Minnesotans for Better Education, Standards and Testing

Minnbest is a non-partisan, broad based coalition of parents, educators and school advocacy groups who believe excellent public education is a foundation of democracy in America.

11/23/2004

Don't Believe the Hype about Great Charter Schools

The Privatizers blame the kids and the data and the USDoE tries to hide the study.

Here's the link to the full report:

http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/_eval/choice/pcsp-final/index.html

From The New York Times

November 23, 2004
Charter Schools Fall Short in Public Schools Matchup
By SAM DILLON and DIANA JEAN SCHEMO

A new study commissioned by the Department of Education, which compares the
achievement of students in charter schools with those attending traditional
public schools in five states, has concluded that the charter schools were
less likely to meet state performance standards.

In Texas, for instance, the study found that 98 percent of public schools
met state performance requirements two years ago, but that only 66 percent
of the charter schools did. Even when adjusted for race and poverty, the
study said, the charter schools fell short more frequently by a
statistically significant amount.

The study added new data to a highly politicized debate between charter
school supporters, including senior Bush administration officials, and
skeptics who question the performance of the publicly financed but
privately managed schools.

Deputy Education Secretary Eugene W. Hickok minimized the report's
significance even as he released the results. But academics who have been
critical of charter school performance called it an important contribution.

"In five case-study states, charter schools are less likely to meet state
performance standards than traditional public schools," the report said.
Those states, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and North Carolina,
all have made significant public investments in charter schools.

The report's finding appears to present a new complication for the Bush
administration as it seeks to carry out the No Child Left Behind law, which
says that public schools failing to meet achievement objectives over
several years may be converted into charter schools.

"How can we consider charter schools to be an option for dealing with
failing public schools when this study, commissioned by the Department of
Education, shows that about half of them don't appear to be doing any
better at meeting performance standards than other public schools?" asked
Gary Miron, a researcher at Western Michigan State University who has
written a book on charter schools.

The study also provided new statistical data showing that charter schools,
which tend to be located in cities, serve higher percentages of minority
youths than traditional public schools, but fewer special education
students. African-American students made up 27 percent of charter school
students in the 1999-2000 year, compared with 17 percent in regular public
schools, the report said. Some 21 percent of charter students were
Hispanic, compared with 15 percent in regular schools, it said.

Paul E. Peterson, a professor of government at Harvard who has written
frequently of the benefits to parents of offering new choices, including
charter schools and vouchers, called that finding a significant
contribution to the educational debate that "confirms that charter schools
are identifying and serving a disadvantaged population."

Dr. Peterson cited the high number of minority students in charter schools
as evidence that they are not "creaming," or recruiting a preponderance of
easy-to-educate, talented students. Their higher populations of minority
students, he said, help to explain the report's conclusion that charter
schools were less likely to meet state achievement standards than regular
schools, he said.

"When you have targeted a needy population, you will have more difficulty
reaching state standards," Dr. Peterson said.

The report found that in two states, however, Texas and Colorado, even when
allowances were made for race and poverty, the charter schools were still
less likely to meet state standards than regular schools.

Charter schools have gained considerable popularity among some parents and
educators since 1992, when the first one was created in Minnesota. A new
survey, by the Center for Education Reform, a Washington group that
supports charters, says there are now about 3,300 of the schools, operating
in 41 states, educating nearly one million students. Still, they are a
relatively minor force in the nation's overall kindergarten through high
school education effort. There are about 90,000 traditional public schools,
educating more than 50 million students.

The new study is the third and final report on a broad examination of
charter schools, commissioned in 1998 by the Department of Education in the
Clinton administration. Conducted by SRI International, a research firm in
California, the final report was delivered to the department in June, its
authors said. The department did not make the 127-page report public until
Friday afternoon, after The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information
Request last month to obtain it.

Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman, said the department had released the report "as
fast as we could."

Dr. Hickok, in a statement accompanying the report, said, "As can be
evidenced by their growing popularity, charters are an important
educational option'' for the students who attend them. . Noting the finding
that charter schools were less likely to meet performance standards than
traditional public schools, he said the study "does not mean that
traditional schools are outperforming charter schools or vice versa."

"The study is a snapshot, and it is impossible to know whether charter
students are catching up or falling behind," Dr. Hickok said.

The study follows several recent efforts to track charter performance,
including a report by the American Federation of Teachers, which showed
students in charter schools lagging behind their public school peers on the
National Assessment of Educational Progress. Advocates of charter schools,
including Education Secretary Rod Paige, criticized that report for
generalizing about charter schools, which offer extremely varied
educational programs in states from Massachusetts to Oregon.

Partly in response to the A.F.T. report, a Harvard economics professor,
Caroline M. Hoxby, sped up release of a study she had been conducting
comparing students in charter schools nationwide with students in the
nearest neighborhood school, and with the closest public school with a
similar racial makeup.

She found charter students were 4 percent more likely to have mastered
reading and 2 percent more likely to have mastered math than students at
the neighborhood schools. The proficiency levels increased by one
percentage point in each subject when she compared charters to local
schools with a similar racial makeup. Dr. Hoxby's strongest findings were
in Washington, D.C.

Her report also provoked debate, with charter supporters praising her
methods and findings and other researchers, who have tried to replicate her
data, criticizing her for excluding some Washington charter schools from
her study set and using a lower measure to determine success in charter
schools.

Another recent study of charter schools in Washington, where 17 percent of
publicly educated students attend charters, found that charters were
somewhat more likely to enroll low-income students than regular public
schools, less likely to enroll students with limited English, and as likely
as traditional schools to enroll disabled students, said Mark Schneider, a
political science professor at the State University of New York at Stony
Brook, and a co-author. The study was financed by the National Science
Foundation.

The new Education Department report found that 43 percent of charter
students were from low-income families, compared with 38 percent in regular
public schools nationwide. Nine percent of charter students were disabled,
compared with 12 percent in regular public schools, it said.

The new report attracted immediate criticism from groups representing
charter schools.

Dan Gerstein, a spokesman for the Charter School Leadership Council, an
umbrella group, said it "sheds no light on the actual performance of
charter schools or the value they add to student learning" because it did
not include measurements of the evolution of student achievement over
several years at charters.

"In this respect it probably clouds the picture rather than clarifies it,"
Mr. Gerstein said.

11/11/2004

Let them hear from YOU!!!!

Senate Majority Leader Dean E. Johnson
208 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155-1606
E-mail: sen.dean.johnson@senate.mn
Phone: (651) 296-3826

Education Finance Chair
LeRoy Stumpf
G-24 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155-1606
E-mail: sen.leroy.stumpf@senate.mn
Phone: (651) 296-8660


Senators encourage public input at new email address:
schools@senate.mn

The Minnesota Senate is seeking citizen input on public schools. Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson and LeRoy Stumpf, Chair of the K-12 Education Budget Division, announce that they have created an e-mail address for Minnesotans to share opinions and possible solutions for funding schools. Amid new reports indicating that schools are not adequately funded, the Senators hope to spark community discussions on the topic. The email address is schools@senate.mn.

Stumpf cited two reports released by the Pawlenty administration indicating that Minnesota fails to adequately fund K-12 schools. The Minnesota Department of Education released a report* projecting that Minnesota is failing to adequately fund schools by $1 billion. This report echoes the findings** released by Governor Pawlenty’s Task Force on Education Finance.

With the information from these reports, Stumpf suggests that discussions revolve around what we expect from schools and the cost of those expectations. “As I see it,” said Stumpf, “we have three choices: significantly change our delivery system so that the current funding can meet our expectations; reduce our expectations that we have for schools by eliminating mandates and limiting curriculum; or fund schools at the level these reports indicate is necessary to meet expectations.”

Johnson and Stumpf believe discussions of how we fund our public schools need to take place at the community level. Johnson said, “This discussion should not simply take place in the legislature but, more so, in our communities, in our churches, at corner cafes, anywhere that people gather. All Minnesotans have a stake in the success of our schools and should have a voice in the discussion. Without these discussions and without action on them, our schools are set up to fail.”

The responses the Senate receives from the public will be compiled in anticipation of the upcoming Legislative Session. The 2005 Session, the first year of the biennium, is used for the major financial planning of the State. School funding is the State’s responsibility and accounts for 41% of the State’s budget. “We look forward to hearing from the public.” Stumpf and Johnson said that they also welcome comments in letter format.


* report available at: http://education.state.mn.us/content/080511.pdf
** report available at: http://education.state.mn.us/html/076440.htm

11/10/2004

FUND THE SCHOOLS!!!!!

MinnBEST doesn't take a position on how it gets done. Don't raise taxes or do, raise fees or don't, go further into debt or don't, but fund the schools. Maybe we just need to take up a collection or the Governor can take out an extra mortgage in Eagan.

www.petitiononline.com/classsize

Editorial K-12 funding/Voters say: Invest in schools

November 8, 2004

No clear pattern emerged in last week's election about Minnesotans' willingness to spend additional property-tax dollars on public education. Based on the results from 67 school referendum votes statewide, about half of the excess levy requests gained voter approval and half failed. Not surprisingly, citizens in more affluent areas tended to say yes, while those in less wealthy districts rejected school appeals for more funding.

Yet the reasons for many of the tax-increase requests, paired with significant DFL gains in House legislative seats, did confirm citizen concerns about the state's treatment of public education. These referendums were not for educational extras; in many cases, school boards asked for more dollars specifically because the Legislature failed to provide adequate funding for basic programs. Voters grew to understand that nearly $200 million in state cuts last year and previous, no-inflation funding increases for public education are not good enough.

Against that backdrop, many districts couldn't use their excess levy power as it was intended -- to provide capital funds for new buildings, deferred maintenance or to enhance, improve or expand class or equipment offerings. So they went to voters, hat in hand, just to keep afloat at current or reduced levels. After depleting reserves, going into debt and suffering layoffs, some needed additional help for operating expenses -- basic costs that are supposed to be covered by state support.

For example, according to a list compiled by the Minnesota School Boards Association, the Alexandria ballot issue requested funds to maintain class sizes, minimize cuts, avoid family transportation fees and maintain extracurricular programs. Blue Earth looked to offset decreased state funds and to reduce budget cuts.

Centennial and St. Michael-Albertville both wanted to restore 15 teaching positions and prevent further budget cuts and fee increases. Other districts, such Orono and St. Louis Park, sought to renew existing levies at higher rates, again for basic operations.

Another trend that clearly signaled citizen unhappiness with the state's handling of school funding was the addition of 13 DFLers to the Minnesota House. In many of those races, education was a central campaign issue that worked against both incumbent and new Republicans. Though GOP candidates tried to argue that they and Gov. Tim Pawlenty had "held education harmless," smart voters knew better. They watched their school districts lose staff, increase class sizes and fees, and reduce programs. Parents and others felt the pain when their principals sought donations of staples like Kleenex, paper and pencils, and asked their children to share books and other materials.

Parents also could see that while the state froze and reduced their school funding, the "no new taxes" pledges produced a trickle-down effect: Instead of state taxes, local taxes would go up. What the state failed to do for schoolchildren had to be made up in local school, city and county property taxes. Essentially, citizens in some north and western metro suburbs and parts of southern Minnesota turned to DFL candidates, in part, out of concern that the state has not done right by public school students.

Now the slim 68-66 GOP House majority and the governor cannot ignore what school communities and voters said loudly and clearly: Stop starving schools and start raising investments in K-12 education.