How to decide if anybody should listen to your ideas on how and whether to re-open schools, or maybe you should just hush.

Peter Greene has provided a nice flow chart to let you decide whether you should open your mouth with your ideas on how and whether to re-open the public schools, or whether you should just be quiet and listen.

So, should you just hush, or do you have something valuable to contribute to this subject?

My wife and I each taught for 30 years or so, and so we would be in the ‘speak right up’ category, but I don’t really know how the USA can get public education to work next year, especially since the danger is not going away, but apparently once more growing at an exponential clip.

Nobody should be listening to billionaires or their bought-and-paid-for policy wonks who once spent a whole two years in a classroom.

A few quotes from Greene’s column. (He is a much better writer than me, and much more original as well.)

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To everyone who was never a classroom teacher but who has some ideas about how school should be reopened in the fall:

Hush.

Just hush.

There are some special categories of life experiences. Divorce. Parenthood. Deafness. Living as a Black person in the US. Classroom teacher. They are very different experiences, but they all have on thing in common.

You can read about these things. But if you haven’t lived it, you don’t know. You can study up, read up, talk to people. And in some rare cases that brings you close enough to knowing that your insights might actually be useful.

But mostly, you are a Dunning-Krueger case study just waiting to be written up.

The last thirty-seven-ish years of education have been marked by one major feature– a whole lot of people who just don’t know, throwing their weight around and trying to set the conditions under which the people who actually do the work will have to try to actually do the work. Policy wonks, privateers, Teach for America pass-throughs, guys who wanted to run for President, folks walking by on the street who happen to be filthy rich, amateurs who believe their ignorance is a qualification– everyone has stuck their oar in to try to reshape US education. And in ordinary times, as much as I argue against these folks, I would not wave my magic wand to silence them, because 1) educators are just as susceptible as anyone to becoming too insular and entrenched and convinced of their own eternal rightness and 2) it is a teacher’s job to serve all those amateurs, so it behooves the education world to listen, even if what they hear is 98% bosh.

But that’s in ordinary times, and these are not ordinary times.

There’s a whole lot of discussion about the issues involved in starting up school this fall. The discussion is made difficult by the fact that all options stink. It is further complicated by the loud voices of people who literally do not know what they are talking about.

Do DC Charter Schools Have the Secret for Preventing High School Dropouts?

The conventional wisdom is that urban charter schools do a much better job than public schools at getting their students to graduate from high school and go to college.

But audited figures from the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education over the past ten years show that despite all the advantages and extra corporate funding of charter schools, the attrition rates from both types of schools is essentially the same, and is very high.

The graphs and tables below show that both public and charter schools in DC have a serious attrition problem, in that large proportions of the students enrolled and counted in October of their 9th grade have somehow vanished by the time that the cohort of 12th graders is officially counted in October.

This attrition rate is serious in both cases: over the past decade, about 44 percent of the high school freshmen (9th graders), in BOTH the DC public schools and the DC charter schools, have gone missing when it is time for them to be counted as seniors (12th graders). The differences in attrition rates are trivial: 43% for the charter schools and 45% for the public schools.

Our data does NOT tell us where these students have gone. Some probably moved or transferred to another state, or went to a private or parochial school, or have been incarcerated, but a significant fraction of them of them probably flat-out dropped out of school. It would be wonderful if there was a source of data that tracked where these students actually went, but let’s not hold our breath waiting for that data to be gathered and released.

Think of the advantages of the charter schools in recruiting their students: a parent has to somehow navigate the application system, fill out the lottery form, appear for interviews, and agree to the behavior and attendance and work requirements — all of which will eliminate a large fraction of the hardest-to-reach students who have parents who are simply non-functional. However, for all of their boasts of 100% graduation rates, the DC charter schools either expel or push out large fractions of their incoming high school students, or those students withdraw on their own (for whatever reasons we can only guess at).

dcps hs attrition

 

 

dc charter high school attrition


Other than the colors and the total count of students, you will not notice much of a difference between the two graphs shown above. The first one shows how the students in the regular DC public high schools have been disappearing from the rolls (or not) over the past 9 years, and the second one shows how the students in the DC charter high schools have been disappearing over the past 8 years.

My conclusion?

High school dropouts are a very serious problem in Washington DC, and that attrition rate is virtually the same in both the regular public schools and in the charter schools. The charter schools do NOT have a magic wand that has solved the problem.

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I also attach charts showing the entire enrollment, by grade level and year, for all of DC public schools and all of the DC charter schools, for the past decade. These tables were painstakingly gathered by Erich Martel, a retired DC social studies teacher (last at Phelps and Wilson), who has been raking through files showing administrative malfeasance for a very long time in the administration of DC public schools. His source has been the official audited enrollment figures published by OSSE (Office of the State Superintendent of Education).

dc public school audited enrollment 2002-2013

 

dc charter school audited enrollment 2003 through 2013
The colors are important here, because they allow you to follow a cohort, or age-group, diagonally down and to the right, as they proceed through their years in school. For example, the charter school “Class of 2012” in our last graph is the magenta diagonal that reaches the 12th grade in 2011-12. This group started in the fourth grade, in SY 2003-4, with 843 students. The next year, in 5th grade, in SY 2004-5, it had 919 students. Obviously some students entered this cohort at some point between October 2003 and 2004 (and most likely some kids departed as well; the data does not tell us how much churn took place, only the net loss or gain). This magenta-colored cohort reached its maximum size in the 7th grade, with two thousand, one hundred nineteen students. By the beginning of 9th grade, that cohort had 1,971 students, and by October of 2011, at the beginning of their senior year, the overall charter school cohort that I am calling the “Class of 2012” had shrunk to 987 students,  which is almost exactly half the size that it was when it began the 9th grade in 2008 with 1971 students. So I say that the attrition rate for that class was 50%, since 50% of the incoming high school freshman class has somehow vanished by the time that the rest of the cohort reached 12th grade.

I am not aware of any single DC charter school or public school that goes all the way from pre-school through 12th grade. However, as far as I have seen, every public or charter school that offers 9th grade now goes all the way to 12th grade, so it seems quite fair to examine the attrition rate for charter and regular public schools as a whole.

In the regular public schools, that same class went from 5,375 students in October 2002, when they began third grade, to 2,972 students when they began 8th grade in 2007, to 4,571 students when they began the 9th grade in 2008, and shrunk to 2,114 students when they began the 12th grade in 2011, for a high-school attrition rate of 54% for that particular age-group.

I notice something very weird about the regular DC public school enrollment figures: there is an enormous jump in enrollment from 8th grade to 9th grade, and then a large drop from 9th grade to 10th grade. My colleagues who teach high school tell me that this is because large numbers of students are made to repeat 9th grade; some of them are eventually skipped past the 10th grade, in part because administrators don’t want them to have to take the 10th grade DC-CAS test, because their scores would be low.

Notice that over the past decade, the 9th grade DC public school enrollment has totaled over fifty thousand students, larger than any other grade, which is awfully fishy, since the 8th grade total enrollment over that time was only about thirty-six thousand students and 10th grade total enrollment was a bit under thirty-eight thousand students.

Since the 9th grade DCPS enrollment figures seem artificially inflated (by a LOT), one might conclude that the attrition rates calculated in this post for DC public schools are higher than they ought to be.

Perhaps.

But however you measure it, attrition is a very serious problem in DC, and nobody has solved it.

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If you want to see the attrition rates at individual DC charter schools, look here.

Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 9:16 am  Comments (1)  
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Yes, DC’s Charter Schools “Lose” a Lot of Students Over the School Year – contrary to what their defenders pretend

Here is a little table on Charter School and regular DC Public School attrition or growth, based entirely on the statistics displayed in a very recent DC  OSSE report 

( http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/local/dc-student-mobility-study/281/ )

I hope the table comes through legibly. If it doesn’t, please let me know and I’ll try a different tack.

It shows that there is very significant net attrition from the charter schools from October to June: 6.6% of the PCS student body left, for reasons that I can only guess at. (Many reasons have been proposed, including expulsion and informal push-outs.)

There is essentially no overall attrition from the regular public schools.

dcps and charter school enrollment

The columns labeled as “% change” and ” # changes” are counting from October. Negative numbers mean a loss of students; they are either indicated with a negative sign or parentheses.

Let’s look at this as a graph:

graph of dcps and charter enrollment

So, yes, there is a very significant attrition from the privately-run, publicly-funded DC charter schools — but not from the regular DC public schools –– as the academic year progresses. Anybody who says otherwise isn’t telling the truth!

What’s more, it looks like the ‘pushout’ is indeed a bit higher from March to April than in most other months (except from October to November), which is what a number of parents and teachers have been complaining about: students who charter school administrators don’t think will do well on the DC-CAS NCLB/RTTT exam, get pressured to leave.

And of course, the charter schools get to keep the funding for all of the thousands of students who are forced or pressured to leave: another point that parents and teachers have been complaining about.

 

All of which is sort of, if not perfectly, according to law and intention.

The intention is to remove “public” from any say in how schools are run, except as consumers. And, as in the market, them that has the most money gets the best education, and woe to those who don’t have any money or influence: their kids get the very worst there is.

 

(It would be nice to have a good, personal description of what it’s like in all of those sectors…  Maybe in a different post.)

Published in: on February 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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Two Types of Educational Reform: Montgomery County MD versus Washington DC

Excellent short article. Here is an excerpt:

Anyone who has followed reform efforts in D.C. knows that student achievement over the past five years, as measured by test scores, has been unimpressive under strategies begun by Rhee and continued by her successor, Kaya Henderson. There have been slight ups and downs in test scores, but little that’s statistically significant. The achievement gap based on race and poverty has actually widened significantly. Additionally, a system-wide cheating scandal in 2009 under Rhee, that has yet to be investigated, has thrown a pall on all the data.

In D.C., however, what has been stunning and undisputed is the change in the teacher turnover rate. For a district that used to have a relatively low turnover rate compared with the national average, now 50 percent of teachers don’t make it beyond two years, 80 percent don’t make it beyond six years. For principals, approximately 25 percent lose their jobs every year. It’s not unusual for schools to have a new principal every year. So in the name of “reform,” we now have churn. It can be said that teaching is no longer a career in D.C. What has been accomplished as a result of the conscious policies of the current and immediate past chancellor is the creation of a teaching force of short timers. Gordon MacInnes summarized Rhee’s mistakes for The Century Foundation here.

A recent Washington Post article about the rift between Democratic mayors and teachers’ unions pointed to Montgomery County’s teachers union as the exception, nationwide. The Post was half right. The union’s shoulder to the wheel, collaboration with the district to make schools better has been exemplary. But this is not exceptional. There are lots of examples of attempts at that kind of collaboration all across the country. What makes Montgomery County an exception is that the politicians and school administration have not blindly adopted the corporate reform ideology. They haven’t adopted mayoral control. They don’t worship at the altar of student test scores. They recognize that reform led by educators will be more likely to succeed. The union is made a partner. Teacher longevity and commitment to the school and its community is valued. And respecting the complexity of the craft of teaching is considered a better approach than trying to improve education by making war on educators.

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