Monday, November 17, 2014

Mixed Results for Arizona’s Charter Schools - Education Next : Education Next

The results from this study on  Arizona charter schools are not at all glowing:

"We find negative average impacts of attending a charter school on math
scores for all three grade levels, and on science scores for middle and
high schools but not for elementary schools. We don’t find any evidence
that charters have much of an impact on reading scores at any grade


Mixed Results for Arizona’s Charter Schools

By and


Charter schools are more popular in Arizona than in any other
state. In the 2012-13 school year, 13.3 percent of Arizona students
attended charter schools, almost three times the national average of 4.6
percent. That same year, Arizona’s 530 charter schools accounted for
nearly a quarter of all public schools in the state. But student-level
data on Arizona’s schools have not been made widely available, so the
state’s charters have not been subject to the kinds of impact
evaluations that have been completed in states such as Florida and North Carolina and cities such as Boston and New York.

We provide the first recent, comprehensive look at Arizona’s charter schools in a new paper released last week, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the peer-reviewed journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Our
analysis is based on statewide, student-level longitudinal data
obtained from the Arizona Department of Education (AZDOE) that contains
information on test scores, school enrollment, and student
characteristics for the 2005-06 through 2011-12 school years.

Many prominent studies of charter schools take advantage of admission
lotteries to compare students who were equally interested in attending a
charter, but only some of whom were given the opportunity. That method
is the best way to measure the impact of those schools, but these
studies have a potentially important shortcoming: they can only examine
charters that are so popular that they have more applicants than
available seats. Our study examines a wide range of charter schools in
Arizona using methods that have been shown to best replicate lottery-based results.

We focus our analysis on charter middle schools, because we are able
to compare charter and traditional public school students who had
similar entering test scores and demographic characteristics and even
attended the same elementary school. We also examine high schools,
taking into account students’ academic performance at the end of middle
school. It is not possible to use this methodology to examine elementary
schools because testing begins in third grade, so for those schools we
compare test-score growth in traditional public schools and charter
schools while taking into account student characteristics such as race,
age, and special education status.

On average, charter schools in Arizona do no better, and sometimes
worse, than the traditional public schools. Figure 1 shows our estimates
of the average impact of attending a charter school on test scores,
expressed in standard deviation units. To put these units in context,
the average middle school student gains about a quarter of a standard
deviation per year; for elementary students, the average gain is between
a third and a half of a standard deviation. For example, the negative
impact of charter middle schools on math scores of 0.02 standard
deviations translates into about 10 percent of a year of learning.

We find negative average impacts of attending a charter school on
math scores for all three grade levels, and on science scores for middle
and high schools but not for elementary schools. We don’t find any
evidence that charters have much of an impact on reading scores at any
grade level.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
These results tell us whether a student attending a randomly selected
charter school will perform better, on average, than a similar student
attending a traditional public school. But only comparing averages
likely misses a lot of nuance. There are good and bad charters, just as
there are good and bad traditional public schools. But do charters vary
more in terms of their ability to promote student achievement than
comparable traditional public schools? Our data allow us to answer this
question empirically, something few, if any, prior studies have done.

We find that charters vary more in their impact on student
performance on state tests than traditional public schools. In other
words, even though the average charter has a zero or negative impact on
test scores, there are more charters with very large positive or very
large negative test-score impacts than there are traditional public
schools with such extreme outcomes. We also find that the negative
impacts of charters are concentrated in non-urban areas (Figure 2),
which is consistent with a lottery-based national study finding that charter middle schools deliver better results in urban areas.

The greater variability in the quality of charters is consistent with
the idea that they are laboratories for innovation and experimentation,
some of which succeed and some of which fail. We investigated further
whether certain types of charters are likely to succeed or fail by
separating charter schools into categories based on their mission
statements. Figure 2 shows that schools with missions emphasizing
academic rigor had positive effects on math scores, whereas those with a
progressive (e.g., focused on the “whole child”) or more general
mission statement had negative impacts. Schools focused on the arts also
had negative impacts, perhaps because their focus is on an area other
than core academic subjects.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Part of the deal struck by charter operators is that in return for
the freedom to innovate they will be held accountable for results. Thus
far, the system of accountability in place in Arizona has not produced a
charter sector that produces better outcomes, on average, than the
traditional sector. But we do find that the charter sector is better at
weeding out poorly performing schools than the traditional sector.
Figure 3 shows that the charter elementary and middle schools that
closed were significantly less effective in math, reading, and science
than traditional and charter schools that remained open. The same was
not true for traditional public schools that closed, which barely
differed from traditional schools that remained open.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Arizona’s charter school law is unique in allowing charter schools to
operate for 15 years before coming up for review.  Because the most
rapid expansion of the Arizona charter sector occurred around the turn
of the 21st century, many charters are poised to come up for review in
the next few years. This provides an opportunity for rapid improvement
through careful attention to quality in the reauthorization process, and
the fact that lower-quality charter schools have been more likely to
have their charters revoked in recent years is encouraging in this
regard. But our evidence also suggests that a 15-year period with little
oversight of academic quality may be too long to wait to intervene and
potentially close schools that are producing subpar results. A shorter
authorization period accompanied by vigorous efforts to measure quality
along the way may strike a better balance between autonomy to innovate
and accountability for results.

The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, which serves as the
authorizer for more than 90 percent of charter schools in the state, has
already taken important steps in this direction. In October 2012, it
adopted a new Academic Performance Framework that
subjects each of its schools to an annual review based primarily on
student achievement levels and growth and clarifies that charters may be
revoked well before the 15-year contract expires. Although standardized
test scores should not be the only metric to judge quality, especially
among schools with certain specialized missions, the framework appears
to provide a sound basis for taking timely action to address consistent

The mediocre performance of Arizona’s charter sector as a whole
should not overshadow the impressive work being done in some individual
schools. The same should be said for the traditional sector, in which
there is also substantial, albeit less, variation in quality. But part
of what makes the charter idea compelling is that it provides
opportunities for schools to innovate, while not tolerating persistent
failure. For this ideal to be realized, policies that drive continuous
improvement of the sector over time need to be in place.

—Matthew M. Chingos and Martin R. West

This post originally appeared on the Brookings Brown Center Chalkboard blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mexico reels, and the U.S. looks away

Check out this Op-Ed piece from the L.A. Times.  There is a "political earthquake" taking place in Mexico right now—at a level that has perhaps not been seen in more than a hundred years. 
 To understand the historical significance -- and the moral and political gravity -- of what is occurring, think of 9/11, of Sandy Hook, of the day JFK was assassinated.
On Thursday, Nov. 20, the civil society movement will celebrate the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution with a national day of marches and work stoppages. Will Americans notice?

Mexico reels, and the U.S. looks away

The disappearance of 43 rural students has awakened Mexican despair and rage.
The violent disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college in Guerrero state has caused a political earthquake the likes of which Mexico has not seen in generations — perhaps even since the revolution of 1910.

That makes it all the more baffling how little attention most people in the U.S. have paid to the unfolding tragedy. To understand the historical significance — and the moral and political gravity — of what is occurring, think of 9/11, of Sandy Hook, of the day JFK was assassinated. Mexico is a nation in shock — horrified, pained, bewildered.
These emotions have been swelling since late September but have become overpowering since Mexican Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam held a news conference this month detailing the federal government's investigation into the students' disappearance, which relies heavily on testimony from men who allegedly participated in their slayings.

For the record: An earlier version of this article said Jesus Murillo Karam's news conference detailing the investigation was held Nov. 10; it was Nov. 7.

Within hours of the media event, a spontaneous vigil formed at the Angel of Independence, an iconic monument in downtown Mexico City usually reserved for raucous soccer victory parties. The vigil later became a march to Murillo Karam's headquarters. Nationwide there have been dozens of major demonstrations since the students went missing — most of them have been peaceful, but a significant few have turned violent.

Mexico is on the brink, and America is largely oblivious.
Murillo Karam's announcement that the students were almost certainly murdered was a devastating blow to the national psyche. Until then, Mexicans had nurtured their slim hopes that the students were still alive (a hope stoked by the parents of the missing, who have tenaciously agitated on behalf of their children).

Now people are struggling to grasp the enormity of a case that pulls together all the forces that feed the monstrous violence of the drug wars. In light of what happened, it is no longer possible to ignore the close links between virtually all the country's political institutions and organized crime.

Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, the then-mayor and first lady of Iguala, the city where the abductions took place, have been dubbed the “imperial couple.” On Sept. 26, authorities say, Pineda was upset that protesting students had commandeered buses to attend a demonstration, worrying that their actions might disrupt an important political event she was headlining. Her husband gave local police the order to make sure that didn't happen. After shooting six students and wounding several others, witnesses said, police handed the remaining 43 over to a local drug gang, Guerreros Unidos, to finish the job. Students who survived the attack said army personnel were in the area and aware of what was happening, yet did nothing to stop the massacre.

The fact that the local and state governments were both run by the leftist opposition Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, decimated for many the fantasy that the modern Mexican left is a viable alternative to the center and right parties that have held the presidency in recent years. There is a sense that the entire ideological spectrum of the political class is tainted.
Finally, the portrait that emerged of the 43 disappeared — rural first-year teaching students from one of the poorest states in Mexico — made clear that they were not, as former president Felipe Calderon had intimated of the tens of thousands of victims during the early years of the drug war he initiated, corrupt and somehow deserving of their fate. They were simply innocent victims.

It was against this backdrop that Murillo Karam strode to the podium and began his news conference. How could he be perceived as anything other than the embodiment of a thoroughly contaminated state, one in which the narco is the politico is the police is the army? As he laid out the evidence, which included horrific descriptions of the assassins' attempt to leave no evidence, in the eyes of many Mexicans he might as well have been confessing to the crime himself.

A few hours after the news conference, the flames of a Molotov cocktail erupted before the National Palace in the grand Zocalo, or central square, of Mexico City, where a huge sign declared, “Fue el Estado” — “It was the State.” By and large, the leaderless civil society movement has proceeded peacefully, but on occasion, protesters have given the tainted state a dose of what they consider to be its own medicine — the very flames that burned the flesh of the students.

So if there is so much pain and passion in Mexico, our neighbor, a country with which we share a 2,000-mile-long border as well as profound economic and cultural ties, why such American indifference?

It has become something of a truism to point to how deeply the United States is implicated in the drug war. American demand, Mexican supply. American guns, Mexican bloodbath. And yet the merciless violence south of the border — which Mexicans now see as the state mutilating its own people — makes it easy to think of the drug war as Mexico acting out its dark obsessions. What Americans can't face is precisely that we've broken bad together with Mexico: that corruption is a binational affair, extending to rotten apples among our Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and to an American political class that cynically keeps in place the amoral machinery of the drug war.

Shortly before Murillo Karam's news conference, the parents of the Ayotzinapa students, already informed of what was about to be revealed publicly, exhorted the world, “No nos dejen solos” — “don't leave us alone” — because no one can face such trauma without others. On Thursday, Nov. 20, the civil society movement will celebrate the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution with a national day of marches and work stoppages. Will Americans notice?

Rubén Martínez is a professor of literature and writing at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author, most recently, of "Desert America: A Journey Across Our Most Divided Landscape."
Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Native Legislator Ponka-We Victors Turns Tables at Immigration Hearing in Kansas

Ponka-We Victors on Illigal Immigrants 

Ponka-We Victors on Illigal Immigrants

 This has gone viral.  As it should. We, too, in Texas have to fight back every legislative session attempts to repeal HB 1403, Texas' tuition-waiver legislation passed in 2001 with Rick Perry as governor.  Here's a bit of legislative history.

HB 1403 was passed as a workforce development bill and ours was the first state in the nation to pass this legislation. California followed suit with AB 540, and now there are at least 17 states nationwide that have provisions that allow for in-state tuition rates for undocumented, immigrant youth. This effort is mirrored at the national level with he Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors—better known as the DREAM Act.  Authored by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, the federal DREAM Act was subsequently first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001.

House Bill 1403 (or the "Texas DREAM Act") was signed into law on June 16, 2001 effective immediately.  So far our community has successfully mobilized against right-wing attempts to abolish it in Texas.  Every session nevertheless presents a new set of challenges.

A quote by Civil Rights leader Cesar Chavez is applicable here that actually helps to explain the animus against the DREAM Act:
César Chávez
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.

Cesar Chavez
Address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Nov. 9, 1984

The story here also illustrates the power of pointed, honest rhetoric. Happy Saturday, friends.



 Native Legislator Ponka-We Victors Turns Tables at Immigration Hearing in Kansas

A remark about immigration made by a Native State Representative at a hearing in the Kansas House of Representatives has attracted the attention of major media -- and yet to many Natives, it's merely the plainest of facts.

The hearing concerned the legality of offering children of illegal immigrants to pay the in-state tuition rate to attend universities and community colleges in Kansas. The Legislature was seeking to overturn a statute that has been on the books for nearly a decade -- a Topeka Capital-Journal story described the effort as an "annual attempt." 

Ponka-We Victors (D-Wichita), a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and the Tohono O'odham Nation, and the only American Indian in the Kansas State Legislature, offered her reading of the situation to Kris Kobach, Kansas' Secretary of State.

"I think it’s funny Mr. Kobach, because when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you," Victors said, prompting cheers from the gallery, described by the Capital-Journal as "heavily pro-immigrant." Rep. Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe) the chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, felt moved to tell the room, "Please don't do that."

The encounter takes on added significance when one considers the man Victors was addressing. Kris Kobach is known around the country as an anti-immigration hawk, and had a hand in such controversial measures as Arizona's SB 1070. As Mother Jones puts it, "if there's a controversial new anti-immigration law that's captured national attention, chances are that it has Kris Kobach's imprimatur."

The moment was encapsulated with the image below (note that it borrows the upraised hand and feather from Idle No More posters) which has been heavily shared on social media:

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/03/22/native-legislator-ponka-we-victors-turns-tables-immigration-hearing-kansas-148309

Friday, November 14, 2014

Grades, before test scores, hold the secret to success - Chicago Sun-Times

Check out what these researchers have confirmed from other studies that have also researched this.  Grades and attendance are what matter with respect to academic success.  Makes sense, right?  Grades sum up students' school experience of which students' lives and broad life experiences of learning are a part.  The findings also point to the importance of simply being there, in attendance.  School actually makes a difference in students' lives—and hopefully, a positive one. So why are we so attached to these tests?  That's the real question.



Grades, before test scores, hold the secret to success - Chicago Sun-Times

Updated: November 10, 2014 6:15AM

It’s not all about the test scores, stupid.

That sums up a new
University of Chicago study, a groundbreaking analysis of middle-school
student performance that lays out which measures best predict success in
high school and college.

What matters most for later
academic success are middle-school grades and attendance, far more than
test scores and demographic factors (race, poverty and the like),
concluded the study of Chicago Public Schools fifth- through
eleventh-graders. Standardized test scores are not the best predictors
of academic success, as our test-crazed world might have us believe. 

The real-world
implications are clear: the Chicago Public Schools should continue to
scale back its intense focus on standardized tests and turn to what
matters — boosting middle-school grades and attendance.

The researchers found that
attendance and overall grade-point average in middle school were the
strongest predictors of actual school performance in ninth grade and
11th grade, both of which strongly predict high-school graduation rates
and college success.

This new finding builds on
a similar, well-established finding for high schools: grades are by far
the most important predictor of getting into college and eventually
graduating, more so than ACT or SAT scores or high school coursework.

“Test scores are very good
at predicting future test scores but not as strongly predictive of other
outcomes we care about, like whether students will struggle or succeed
in high school coursework or graduate from college,” Elaine Allensworth,
director of the university’s Consortium on Chicago School Research and
lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Good grades reflect mastery
of skills valuable in college and in life in general, such as broad
knowledge (not just reading and math), writing and capacity for
sustained effort. Standardized tests, in contrast, hone in on a far more
narrow band of skills. They have value, but too tight a focus on test
prep is counterproductive.

“It actually discourages
teachers from spending time on things that are more important for kids,”
Allensworth said in an interview.

The researchers also found
far less variability in what constituted an A or B grade at schools
across the city than one might suspect. There is variability, as much as
a half grade point at the extreme, but it’s not enough to undermine the
predictive value of grades.

Other key take-aways from the study:
◆ These findings allow
schools to identify kids as young as fifth grade at risk of failing in
high school based on their grades and attendance records, and to target
intervention to boost those two areas, which are more malleable than
test scores.
The researchers found, for
example, that students’ probability of being on track in the ninth grade
goes from 66 to 93 percent, depending on whether their attendance
declines (from 97 to 93 percent) or improves (from 97 to 99 percent) in
the middle school grades. Students with attendance below 90 percent in
middle school are at high risk of not graduating from high school.
◆ The researchers also
found that some middle and high schools do far better intervening in
these key areas than others. Among middle-school students that saw
improvements in attendance, grades and test scores, about half of the
differences could be attributed to the school they attended, they found.
Schools can have considerable influence in particular over attendance. 

CPS in the last year has
made improving elementary attendance a priority. Chronic absenteeism,
which has been unacceptable high for years, dropped slightly last year,
though it’s still early. The school system also has improved high-school
attendance rates and significantly improved freshmen pass rates, which
is a key predictor of graduation rates.

The freshman on-track rates
went up after CPS developed data systems to closely track freshmen and
added supports to redirect wayward students. Using the U. of C. report
as a guide, CPS should quickly set up a similar data system to track
middle school attendance and grades and give schools the time and
support they need to make good use of the data. That’s in the early
stages, we’ve been told. We urge CPS to make it a top priority.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

GOP Leaders in Congress Outline Education Priorities

Published Online: November 7, 2014

GOP Leaders in Congress Outline Education Priorities

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., waves after claiming victory on Nov. 4 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., waves after claiming victory on Nov. 4 in Knoxville, Tenn.
—Wade Payne/AP
Article Tools
After easily capturing the number of seats they needed take control of the U.S. Senate—and padding their majority in the House of Representatives—congressional Republicans have laid out an aggressive education policy agenda that includes overhauling the long-stalled No Child Left Behind law and the mammoth Higher Education Act.
While divided government will remain, as the White House is in Democratic hands at least until President Barack Obama finishes his second term, the new political calculation in Congress will likely spur movement on education bills. Lawmakers who play major roles on the chamber’s education committees were quick to outline their priorities, which also include school choice measures, funding issues, and generally scaling back the federal footprint on K-12.

Continue reading here..