CHARTER GRADS GET A LEG UP IN COLLEGE

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article on Charter Schools written by Richard Whitmire. Whitmire is a veteran newspaper reporter, author and former editorial writer at USA Today. His first book after leaving USA Today was Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Education System that’s Leaving Them Behind. He spent a year as a fellow with the Emerson Collective, allowing him to visit many of the top charter schools in the country, resulting in his latest book, The Founders, in which he shared untold anecdotes about the leaders, advocates, philanthropists and partners who helped spark an education revolution across the country.  His focus is on the potential of Charter Schools and how they collaborate with traditional districts and what their next-generation school models tell about where all schools are headed. Whitmire is a member of the Journalism Advisory Board of The 74. The 74 is a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America. Our public education system is in crisis. In the United States, less than half of our students can read or do math at grade-level, yet the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin. The 74 interviews the top thinkers, policymakers and leaders in American education.

CHARTER GRADS GET A LEG UP IN COLLEGE

The NAACP on Wednesday reported findings from its nationwide “listening tour” on charter schools, and there were no surprises: Charters must be stopped. The National Education Association, even less surprisingly, said the same thing earlier this month in Boston.

The nation’s oldest civil-rights organization and the largest teachers union worry about charters for similar reasons. Independently run charters generally don’t employ unionized teachers, and they pull students from traditional district schools to which the NAACP is deeply committed. In short, charters disrupt the status quo—for adults.

The timing of the intertwined anticharter campaigns, however, may prove awkward because of new data just released by The 74. The data comes from the first cohort of charter students, who are beginning to graduate from college. Here’s what we know now that the NEA and NAACP didn’t know when they adopted their anticharter positions: Graduates from the top charter networks—those with enough high school alumni to measure college success accurately—earn four-year degrees at rates that range up to five times as high as their counterparts in traditional public schools. These are low-income, minority students from cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark, N.J. Their college success is going to make bashing charter schools far more challenging for the NEA and the NAACP.

Before this revelation, charter-school gains were largely measured by upticks in student test scores. Critics often wrote them off as meaningless, suggesting that charters abandoned educating kids in favor of “teaching to the test.” But now we see that charter school gains in the K-12 years have real-world consequences. Higher test scores, along with a swarm of strategies charter networks employ to make their students more successful after they graduate, lead to actual four-year college degrees.

Roughly half the graduates of Uncommon, YES Prep and the KIPP New York schools—among the biggest and best known charter networks in the country—earn bachelor’s degrees within six years. About a quarter of the graduates of the lower-performing charter networks earn degrees within six years. That may not strike wealthy parents as something to brag about. Eighty percent of children from America’s wealthiest families earn four-year degrees within six years. But charters primarily serve low-income families, where only 9% of students earn such degrees. Charters make a difference for poor families.

Charter networks are doing something traditional school districts have never considered: taking responsibility, at least in part, for the success of their students after they receive their diplomas. Low-income and traditionally low-opportunity students, nearly all of whom are the first in their families to attend college, need special help: Which courses to sign up for? How many credits to juggle in a semester? How to be the only minority in an all-white class?

There are ways to address all those issues, as charter networks such as KIPP and Uncommon are discovering. And they are more than willing-even eager-to share what they have learned with traditional district schools. That, sharing needs to starts soon, but the aggressive anti-charter stances taken by both the NAACP and the NEA will only make that process harder.

It’s difficult to identify and anti-poverty program that has been as successful as charter schools, but don’t expect the NAACP or the NEA to acknowledge that. The teachers unions especially are more concerned with the needs of adults employed by school districts than the welfare of the students passing through them. But the charter movement’s success will make defending that position more difficult, especially for governors, legislatures and urban school officials under pressure from parents to open more of these high-performing schools.

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

KEEP TABS ON SCHOOL TECH

 

Dear Friends,

 

A very informative article in the Dallas Morning News on Monday June 26, 2017.  Written by Cathy O’Neil, a mathematician who has worked as a professor, hedge-fund analyst and data scientist.  She is the author of “Weapons of Math Destruction.” She wrote this column for Bloomberg.

 KEEP TABS ON SCHOOL TECH

School Tech

Many schools have partnerships with big tech firms that provide free tablets to students and in some cases access to student information to the companies.

 

Silicon Valley tech moguls are conducting an enormous experiment on the nation’s children. We should not be so trusting that they’ll get it right. Google has taken a big role in public education, offering low-cost laptops and free apps. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is investing heavily in educational technology, largely though the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Netflix head Reed Hastings has been tinkering with expensive and algorithmic ed-tech tools.

Encouraging as all this may be, the technologists might be getting ahead of themselves, both politically and ethically. Also, there’s not a lot of evidence that what they’re doing works.

Like it or not, education is political. People on opposite sides of the spectrum read very different science books, and can’t seem to agree on fundamental principles. It stands to reason that what we choose to teach our children will vary, depending on our beliefs. That’s to acknowledge, not defend, antiscientific curricula.

Zuckerberg and Bill Gates learned this the hard way last year when the Ugandan government ordered the closure of 60 schools — part of a network providing highly scripted, lowcost education in Africa — amid allegations that they had been “teaching pornography” and “conveying the gospel of homosexuality” in sex-ed classes. Let’s face it, something similar could easily happen here if tech initiatives expand beyond the apolitical math subjects on which they have so far focused.

Beyond that, there are legitimate reasons to be worried about letting tech companies wield so much influence in the classroom. They tend to offer “free services” in return for access to data, a deal that raises some serious privacy concerns — particularly if you consider that it can involve tracking kids’ every click, keystroke and backspace from kindergarten on.

My oldest son is doing extremely well as a junior in school right now, but he was a late bloomer who didn’t learn to read until third grade. Should that be a part of his permanent record, data that future algorithms could potentially use to assess his suitability for credit or a job? Or what about a kid whose “persistence score” on dynamic, standardized tests waned in 10th grade? Should colleges have access to that information in making their admissions decisions?

These are not far-fetched scenarios. Consider the fate of nonprofit education venture InBloom, which sought to collect and integrate student records in a way that would allow lessons to be customized. The venture shut down a few years ago amid concerns about how sensitive information — including tags identifying students as “tardy” or “autistic” — would be protected from theft and shared with outside vendors.

Google and others are collecting similar data and using it internally to improve their software. Only after some prompting did Google agree to comply with the privacy law known as FERPA, which had been weakened for the purpose of third-party sharing. It’s not clear how the data will ultimately be used, how long the current crop of students will be tracked, or to what extent their futures will depend on their current performance.

Nobody really knows to what educational benefit we are bearing such uncertainties. What kinds of kids will the technological solutions reward? Will they be aimed toward producing future Facebook engineers? How will they serve children in poverty, with disabilities or with different learning styles? As far as I know, there’s no standard audit that would allow us to answer such questions. We do know, though, that the companies and foundations working on educational technology have a lot of control over the definition of success. That’s already too much power.

Blindly trusting the tech guys is no way to improve our educational system. Although they undoubtedly mean well, we should demand more accountability.

 

 

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com