Comparing Texas Charter and Public Schools

I am copying the entirety of this article. No comments needed from me. How about you? — GFB


Game, Set, and Match—Texas SBOE Member Looks at the Numbers Comparing Charter and Traditional Schools

State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, has taken a look at the performance data of Texas charter schools and traditional public schools operated by independent school districts, and his findings give cold comfort to charter proponents. Here’s Ratliff’s report on those findings and his conclusions published July 13:

Every year the Texas Education Agency releases the “snapshot” of the prior school year’s academic and financial performance for ISD’s and charter schools. These are the facts from the 2012-13 school year (the most recently released report – released last week). Check them for yourself here:

Thomas Ratliff

I offer the following key comparisons between ISDs and charter schools:

Dropout and Graduation Rates:

  • ISDs had a dropout rate of 1.5%, charters had a 5.5% dropout rate
  • ISDs had a 4-year graduation rate of 91%, charters had a 60.6% rate
  • ISDs had a 5-year graduation rate of 92.9%, charters had a 70% rate

Academic Performance:

  • ISDs outperformed charters on 3 out of 5 STAAR tests (Math, Science, Social Studies)
  • ISDs matched charters on the other 2 out of 5 STAAR tests(Reading and Writing)
  • ISDs tested 64.5% for college admissions, charters tested 44.2%
  • ISDs average SAT score was 1422, charters average was 1412
  • ISDs average ACT score was 20.6, charters average was 19.7

Staff expenditures & allocation:

  • ISDs spent 57.4% on instructional expenses, charters spent 50.9%
  • ISDs spent 6% [on] central administrative expenses, charters spent 13%
  • ISDs had 3.8% of employees in central or campus administrative roles
  • Charters had 7.6% of employees in central or campus administrative roles

Teacher salary/experience/turnover and class size

  • ISDs average teacher salary was $49,917, charters average was $43,669
  • ISDs had 15.3 students per teacher, charters had 16.8
  • ISDs had 32.1% of teachers with less than 5 years experience
  • Charters had 75.2% of teachers with less than 5 years experience
  • 24% of ISD teachers had advanced degrees, charters had 17.4%
  • ISDs had a teacher turnover rate of 15.6%, charters had 36.7%


Keep in mind these are statewide numbers and admittedly, there are good and bad ISDs and there are good and bad charter schools. But, at the end of the day, we are talking about the state of Texas as a whole and over 5 million kids and their families.

Here are the conclusions I reach after studying the data and talking to experts, educators and people in my district and across Texas.

1) For at least the second year in a row, ISDs outperformed charter schools on dropout rates, state tests, graduation rates, and college entrance exams. If charters are supposed to be competing with ISDs, they are getting beaten in straight sets (to use a tennis analogy).

2) Charter schools spend more on central administrative expenses and less in the classroom, which leads to larger classes being taught by less experienced teachers.

3) Charter schools pay their teachers $6,248 less per year than ISDs. Many refer to competition from charter schools as a key factor to improving education. I do not see this “competition” helping teachers as some try to claim. The fact is, charters hire teachers with less experience and education to save money. This results in a high turnover rate. Over a third of teachers at charter schools leave when they get more experience or more education. Many times, they go work for a nearby ISD.

In conclusion, when you hear the unending and unsubstantiated rhetoric about “failing public schools” from those that support vouchers or other “competitive” school models, it is important to have the facts. ISDs aren’t perfect, but they graduate more kids, keep more kids from dropping out and get more kids career and college ready than their politically connected competitors. Any claims to the contrary just simply are not supported by the facts and at the end of the day facts matter because these lives matter.

Learning Arabic!

Yesterday, for the very first time, I succeeded in typing a word in Arabic on my smartphone and then got the phone to translate it into English. Instead of the other way around. The word is


  • which is written from right to left, and pronounced “mabsout” or “map-soot” in English.
  • The meaning is appropriate: “happy”, because I’m finally making a little progress, and the translation confirms what I learned 40+ years so living and working and studying Hebrew on a left-wing kibbutz in Israel. At one point I could actually read technical manuals in Hebrew and carry on many conversations, but I didn’t learn much Russian, Arabic, or Yiddish, which I heard a lot of at the time.
  • Not even the Arabic alphabet…
  • As a result I always felt a little stupid because even tho Hebrew and Arabic are pretty closely related, I never had ANY IDEA what words written in Arabic meant– not even obvious place names on trilingual road signs.
  • Yiddish is basically a dialect of German written in Hebrew characters with a good bit of Slavic and Hebrew vocabulary, so I could at least sound that out and if you know any older American or Israeli Jews you know a lot of Yiddish phrases
  • I had already taught myself the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet
  • But I had no clue whatsoever as to how Arabic was written.
  • Now I can sort of sound them out… progress!)👶🏼👅🌞🌟

So this says the same thing in all three languages though Arabic doesn’t have a “v” sound so it’s more like “Tel Abeeb”.

Image may contain: cloud, sky and text
I think that Arabic is one of the hardest languages I’ve tried to learn (up there with Japanese or Chinese) especially since those dots that you see make enormous differences.  For examples, these four letters mean different things:

ذ د ز ر

(R, Z, D, Zh) and similar shapes could also be “B”, “T”, “Th”, “N”, or “Y” depending on dots. Plus colloquial spoken Arabic is different in every Arab country, really different – much more different than British and American or South African English, say. Almost like the differences between Catalan and Castilian.
What’s more, “correct” “modern standard Arabic” is essentially the same language as the Q’ran (Koran) with some modern additions – and which nobody speaks except for announcers and writers of newspapers and books. Can you even imagine reading and writing and having to speak the forms of English, Latin, German, or French that were spoken in the year 800 (when Charlemagne was crowned)? The Koran was recorded over 100 years earlier!


Published in: on April 17, 2017 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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US Cruise Missiles Hit Syrian Air Base

Conclusion of a NYT information article on last night’s strikes: “The decision to launch an attack was a major reversal for Mr. Trump, who criticized former President Barack Obama in 2013 for considering strikes against Syria after a previous chemical attack.” 
There is no side with clean hands there that I know of – not even the far-left Kurdish groups. (I understand that the latter groups are quite happy with the American support that they receive. Who knows how long that will last?)
An engineer I know from Lebanon said that she didn’t really understand why groups were fighting to overthrow Assad in the first place — after all, education and medical care in Syria (up to the start of the civil war) were free and quite good.
No American newspaper or media agency of any sort that I know of has reporters on all sides of the various front lines; most don’t have a single reporter anywhere inside Iraq. We know from the first and second Gulf wars against Iraq that embedding reporters with any one side necessarily means that the information that comes out from those reporters will be slanted towards that side — or else the reporter is declared persona non grata or worse (arrested, tortured, deported, or even murdered). Let us remember that being an honest reporter can be very, very dangerous. If correspondent tells the truth and it hurts somebody, repercussions can be quite severe. To be called an ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘the most dishonest people ever’ by the politician who has told more bald-faced lies than any other figure I can think of in American history, is threatening.
One thing I like about this map – from IS Janes  via the NYT – is that the colors are much better than usual, so you can see who controls what territory.

Vouchers in Ohio Help Students Who REMAIN in Public School, and Harm Those Who Use the Vouchers to Attend Public Schools!

The Fordham Institute is one of the major backers of ‘choice’, vouchers, and charter schools — and of defunding public schools. So it’s quite a surprise when they publish a major study showing that students who use vouchers actually do WORSE than their peers who remain in the public schools.

You are probably thinking that I am joking or exaggerating.


I will quote from the executive summary:

• EdChoice improved the achievement of the public school students who were eligible for the voucher but did not use it. …

• The students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools. The study finds negative effects that are greater in math than in English language arts. Such impacts also appear to persist over time, suggesting that the results are not driven simply by the setbacks that typically accompany any change of school.

Let us acknowledge that we did not expect—or, frankly, wish—to see these negative effects for voucher participants; but it’s important to report honestly on what the analysis showed and at least speculate on what may be causing these results.

It’s not so much that we have bad teachers (even tho they do exist): It’s an incoherent educational system that is at fault

Very interesting article in Atlantic by E.D. Hirsch on the problems facing American education. Among other things, he finds (as I do) that Value-Added Measurements are utterly unreliable and, indeed, preposterous. But most of all, he finds that the American educational system is extremely poorly run because its principal ideas lack any coherence at all.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

The “quality” of a teacher doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Within the average American primary school, it is all but impossible for a superb teacher to be as effective as a merely average teacher is in the content-cumulative Japanese elementary school. For one thing, the American teacher has to deal with big discrepancies in student academic preparation while the Japanese teacher does not. In a system with a specific and coherent curriculum, the work of each teacher builds on the work of teachers who came before. The three Cs—cooperation, coherence, and cumulativeness—yield a bigger boost than the most brilliant efforts of teachers working individually against the odds within a system that lacks those qualities. A more coherent system makes teachers better individually and hugely better collectively.

American teachers (along with their students) are, in short, the tragic victims of inadequate theories. They are being blamed for the intellectual inadequacies behind the system in which they find themselves. The real problem is not teacher quality but idea quality. The difficulty lies not with the inherent abilities of teachers but with the theories that have watered down their training and created an intellectually chaotic school environment. The complaint that teachers do not know their subject matter would change almost overnight with a more specific curriculum with less evasion about what the subject matter of that curriculum ought to be. Then teachers could prepare themselves more effectively, and teacher training could ensure that teacher candidates have mastered the content they will be responsible for teaching.”


Low College Completion Rates even for students graduating from Charter Schools

I’d like to thank Jerry Becker for bringing this to my attention.

And not just MesoAmerica!

This is important stuff! The roots of democracy run deep, and wide — ancient history was not all ruled by pharoahs, emperors, and gilded billionaires.

An article describes research I never heard of that shows that there was in fact quite a continuum from pure democracy to pure autarchy in past history — and if we look carefully at clues left behind in the archaelogical record, we can get an idea of how democratic (0r not) various ancient societies actually were.

I quote:

They come up with a scale of popular participation in government that runs from autocratic regimes to more collective or democratic regimes. In their causal model the internal or external origin of state revenues causes or determines the scores on the governance scale (see the diagram). In short, reliance on internal revenue sources leads to greater bureaucratization, greater popular control over rulers, and more provisioning of public goods. Rulers rely on their subjects for taxation, so they must treat them better. External revenue leads to the opposite pattern. Rulers get their revenue from elsewhere, so they have no incentive to treat their subjects well by providing public goods or giving them any say in governance.

Blanton & Fargher 2008: 254

Blanton and Fargher’s scale of rulership, which runs from autocratic to democratic or collective, is a major advance in understanding ancient states. Not all states were the same. Some rulers were despotic and seriously exploited their subjects, but other states had more collective forms of rule, which means that commoner subjects had some say in governance. They analyze the thirty polities in their sample on a host of variables, which are scored in various ways to produce three numerical scales: public goods provision; bureaucratization; and control of the ruler. The scores for these scales are summed to produce their governance scale, which runs from a low of 23.5 (Bakitara; Aceh, Nupe, and 12th century England are near the bottom) to a high of 52 (Classical Athens; also near the top: Republican Rome, Ming China and Lozi in Africa).

How Poorly Distributed Wealth is, is simply Mind-Blowing

I just looked it up: The total amount of wealth (after debts) of all US households, individuals, and non-profits is right now in the neighborhood of $100 TRILLION. (The WSJ said $85 trillion, two years ago). Yes, you read that right, not 100 million, not 100 billion, but a hundred trillion dollars.

Are you impressed? It gets better! — or, at least, it could.

If we could somehow wave a magic wand and divide all that wealth equally among all 125 million US million households (source here for that #) well, after you cross out all those zeroes (or subtract exponents), then each and every single household would NET just about eight hundred thousand dollars.

$800,000 bucks for every single household.

Think about that!

A very large fraction of the population is in fact basically penniless – or they owe way more than they can earn in a year. Or are one or two paychecks away from eviction, foreclosure, bankruptcy, the whole nine yards. And I’m pretty sure this includes the black and brown immigrants who are cleaning and constructing our buildings, fixing our roads, driving our cabs, taking care of gardens and babies, and let’s not forget, picking our vegetables and fruits and slaughtering our meat. Yes, them, too.

I know there are going to be plenty of complaints that the poor and the underserving don’t deserve this, and when you give money to the poor, it’s all spent on booze and drugs. Well, if you let money sit in the hands of the super-rich, they simply cannot spend it all – one of the first things I learned from a very conservative Dartmouth College economics professor nearly 50 years ago. How many houses or yachts or cars can a single hyper-wealthy household actually USE?

Poor folks, on the other hand, spend it all immediately, so it gets transferred to other businesses (car dealers, furniture stores, clothing stores, and grocery stores) almost as soon as it gets into their hands.

Obviously my mental magic trick is never going to happen – but it’s sure fun to think about!

300 Scientists Claim There is no Climate Change …

But what type of scientists are they?

This rather funny article I found in The Guardian shows that almost none of them have any actual experience in the study of climate changes.

Here is an excerpt:

There many are other examples that list no degree, affiliation, or expertise, such as:

BEE, Roger: ();

BEETHAM, Barry: ();

I guess having a first and last name are sufficient to be included in this list of eminent scientists. Sadly, the list also includes William Happer, who is under consideration for the position of President Trump’s science advisor, and also a couple of fellows we know to be quite nutty.

Finally, how about the person who appeared to orchestrate this letter, Richard Lindzen? Well, he may be best known for taking contrarian views on climate change that are not substantiated by the research, and being wrong on all of them. In fact, he has put forward multiple studies that were shown to be incorrect or questionable by his colleagues in the field. 

A summary that I coauthored of his work is available here with links to all of the relevant studies so people can read for themselves. In fact, one of his studies was rebutted by three separate papers within a year of publication. This is astonishing – most papers are never rebutted. In fact, I would venture that most scientists never have a paper rebutted in their entire career.

What is the takeaway message? As I’ve said many times, the science is settled. Human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing the Earth’s climate to change. It’s practically impossible to find a reputable climate scientist who disagrees, or a climate scientist who can support an alternative view. It is also very difficult to find a scientist who thinks that the warming isn’t a problem, or isn’t significantly caused by humans. But, this isn’t a lack of trying on their side.

When the folks denying human influence on climate can only generate the type of signatures attached to this letter, it shows that while they are good at getting press, they are not good at climate science.

Of course, press may be all they ever wanted in the first place.

Published in: on February 28, 2017 at 1:17 am  Comments (1)  

How ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Policies Harm All Students


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The author, Derek Black told Jennifer Berkshire that “…some of the charter schools you’re referencing actually take it to one more level. They say ‘you don’t think we can? Just watch us. We’re going to have suspension and expulsion rates higher than anything you’ve ever seen before.’

“I think the difference between the charter system and the public system, which is really what my book is about, is that the public system doesn’t really get rid of its students; they come back. The charter school doesn’t have the responsibility of serving the community and all of its children, so that what it’s trying to do is sort of slash and burn.

“I suppose that one can slash and burn all of the low achievers and the troublemakers until there is no one left. It’s not that they’ve made the students who are left perform better, but that they’ve lopped off their low performers.”

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