Working Paper: School Choice Surges in England, etc.

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School Choice Surges in England, etc.

While oversubscribed charter schools in the United States must employ lotteries for admission, their counterparts in England—academies and free schools—have control over whom they admit. The result, according to an analysis summarized by The Guardian, has been significant segregation of students by class as well as academic achievement. The analysis, done by a company called DataDash, found that many academies and free schools enrolled a fraction of the underprivileged children in neighboring schools. Only 2 percent of students at one free school in Blackpool are eligible for free school meals, for example, while 42 percent of students in the district qualify. Similar disparities exist across the country, DataDash found. Legislated into existence in 2000, academies are former state schools funded by the central government and granted significant operational autonomy. There are now 5,302 academies. Free schools, introduced in 2010, are academies by another name, created by teachers, charities, parents, or religious groups. There are now 304 free schools. Prime Minister David Cameron and his education secretary, Michael Gove, pledged to make all government-funded schools in England academies or free schools to give parents more choice and school administrators more freedom. Cameron's successor, Theresa May, and her education secretary, Justine Greening, have so far stood behind this pledge.

As many as 30 percent of poor urban high school seniors accepted to college don't attend because of doubts and fears that build over the summer. The charter network KIPP fights this problem, known as "summer melt," with a three-week "summer bridge" program, reported The Wall Street Journal. With review classes in math and writing as well as discussion sessions on time management, self-advocacy, financial budgeting, and campus social life, students get immersed in college before getting to college. This summer program is part of the charter network’s KIPP Through College (KTC) initiative, which provides guidance counseling, test prep, and campus tours to graduates of its middle schools as well as students enrolled in its high schools. KTC also provides mentoring to alumni while in college. Of KIPP alumni 24 and older, 44 percent have earned bachelor’s degrees. This contrasts with 9 percent for peers from the same socioeconomic background, 34 percent for the nation as a whole, and 75 percent for those from the top economic quartile.

Delegates at the annual convention of the NAACP last week called for a moratorium on charter school growth, reported Julian Vasquez Heilig on his blog, Cloaking Inequity. Meeting in Cincinnati, delegates declared that charter schools have operated without sufficient transparency; intensified segregation; employed psychologically harmful disciplinary policies; and deprived neighborhood public schools of necessary space and resources through co-location in district buildings. Heilig, education chair of the California/Hawaii branch of the century-old civil rights organization, explained that this resolution merely reflects the opinion of voting delegates, not policy. To become policy, the resolution needs approval of the NAACP National Board, which meets in the fall. Heilig nevertheless called the resolution a momentous event.

Drawing on data from the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Workforce Commission for all students who graduated from public high schools in the state between 2002 and 2006, the economists Will Dobbie and Roland G. Fryer found in a working paper entitled “Charter Schools and Labor Market Outcomes” that charter schools, on average, had no impact on test performance and a negative influence on income. In the case of “No Excuses” charter schools—such as IDEA College Prep, KIPP, Uplift Education, and YES Prep, all defined by rigid behavioral and academic expectations—Dobbie and Fryer found a positive impact on both test performance and college enrollment but only a small, statistically insignificant effect on income.  Terming the results of their study counterintuitive given the widespread confidence in charter schools, Dobbie and Fryer speculated that it may be the case that “what it takes to increase achievement among the poor in charter schools deprives them of other skills that are important for labor markets.”  It is also likely, one should note, that school reform for poor children can compensate only so much for the absence of social networks that lead to more remunerative employment.

Approximately 16 percent of the 43 million Americans with student debt are in default, reported The Wall Street Journal: "These borrowers have gone at least a year without making a payment—ignoring hundreds of phone calls, emails, text messages and letters from federally hired debt collectors." The federal government has committed to work with debtors by cutting monthly payments and burying a portion of balances. In addition, the government is expanding its program to relinquish debt incurred by borrowers for degrees at schools found guilty of false advertising. Yet in despair, debtors are stonewalling the government. Especially hard hit have been students who attended for-profit institutions, who have defaulted on loans at more than twice the rate as their counterparts at nonprofit public or private schools. Three such students are profiled in this Wall Street Journal article, two of whom earned degrees as medical assistants from a small for-profit college in Oregon but could not find work in the field.

Charter schools shouldn't be considered public schools, contended Carol Burris in an essay posted by Valerie Strauss on her Answer Sheet blog for The Washington Post, because they don't report directly, if at all, to elected school boards; because many of them enroll significantly fewer English language learners and students with special needs than neighboring district schools; and because many close their doors in upper grades to newcomers. In illustration of the last matter, Burris cited a pyramid effect on class size at one school in the Success Academy network, with 73 students in second grade dropping seven years later to 26 in ninth grade, 79 students in the following year's second grade dropping six years later to 44 in eighth grade. Whereas attrition in district schools is matched by enrollment of new students in upper grades, that does not occur at Success Academy and similar charter networks in the name of preserving a school culture. To Burris, this exclusionary practice necessarily conflicts with the definition of public education.




Published Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016