Saturday, December 26, 2015

Charter Schools - Data Show Different Enrollment From District Schools

I recently read in Commonwealth Magazine an excellent article analyzing the data that show who enrolls, and who remains, in charter schools.  Every article that trumpets a charter school's success should also include an analysis of that school's enrollment as compared to the local district.  As pointed out in this article, students without learning disabilities tend to do better than students with learning disabilities, students who are fluent in English tend to do better than students who are not proficient in English, etc.  Not mentioned in the article, but implied, is that students without behavioral issues tend to do better than students with behavioral challenges.  Charter schools that have fewer students with learning disabilities, fewer English language learners, and fewer behaviorally challenged students will obviously have better test scores. If we as a society want that -- schools that provide a good education for less challenged students, while leaving the public schools with a more challenging population -- that's one thing, but full disclosure should be made, and the choice should be clear.

Check out the article at this link --

Monday, December 21, 2015

Competition Reduces Performance of Teams

Excellent new book -- Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know that Brilliant Machines Never Will, by Geoff Colvin -- with a fascinating analysis of the increasing capabilities of computers, including even creativity, and a great discussion of what capabilities are likely to stay entirely human.

Regarding new "education reform" policies like merit pay, ranking of teachers, and encouragement of competition in general, it's interesting and instructive to consider Colvin's analysis of the research:

"Competing for status poisoned a group's effectiveness regardless of gender composition. . . More ideas and better judgments -- those are what make groups effective.  But when group members can compete for status, the female advantage [in terms of social sensitivity and ability to develop productive relationships that increase a group's collective intelligence], at least in creating collective intelligence,, gets shut down. . .  In real-world settings, group incentives thus become crucially important. . . whether it actually happens [group composition leading to effectiveness] depends on whether group members are given incentives to try to outdo one another.  Not even ancient, inherent strengths can survive bad management." 

It's been shown time and again that schools are more effective when educators work collaboratively, and there is no research indicating that competition among teachers increases effectiveness.  Yet again another "reform" based only on the unsupported beliefs of a few powerful people.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Charter Schools and Student Behavioral Issues

The DESE just published school discipline statistics for last year.  I find it interesting that 25 of the top 30, in terms of most students suspended out of school, are charter schools.  And the top 17 are all charters -- you can check it out by going to the chart ( and sort by percentage of out-of-school suspensions.

It's frequently said that charter schools have ways of causing students with disruptive behaviors to leave, and I have personally experienced a couple of examples of this.  Some years ago, the head of a charter school consulted me about a particular discipline issue.  I gave him my advice, and a couple weeks later, asked him how it had worked out.  He said, "Oh, we just told the parents that we wouldn't pursue it further if they withdrew him and returned him to the regular public schools."

It appears that more frequent use of out-of-school suspensions may also lead to the same result.  Of course, excluding students with difficult behaviors is one of the reasons charter schools are so popular with parents.  And it's difficult to know exactly how to hold charter schools accountable in this area -- if a child is disruptive, and frequently suspended, and parents return him/her to the regular public schools, probably also requesting an evaluation for special needs, that appears to just be parent choice.  In order to have a level playing field, though, the child would have to be required to stay at the charter, and the charter assume the expense of special services if that's what's needed. But that flies in the face of the concept of parent choice. . .