Monday, February 11, 2013

Spotlight on local charters

Joel Medley,  director of the N.C. charter school office,  caught up with me shortly after I blogged about a local discussion of whether charters are discovering successful tactics to share with other public schools.

Medley noted that the founding legislation doesn't specify any method for acting as an innovation incubator,  though that language is prevalent in national talk about charters.  But last year his office started posting analyses of best practices in N.C. charters,  and some schools in Mecklenburg County have landed in that spotlight.

Community School of Davidson garnered the state's only in-depth individual analysis.  The report highlights the school,  which serves about 1,000 students in grades K-10,  as a "school of relationships,"  using such approaches as a faculty retreat in Asheville to build morale and a  "looping"  approach that keeps teachers with their students for two years.

The charter school office also looked at 12 charters that earned high growth ratings three years in a row.  Among them were Community School of Davidson, KIPP Charlotte and  Socrates Academy in Matthews.  Some of the characteristics of the successful schools were pretty obvious:  Stability in leadership and students,  engaged parents and a culture focused on student success.  Most of the schools also offer a wider grade span than the traditional elementary/middle/high model,  demanding fewer transitions for students, and smaller-than-usual classes and/or schools.

Not surprisingly,  most of the high-growth schools have a lot in common with successful schools run by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other districts.  Everyone knows it's important to hire great teachers,  set high standards,  provide useful training,  foster a good work environment and get parents engaged.  That doesn't mean it's easy in any type of school.  But as charters continue to proliferate, it will be helpful for all to hear about what's working.


BolynMcClung said...


The report below notes a two-year period to reduce the Achievement Gap in 18 of 22 KIPP schools. CMS is about to use Cultural Competency training with a hope of reducing the Achievement Gap. The company being considered for this has been in Connecticut since 2004. Connecticut schools continue to struggle.

Which method should the community support? The two-year method or the nine-year method or continue as is?


"A study of 22 Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools nationwide finds race- and income-based academic achievement gaps narrowed significantly at the schools over the past four years.

The study by Princeton-based Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. compared the results of state achievement tests from approximately 11,000 KIPP middle-school students with those of students from nearby traditional public schools. Students in at least half the KIPP schools Mathematica studied gained the equivalent of 1.2 years in mathematics and 0.9 years in reading three years after enrolling. The results effectively cut the racial achievement gap in half.

According to the study: “Within two years after entry, students are experiencing statistically significant, positive impacts in 18 of 22 KIPP schools in math and 15 of 22 KIPP schools in reading. Meanwhile, only two KIPP schools register a significant negative impact in reading in any year of treatment.

In a dozen years of doing this kind of work, I’ve never worked on a study that showed positive effects that were this consistently large,” study co-author Brian Gill said in an interview."

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< end of report >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Not surprisingly, most of the high-growth schools have a lot in common with successful schools run by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other districts. Everyone knows it's important to hire great teachers, set high standards, provide useful training, foster a good work environment and get parents engaged.

Implementing those successful attributes costs virtually nothing, yet we pour - and waste - hundreds of millions of dollars into other failed programs and schools year after year after year.

Anonymous said...

I find it consistent that the list of what is needed for success in any type of school always includes effective teachers, but rarely if ever includes effective principals/administrators. Does that mean that we assume that all are effective or that they have no role to play. My experience in 10 years of volunteering in CMS is that good/effective principals mean a successful school. A bad principal makes it impossible for all of the other ingredients to prosper. So if we have so many failing schools, we need to pin the tail on the proper donkey.

Anonymous said...

The main difference between charter schools and regular schools is accountability. If charter principals, teachers or teacher assistants are doing a good job, they can be paid more. If they're doing a bad job, they can be fired. This is not the case for the most part at regular schools.

Shamash said...


You know the KIPP program encourages things like behaving and doing work.

And they probably have a "future time" and "intellectual" orientation as well.

That's too much like "acting white" that Singleton/PEG discourage for people of different "cultures" (read "skin colors", even if the actual culture isn't really so different).

When Asians do this kind of thing and succeed, Singleton/PEG dismiss them as "model minorities" who are merely fulfilling "white expectations" that they do better.

And those "other" black/brown kids (the non-Asians) MUST AVOID fulfilling white "expectations" at all costs.

If anything, the whites need to be browbeaten into submission to avoid placing ANY expectations on other "cultures".

I think that is a vote for "more of the same"...

Or perhaps slightly worse than "more of the same".

And why try to replicate success (White Talk) when we can simply do the "feel-good" thing (Color Commentary) and continue placing kids on academic life support for another generation.

Anonymous said...

"And why try to replicate success (White Talk) when we can simply do the "feel-good" thing (Color Commentary) and continue placing kids on academic life support for another generation."

Excellent point, Shamash. What Heath does not acknowledge is that Charlotte's been doing the "feel-good" thing one way or another for a long time. Unfortunately the more we're brow beaten with Community Building initiatives, "souls of white folks" discussions, "Crossroads" scenarios, etc. the worse the problem seems to become. And then of course the non-profits and consulting types tell us we just aren't doing enough, so we need to do more (and could the city, county, school system, and big name donors please give them some more money to do this "important" "work".). What a racket!

Anonymous said...

The "success" of charter schools is really no secret. While they serve impoverished areas, they can skim the top of the talent pool within that area. Further, they can counsel out underperforming or disruptive students. They enroll a lower percentage of ESL and students with disabilities.

A recent study found some KIPP schools (San Francisco Bay Area) to have a 56% attrition rate within a student cohort. The students who left were found to be lower performing students. They have a 13 page application (in English only)for their lottery which weeds out illiterate parents. They are not accountable because they are not a "right to attend" school.

Shamash said...

Anon 10:12.

Well, you know, if that's what it takes, then it's better than letting those kids do poorly elsewhere.

I mean, seriously, what's wrong with eliminating the riff-raff in the school if it works?

It's probably the only chance some of these kids will get.

And if it's a choice I had, I'd probably take it.

And at least by putting them in a separate school you can measure the impact.

And you can have things like your study of 5 KIPP schools vs. Bolyn's study of 22 KIPP schools.

At least there is SOMETHING to compare for results.

And if KIPP practices are mostly window dressing and the REAL key to their success is that the poor-performers leave, then so be it.

At least they serve those who stick to it well.

Which is better than it would have been for that group.

And if that's "skimming", then, well, it's just further proof that we're just going to leave some children behind.

Nothing new there.

At least it's not like the PEG/Singleton stuff for which I can find NO effectiveness studies (outside what they pat themselves on the back for "achieving" at their various white-bashing conferences and occasional publication, that is...).

At least we can find studies of KIPP.

And maybe there should be a "placebo" Charter School which does nothing special except make kids and parents sign up to enroll and just kicks out the riff-raff for comparison.

Maybe THAT'S all it takes.

If so, at least that would be SOMETHING.

And we could bring back reform schools for the riff-raff.

Or they can just go back to the kinds of schools they came from depending on why they left.

Anonymous said...

8:42 and others. We need to start agressively combating Singleton talk that when he uses "white" we use "civilized".

Shamash said...

"The big difference between KIPP and regular public schools, however, is that whereas struggling students come and go at regular schools, at KIPP, student leave but very few new children enter. Having few new entering students is an enormous advantage not only because low-scoring transfer students are kept out but also because in the later grades, KIPP students are surrounded only by successful peers who are the most committed to the program."

You know, I wonder if these educrats would fault the Navy Seals because so many people don't make the cut for the program and so many leave because the program is too tough?

At the end, the only people left in that program are the successful peers who are committed to the program, too.

Maybe that's not such a bad way to run things.

Ann Doss Helms said...

10:12, the state report looks at the percent of EC students in the high-growth charters, and some are surprisingly high. Not to say there isn't an advantage to being a school of choice, but the numbers are interesting.

Anonymous said...


Anan 10:12 here. We can't exercise Darwinism in our schools in this country because we have accept every child who shows up at the school house door regardless of background. I agree we need more alternative schools to weed out the riff-raff. However, someone has to take on the most challenging students; it's usually the traditional public schools that have to do it. Also, charter schools are no better or no worse than TPSs according to the largest study on charter schools. Charter schools have become media and politician darlings, but not everyone knows how they operate. I know parents want choices, but there are better ways to provide choices to families.

Anonymous said...

Ann...are those high performing charters obligated to accept those EC students? Were those percentages based on 20th day enrollment (which would yield a higher percentage) or were they taken at the end of the year when students may have left?

Shamash said...


Well, we obviously do not have to accept every child at every school, or these charters and school attendance borders, etc., ec. wouldn't exist.

We just have to accept them at SOME school. Not necessarily the school of their choice.

And I'm not so sure Darwinism is such a bad idea. It's pretty much what happens everywhere else.

Even on American Idol.

But, aside from the negative image most folks have of Darwinism, it does seem that these charter schools do help identify a subset of kids and parents willing to put in some extra effort who might languish elsewhere.

And while one part of me does feel a bit of sympathy for those who do not want to put in extra effort (after all, I have family members like that, too), I don't really see why we shouldn't have different paths for different levels of motivation and skill.

We do that in school sports and extracurricular activities all the time.

Not everyone gets on the football, basketball, and cheerleading squads and people have mostly accepted that for generations.

I mean, I've seen some benefits from "mixing" the high and low performers in schools, but I can't for the life of me understand, why, for example I had fellow students in my Freshman History class who COULD NOT READ.

I actually had to read History tests to this group after I finished my exam and take their "oral" responses to tests and write them down for them.

And the teacher had to dumb down the classes to the point that I could finish a test in under 5 minutes.

And yet, they NEVER let me on the basketball court with those same guys so I could screw up a game with my lack of skills.

When the schools are THAT BAD and that far our of whack what's the point in putting everyone in the same school?

Anonymous said...

Shamash, you've hit the nail on the head again. Yet you are over the heads of Heath, most of the BOE and that Singleton chap. Most of this group is stuck in the 60's and can only look backwards. Heath has worked with Singleton in 2 school districts and apparently has not figured out what this culutural competency thing is so he has to bring him in again. Or else maintaining and increasing this stream of taxpayers' money to him is to keep Heath in good graces with this circle of race baiters and the mass media.

Shamash said...

I think I'm just going to keep checking into the PEG story.

I have yet to see a single example of how they've done ANYTHING to close the "performance gap" ANYWHERE.

They just say people need to keep following PEG processes until the gaps close.

But I don't see where the gaps close...

There is a link on the PEG website to a US News & World Report article which makes some pretty big claims for "performance gap" progress in Eden Prairie High School WHICH DOES NOT MATCH what Minnesota says is the % proficiency in Reading and Math.

Of course, there is no evidence anywhere that PEG had anything to do with the performance changes anyway (just the fact that they were in town and on the payroll makes them responsible?), but PEG gets a lot of PR out of the Eden Prairie school district.

I'm going to work on this tomorrow.

The "performance gap" numbers just don't match the claims.

At least not for these tests.

Anyone who wants to see the raw information beforehand can compare this glowing article:

With this website of state test scores:

Something in these numbers just doesn't add up. I think it's pretty apparent to anyone who looks.

In fact, I don't see a lot of progress at all. There was a ONE YEAR BUMP UP in 2010, but mostly from scores that were lower since 2006.

Also Eden Prairie "blacks" aren't typical of US blacks.

A lot of them are refugees from Somalia.

Anonymous said...

Great way to improve teacher morale and recruit the best and brightest from outside districts.

Just another waste of professiionals time and a waste of taxpayer money. This cultural blame game nonsense will do nothing but drive away quality teachers.

Shamash said...
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Shamash said...
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Ann Doss Helms said...

Shamash, I read the Eden Prairie chapter in Glenn Singleton's latest book. I don't have it in front of me (lent it to someone else), but from what I recall, there were gains for minority students and the gap narrowed but did not disappear. It struck me as similar to patterns seen in CMS over the last few years w/o cultural competency. And yes, you're always going to come down to the fact that it's impossible to show that PEG work caused any success (or failure) because schools always have a lot of reform efforts going on.

Shamash said...

I know he uses Eden Prairie in his book, which I why I'm looking for outside corroboration.

What I found was that the data he quotes in the US News doesn't seem to be publicly available elsewhere.

Nowhere could I find an official report that shows the Eden Prairie High School had only 3% of African American students passing the math portion of the MCA's back in 2008.

Most of the time they only publish data for the entire district, not individual schools, but those numbers sound suspicious to me.

Especially since all the other MCA data shows %proficiency in the 30% range for blacks.

You'd think a 3% pass rate would trigger serious alarms.

But, I've only seen them mentioned by Singleton/PEG.

Some other group called the NUA (National Urban Alliance) published different numbers (no math scores, though) in a slide at where THAT ORGANIZATION
takes credit for the progress:

"Closing the Achievement Gap,
One Student at a Time
NUA partnership with Eden Prairie schools has improved instruction, raised expectations and produced dramatic academic gains".

Also, the "blacks" in Eden Prairie are mostly Somali immigrants, so I suspect they will have a different assimilation pattern than the typical blacks.

But I did find this information on the MCA's:

From 2006-2011 %proficiency in math for the Eden Prairie School District:

Black 36%, 39%, 31%, 39%, 46%, 38%
White 79%, 78%, 77%, 81%, 84%, 76%
Hispa 47%, 50%, 48%, 52%, 63%, 46%
Asian 84%, 88%, 80%, 81%, 86%, 82%

H'mm. So where's the big improvement?

District-wide it seems to be a wash.

And it's not a very large district.

And it's still largely white as well.

And why was that Eden Prairie High School so pathetic in comparison to the rest of the district (with only 3% blacks passing)?

It all seems a bit unreal to me.

Especially when other school district performance data doesn't show the same pattern.

So, they have only made an "improvement" at one school?

Shamash said...
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Shamash said...

Oh yeah, almost forgot.

For ONE YEAR (2010) there was a BIG RISE across the board in those MCA's followed by a regression to the lower numbers in 2011.

I'm not quite sure what to think of that.

But I do recall seeing something similar occur recently in Atlanta.

And we all know what was behind that...

Also, FWIW, a good portion of Singleton's books are available on Google Books, but they have a few pages missing.

From what I've read of his Eden Prairie case, he doesn't say much about the Somali population, but they are the majority of blacks in that district.

Maybe it's in the pages I missed.

Anonymous said...

The challenge for a proper analysis is now to look at other similar demographic school districts and see if similar or lessor curves MAC, math english also exist. I know we had a school in CMS that was elated in its gains but when you compared it to the other schools, they we still next to last. Every other school had gained as much or more.