Charter schools: more diversity, more poverty, similar results

sassEvery year the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) releases its School and Staffing Survey, a treasure mine of interesting education tidbits for education data geeks.

According to the latest (collected from 14,000 schools during the 2011-12 school year), 64 percent of private school 12th graders will go on to a 4-year college or university but only 39.5 percent of traditional public school students and 37.2 percent of charter school students will do the same.

But don’t get too excited. Some caution is needed before making a conclusion about the impact of these schools because there are big differences regarding students and teachers at these schools. For example, private schools are much whiter and more affluent than public schools. That might explain some of the 25 percentage point advantage in college enrollment rates.

But if being whiter and more affluent helps private schools, it doesn’t seem to do much for traditional public schools when compared to charter schools. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Rick Scott, Tony Bennett, charter schools & more

Rick Scott: Florida’s governor is in the middle of a tug-of-war over education that could reshape the state’s schools while also turning upside down the 2016 presidential race. Associated Press.

florida-roundup-logoTony Bennett: Sunshine State News reports that it was Tony Bennett’s successor in Indiana, Glenda Ritz, formerly head of the teachers union in Washington Township schools, who turned over Bennett’s emails to the Associated Press.

Charter schools: Palm Beach County school district officials recommend the board approve a 90-day termination notice for two iGeneration Empowerment Academy schools after a last-minute location change and a host of fire code problems. Palm Beach Post. McKeel Academy schools in Polk County give up making their own meals in favor of a food service company’s healthy offerings. The Ledger. After two Fs, Imagine Middle School in Pinellas County asks the state for a waiver to stay open. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher raises: About 100 Orange County teachers frustrated by the slow pace of bargaining over raises crowd into a school board meeting to encourage board members to “fund what you value.” Orlando Sentinel.

9/11: Four Duval County high school seniors in a Junior ROTC class share memories of the terrorists attacks. Florida Times-Union.

Dropouts: The Orange County school district tries a new dropout prevention program that has officials knocking on parents’ doors and re-registers 224 students. Orlando Sentinel. The No. 1 reason students drop out of high school? Classes aren’t interesting. Orlando Sentinel.

Contamination: At least four Miami-Dade public schools will have soil samples tested for contamination from an old city incinerator. Miami Herald.

50th anniversary: Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, a private Catholic high school for girls in South Miami-Dade, opened 50 years ago in two rooms and today serves 824 students. Miami Herald.

Teachers: Many new teachers feel overwhelmed because they are often assigned to the most difficult schools. StateImpact Florida’s continuing series, Classroom Contemplations, looks at one teacher who left her school to work with death row inmates.

Bullying: A 12-year-old Lakeland girl is found dead in what her family is calling an apparent suicide after she endured more than a year of online bullying. The Ledger. A 13-year-old Polk County student starts a nonprofit organization in reaction to the bullying he endured because of his diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome, and garners national attention. The Ledger.

Budgets: The Polk County School Board approves a $758.3 million general fund budget focused on student achievement, struggling readers, Common Core curriculum standards, and low-performing schools. The Ledger. The Lee County School Board OKs a $1.3 billion budget for the 2013-14 school year. Fort Myers News-Press. The Pinellas County School Board unanimously approves a $1.3 billion budget for 2013-14 that includes pay raises for teachers and a smaller tax rate for property owners. Tampa Bay Times.

Cell towers: Collier County school board members hear from concerned citizens about a cell phone tower planned for a local elementary. Naples Daily News.

Technology: An Escambia County high school is the recipient of 40 new computers donated in honor of a pioneering principal. Pensacola News Journal. For the first time, Hillsborough County public school students can – with permission from their teachers – use personal devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops in the classroom. The Tampa Tribune.

Conduct: A Hillsborough County high school student faces a weapons charge after he shows a gun to a classmate. The Tampa Tribune.


Florida schools roundup: Common Core, charter schools, school nurses & more

florida-roundup-logoCommon Core: On Hernando County School Board members’ discussion of the new standards: “If there was one bright spot in board members’ critique of Common Core it was that they accidentally made a beautiful argument in the standards’ favor,” writes columnist Dan DeWitt for the Tampa Bay Times. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education reaches out to the Pasco school district get the word out to parents about Common Core. Tampa Bay Times.

School nurses: School health clinics re-imagine the role of school nurses with more programs that could help students earn better grades. StateImpact Florida.

Conduct: A former Hillsborough County elementary school principal receives six consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty to two murders, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery. Tampa Bay Times.

Bus fees: Thousands of Lake County students who lost their bus service to school this year will soon be able to pay a fee to ride while others will get free rides if their walking route is considered dangerous by a new school board-created standard. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher pay: Manatee County school leaders and the local teachers union reach an agreement that will restore some of the salaries frozen or cut in past years. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 

Conversion charter: Manatee County School Board leaders approve the district’s first conversion charter school – Monroe Rowlett Academy of Arts and Communication, which will open next fall. Bradenton Herald.

Budgets: The Manatee County School Board postpones the final vote on the budget to give the public time to review it. Bradenton Herald.

9/11 tribute: Two Providence Community School students in Manatee County promote a 9/11 project to make sure their community and fellow students never lose awareness of the tragic day. Bradenton Herald.

Science fair: A Leon County middle school student has been named a finalist in the Broadcom MASTERS national science fair. Tallahassee Democrat.


Markets can undermine social justice aims of charter schools

Editor’s note: This guest post is by Chris Lubienski, professor of education policy at the University of Illinois, where he is director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education. He is at



Some social justice advocates are quite enthralled with the possibilities of school choice. While district and enrollment boundaries reflect segregated residential patterns in the U.S., choice allows families to select schools across these artificial barriers, eradicating an important institutional impediment to equity. Moreover, schools then must compete to attract students, just like businesses strive to attract customers.

Charter schools reflect these ideals. It’s worth remembering that some of the early adopters of this innovation were progressive educators frustrated by the disservice that district-run public schools were doing to marginalized children. Charter schools embody the advantages of choice: giving parents alternatives, creating competition with public school districts, and offering the possibility of more socially integrated education based on interest, not race or residence. Compared to, say, vouchers, charters are the choice policy most favored by liberals. (Of course, charters also are embraced by conservative market advocates.)

Since the charter movement began, there have been debates about whether charter schools represent privatization. The recent issue of the Oxford Review of Education, which focuses on privatization, education and social justice, considers such questions and the equity implications.

In the classic sense of the term, it’s difficult to argue that charter schools “privatize” public education. Unlike, say, the transfer of state-run industries to private owners in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, ownership of public schools is generally not being shifted to private hands. In fact, one could argue the opposite is happening, as some private schools have opted into the publicly funded system to become charter schools, and many families have left tuition-based private schools for “free” taxpayer-funded charter schools.

Yet it’s also difficult to ignore the large-scale shift in American educational governance. Within a few short years, large swaths of urban systems run by elected school boards have been transferred to private (for-profit and non-profit) management groups. In Los Angeles, 100,000 students are now in charter schools.  More than 1 in 3 public school students in Detroit, Kansas City and the District of Columbia now attend privately run charter schools. Policymakers are aggressively shutting down Chicago’s neighborhood public schools and inviting in private charter operators. Louisiana embraced charter schools as the primary reform model for re-making public education in post-Katrina New Orleans, where some 80 percent of students now attend charter schools. This is a remarkable record for a school model that didn’t exist 25 years ago.

So in this broader view, it would seem charters serve as a vehicle for moving governance of public education away from public control. Moreover, the charter movement is serving as the primary entry point for private investment seeking to reconfigure public education into a site for profit-making. Continue Reading →


Rick Hess on school choice, Common Core and for-profits in education



For those who dismiss the potential upside of for-profits in education, Rick Hess asks them to consider virtually every other aspect of their lives.

“Think about other big investments people make: their house, their car, their tablet or smartphone,” wrote Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, in a live chat on redefinED today. “If you told folks that they could get a house or car made by a nonprofit, they wouldn’t think it was better – odds are, they’d look at you like you were nuts.”

“Fact is, in most of American life, something being a for-profit is generally regarded as a good thing – and government-provided services are frequently regarded as mediocre, or suspect. It’s not immediately clear to me that it ought to be expected to be different in education.”

We asked Hess to join us because he has co-edited a new book on for-profits in education, “Private Enterprise and Public Education.” But over the course of an hour, he weighed in on a wide range of topics. Among the highlights:

On Jeb Bush, his presidential ambitions and Common Core: “Jeb’s got a remarkable track record on education. But, especially in GOP primaries, his full-throated backing of Common Core could trump the rest.”

On President Obama and his administration’s lawsuit against vouchers in Louisiana: “It’s a good move if Obama is trying to score points with the teacher unions and traditional education establishment, or if he’s trying to extend the reach of the federal government in education. It’s a bad move for the affected kids in Louisiana or if he’s interested in trying to claim bipartisan support for his education agenda.”

On Florida, Common Core and PARCC: “I think it’s likely Florida will drop PARCC. Will be interesting to see what follows. … This is the fascinating thing about the Common Core; for it to deliver on its promise, a ton of stuff has to go right. For it to not deliver, only a couple little things have to go south.”

On a criticism school choice supporters should take to heart: Don’t dismiss suburban parents who don’t want their schools to invite in low-performing students through choice plans. “Choice advocates have denounced such parents and communities, and even implied they’re racist. It might be useful to recognize that they’ve worked hard, played by the rules, and sought to provide their kids a good education … Empathetic reform would start by taking these issues seriously, and asking how to frame a win-win agenda.”

You can replay the chat here:


Florida schools roundup: Tony Bennett, charter schools, teacher raises & more

Tony Bennett: A new report finds the school grading formula changes that former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett made in Indiana in 2012 were “plausible” and “consistently applied” to all schools. StateImpact Florida. More from Tampa Bay Times. More from the Associated Press. The report showcases the problems with implementing a radically new school-rating system. Education Week. “We finally have a resolution,” writes Rick Hess for Education Week. “The headline: Bennett exonerated.” What if Tony Bennett was right and the Associated Press got it wrong? writes a guest columnist for Journal & Courier.

florida-roundup-logoSchool discipline: A Broward County student’s expulsion for bringing a taser to school to stay safe sparks discussion about the district’s discipline policy. Sun Sentinel.

Charter schools: Proponents of the nontraditional public schools in Palm Beach County say their growth may be easing crowding in district-run schools. Palm Beach Post. The Palm Beach County School Board votes this week on a charter school application from the City of West Palm Beach. Palm Beach Post. Central Florida school boards will consider nearly three dozen charter school applications in the coming weeks. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher raises: St. Lucie and Martin county school teachers may see less of a pay raise than expected.  TC Palm. Brevard Public Schools and its teachers union will go before a special magistrate later this month to decide teacher salaries. Florida Today.

Tutoring: Changes at the state level have given the Lee County school district and others across Florida more control over tutoring services, also known as supplemental education services or SES. Fort Myers News-Press.

Superintendents: Hillsborough County Superintendent MaryEllen Elia receives high praise and highly critical marks in her annual eval. Tampa Bay Times.

Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: DOJ on the defensive, vouchers in Indiana, charter schools in California & more

MondayRoundUp_whiteAlabama: 719 students transfer schools under the new school choice law, with 52 attending private schools (, Dothan Eagle).

California: AB 917 will make it even harder to convert a public school to a charter school. Currently the law requires half of all teachers to approve the conversion but the new bill would require half of all employees – regardless of whether they teach students – to approve the conversion (Fox and Hound Daily). California charter schools are turning to grants to stay afloat and afford capital expenses (Fresno Bee).

Indiana: The state attorney general issues an opinion which states special education voucher students attending private schools can continue to receive special needs services from local public schools (Courier Journal). A new report ranks Indiana No. 1 for education reform (Eagle Country Online). A faith-based alternative private school has been approved to accept voucher students, but only one student will apply for a voucher since the state already paid for the education of the other students (Chronicle-Tribune).

Louisiana: Some school choice students face an hour-long bus ride to school, but their parents say it’s well worth it (The Advocate). The state files to delay the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the fledgling voucher program (The Advocate, Times-Picayune).

Massachusetts: More than 40,000 students are on wait-lists for charter schools and the Boston Herald editorial staff weighs in, blaming  the size of the wait-list on Democrats who caved to pressure from charter school opponents and created artificial barriers to enrollment and growth (Boston Herald). Continue Reading →


I’m conservative, I’m for school choice and I back Common Core

Wendy Howard: Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Wendy Howard: Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Editor’s note: Wendy Howard is executive director of Florida Alliance for Choices in Education, a group that includes a wide range of school choice organizations, including Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog. A shorter version of this post ran this week as a letter to the editor in the Tampa Bay Times. Given Wendy’s conservative political bent, her staunch support for school choice and the concerns about Common Core, we thought it worthwhile to share a fuller version.

With attacks on the Common Core State Standards for education coming from both sides of the aisle, what are parents to think?

I’ve heard Common Core is Obama’s agenda to indoctrinate our children. I’ve heard it’s an unconstitutional federal takeover. I’ve even heard it’s a scheme to perform experiments nationwide on our next generation. After doing some research, I learned none of those concerns hold water. The bickering continues, however, while our children suffer the consequences.

The fact is, our kids need higher standards for education. Let’s look at a couple of disconcerting facts from the perspective of a parent with two children attending a public charter school.

Forty percent of Florida’s class of 2013 who took the ACT college entrance exam were graded “not college ready” in any subject, which is higher than the national average of 31 percent. As a parent, this has huge financial implications. If my children are part of these statistics, I will have to pay for remedial classes in college, something I simply cannot afford. As a taxpayer, I expect my child’s diploma to mean she actually succeeded in high school and can move right into college courses. As a nation, millions of kids and their parents are impacted each year when that turns out not to be the case.

Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Here’s another troubling statistic: Thirty percent of high school graduates can’t pass the U.S. military entrance exam, which is only focused on basic reading and math skills. At what point does the lack of high standards become a national security issue? If the learning gap between the U.S. and other countries continues to rise, which country becomes the next super power? What does our country look like in 20, 40, 60 years? I guess that depends on whether we look at the achievement gap between the U.S. and other countries as a crisis – or another issue we kick down the road. Continue Reading →