Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blah, blah, blah...

I just got a canned, "brush it all off" email response from Arne Duncan's appointee to a letter I wrote to A.D. about how deeply troubled I am about the charter school course this administration is taking. At least I tried something.

Kern is the one who dated it wrong.

June 8, 2009

Dear Ms. Higgins

Thank you for your letter to Secretary Arne Duncan expressing your concern about charter schools as a tool for education reform. Your letter has been referred to the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program and I am pleased to respond.

The Charter Schools Program (CSP) supports the planning, development, and initial implementation of charter schools. Charter schools provide enhanced parental choice and are exempt from many statutory and regulatory requirements. In exchange for increased flexibility, charter schools are held accountable for improving student academic achievement. The objective is to replace rules-based governance with performance-based accountability, thereby stimulating the creativity and commitment of teachers, parents, and citizens.

As you know, President Barack Obama has expressed his support for high-quality charter schools and his intent to double the funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools. However, the President has stipulated that the administration will provide this expanded charter school funding only to States that improve accountability for charter schools, allow for interventions in struggling charter schools and have a clear process for closing down chronically underperforming charter schools.

State and local officials have the responsibility for determining authorizing practices, levels of autonomy, acquisition of facilities, charter approval, revocation and renewal and other factors governing charter school regulations in their State. In reality, many charter schools across the nation experience increased flexibilities in exchange for accountability as a direct result of their individual state charter laws and policies.

Charter school achievement continues to be mixed but improving. Studies suggest that charter schools with more experience provide added value when compared to some traditional public schools and that charter schools serving at-risk students can be effective in improving academic achievement. Studies incorporating longitudinal student-level data and rigorous research methodology are increasing, and contributing to our understanding of the impact charter schools are making on student performance. Examples of significant results in key chartering states and cities are that:

According to a recent evaluation conducted by the RAND Corporation, charter high schools in Florida and in Chicago have shown substantial positive effects on both high school completion and college attendance. Their students have higher graduation rates and their graduates have higher rates of college attendance as compared to their peers in traditional public schools.

Similarly, a 2009 study by the Boston Foundation showed that when compared to students enrolled in traditional schools, charter school students in Boston are making significant gains.

2009 data collected through the Department’s EDFacts system reports proficiency rates on State assessments for students enrolled in charter schools in Idaho, Colorado and Tennessee that were higher than those for students in traditional schools in their respective states in reading and mathematics.

Currently, the Department is working to administer the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). We are committed to ensuring that these funds are used effectively not only to help save and create jobs, but also to improve student achievement. The stimulus package contains a “Race to the Top” fund of $4.35 billion to help States with bold plans to improve academic achievement. In addition, $650 million will be awarded directly to local school districts and non-profit organizations that have made significant gains in closing the achievement gap to serve as models for best practices. As Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement stated at a congressional hearing about building upon what works at charter schools, “We believe charter schools will play two essential roles in the development and implementation of education reforms that address the widest points of the achievement gap: transforming persistently failing schools and leading our nation’s thinking on education innovation and what works.” The Department plans to make awards under this program in fall 2009 and spring 2010. I would recommend that you monitor the Department’s website,, for the most up-to-date information on the status of this program and its application process.

In closing, you can be assured that the Department will continue to work hard on behalf of American children and their families to ensure that each child has the choice to obtain a public education that is second to none and best meets his or her needs.


Dean Kern

Director, Charter Schools Program

Office of Innovation and Improvement

US Department of Education

400 Maryland Ave., SW

Washington, DC 20202

wk: (202) 260-1882

fx: (202) 205-5630

Oh right, and today I ran into a well-spoken, educated and involved African American mother of one of my daughter's former schoolmates who I hadn't seen for a couple of years. We pleasantly chatted and I learned that her son was now going to one of the Aspire charter schools (California College Preparatory Academy). She said she was very pleased.

This is just one more example of how a charter school has drawn away yet another engaged, African American parent from the public school district. Read about the phenomenon here, brought to you by the Office of Innovation.

And as the very most difficult students (from the most unengaged families) get more and more concentrated together, the schools will get worse and worse. This self-selection effect is going to finish off Oakland's public schools.


tft said...

It really is amazing they don't see the problem they are creating. Wait. Maybe they do see it? Maybe it's what they're shooting for? Oy vey.

nikto said...

Cui bono (who benefits?) is the guiding concept here.

Public Schools suffer;
Charters benefit.

Somebody's mission accomplished.

JeffW said...

"This self-selection effect is going to finish off Oakland's public schools." Isn't that their goal? And not just Oakland's...

nikto said...

I wrote a little essay several years back regarding the motivation issues with many students and how there is no magic bullet yet found, by charter or Public School to engage all students. Some, sadly, seem bent on always fighting the process.

Anyway, it's just common knowledge for teachers in impacted schools.

It's called "Education is
Not a Haircut":

Jim Horn said...

From Dean Kern's Letter:
"In exchange for increased flexibility, charter schools are held accountable for improving student academic achievement. The objective is to replace rules-based governance with performance-based accountability, thereby stimulating the creativity and commitment of teachers, parents, and citizens."

I see nothing about how the swap helps students, an omission that allows for at least one honest element of this letter.

The disappearance of "rules-based governance" means, in fact, that anything goes if it raises test scores. And thus we end up with the KIPPs and the KIPP knockoff testing and indoctrination camps that throw back any child who is beyond cultural repair and, thus, likely to damage the brand.

The public schools in Oakland that survive will be the equivalent of child penal colonies that segregate and contain the unabled, the willful, and the recalcitrant until they are old enough to to enter the adult prison system.

Meanwhile, liberals like Gates and conservatives like the Fishers will stroke one another for the good work they have done in narrowing the achievement gap for the survivors, while making poverty easier to forget.

nikto said...

Branding is a big corporate concept these days; But it can work
both ways.

I can think of some non-corporate "brands" that might have some application to the Charterizers/Privatizers...




















etc etc etc etc

The possibilities are as endless
as they are appropriately grimace-inducing.

Made-to-order for all "Stakeholders".