Friday, December 24, 2010

Montell's New Charter Bill

This from BizLex:

Rep. Brad Montell pre-files charter school
legislation for the 2011 session

Five year pilot program seeks to allow
20 charter schools in Kentucky

Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville (58th District), today pre-filed legislation for the 2011 session that if passed would allow the establishment of charter schools in Kentucky. If approved Montell's bill would set up a five-year pilot program for charter schools in the Commonwealth, and allow the creation of up to 20 charter schools...

"Because Kentucky doesn't currently allow for charter schools, it cost us two different opportunities to receive Federal funding through the Race to the Top program. Those funds could have been used to prepare our best and brightest students for the challenges of a growing global economy," said Montell. "It is
time that we bring our commonwealth back to educational prominence and permit charter schools in Kentucky."

In addition to allowing the creation of charter schools under a five-year pilot program, Montell's bill proposes other related changes:

• Creation of the Kentucky Public Charter Schools Commission, which would oversee the charter schools program in the commonwealth. While the commission would act independently from the Kentucky Department of Education, its board members would be appointed by the governor.

• Allow public universities and local school districts, if they choose, to establish, manage and oversee their own charter schools.

• Each charter school would have its own board, elected by voters, which would be responsible for overseeing and managing its own particular school.

Currently 40 states allow communities to establish charter schools, including all states that border Kentucky except for West Virginia. Montell says his bill takes into account all the lessons learned by other states in allowing for charter schools, making the proposal one of the most comprehensive in the nation.

"All of us have grown up in public schools. Just because charter schools may look or operate a little differently from what we're used to, it doesn't mean that the educational opportunities are any less valid that those offered by the traditional public schools," Montell added. "What it does mean is that charter schools will allow us to do more innovative things to improve the level of education for our children, and once again establish Kentucky as a model for learning in the United States."

This from the American School Board Journal:

Traditional Schools Serve All Who Come

Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J...has not wilted in the face of [overwhelming] obstacles. It offers a vast array of services to students and their families, including a health clinic, family counseling, crisis counseling, tutoring programs, daycare for teen parents, and a well-attended Junior ROTC program. Principal Tyrone Richards, a Camden native, is by all accounts a dynamic principal. He has received awards from the district for his strong focus on reducing absenteeism, reforming suspension policies, and improving graduation.

The school also is doing a lot to personalize instruction. It offers a “bridge” program over the summer for rising ninth-graders and has a self-contained Ninth Grade Academy for about 300 freshmen. Two years ago, the academy created the Renaissance Program to honor students who have good attendance and behavior and are attaining a C average or better. Depending on their GPAs, students can earn Blue, Orange, Silver, or Gold cards to enter the program, which has its own club room.

Supports like the Renaissance Program are there for those who reach for them, but it’s clear from the graduation statistics that many do not or are incapable of doing so. But Richards and Camden school board President Susan Dunbar-Bey say the reported 57.5 percent graduation rate for 2009 exaggerates the dropout rate: It doesn’t account for students who move out of the district-- or out of the country to places like Puerto Rico. (About half the students are Hispanic, and nearly half are African American.)

And this:

Who Chooses Charter Schools?

It's not hard to understand why Marlene Gonzalez decided to take her son out of the Camden, N.J., school system. Young Christian was safe enough in his neighborhood elementary school, but his mother kept hearing of low test scores, student bullying, and occasional violence in the city middle and high schools he’d eventually be expected to attend.

Meanwhile, she’d heard talk of a charter school with an eight-hour school day and 200-day school year program that promoted extensive after-school activities, support for families, a safe and orderly school environment, smaller class sizes, and a goal of a 100 percent graduation rate and college placement for all.

It was just the educational setting Gonzalez wanted for her son. So she applied to the LEAP Academy University Charter School. After four years on its waiting list, she got the call for Christian to enroll-- and not a minute too soon, in her mind.

“One of my worries was him going into middle school,” she says. “The schools within Camden are tough.”

Not just tough-- but troubled. With a high unemployment rate and an average household income of less than half of the state average, Camden is a profoundly poor and struggling city-- and its schools pay the price for the social woes that surround its children. Take Camden High, for example, which once was named one of the most “persistently dangerous” schools in New Jersey.

More than 60 percent of its students never graduate, and only 42.6 percent test as proficient on the state’s high school language arts exam, while only 19.4 percent score as well on the math exam.

Ironically, Gonzalez admits, her son was doing well at his local elementary school-- and might have fared well academically at one of the high schools. But she wasn’t going to chance it. Not when a charter school seemed to offer a better choice.

And this:

School Choice: Who Gets Left Behind?

How can we fix low-performing schools?

It’s been the question on educators’ minds for decades, and solutions have been elusive. However, since the passage of No Child Left Behind almost a decade ago, the pressure to improve student achievement has only intensified at the federal level and in the eyes of the public.

One solution touted is charter schools, which receive taxpayer dollars and have greater flexibility in staffing, curriculum, and fundraising while facing the same accountability as traditional public schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has urged states with caps on charters to raise them, and many have complied in an effort to access the much-desired Race to the Top funds.

The broader debate about charters is playing out in the public sphere. A media blitz that started this fall-- from the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” to NBC’s “Education Nation,” to Oprah Winfrey’s two shows on school reform-- has all but anointed charters as the future (perhaps the only viable future) for public education.

Are charters the answer?

Studies show that most perform no better than regular public schools, and that many do far worse. Some do excel, or at least perform marginally better than the traditional schools, but this very success raises a host of additional questions that school leaders must confront: Do they cull the best performers from the regular public schools, leaving the remaining students worse off than before? And, if so, is this a proper trade-off for giving at least some families more options?

This from the School Administrator:

The Central Office in a Decentralized System

As the charter school movement has come to scale within the United States, it poses new questions about how to govern public education. By next year in New Orleans, an estimated seven in 10 children will attend charter schools. With a significant rural contingent, charter schools are no longer just an urban phenomenon. The rapid growth of charters nationally will likely accelerate in the next few years as several states recently raised or eliminated charter school caps. Their expansion begs the question: What is the role of a school district in a decentralized environment where a majority or even all of its public schools are charter schools?

Partly in response to the growth in charter schools, Paul Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, coined the term “portfolio district” to describe a school district that authorizes and manages diverse providers of public schooling —
district-run or externally led traditional schools, alternative schools, small schools within schools, and cyber or charter schools.

In concept, a portfolio district would act like a fund manager overseeing a portfolio of investments. A school district would establish performance expectations and foster differentiation among its schools to serve various segments of its market. And just as a fund manager sells underperforming stocks, a portfolio district will close failing schools, allowing for new ones to take their place...

Hat tip to KSBA


Anonymous said...

RE: School Choice: Who Gets Left Behind?

What studies show charters don't perform better than public schools?

Can you provide some examples?

Also, I've seen charter opponents criticize charters for dumping kids who don't perform, but I have not seen any definitive studies that prove that is happening.

Furthermore, don't public schools also move kids to alternative schools and experience a lot of high school dropouts? Isn't that rather similar to what charter schools are accused of doing?

Have you seen any compelling research on these issues?

Richard Day said...

Actually, most studies have shown ambivalent results. I do not think it's correct to say that charters are worse. It seems to me that the proper characterization of the research is that - taken as a whole - they are no better. There are good and bad schools of all varieties.

Kentucky should approve charters to improve persistently low performing schools but be careful to maintain oversight.

What seems to be most accurate is to say that being a charter school is NOT the variable that makes the difference.

In all cases it seems to be the resolve of the community to create and nurture something special in the school environment and we see that in public schools and charter schools and private schools alike. There are some real stinkers out there, but there are also some success stories.

I agree that districts do the same kind of thing already - not so much with alternative schools (since they are typically associated with "problem" kids) but with magnet schools. Magnets cream some top students from neighborhood schools jsut as charters would.

There appears to be stronger evidence that charters serve fewer special ed students.

Here's some of what you asked for: