Tag Archives: NY Charter schools

NY Media Ignore Major Charter School Study

For reasons we can’t explain, a June 29, 2010 study that showed “on average, charter schools had no significant impacts on student achievement in math and reading” drew zero attention from New York media — including education blogs.

The 15-state, 36-school study, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and conducted by the prestigious Princeton-based Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., was announced one day after the New York State Senate passed legislation raising the state’s charter school cap from 200 to 460 — a result of a months-long lobbying campaign by charter advocates.

Until the legislature’s approval, New Yorkers had been bombarded by TV commercials, print ads, and editorials and op-ed pieces in the Daily News, the Post, and the NY Times — all urging legislators to lift the charter cap to improve New York’s chance to win Federal funding in Round 2 of Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s school reform incentive program.

But critics suggested that the RttT eligibility goal was just cover for a well-funded opinion campaign aimed at pressuring legislators to increase the number of charter schools. Ultimately, the legislation incorporated several limitations, including a stipulation that new charters may not be operated by for-profit companies. Continue reading

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311: A Political Tool

The News and the Post report that Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested to parishioners at Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center that they should use 311 to help them lobby to raise the state’s charter school cap. “Just pick up the phone, call 311, ask for the name and the phone number of your state senator or state assemblyman, call them up and say, ‘This is an outrage!'”

Strictly speaking, anyone can call 311 to learn an elected official’s phone number. But the mayor’s suggestion that 311 should be used in support of a specific political initiative — one that he favors — skirts the edge of propriety — and, maybe, the law. Continue reading

When Schools Battle for Parents’ Hearts and Minds

P.S. 217 Odyssey photo courtesy Matthew Septimus

Rick Hess, education guru at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says that the whole point of giving parents a choice between charters and traditional public schools is to create competition, which forces both to improve. One form this competition takes is in how they recruit new students. Charters don’t seem to have to jump through the same hoops as TPSs do. We witnessed this recently in Flatbush. Continue reading

What Happens When a Charter School Arrives

Do charter schools raise educational standards? The schools’ proponents say that charters educate more effectively than traditional public schools, and even those that don’t, still create a competitive environment in which traditional public schools are “incentivized” to improve their own teaching methods. Can this logic be disputed?

The pro-charter school argument ignores that charters can hurt overall educational progress by undermining nearby traditional public schools. Charters’ aggressive marketing efforts can force TPSs to expand their own publicity campaigns, diverting money and time that otherwise would have gone to support instruction. A charter’s arrival in a neighborhood also can demoralize a public school’s leadership and parents, who view the interloper as a competitor for space and dollar resources and community support. But it is outside the schoolhouse walls that charters may do their most lasting damage, if they create or exacerbate social divisions in the community. How this plays out depends on the neighborhood, and the quality of its traditional public school. Continue reading

Charter Schools: The Power of Marketing

Wednesday’s New York Times ran a front-page story on some Harlem public schools that are responding to pressure from charters by aggressively marketing themselves. Such marketing typically includes school tours for prospective parents, augmented by postcards and brochures, with most campaigns [amounting] “to less than $500, raised by parents and teachers….”

The Times story tells how prospective parents touring P.S. 125 with its principal, Rafaela Espinal, showed appreciation for the low number of students they saw in each classroom and the school’s impressive physical amenities, which include a rare swimming pool. But some parents, according to the Times, still weighed sending their child elsewhere. Continue reading

Charter Schools Chief Tells It (sort of) Like It Is

Michael Duffy photo: the Lo-Down

In a revealing interview with NYC Department of Education charter schools head Michael Duffy, Ed Litvak of the Lower East Side news blog The Lo-Down questions Duffy about how the NYCDOE used a recent public hearing on the proposed expansion of a Lower East Side charter school. Duffy’s response won’t surprise anyone who has sat through a charter school hearing:

“It definitely provides a forum for people to speak out, and I think that’s a good thing. It helps to get good information out there… I think, for my part, in a couple of hours of comments, I didn’t hear anything new from the public that wasn’t already known prior to the start of the hearing. I know it’s important that people have a chance to speak their mind, but I don’t think there’s anything that wasn’t known to the Department prior to the proposal…” Continue reading

Charter Schools part 1: Opportunity or Obstacle?

If someone offered you venture capital to launch a new enterprise, avoid most bricks-and-mortar start-up costs (and get government grants to pay what’s left), compensate yourself well and hire young, enthusiastic non-unionized employees, could you pass up the opportunity? Before you answer, consider that you’d also be able to hone your leadership skills, rely on a guaranteed flow of public funding and full liability coverage, continue to augment this with private gifts, and expect customers to line up at your door.

This is the scenario that has lured the thousands of entrepreneurs who,  seeking a more meaningful experience than Wall Street can offer, have started charter schools across the United States.

In business terms, it’s the quintessential American capitalist paradigm: Use government policy to help you grow, and lobby to change that policy if it’s too restrictive. Attract venture capital, market your service, build your customer base, keep your operating costs low and eliminate any local competition before those costs escalate. If you see expenses rising, move on to another opportunity. Continue reading