Tuesday, March 05, 2013

If Charter Schools Are The Answer We Need Another Question

We just found out that here in the Water Winter Wonderland we have more private for profit charter schools than any other state in the union, which makes us number one in turning our children into commodities. Sure that doesn't sound like much, but when you're a state that's 13th in infant mortality, 14th in child poverty and 28th in children living in food insecure homes, being number one in something is important.

Besides, it's not like kids aren't profit centers in other states. It's the latest symptom of cancer capitalism as it metastasizes through what's left of our democracy, eating away at the social contract, replacing it with a tumor made of greed.  Oh sure, we were all told this was in the best interests of the children, but nobody much believes that anymore. Take Pennsylvania for example, where "The percentage of Pennsylvania charter schools that met academic benchmarks plummeted after the state Department of Education was forced to recalculate the performance rates." Or on a national level:
Across the 25 states in the study, a sample of 167 operating CMOs were identified for the years 2007 - 2011. CMOs on average are not dramatically better than non-CMO schools in terms of their contributions to student learning. The difference in learning compared to the Traditional Public school alternatives for CMOs is -.005 standard deviations in Math and .005 in reading; both these values are statistically significant, but obviously not materially different from the comparison (p. 6) (emphasis original)
CMO schools are part of corporate chains like KIPP schools that have the advantage of
1) creaming of top performers, 2) shoving out of low performers and discipline problems, 3) huge $$ advantages, 4) 10 hour school days, 5) laser focused test prep, etc., the rest of the CMOs can only say they are no better than the struggling public schools they were designed to replace.
So after 20 years and Lord only knows how much money, we're pretty much right back where we started when it comes to effective schools. But like we said, that was never the point in the first place. When you replace the democratic foundation of public schools with the profit and loss values of the market you shouldn't be surprised  when the kids are no better off, but the investors are.

Which recently prompted the New York Times to be shocked we tell you SHOCKED to find that:
Despite a growing number of studies showing that charter schools are generally no better — and often are worse — than their traditional counterparts, the state and local agencies and organizations that grant the charters have been increasingly hesitant to shut down schools, even those that continue to perform abysmally for years on end. If the movement is to maintain its credibility, the charter authorizers must shut down failed schools quickly and limit new charters to the most credible applicants, including operators who have a demonstrated record of success.
That just goes to show you how out of touch the editors are. They're still expecting charter schools to justify their existence based on educational outcomes, when we all know these schools will continue to exist as long as there's money to be made, which means as long as politicians are willing to play along with the scam. And it is a scam too. As the editorial says:
A study released this week by the center suggests that the standards used by the charter authorizers to judge school performance are terribly weak. It debunked the common notion that it takes a long time to tell whether a new school can improve student learning. In fact, the study notes, it is pretty clear after just three years which schools are going to be high performers and which of them will be mediocre. By that time, the charter authorizers should be putting troubled schools on notice that they might soon be closed. As the study notes: “For the majority of schools, poor first year performance will give way to poor second year performance. Once this has happened, the future is predictable and extremely bleak.
This is a variation on the extended warranty ploy. When you buy a car, or a washing machine or DVD player the salesmen tries to get you to buy the extended warranty because the product might not break until after the regular warranty is up, but we all know this is just an opportunity to suck a little more profit off of the consumer. Charter schools say just keep giving us money and maybe we'll get better in a year or two, but nothing will change because the money's still coming in and the dividends are still being paid.

In the mean time, some children will be lucky enough to get a half way decent education, some will not, but they'll all have the privilege of contributing to some corporation's bottom line and that seems to be what America is all about these days.

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