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NAACP and Charter Schools

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Above: Charter school hacks

Glad to see the NAACP come out against charter schools and the fraud that they offer African-Americans a better education.

With charter schools educating as many as half the students in some American cities, they have been championed as a lifeline for poor black children stuck in failing traditional public schools.

But now the nation’s oldest and newest black civil rights organizations are calling for a moratorium on charter schools.

Their demands, and the outcry that has ensued, expose a divide among blacks that goes well beyond the now-familiar complaints about charters’ diverting money and attention from traditional public schools.

In separate conventions over the past month, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Movement for Black Lives, a group of 50 organizations assembled by Black Lives Matter, passed resolutions declaring that charter schools have exacerbated segregation, especially in the way they select and discipline students.

They portray charters as the pet project of foundations financed by white billionaires, and argue that the closing of traditional schools as students migrate to charters has disproportionately disrupted black communities.

There’s also the many problems with how charter schools operate:

Although charters are supposed to admit students by lottery, some effectively skim the best students from the pool, with enrollment procedures that discourage all but the most motivated parents to apply. Some charters have been known to nudge out their most troubled students.

That, the groups supporting a moratorium say, concentrates the poorest students in public schools that are struggling for resources.

Charter schools “are allowed to get away with a lot more,” said Hiram Rivera, an author of the Black Lives platform and the executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union.

Charters are slightly more likely to suspend students than traditional public schools, according to an analysis of federal data this year. And black students in charter schools are four times as likely to be suspended as their white peers, according to the data analysis, putting them in what Mr. Brooks calls the “preschool to prison pipeline.”

Another platform author, Jonathan Stith, the national coordinator for the Alliance for Educational Justice, chose a charter school in Washington for one of his children because it promised an Afrocentric curriculum. But he began to see the school driving out students. It was difficult, he said, for parents to push back against the private boards that run the schools.

“Where you see the charters providing an avenue of escape for some, it hasn’t been for the majority,” he said.

Mr. Stith came to think the money would be better spent on fixing the traditional public school system.

Once again, the problem of education is the problems of poverty and inequality. If you want to improve public education, you don’t give over public monies and responsibility to private entities. You work to fix poverty. But where’s the money for that? Plus if you fixed poverty there might be room for teachers’ unions and we couldn’t have that now, could we. After all, who is more concerned about a child’s education, a Silicon Valley investor or a teacher trying to reach out to a children and pay her mortgage at the same time?

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  • charter schools are all about breaking up the teacher’s unions, b/c those unions support Dems.

    And putting a polite veil over racism, like –just maybe — no one will see it.

    • Phil Perspective

      charter schools are all about breaking up the teacher’s unions, b/c those unions support Dems.

      It’s more than that. Just look at the big cities. Plenty of elected Democrats support charter schools.

      • Sly

        Just look at the big cities. Plenty of elected Democrats support charter schools.

        For the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks.

  • Bitter Scribe

    What annoys me about vouchers, charter schools and the like is that they’re irredeemably rooted in racism. Their ancestors are the all-white “academies” that sprang up across the South after Brown. It’s irksome to see them presented as the answer to racial inequality in education (or, more accurately, as a facile excuse to not really do anything).

    • No Longer Middle Aged Man

      Charter schools and vouchers are great ideas in the abstract. Right up there with Plato’s philosopher king. In practice, if you’re lucky you wind up with something like George III. More likely, Peter the Great: a modernizing “disrupter” who lays waste to the mass of the local population but plays well to foreign elites. After all, the most important constituencies for school reform are politicians and pundits and business leaders, not the people who attend or send their kids to the local schools.

      • Denverite

        It’s really more complicated than this. With charter schools, the devil is in the details. Yes, they can be used to engage in some unsavory practices. Yes, they can be used to undercut teachers unions. But not all of them — and perhaps even most of them — ARE used in these ways. Some of them are used responsibly to provide an alternative educational experience (art-focused, science-focused, etc.) to the children in a school district.

        And yes, some of them are used to provide an outlet to kids in crappy schools, and by doing so, probably do make the crappy schools a little more crappy. But given that this usually takes the form of “saving” some disadvantaged kids at the expense of other disadvantaged kids, it’s not 100% clear that it’s a bad thing. You’re saving some of the disadvantaged kids, after all. At the very least, it’s a difficult question. (Yes, yes, the better solution would be to massively increase funding for those crappy schools, and go out and hire great teachers, and drastically increase funding for things like pre-K and school lunches and afterschool activities and the like. Also productive would be to give all of those kids a pony and an iPad, so they could spend their free time caring for said pony and tracking the progress of that care in a killer app.)

        [ETA: The last bit was a bit stronger than I intended. I absolutely think we should do the things I mentioned. And I think we should actively continue to do so — these aren’t pie-in-the-sky ideas. But until we’re there, I think the question of charter schools used as a mechanism to alleviate the problems that inner city schools present FOR SOME KIDS is a difficult question that shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand.]

        • Phil Perspective

          Charter schools steal funds, in many ways, from public schools. Just look at Chicago, as one example.

        • los

          With charter schools, the devil is in the details.
          My impression is that charters, when established, are instantly free of some of the administrative cruft that cripples standard public schools.
          The cruft accumulates because “watchdogs” and parents have demanded rules etc. Other cruft is employee job protection. Without such, employees would charge more in salary as trade-off. Those might better educate students, but pay staff more.

          Better-funded school districts probably prove this true.
          So some charters do well partly by good luck, in the bigger sense. Bad charters do poorly due to bad luck, in the bigger sense (e.g., operated by grifters or incompetents).
          As I have read, a few states are “evolving” laws to more efficiently clean out the bad charters.
          As well-known, rethugs push charters largely to destroy (all) employee equal rights and to rape taxpayers, so redstates will probably suffer for decades without grift protection.
          Stronger Parent-teacher ties could help clean up/out poor administrators in charters and publics. (Running Government Like a Business disease)

           
          Public schools must accept the “more troublesome or difficult” students that charters reject (I wonder if any states allow school boards to prohibit charters rejecting “expensive” students)
          Conservapundits like writing that some doctors pay higher malpractice due to accepting difficult and expensive medical cases. Public schools are in similar situation.

           
          As I recall (from tiny quotations), Shanker liked the idea of charters as testbeds, from which publics would adopt “promising” practices.
          I haven’t read of any governments doing this.
          Ravitch and other charter watchers may have assembled recommendations for charters and publics, but I have not searched for such.

        • los

          give all of those kids a pony and an iPad
          :-)

          ipad (ios) ux/ue/gui is well-designed, especially for “idiots”, but there are less expensive android-based tablets.
          A cult favorite was Fuhu Nabi 2 7″ of 2012 – affordable with adequately strong cpu and 1GB RAM. (1GB was OK in an era of cheeeep tablets crippled by 512MB RAM. Many tablets “for kids” are psychological torture devices, for as long as the tablet still runs)
          In 2016, amazon’s color 7″ might be a good bulk-sales base for a learning tablet.

          (disclaimer: I am not a tablet/touch user except for some phone usage)

          whatever the digital learning aid, it needs to be customized for the courses student takes, and locked down (in the hardware)
          PC labs use auto reinstall (os image restore) software like deepfreeze.
          but there are other headaches…

  • sk7326

    The irony of the charter school movement is the usual prescription for education involves “firing poorly performing teachers”, while charter school which succeed do so by “firing students”.

    One suspects that just reducing class sizes in general, regardless of paradigm of boogedy-boogedy, would get the same results of good charters. It is not magic.

    And yes, the systemic issues of poverty infect the whole operation.

    • los

      And yes, the systemic issues of poverty infect the whole operation.
      IMO, multiple adults (parents, aunts, uncles, etc) must be drawn into the child’s education. Some adults don’t have much emotional and physical energy, have already succumbed to neighborhood mass psychological depression, etc.

      • los

        Zuckerbergs donated $100M to Newark schools, $25M to charter. Web search finds Mark Zuckerberg comment and opinions circa Oct 2015.

        Nov 6, 2015 … Mark Zuckerberg defends his $100 million donation to Newark schools … the charter school network in Newark, stating that, “Newark’s charter …
        Sep 25, 2015 … The second biggest piece of Zuckerberg’s donation — $25 million — went to charter schools in Newark. For students who were able to attend …
        Oct 20, 2015 … Running up against inertia, Zuckerberg’s donation was a gift that didn’t … “For example, while 71 percent of charter school students in Newark .
        Nov 6, 2015 … 5 Years Later, Zuckerberg Says $100M Newark School Donation a Success … He added that the district’s charter schools now “rank as the 2nd ..
        Nov 9, 2015 … Zuckerberg highlights what he learned after $100 million gift to Newark
        Oct 8, 2015 … Newark mayor Cory Booker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and … used Newark schools and the glow of Zuckerberg’s donation as a political … A gulf grew between the successful charter schools Zuckerberg opened …
        Sep 21, 2015 … Zuckerberg donated $100 million with the understanding it would be …. But Newark has, you know, a very superior group of charter schools that …
        Aug 26, 2015 … The Melting of Mark Zuckerberg’s Donation to Newark Schools … public schools at all costs and the defenders of charter schools and reform.

  • Denverite

    Charters are slightly more likely to suspend students than traditional public schools, according to an analysis of federal data this year. And black students in charter schools are four times as likely to be suspended as their white peers, according to the data analysis, putting them in what Mr. Brooks calls the “preschool to prison pipeline.”

    Without commenting on the rest of the piece, I’m really surprised a NYT editor didn’t catch this.

  • drwormphd

    Kevin Drum today noted that veteran Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews says his biggest mistake was believing Michelle Rhee.

    Is it too optimistic to think that the tide is turning against the charter school industry?

    • Phil Perspective

      I notice KDrum doesn’t admit that the DFH’s were right all along, again!!

      • Ahuitzotl

        He’s always been pretty skeptical about charters, as far as I recall

  • SIS1

    The original point of Charter schools, as envisioned by the educators who first thought of them, were places where pedagogic experimentation could be carried out by teachers to find new and more effective teaching methods that could in theory be rolled out to all students. This was a worthy role.

    The fact that most charters today define themselves by their administrative style and not by their pedagogic experimentation tells us all we need to know about the corruption of this once fine idea.

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