A Government School by Any Other Name Would Smell…

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More to squabble about in the great debate over whether charter schools are just failing government schools by another name, or bold experiments in education reform:

In 2003, fourth graders in traditional public schools scored an average of 4.2 points better in reading than comparable students in charter schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, often called the nation's report card. Students in traditional schools scored an average of 4.7 points better in math than comparable students in charter schools.

As usual, methodology is being questioned–how to measure poverty is the perennially irresolvable Pepsi v. Coke debate of ideological academics. And charter school advocates say their kids are too often the most desperate, lagging kids of the education system, so there is no comparable group for gauge their progress against.

An interesting side note: The federal commissioner of education statistics, Mark S. Schneider, doesn't think research into education statistics is the proper role for the federal government:

This is one of the most contentious issues with regard to the charter school research debate," Mr. Schneider said. He said the department should not put its stamp on research comparing public and charter schools but should leave individual researchers to use the data to compete in the "marketplace of ideas."

NEXT: I Think We Make a Real Sharp Couple of Coconuts

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  1. It angers me when this type of study is used to affect public opinion & policy. What do I care what the average is? When we choose a school, we’re not going to mix all the charter schools up in a big pot, and then send our child to the resulting stew. We will look at the dozens of unique options & choose the one that is just right for him. That is the benefit of charter schools. It’s the variety, not the average.

    I don’t care if charter schools score half what the public schools do – the only one I care about is the one I choose.

    PS. There was a recent article in the East Valley Tribune (in Phoenix, AZ area) in which officials of the huge Mesa public schools district, trying to recapture head count that they have lost to charter schools, talked about making many changes, including opening specialty campuses for at-risk students & targeted curriculums. Of course, some people will paint that as “putting the public schools in crisis”. Seems like the idea is working pretty good to me.

  2. It angers me when this type of study is used to affect public opinion & policy. What do I care what the average is? When we choose a school, we’re not going to mix all the charter schools up in a big pot, and then send our child to the resulting stew. We will look at the dozens of unique options & choose the one that is just right for him. That is the benefit of charter schools. It’s the variety, not the average.

    I don’t care if charter schools score half what the public schools do – the only one I care about is the one I choose.

    PS. There was a recent article in the East Valley Tribune (in Phoenix, AZ area) in which officials of the huge Mesa public schools district, trying to recapture head count that they have lost to charter schools, talked about making many changes, including opening specialty campuses for at-risk students & targeted curriculums. Of course, some people will paint that as “putting the public schools in crisis”. Seems like the idea is working pretty well to me.

  3. Oops. I see that the squirrels posted my first comment before I corrected “good” to “well”. Sorry – must be my public school education…

    One other point… if anyone knows what the children need, it’s the parents. The fact that they have gone to the trouble of selecting a charter school says that at least they are paying attention, even if their educational goals don’t agree with ours. But, my point is, if the test scores are consistently low, but parents keep sending their kids to a school anyway, then there must be some benefit that the school is providing that isn’t showing up in the test scores. Shouldn’t it be obvious that people’s personal choices about the lives of their own families are a more accurate reflection of their needs than some standardized test?

  4. The federal commissioner of education statistics, Mark S. Schneider, doesn’t think research into education statistics is the proper role for the federal government

    This almost brings to mind the words of Hong Kong Financial Secretary Sir John Cowperthwaite:

    There was a plea from honourable Members relating to the need for formal Gross National Product figures… I suspect myself, however, that the need arises in other countries because high taxation and more or less detailed Government intervention in the economy have made it essential to be able to judge (or to hope to be able to judge) the effect of policies, and of changes in policies, on the economy. One of the honourable Members who spoke on this subject, said outright, as a confirmed planner, that he thought that they were desirable for the planning of our future economic policy. But we are in the happy position, happier at least for the Financial Secretary where the leverage exercised by Government on the economy is so small that it is not necessary, nor even of any particular value, to have these figures available for the formulation of policy. We might indeed be right to be apprehensive lest the availability of such figures might lead, by a reversal of cause and effect, to policies designed to have a direct effect on the economy. I would myself deplore this.

    The other concern seems rather to be for our international prestige. If we had formal GNP statistics, I suppose we could boast of our economic progress in more precise and authoritative, even if not very accurate, figures and thereby prevent others from belittling us; but I cannot see any great value in that. It is the fact of our progress that is important.

  5. kebko,

    I wish you every success in picking a school for your children, although it may be complicated by your apparent desire to ignore or disparage any data that don’t fit your obvious bias.

    Some of us are less favored in the range of selection of schools for our children (particularly in small, rural areas), so we just concentrate on making our public schools the best we can. In our backward, ignorant way we’ve always taken pride in our little K-8 school. We were probably misled by the fact that our students have traditionally been able to go on to college and/or work and be quite successful.

    Fortunately, we have been saved. The wonderful folks who know the evils of government education have been able to turn failing inner city schools into a war on all public education. Now we can spend several days each year preparing for testing and testing instead of wasting class time on teaching. We can spend countless days looking at results, altering curricula, and devising catch up stategies.

    Thankfully, much of the extra time has only resulted in severe cuts in ‘extras’ such as art, music, literature, drama, civics, physical education and the like. Everyone knows these are unnecessary to produce well-rounded citizens. In fact, with the cuts in P.E. and the general lack of outside activities, many of the students are becoming QUITE round.

    So, many thanks to all the bashers of public education. I don’t know how my children and former students ever managed to graduate from college and go on to successful, professional careers without your help.

    Ah giss us publik skool teachurs was just to bizee spoutin’ are librul crap an steelin yur mone.

    Seriously, in my thirty years experience in public education, we have been most successful when classroom teachers have been given the tools they asked for and given the latitude to teach using all of their skills. Contrary to the current popular notion, good teaching is an art, not a science.

  6. Contrary to the current unionist notion, public school teaching is a civil service job, not a profession.

  7. rm2muv says
    Contrary to the current popular notion, good teaching is an art, not a science.

    Also contrary to popular notion, teachers are not uniquely qualified to teach. In my experience, I’d say alot of them don;t even really like kids!

    Here’s a scenario…you got to college to study education…you learn all the educational theories (many of which are based on poorly understood notions of human psychology and childhood development)…you get to year 3.5 or 4 in your degree program and then you get your first exposure to the little rug rats in the classroom as a student teacher…egads! This is hard…snotty noses, lack of focus…how are you supposed to ‘learn them’ anything…now what?

    Are you going to start over on that degree? Of course not…you’re going to collect your paycheck, complain about the shackles on your ability to practice your art, and then claim that standardized tests are at fault…while you count the days to tenure and your fat teacher’s pension…oh, and you can always go back and get an advanced degree on the taxpayer’s dime soi you can get out of the miserable classroom existence you despise…while complaining that the 9-month work year is undercompensated…

    Of course that’s not all teachers…the good ones are busy overcoming obstacles…not moaning about lack of respect and blaming testing, the government and parents for public school’s failures…

    I don’t have your answer…but don’t try to make me accept yours. Which is what I read kebko to be saying.

  8. rm2muv,

    That was really cute. Now get to the part where your fantasy requires my support regardless of my opinion on the matter. Your such a caring innocent little leach.

    “Contrary to the current popular notion, good teaching is an art, not a science.”

    You forgot,

    “…and needs to be run by the government.”

  9. That’s right, I said your. As in ‘you r’.

  10. I take it rm2muv was able to post at 4:30AM because she’s on that terrible thing called “summer break” that all of us in the working world get…oh wait…

    god I hate teachers.

  11. kebko, good point about looking at what’s good and bad in each particular charter school, rather than lumping them all into the same pot.

    Would it be too much to ask for you to do the same with public schools?

  12. “god I hate teachers.”

    Yeah, I like how every time I meet a public school teacher, they immediately equate state run school with education. If you don’t believe in state run school, then you must think that children should be illiterate. What do you call that fallacy, anyway? Ye ole Switcheroo?

  13. kohlrabi, seeing as how most of them can’t pass the tests they administer, asking them to name a fallacy is a little much, doncha think?

  14. Marketplaces work best when there is reliable, objective information available to consumers and suppliers to utilize when making their decisions.

    What Schneider is saying is that he wants an inefficient, distorted marketplace of ideas, in which consumers make their decision based on less-reliable, less-objective information, and in which the claims of suppliers can’t be fact-checked.

  15. Disclaimer: I despise all public schools, and all teaching that bases itself on antiquatied ideas from the 1800’s (which is pretty much all 99% schools, public, charter, private, college)

    But I am fascinated by the philosophy that “free-market” means don’t watch where and how the money is spent. Which seems to be what Mr. Schneider is saying. The only way his interpertation works is that someone would be preventing my freinds at the prestigiuos east coast think tank from seeing the data and doing their own thinking on the subject.

    And guess what, they do have the data, and they are doing their own thinking.

    Typical republican/democrat values is what I see. Spend the money, but don’t watch the spending or its results.

  16. Well, joe, even the marketplace you describe is better than a state-run monopoly.

  17. “kebko, good point about looking at what’s good and bad in each particular charter school, rather than lumping them all into the same pot.

    Would it be too much to ask for you to do the same with public schools?”

    Maybe I came off a bit too anti-public school. If a public school is the best choice for our children, then that’s where we’ll send them.

    RM2MUV:
    I’m afraid that the irony of your comment is that while ostensibly defending the public schools, your complaints largely are based on the fact that distant bureaucrats acting on the whims of a misinformed electorate are harming the schools by placing obstacles in the way of doing your job as well as you can. It seems that your problems are a result of strict government control of the schools.

  18. How useful are student tests anyway, other than those that give immediate feedback (like, turn the page and see if you had the right answer) in self-assessment?

  19. Live and learn. Im surprised by the damn near pathologic hatred of public school teachers here. Its not the teacher, its the overarching bureaucracy- administrators who soak up big chunks of budget “administering” ….crackpot pols with pet ideas, …one commenter has it right- schools should be local- very, very local run institutions. I daresay even A Randian uses public school math to figure how many illegals s/he can stuff into a slum apartment. And, truly, schools cant teach morality, thats plain enough. You get that at home, if at all.
    I dropped outta HS (NYC) & got my post basic education in the service & the world. I try to disuade kids from going to college- unless they have a burning desire that requires a degree. We need more tin knockers, not business majors….

  20. “It seems that your problems are a result of strict government control of the schools.”

    Actually, the problems she describes are the result of Federal intervention in a local issue. It is not that government is involved that causes the problems, but the distance between the Feds and the issues. The Feds saw a problem in some schools and tried to apply a solution to all schools to fix it. Exactly as she described, problems in failing school districts do not need to be addressed in successful districts. And problems in your local school should be addressed by your local school board (yep, a government body elected by your neighbors consisting of your neighbors). There is little benefit in discussion the issue of education on a national level.

    And even in the cases where there may be a need for national educational goals (e.g., special education, or some curriculum focus to address national shortages in skills), federal prescription for how to acheive those goals make little sense. The goal may be a national interest. The way to acheive that goal is a local challenge.

    Charter schools make lots of sense for some districts. Not so much in others. Voucher programs make sense is some districts, not so much in others. Solutions to education have to remain at the local level and address the actual issues that your local school or district is facing.

    “god I hate teachers.”
    Yeah, cause just like any other group of 4 million Americans, they all look alike, act alike, and think alike.

  21. By the way Kebko,

    I did see this…

    “distant bureaucrats acting on the whims of a misinformed electorate are harming the schools by placing obstacles in the way of doing your job as well as you can”

    and it is correct. I just don’t think the conclusion “therefore government shouldn’t be involved in education” needs to follow.

  22. Mainstream Man, you seem to believe that there is some difference between “the government” and “bureaucrats acting on the whims of a misinformed electorate”.

    Fascinating. I wonder if you could elaborate. Perhaps some examples. I sure can’t think of any.

  23. “In my experience, I’d say alot of them don;t even really like kids!”

    You mean, some people actually DO like children? [other than properly cooked, I mean.]

  24. RC

    You left out an important modifier in the sentence: “distant bureaucrats”

    Compare your local school board’s ability to assess the wisdom of a policy in your community to that of the Dept. of Ed in Washington.

    It is a difference that matters.

  25. Mainstream, suggest year-round school and you’ll see 4 million angry “public servants” with the exact same reaction.

    Suggest starting at 30K for only 3/4 of year of work is too much, and see what you get. I bet it’s the same reaction, from school to dingy school.

  26. Ayn Randian

    “suggest year-round school and you’ll see 4 million angry “public servants” with the exact same reaction”

    But think of the cheers of the parents of the snotty little brats.

  27. “”suggest year-round school and you’ll see 4 million angry “public servants” with the exact same reaction”

    But think of the cheers of the parents of the snotty little brats.”

    Having been part of district restructuring plans in the past, I can say that at least some of the time you will find your intuition on this is exactly wrong. Wide-spread support for year-round schools among teachers in the two districts I was in did not convince parents who opposed it. The school boards, rightly, judged that the parents’ opinions mattered and looked in other areas for restructuring. Year round school is quite popular among teachers as it provides for better educational results.

    “3/4 year of work.”

    Let the market work that one out for you. See how many teachers you get stepping up to do a shit hard job for less than that. I did work at a school where the teachers took a pay cut across the board so they could fund a full-time librarian at their school… but that doesn’t fit your stereotype of greedy, lazy teachers, so you’ll think I am making it up.

  28. Ha! A ‘shit’ job indeed. So something that is challenging is automatically a “shit” job now? Something that pays a lot of folks a pretty good ‘right out of college wage’. Right. Wish I could get a “shit job” that let me take damn near four months off, including all federal holidays, 3 weeks in December and anytime it snows too badly. And you’re telling me that there’s just so many teachers fired up about year-round school, but the poor, powerless teacher’s union just can’t seem to get their way!? I just bet, doodles, I just bet.

    And why do they care what they get paid anyway? As far as any whiny education major within earshot could tell me they didn’t want the money they do it, “for the love of the job”. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about not paying FISA tax because they get to pay into that sweet, sweet PERS that only the all-holy “civil servant” gets to pay into.

  29. Ayn,

    You confuse “shit job”
    with “shit hard job”

    “Wish I could…”

    I am sure they could use your talents so you can have those months off a year. A cakewalk for you, I am sure, to get your wish. Easiest money you will ever make.

    “powerless teacher’s union just can’t seem to get their way!? I just bet, doodles, I just bet.”

    I don’t know of a teachers union that has a position on year round schools, but the concept is very popular among teachers. Most opposition comes from others (here’s an example… http://members.aol.com/donohoyrs/ )

    Sorry but you seem very ill informed on this issue.

  30. So popular that I hear nothing about it from teachers, like, ever? Instead of picketing every time they ask the teachers to take a pay cut, maybe they should start picketing for year-round school. THAT would (maybe) convince me. And it’s so popular, you couldn’t provide a link with, oh, some stats? I can do the same thing “year-round school is NOT very popular with teachers”. Oops, now, with all the evidence you provided, I can call you misinformed too! What a neat game! And so popular that NO teachers’ unions have a position. Hokae.

    I never said it was easy, Mainstream, just that it’s not that hard and I am tired of hearing all the bitching from teachers’ about how it’s the “hardest job in the world”. Sure…tell that to the pharmaceutical guy when he saves your rear-end from cancer.

    As for them using my talents, well, too bad that the unions in their infinite wisdom passed all kinds of “jumping through hoops” laws that mandate that worthless degree they call “education”. Oh yeah, almost forgot, they also rammed through a requirement that all teachers must have their master’s degrees to teach. And who has to pay for it? My elderly grandparents who have no interest in the public schools whatsoever! It all makes sense now.

  31. and as for “FISA tax” if you are referring to 218 Agreements regarding FICA, then there is much variation across the country on that. . .

    Education jobs do tend to have good retirement packages.

  32. Ayn,

    Not really feeling in the mood to provide you with a load of stats on year round schools. You’re smart you can learn yourself all about it.

    “hardest job in the world”. Sure…tell that to the pharmaceutical guy when he saves your rear-end from cancer.”

    Having worked in both medical research and teaching. I can confidently say that teaching is the harder of the two…but this uses “harder” in the sense of “exhausting, draining, frustrating” not in the sense that you imply when you refer to curing cancer (i.e., difficult to be successful at).

  33. “Oh yeah, almost forgot, they also rammed through a requirement that all teachers must have their master’s degrees to teach. And who has to pay for it?”

    Look into it. You might not have to shell out a dime.

    http://www.aft.org/teachers/jft/loanforgiveness.htm

  34. I moved to Oakland, CA in 8…6? The local teachers were on strike. Demand? Allotments for school supplies, thats it. Risked gettin canned & loosin thier cushy job because classrooms were striiped bare, & the more they spent out of pocket, the more the school administrators cut thier budgets. On top of that, the School Board approved 100K to some cockamamie perception management outfit (PR, to you) to smear the teachers…..when the same 100K would have solved the problem for years. A month later, the famous “ebonics” farce began. That was NOT at the instigation of the teachers, far from it. Rank & file teachers raised visible, vocal, relentless unholy hell about it. It was at the demand of the same Oakland School Board, supposed professional people of achievement from the “community”, ie, black.
    It seems there was some dozen “administrators” who pulled down some 100K each, who justified thier $ by orderering various crackpot “programs” to do something about the abysmal scores & dropout rates. The teachers positions: these kids had shit for parents,
    zero dicipline, & lived in hellholes. Well, we cant admit THAT, can we, so the SCHOOL BOARD- this is important- not the teachers, came up w/ the insane idea that black kids speak a genetically inherited language (drove Herself, a geneticist, nuts) and therefore couldnt be expected to speak an English anyone could understand. This appealed to the race pimps, who require isolation of thier hosts for them to be sucessful parasites.
    It wasnt the teachers. It was, and is, a bureaucracy no teacher has any power over.
    But true enough, teachers UNIONS CAN be a self serving entity. Just like a Landlords Association.

  35. Mutt,

    Just to clarify, the “genetically based and not a dialect of English” should not be confused with DNA in any way. This is a linguistic distinction, not a biological one. It attempts to give AAE (African American English), a dialect, the same status as a different language that you would give to, say Spanish.

  36. oh ho, fellow grylliadians…do I dare…

    ACTUALLY, Mainstream and MUTT, the move of the Oakland school board wasn’t to declare AAVE (It’s actually called African-American Vernacular English, Mainstream) a separate language, it was to recognize the learning difficulties of children who were raised on AAVE only as opposed to being raised with Standard English.

  37. Ayn,

    AAE, AAVE, BE, and any number of other terms have been applied. They are equivalent. The aim of the school board is to recognize the learning difficulties of children who were raised on AAVE and to give them the same status in the schools as other children facing the educational challenges of ESL. The “genetically based” part refers to AAVE as distinct from English, rather than a dialect of English… this is the status part I was referring to.

    But, whatever, if you feel you have corrected me, I stand corrected.

  38. nope. Sorry. That what was so effing appalling about it. Members of the School Board were claiming it was actually encoded in the kids DNA. I was reading the papers daily, & me & The Girl, the far smarter half of this outfit, pouring over SB members statements, & on a bunch of occaisions they (or rather, some of the corrupt loons claimed) this was a genetic trait. Hey, I couldnt believe it either, & Im sure the historical rewrite drops the claim.
    And like I said, it sure as hell wasnt the classroom teachers causing this, or making that mindboggling claim.
    Now, classroom teachers caught hell for accomodating kids who spoke thusly…..any good teacher will do whatever it takes to communicate with kids. But the abysmal scores are a outcome of culture, not (up to a point) spending. Sorry to get long winded, here, but as black kids were averaging 1.5GPA’s in Oakland at (iirc) aout $7800 per kid- a couple thou more each than rural Vt- across the Bay, in Marin Cty, the cost per kid was almost 10 K, a staggering sum. One small corner of Marin is predominatly black, a upscale ghetto. Black kids there were pulling the same 1.5, and, since i grew up around black folks, & worked with black folks, & got shot at w/ black folks, I know they aint no dumber than anyone else.
    Its social conditions, and culture, and mores, which the OSB would not address. So, after untold sums were spent on crackpot programs, they were backed into a corner, & came up w/ this “genetic language” crap to excuse away all thier expensive failures.
    They were under a lot of scrutiny because of the disgusting stuff they pulled during the teachjers strike, and were in the SB solely because of skin color. Not merit.

    sorry to gas on, but I never knew the depths race pimps would sink to, at the expense of lil kids. Bothers me mightily to this day. Language is power- if you can communicate broadly, you are not hostage to interlocutors. Thats why Im pretty strong for “english only”-

  39. “RESOLVED that the Board of Education officially recognizes the existence, and the cultural and historic bases of West and Niger-Congo African Language Systems, and each language as the predominantly primary language of African-American students”

    There are important words in this…”historical” and “cultural” that exclude the DNA interpretation. It is possible that individual school board members misunderstood the linguistic distinction that “genetic” was referring to, but the resolution makes it clear they are talking about the “African Language Systems” as coming from African languages, rather than English. The resolution makes no claim this system is embedded in the kids DNA.

  40. We are talking about number 3 here…

    ge?net?ic (j-ntk) Pronunciation Key Audio pronunciation of “genetic” [P] also ge?net?i?cal (–kl)
    adj.

    1.
    1. Of or relating to genetics or genes.
    2. Affecting or determined by genes: genetic diseases.
    2. Of, relating to, or influenced by the origin or development of something.
    3. Linguistics. Of or relating to the relationship between or among languages that are descendants of the same protolanguage.

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