Charter Op-Ed Misrepresents (Big Tree): My Response That They Won’t Print (Small Axe)

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 1.49.45 AM

If you are the big tree, we are the small axe, ready to cut you down, to cut you down! Bob Marley

I submitted an Op-Ed two weeks ago to the San Antonio Express News (SAEN) and they have refused to print it. The SAEN has not given the cold shoulder to corporate charter proponents. They printed an Op-Ed by Victoria Rico, a trustee of the George W. Brackenridge Foundation which has poured millions into recruiting and establishing corporate charters to San Antonio. The corporate charters that they are welcoming and desiring? KIPP, IDEA, Great Hearts and BASIS (et al)… Incidentely, each of which have appeared previously at Cloaking Inequity. See:

From Friend to Foe: Austin 1, IDEA 0 and Austin American Statesman’s IDEA fact check

Entire KIPP thread here. Also, “Work Hard, Be Nice?”: A Response to KIPP

Great Heart charters say “Diversity is too hard”

and then there is BASIS: What BASIS?: Nepotism and aggrandizement in charters?

Well, the reality of data and research on corporate charters in Texas and elsewhere did not stop Victoria Rico from proclaiming that “Despite social ills, students in charter schools succeed” The beauty of social media is that the traditional media can no longer silence counter-narrative and dissent. Here is the response to Rico that the SAEN does not want you to see:

Charter proponents do a disservice to the public by misrepresenting what Texas data actually say when comparing charters to traditional public schools, as Victoria Rico did in a Jan. 16 opinion piece in the San Antonio Express-News.

Rico’s opening salvo was to knock public schools for low college readiness rates and college degree attainment. In a study of Texas data I conducted and published on Cloaking Inequity, my educational policy blog, I showed that the vast majority of schools producing college-ready Latino and African-American students in Texas are actually public magnets and traditional public high schools.

Furthermore, Stanford’s CREDO 2013 study found that on average charters in Texas cost kids 22 days of learning in reading and 29 days in math.

On this, we can agree. The achievement gap is real and it must be fixed. But unlike Rico, I don’t believe charter schools writ large have found the magic elixir for a complex problem. Charters are a diverse group with many different models. In recent years, so-called corporate charters have swept onto the scene in San Antonio, dazzling the media, parents and business leaders with high test scores and college-going rates. These franchises include KIPP, IDEA, Great Hearts, BASIS and Carpe Diem.

The reports out of some of these corporate charters of 100 percent graduation rates and a 100 percent of students attending college seem almost too good to be true. They are. A closer look at those shiny numbers show they come at a cost. For example, KIPP has posited that they serve mostly low-income and minority students and still get better results than public schools. What they don’t brag about are the high rates of attrition that help cull their classes to only the most motivated and high-achieving students.

A nationwide study of KIPP by researchers at Western Michigan University criticized the schools’ high attrition rates —about 40 percent for African-American males — and the fact that they serve low numbers of students learning English or with disabilities. Not to mention the fact that KIPP spent around “$18,500 per pupil in 2007-08, about $6,500 more per student than the average for other schools in the same districts,” according to a story in Education Week.

Same story with BASIS. At the original campus of BASIS charter school in Tucson, Ariz., the class of 2012 had 97 students when they were 6th graders. By the time those students were seniors, their numbers had dwindled to 33, a drop of 66 percent.

So what happens to families who get churned out of charters like KIPP and BASIS? They end up back at their neighborhood public schools, who welcome them with open arms as they do all students, regardless of race, class, circumstance or level of ability.

Great Hearts employs a different model. By marketing selectively to high-income parents, not providing transportation or lunch and charging fees for extracurricular activities, the school ends up with a selective and not very diverse crop of students. Such policies make them more akin to private schools than the “open-enrollment” public schools they purport to be. As a spokesman for Great Hearts told the Texas Tribune in November, “For us, diversity is really hard.”

Will we hold charters accountable for being diverse even though it is “really hard?”

There is nothing wrong with offering families more choices when it comes to their child’s education. But choice should be open to everyone, not be limited to those who test well or whose families can afford to buy their kids’ lunch every day. And, finally, every parent in San Antonio [and everywhere else] should have the choice to send their child to a traditional public school in their neighbor that is well resourced like the schools that are in Alamo Heights, Northside and North East.

If you are in Austin today— and have paid the $500 fee (!!!!!) for the conference— join us at the The Politics of Charter School Policy panel at SXSW.edu. It will begin at 1:30 in the Hilton Downtown Salon B.

See all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on charters here.

Please Facebook Like, Tweet, etc below and/or reblog to share this discussion with others.

Want to know about Cloaking Inequity’s freshly pressed conversations about educational policy? Click the “Follow blog by email” button in the upper left hand corner of this page.

Twitter: @ProfessorJVH

Click here for Vitae.

Please blame Siri for any typos.

Small Axe by Bob Marley

Why boasteth thyself
Oh, evil men
Playing smart
And not being clever?
I said, you’re working iniquity
To achieve vanity (if a-so a-so)
But the goodness of Jah, Jah
I-dureth for-I-ver

So if you are the big tree
We are the small axe
Ready to cut you down (well sharp)
To cut you down

These are the words
Of my master, keep on tellin’ me
No weak heart
Shall prosper
And whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall fall in it, fall in it
And whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall fall in it (… fall in it)

If you are the big tree, let me tell you that
We are the small axe, sharp and ready
Ready to cut you down (well sharp)
To cut you down

(To cut you down)

(To cut you down)

These are the words
Of my master, tellin’ me that
No weak heart
Shall prosper
And whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall fall in it, uh, bury in it
And whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall bury in it, uh (… bury in it)

If you are the big, big tree
We are the small axe
Ready to cut you down (well sharp)
To cut you down
If you are the big, big tree, let me tell you that
We are the small axe
Ready to cut you down (well sharp)
To cut you down
Sharpened …

Edit 3/11/14 Thank you for complaining!!: Even at charters, school choice limited – San Antonio Express-News http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Even-at-charters-school-choice-limited-5304600.php

About these ads

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Charter Schools

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

Social Media

Subscribe to my RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

16 Comments on “Charter Op-Ed Misrepresents (Big Tree): My Response That They Won’t Print (Small Axe)”

  1. inspireteaching001123
    March 5, 2014 at 3:27 am #

    I guess the truth hurts for SAEN. I think this is a great article: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qvkepyg4zauyhpc/Educational%20Policy-2011-Goldstein-543-76.pdf

    • Charlotte Vrooman
      March 5, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      They are afraid to reveal the truth and maybe lose advertising revenue or the approval of the elites who love charters.

  2. inspireteaching001123
    March 5, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    Reblogged this on Inspire Teaching.

  3. Paul
    March 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    This piece makes a lot of the common criticisms. Organizations tend to put self-preservation above even their own chosen mission, and corporations are definitely the worst at this, so it’s not surprising that corporate charters are spinning their numbers.

    I was troubled by the line “I showed that the vast majority of schools producing college-ready Latino and African-American students in Texas are actually public magnets and traditional public high schools.” Really? I showed that the vast majority of cars that don’t get into accidents have 4 wheels, and that the vast majority of precipitation that kills people involves some sort of water falling from the sky. I then went on to demonstrate that nearly all students who graduate from high-school have below genius level IQ’s, and that the vast majority of cars that can go over 80 miles per hour are not Ferraris. Furthermore, the vast majority of people who commit murder in the US are US citizens.

    I’m sorry if the sarcasm was a bit thick in that last paragraph. I’m just saying that it looks like the manipulation of arguments spins both ways.

    Toward the end of the article, I read the line “But choice should be open to everyone, not be limited to those who test well…” I can’t find anywhere in the article any mention of charter schools using testing as a method of selection. However, it is a common misconception about charters, and so its baselessness is quite likely to slip past the attention of most readers.

    I’m not saying that the author doesn’t have valid points. I’m just saying that he is substituting an appeal to anti-corporate sentiment and exploitation of ignorance for a legitimate argument.

    • March 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

      1) Sarcasm noted. Please also note the Texas data on college readiness.
      2) Good point. Should have linked to more work supporting the proposition. Hard to do everything in 600 words for an Op-Ed. Check out Kevin Welner’s Dirty Dozen. Blogged about it here: http://cloakinginequity.com/2013/08/04/breaking-news-kevin-welners-charter-school-dirty-dozen/

      Thanks for reading. ciao! Julian

    • inspireteaching001123
      March 10, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

      Hi Paul — Maybe you should have gone to Chile during the 2011 student protests. Your sarcasm would have created a place for you in either the hospital or the grave. After all, these protests were a direct result of the inequity that school choice creates in the long term; but, American corporate interests are only concerned about short term market pragmatism. Your corporate sentiment for school choice equates to a school choice first instituted by the dictator Pinochet (which was subsequently adopted by the U.S. based on the same model).

      And, secondly, testing is the method of selection for charter schools. Charter schools existence is dependent on testing. There’s a chain of cause and effect here.

      Charter schools = Tests scores = Federal funding (Poor tests scores = no federal funding = no charter school). So, this is not a common misconception, this is the truth in terms of how the system actually works. The best way to ensure you have high test scores is to first narrow your definition of achievement, then select the students who will produce the highest test scores while you excluded the students with special needs or who speak English as a second language.

      • March 11, 2014 at 10:34 am #

        Brilliant response.

      • Paul
        March 11, 2014 at 11:07 am #

        I initially composed a sarcastic reply to your first paragraph, but I believe it would have been counterproductive. It seems you were employing an emotionally driven approach in responding to my point, rather than addressing it directly, which actually seems totally reasonable given the confrontational manner in which my point was originally made. Let me restate it. The fact that “the vast majority of schools producing college-ready Latino and African-American students in Texas are actually public” schools is easily explained by the fact that the majority of schools in Texas are public schools, and implies nothing regarding the relative effectiveness of charter schools as compared to traditional public schools.

        As for the part about school choice creating inequity in Chile, and the US basing its charter endeavors on that model, I haven’t heard that before, and will definitely look into it.

        Your last paragraph seems to be based on the belief that any time an organization is held accountable for accomplishing its goals, it will find a way to cheat. That may be true, and there are certainly a lot of examples in the field of education. I found an article (http://www.propublica.org/article/americas-most-outrageous-teacher-cheating-scandals) that lists a variety of them, including one that involved charter schools. The question that this observation raises is, Should we stop measuring performance because it incites those being measured to circumvent the process?

        Also, I think we have a misunderstanding about the phrase “testing as a method of selection.” Yes, testing is a method of selecting which charter schools continue to exist. I rather like that idea; those organizations that would seek government funding to provide services to the people should be held responsible for their performance. However, I was referring to the fact that charters schools (at least in my state) are not permitted to use any kind of testing or educational data as a basis for admitting or excluding students. So, no, testing is not a method of selecting which students go to charter schools, which was (I believe) the point that Julian was making in the article. (Julian, please correct me if I misunderstood you.)

      • March 11, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

        Paul, I have had that critique before. More traditional schools=more traditional schools college ready Latinos. I previously conducted a chi-square on the same Texas data and found that charters do not better prepare students. See this post: http://cloakinginequity.com/2013/02/22/are-charters-better-on-college-readiness-for-latinaos/ Thanks for reading.

  4. inspireteaching001123
    March 16, 2014 at 1:32 am #

    Paul, thanks for your reply. In response to your comment: “As for the part about school choice creating inequity in Chile, and the US basing its charter endeavors on that model, I haven’t heard that before, and will definitely look into it.”

    I wanted to provide you with some resources:

    1) For context, I recommend a Google Image search using the following keywords: “Chile” “Education” “Reform”

    I’ve included some peer-reviewed articles for you to read:

    *Start here for a quick review (p. 2-3)
    2) Cabalin, C. (2003). The conservative response to the 2011 Chilean student movement: Neoliberal education and media. Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 1-14.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/580mq81ce0j5502/Cabalin%202013%20-%20The%20conservative%20response%20to%20the%202011%20Chilean%20student%20movement_Neoliberal%20education%20and%20media.pdf

    **Go here to get a more in-depth understanding:
    3) Cabalin, C. (2012). Neoliberal education and student movements in Chile: Inequalities and malaise. Policy Futures in Education, 10, 219–228. doi:10.2304/pfie.2012.10.2.219

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/xi4v61v230rm4pk/Cabalin%202012-%20Neoliberal%20education%20and%20student%20movements%20in%20Chile_Inequalities%20and%20malaise.pdf

    4) Bellei, C., & Cabalin, C. (2013). Chilean student movements: Sustained struggle to transform a market-oriented educational system. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 15(2), 108–123.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/2kbm3dx0nsqlq86/Bellei%20%26%20Cabalin%202013%20-%20Chilean%20student%20movements_Sustained%20struggle%20to%20transform%20a%20market-oriented%20educational%20system.pdf

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Charter Op-Ed Misrepresents (Big Tree): My Response That They Won’t Print (Small Axe) | Educational Policy Information - March 5, 2014

    […] Julian Vasquez Heilig If you are the big tree, we are the small axe, ready to cut you down, to cut you down! Bob Marley I […]

  2. Julian Vasquez Heilig: Why Not Tell the Truth about Charters? | Diane Ravitch's blog - April 3, 2014

    […] San Antonio is set for a major expansion of privately managed charter schools. Several national chains will open there, welcomed by the mayor and the business community. The San Antonio Express News published an opinion column by an advocate for the corporate charter chains, but refused to print Pr… […]

  3. Julian Vasquez Heilig: Why Not Tell the Truth about Charters? | Educational Policy Information - April 3, 2014

    […] San Antonio is set for a major expansion of privately managed charter schools. Several national chains will open there, welcomed by the mayor and the business community. The San Antonio Express News published an opinion column by an advocate for the corporate charter chains, but refused to print Pr… […]

  4. Parent Horror Stories from BASIS: Corporate Charter Hurting Children? | Cloaking Inequity - June 8, 2014

    […] See also the posts What Ideology hath San Antonio Imported from Arizona Charter Chains? and Charter Op-Ed Misrepresents (Big Tree): My Response That They Won’t Print (Small Axe) […]

  5. Food, Money, and Education… | Dancing Along the Days - July 24, 2014

    […] Well, imagine my surprise when I find articles like this one… […]

  6. Don’t Trust Charters More than a Sweaty Used Car Salesman (A Citizen Research Template) | Cloaking Inequity - July 27, 2014

    […] recently brought to my attention that back in March KIPP again responded to the study due to this editorial that was eventually published in the San Antonio Express News. Their response was that it was […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,374 other followers

%d bloggers like this: