And that is apparently a failure of your own education to instruct you in the value of intellectual honesty





    (BERG gasps for air)


    (BERG gasps, nearly comatose).

    I finally figured it out. It’s absolutely ingenious. Dog Gone is a fiendish parody!

    That’s the only rational answer. Nobody – nobody! – could possibly be that un-self-aware.


    Which brings up the possibility that Eric Pusey’s entire romper room of intellectual midgets is, lock stock and barrel, a parody as well.

    Wow. I’m astounded, if it’s true. Seriously.

  7. I’m fascinated by the Left’s hatred of profit. They can’t bear to think somebody might take in more than they spend, whether it’s a landlord renting out his mother’s house to pay for her nursing home care, the local independent bookstore struggling against Kindle, or a recent immigrant from Africa selling his services as interpreter.

    The opposite of “for-profit” is not “non-profit,” it’s “bankrupt.”

  8. Its more selfish than just hating profit; DG wants to make a profit from her puppy mill, prominent SoMpls communist Ed Felien has made a profit on his businesses and neither one of them has an objection to anyone else making a profit as long as they get to decide whats a fair profit, how it will be used, and that the recipients are ideologically pure all this and as long as they are allowed to “get their beak wet” they have no objection.

    Poor people do not cause revolutions, and rich people certainly don’t, but disposable income in the hands of educated middle class people – that terrifies the Left. That’s why Dear Leader and faithful minions like DG do their best to wring all the cash out of the middle class, facilitating their downward mobility as it were.

  9. The Gopher football team is not a for-profit corporation, although it certainly generates more revenue for the University of Minnesota than it spends. Does anybody imagine those football players are getting a better education than students at McNally Smith College of Music, a for-profit college in downtown St. Paul?

    The financial structure of the educational organization matters less than the background of the students, considerably less than the character of the teachers and immensely less than the ideology of the administators.

    The worst place to learn is where teachers are insulated from accountability by unions/tenure coupled with administrators adamant in their expertise. But it’s the best place to receive indoctrination.

  10. WTF is a “Conservative Christian school”?

    St. Agnes is pretty damn conservative, and it’s Catholic, and it has a sizable minority student population, and it kicks ass on government schools. I’m guessing it’s a dog whistle for brain dead lefty mopes out there looking for some cut ‘n’ paste pap spew.

    That being said, DG’s syntax, grammar and spelling take a decided upturn when she cuts and pastes…so there is that, which is good.

  11. I would like examples (as in names of schools) that are members of the “for profit education industry”. I’ve never heard of such a thing for grades K-12. Sure, day care chains like New Horizons can be for profit. And there are college level education institutions that are for profit (Phoenix, UTI, etc). I don’t know of a grade level school that is “for profit”. I went to Blake, which is an extremely richie rich private school (I went on scholarship for my entire time there, my family was most definitely NOT richie-rich). But they sure as hell depend on a SHITLOAD of alumni donations over and above tuition. I don’t think they’re “for profit”.

  12. Dog Gone said:

    “You sir, are the idiot”

    Yeah, that’s how you can tell you have a really awesome argument: you feel the need to tack some childish name calling on the end.

    I have a cousin who can’t stand arguing with Republicans (or Conservatives, or whatever) because “you just can’t convince them of anything”.

    Like Dog Gone, his inability to mount a persuasive argument has nothing to do with the people he’s trying to “persuade”, and like Dog Gone, he finds it easier to “persuade” people who are already on his side. Where the quoted “persuade” means running your mouth and changing nothing.

  13. “You sir, are the idiot, but NOT a useful one. You embrace ideology, while ignoring any facts that don’t fit or support that ideology. And that is apparently a failure of your own education to instruct you in the value of intellectual honesty.”

    Sing it Bawbwa….
    “Mem’ries, Light the corners of my mind
    Misty water-colored memories
    Of the way we were…”

  14. If Doggone is so worked up about profits, she’s certainly free to tell her employer not to pay her, as wages are after all reflective of the profits for a man’s work. Obviously St. Olaf didn’t teach her any economics.

    Plus, when we have the head of St. Paul government schools telling us that she’s perplexed at how to tell students about a grand jury refusing to indict, you can’t tell me that the poor performance of students in urban districts is not at least partly the result of idiots managing and implementing the whole operation.

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