Education roundup: Charter public school success in New York City; improving educational opportunity in Washington

A couple of education stories caught our eye today. And with crickets chirping in Olympia, we thought it might be time to share some good news.

Boston University associate professor Marcus Winters debunks charges that charter public schools “cream skim” their way to success. In City & State, Winters writes,

Charter school critics often argue that public schools of choice post high standardized test scores largely because they enroll only a select group of students who know to apply to them. A new comparison, however, finds that charters compete with, and, in some ways, surpass New York’s selective public schools, showing the achievements of charters are not so easy to dismiss.

Winters is the author of a Manhattan Institute research report published last month, “New York Charter Schools Outperform Traditional Selective Public Schools.” Those with an interest in education research will want to read the full report. 

Winters conclusion, from his City & State article, makes a point that resonates with charter public school backers here.

The observational analysis in my report shouldn’t be interpreted as showing that students benefit from attending a charter instead of a selective or other traditional public school (Though, prior research capable of making such claims has found exactly that). Nor am I arguing that it’s inappropriate for the city to operate selective middle or high schools. A city as large and diverse as New York should offer a wide range of schooling options.

What my analysis implies is that the city’s charter schools don’t post high test scores simply because of which students they enroll. Those who would argue that charters post high test scores only because they cream-skim for students must grapple with the fact that charters perform as well as or better than traditional public schools that explicitly and unapologetically cream-skim for students.

The key, simply, is making sure students have alternatives that work for them. That’s what charter public schools provide. 

Before leaving the topic, congratulations to Sydney Chaffee, the first charter public school teacher to win the prestigious National Teacher of the Year Award. Chafee teaches at the Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston, Mass.

Closer to home, two former Washington school principals have a must-read op-ed in the Seattle Times. Pat Hunter and Elaine Woo assess disparities in educational opportunity for students that, sadly, often depend on their place of residence. They offer three recommendations: changing the school funding model, target additional resources to support students facing social and emotional barriers to educational success, and increase access to career and technical education.

In their words,

While the state currently allocates money based on a rigid class-size formula including the staff mix, students in low-income schools have, on average, younger teachers with lower salaries. As such, those schools may get less money, even though they have more high-need students. Lawmakers should allocate funds on a per-pupil basis and remove the staff-mix factor from the allocation model. 

While they don’t explicitly state it, that’s the approach taken in the Senate’s education budget.