Charter Watch, August 11

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Thus begins our series of posts on how people are moving the goal posts on charters. We noticed this a while ago, but with Jamie Vaznis’ piece in the Globe today, I’ll start keeping tabs more publicly.

Jamie V asks a fair question:

Are many charter schools achieving dazzling MCAS scores because of innovative teaching or because they enroll fewer disadvantaged students?

But while there is a single line in the piece on other disadvantaged categories of students, Vaznis did not go beyond special needs and limited English proficient students. A bit of digging would show that charters serve higher numbers of Hispanics, African-American, and poor (Free and Reduced Lunch) students. Aren’t they disadvantaged?

My Jamie (Jamie Gass, head of our Center for School Reform) notes:

In some cases, the spread between charters and districts in these subgroups are pretty large–much larger than the charter/ districts sped gap.

So, charters do not “lag” in serving disadvantaged students. They do not serve as many in two categories. You decide whether the title of the article was misleading. My take is that the Globe’s Jamie simply needs to do some homework and get beyond press releases. Curiosity is a good thing, and it would help avoid repeating conventional wisdoms such as this one in JV’s piece today:

Through the years, charter schools and traditional schools have sparred over funding. Each student who departs for a charter school takes along several thousand dollars in state aid, which is allocated largely on a per-student basis. The district schools lose that funding.

When parents move a child from a district public school to a charter public school, the district continues to receive funding for three years, even though the student is no longer there. Only after three years of supplementary funding to transition the district to a lower funding level does an amount equal to the per-pupil “tuition” follow the child.