Charter Schools, Test Scores, and Skimming the Cream

A dirty secret of charter school 'success' is that they typically transfer their poorly-performing students the students they fail to educate to public schools. Consequently, charter schools are able to claim better test scores than regular public schools (clearly, ethics aren't on the charter school agenda....). It's been a problem in Boston and Bay Area charters in California.

A letter to Diane Ravitch from a Los Angeles school prinicipal documents just how dishonest and harmful this practice is (italics mine):

I received an email from Dr. DeWayne Davis, the principal of Audubon Middle School in Los Angeles, which was sent to several public officials. Dr. Davis said that local charter schools were sending their low-performing students to his school in the middle of the year. He wrote:

"Since school began, we enrolled 159 new students (grades 7 and 8). Of the 159 new students, 147 of them are far below basic (FBB)!!! Of the 147 students who are FBB, 142 are from charter schools. It is ridiculous that they can pick and choose kids and pretend that they are raising scores when, in fact, they are purging nonperforming students at an alarming rate--that is how they are raising their scores, not by improving the performance of students. Such a large number of FBB students will handicap the growth that the Audubon staff initiated this year, and further, will negatively impact the school's overall scores as we continue to receive a recurring tide of low-performing students."

Ravitch concludes:

Doing better than an under-resourced neighborhood school is not the same as getting "amazing results." Very few charters do. Probably less than 5 percent. Charters are not a silver bullet. They are a lead bullet. Their target is American public education.

This is just par for the course for modern conservatism: have private systems skim the cream, and leave the public sector to clean up an impossible mess. When they can't, this supposedly shows the inability of government to solve problems.

It's a great con. Except for the kids, of course.

More like this

In the midst of an article about Uncommon Schools, a non-profit charter school company, we discover this interesting effect of holding back students who fail a grade: High retention rates can help to boost test scores at charter schools, at least in the short term. Students may do better on tests…
...too bad MA Governor Deval Patrick, and for that matter, President Obama, don't. The recent educational regression reform plan in Massachusetts and the Obama Administration's educational proposals both seem to misunderstand what has made Massachusetts' educational system one of the best in the…
The Dallas Morning News observes: North Texas didn't have a single charter school with the state's top academic rating two years ago. Now there are four. But those campuses remain outnumbered by low-performing charters: 11 this year across the region, up from eight a couple years ago. The same…
Diane Ravitch, along with releasing her new book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has been issuing a lot of mea culpas about her role in advocating for a lot 'accountability' educational reforms. When I first started reading this NY Times article, which signaled the…

I think it is unfair to the students who are being main-streamed. I find it hard to believe that the schools would rather have better test averages than helping the students. I feel like the point of school is to help students, so the fact that they are getting rid of the kids who need help is pointless. They should be focusing more on the students who are struggling instead of putting them into public schools.

This goes back to way before charter schools.

Some of my problem students in high school had been "asked to continue their education elsewhere" by the prominent private schools in the area.

By Tsu Dho Nimh (not verified) on 24 Oct 2010 #permalink

You are correct about the Charter school test scores, they also teach the tests to students ahead of time or tell them to leave answer "open" that they don't know...the teachers collect the tests and quietly go to another room to "review" them before they turn them in. They know the test scores are tied into future financial incentives.
The Gulen Charter schools are guilty of Visa Fraud, their schools Magnolia Science Academy, Horizon Science Academy, Harmony Science Academy and Sonoran Science Academy are bringing foreign teachers without credentials to the USA under h1-b fraud. American Tax payers are footing this bill, you will note that they have more h1-b visas for teachers than the largest school district in the USA (LAUSD)
At a time when great American Teachers are getting pink slipped the Islamic Gulen Movement is dismantling the American Public School System one state at a time. The Gulen Charter Schools have robbed American Taxpayers of over $1 billion in Educational funds over the span of the last 10 years. Throught the network of Gulen Foundations, and bribes via their interfaith dialogue, they have managed to snow job members of congress, local politics, local religious leaders, and local academia. Free dinners and free trips to Turkey to side step their true agenda which is to dominate and control American Education, politics, interfaith dialog, police, media and military. As Fethullah Gulen has done world wide and in his native Turkey which got him exiled for attempting to overthrow a secular government.…

By Lillian Moore (not verified) on 24 Oct 2010 #permalink

Echoing comment #2, it has long been my impression that the advantage private schools have over public schools is the ability to weed out underperforming students. This is true even in the many towns here in New Hampshire that have tuition arrangements with private schools--Derry, the state's fourth most populous municipality, is among them. If you live in Derry and are entering the ninth grade, you are guaranteed to be accepted at Pinkerton Academy (and the town will pick up the tab), but Pinkerton can and will kick you out if you don't measure up.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 25 Oct 2010 #permalink

Tsu Dho Nimh: "Some of my problem students in high school had been "asked to continue their education elsewhere" by the prominent private schools in the area."

Where I grew up it was the opposite. The Catholic school (the only private high school) was the dumping ground for students who had been kicked out of the public schools (for disciplinary reasons, serious ones in all but one of the instances of which I knew the details).

But that wasn't a matter of money based on test scores.