Left In Lowell

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March 4, 2012

Charter Schools - Odds and Ends

by at 12:00 am.

Charter schools are here, whether you like it or not.

I’m not sure why we need more private schools in Lowell. There are plenty, already. Though, I think, you have to pay tuition for most of them. Imagine that. Sacrifice. My friend Cliff will remind us, “There is no free lunch.”

Right, he is.

Kendall Wallace:

I can’t say I totally understand the charter-school issue. If the public-school structure that made America great isn’t working, then you can understand why people are seeking alternatives, but if the alternative weakens the overall system, what have we gained? Lowell School Committee member Jim Leary fears another charter school will pull the best students out of the system, leaving the wider public-school system to deal with the students who need the most help while the charter school saps the financial resources.

If the school can reject some students, then perhaps the funding formula needs to be changed with more per-pupil costs going to systems that need the additional resources to help the students most at risk.

Apparently there will be a sacrifice, … by the public school system.

There has been some recent chatter about the coming SABIS run charter school, but Lowell currently has The Lowell Community Charter Public School (K-6) up and running.

And advertising:

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And this doesn’t hurt:

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One of the things that has been bugging me about the charter model is how kids get in. Is it a first come first serve? Or, do they use a lottery? Likely it is both. That’s how it works over at LCCPS:

LCCPS is a K-6 school of choice that is open to all students who are residents of Massachusetts on a space available basis. LCCPS welcomes any child in Massachusetts although preference is given to Lowell residents and siblings of current students.
-snip

… If there are more applicants received than seats available in a grade, a lottery will be held for that grade on March 7, 2012 at 5 PM to determine who is offered a seat.

Wouldn’t it be better if kids were randomly selected to go to the charter school system by the Lowell Public School system? Parents could opt out, if they didn’t want their kids in a charter school.

That would make it more fair, imho.

7 Responses to “Charter Schools - Odds and Ends”

  1. Christopher Says:

    I’ve never understood the reason for charters. The idea as I understand it is to implement alternative methods that theoretically work better. Why not fix the existing schools rather than set up an additional parrellel system?

  2. Lynne Says:

    Charters, on average, do WORSE than public schools. The stats do NOT lie. Yes there are good ones, of course, but you are taking a risk with a charter in general. And certainly it is NO fix for any perceived or real problem there may or may not be with schools.

    I know teachers who work for charters - they are way overworked and way underpaid and they have no protections what so ever as they have no union to help negotiate better circumstances either in working conditions or pay - or classroom size.

    I also take issue with this statement in the first place: “If the public-school structure that made America great isn’t working…”

    First, who says our public school system isn’t working?? Our schools are first in the nation in testing - we have pretty stellar schools here in MA, thank you very much. The “editor” likes to denigrate the schools but he has a lot of trouble giving them credit where it’s due.

    I’m tired of that attitude. Our attitude instead should be to look at all the good things about our schools, and see how to make them even better.

    And due to both the value we are not getting (according to the objective statistics) and the fact that it does NOTHING but hurt public schools, I am against charters.

  3. Lynne Says:

    BTW due to the crappy pay and working conditions at charters, they have a large turnover, probably a big part of the drop in overall average quality of education for charters. You get the young and inexperienced teachers taking jobs there, and they quickly leave once they have some experience and can secure a much better job. No one in their right mind would want to be treated the way I’ve been hearing they get treated at some of these schools (who by the way are incentivized to cut corners so they can make more money for the owners, how is THAT helping??).

  4. Jack Says:

    Teacher tunover? Is that recorded? That would be an interesting metric in evaluating a charter school’s “health.”

  5. Mr. Lynne Says:

    The data I have is anecdotal. Plus I’m not sure if this falls into the set of statistics that charters are legally required to keep and report.
    The anecdotal cause of teacher flight was pay, so I think a place you could go get data from are want ads.

    Also anecdotally, it should be noted that some charters claim to pay better. They also tend to use different methods for calculating compensation - incentives for example.

    Here’s another anecdote:

    http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2012/02/charter-schoolslow-teacher-pay.html

  6. MD Says:

    Just a couple of comments … it is sad and unfortunate that far too many people, including the MA DOE, do not “totally understand the charter-school issue.” Most people take for fact only what they “hear” about charters. I recently had a disagreement with a friend who, despite the facts that I shared, continues to believe that charters are the “wave of the future” because that’s what he’s heard. Seriously? Facts that I know include: charters start the year with a cadre of students that may or may not resemble the public school demographics but by October, 30 days after they’ve had the students, public begins receiving back those students that might not “fit” academically or behaviorally with the charter’s expectations; then, again, in February or March, right before MCAS, another stream of students returns to public schools so that their MCAS results are attached to public school results; the students return to public schools but the money that was awarded to the charter for them does not; no charter school has ever shared their successes or outstanding strategies used with students with the public schools as was one of the original intents; it is very difficult to locate any documentation regarding charter school operations even though it is all supposedly public information. Lynne is correct in stating that charters, on average, do worse than public schools. In fact, I believe that some of them really should have been labeled as Level 4 schools like some of our public schools. Again, Lynne, I, too believe that there’s a whole lot of good going on in our public schools and it’s just not being publicized. MA schools are #1 in the nation. Why are we racing to the top when we’re already there??? Yes, we still have work to do, much work, but in an urban center like Lowell, the battle against poverty and the second language issue are difficult. Our monies should not be going to create another ‘private’ school that ends up serving only the best and brightest and leaving our most challenging students with fewer resources. Check out charter school enrollment numbers by grade level. For instance, Holyoke Sabis Charter has enrollment in third grade at 114 students. By eighth grade, enrollment is down to 46 students. Where did the kids go? Hmmm … back to pblic because they didn’t FIT???? My theory, and it’s just a theory, is that as kids get older, parents don’t need the extended day as much for child-care, so the kids move back to public. So that would be a third reason why kids return: academic, behavior, age. Have a lot more thoughts on this but I’m happy that this blog is asking the right questions AND defending public schools. Keep up the good work and let’s keep this going! People have to HEAR the truth! Why is the DOE approving a for-profit school in the City of Lowell? Or anywhere for that matter? Thanks to you, too, Jack for pressing on with this issue!

  7. Lowell mom Says:

    Our family is very happy about the new charter school opening. I agree that adding bad charter schools is not good for anyone. However the SABIS system seems exceptional, and I don’t want to lump all charters together. As a parent my kids’ safety and education are my #1 concerns. And whereas they’re 3 and 5, they are coming of school age now, not later when the public schools have risen up to par. I understand the ESL and special needs issues, however they don’t affect the majority of kids. My kids are part of that majority and don’t want to be held up by this. Education is where the rubber meets the road. And ultimately the public schools need to be accountable.

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