In the midst of (literally) hours of Professional Development and worktime, it’s easy to get lost in the minute, day-to-day details – “Why is my classroom so humid? Why are my posters all saggy now?” – amidst the broader issues at play. I’m trying to zoom out and keep a wide lens even as the first day of school creeps closer and closer.
My students start school this Thursday – yes, three days from now – and I’m in a state of mildly controlled panic. I’ve received amazing support from my colleagues, many of whom have gone far out of their way to mentor me and the other new teachers at our school. We’ve done our fair share of culture building, teambuilding, and building of all sorts of things; today while leaving school I couldn’t stop smiling.
It’s a far cry from the endless stress/panic/anxiety of Institute. It’s odd. I look back and it almost feels surreal, like it didn’t happen, like those six weeks of my life got lost in some sort of Inception-like black hole. But those weeks did happen. I have a framed picture of one of my students to prove it.
Anyway, this evening, I stumbled upon this Stanford CREDO (Center for Research on Education Outcomes) study that was released in late June of this year. It’s called the National Charter School Study and is a beautifully-done study meant to examine the impact of charter school attendance on student performance. Interestingly, it’s an update of a similar 2009 study, meaning it’s possible for us to track change-over-time in a pretty meaningful way.
Main findings I found pertinent:
1. The 2009 report studied charter schools in 16 states. Of those schools, 8% have since been closed due to poor performance. However, in this same period, traditional public schools compared in the study saw a decrease in academic performance, meaning overall, charter performance (in the schools studied in both years) has made modest increases.
2. The 2013 version studies charter schools and traditional public schools (TPS) in 27 states. Here are the numbers: in reading, 19% of charter schools showed significantly weaker learning gains than TPS, 56% showed no significant difference, and 25% showed significantly stronger learning gains. In math, 31% showed weaker gains, 40% showed no significant difference, and 29% showed significantly stronger learning gains.
3. Students in special populations (high-poverty, English Language Learner, black students) gain more days of learning in both reading and math in charter schools than in TPS. In particular, black and Hispanic students in poverty, as well as Hispanic students who are English Language Learners, showed strong performance gains in charters relative to TPS. However, Hispanic students who are not low-SES showed negative gains.
There are lots of numbers, and fancy analyses, and I’d be happy to get into a broader debate/discussion about that but the short version is…here’s a graphic!
Just some food for thought on this Monday evening.
As well, there’s some exciting stuff going on here in Houston in terms of charter-TPS partnerships! My personal opinion is that both charter schools and TPS have much to learn from each other; true progress means an equal stage/playing field for both types of schools. I’m pleased to see that Spring Branch ISD has partnered with KIPP and YES Prep – the SKY partnership (as it is affectionately referred to here in Houston) has received $2.1 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. Some Spring Branch teachers are now being trained through the same alternative certification program (Teaching Excellence) as are KIPP and YES teachers. The main outcomes of the partnership are increased graduation rates and college matriculation/persistence rates for Spring Branch students, and other ideal outcomes are a more positive school culture and stronger teacher training/professional development. Interestingly, the partnership goes beyond just sharing of ideas: the three organizations have literally combined schools. KIPP operates a school-within-a-school (KIPP Courage Prep at Landrum) and YES Prep Northbrook operates at Northbrook Middle School. More info here: http://cms.springbranchisd.com/sky/
Another partnership of note is the Aldine ISD-YES Prep partnership at YES Prep Hoffman (housed at Hoffman Middle School). Students enrolled at YES Hoffman are still Aldine ISD students (and therefore participate in AISD extracurriculars) but YES pays and hires their own faculty. YES Hoffman will feed into YES Eisenhower – a new YES high school – beginning in 2016. Here’s the press release: http://www.aldine.k12.tx.us/universal_includes/news/specific_articles.cfm?articleID=5999
I’m proud to work in a district where these sorts of innovative, forward-thinking partnerships are not only possible but are happening. I believe it represents a crucial step forward to move us out of the polarized, us-vs-them mentality and towards a more balanced, there-are-no-clear-answers-here framework. A framework that’s much needed, to say the least. And it gives us the chance to really begin to isolate variables in the incredibly murky/messy charter school equation. Will high-performing charter schools like KIPP and YES still have the same outcomes when housed not in free-standing buildings, but in traditional public schools? To what extent – if at all – will actual significant, positive gains be attained? What can we learn from these sorts of partnerships?
And with that, I’ll sign off. I’m a big fan of questions without clear answers. The focus for my classroom/all other 8th grade English classes in my district is discourse. Perfect.