Friday, November 30, 2007

Updates on School Choice

Over the last couple weeks I’ve gathered a few articles on school choice.

In an article by Vicki E. Murray, Ph.D., at -
“In their review of more than 200 scientific analyses of the effects of competition on traditional district public schools and students, researchers from Columbia University Teachers College conclude, “A sizable majority of these studies report beneficial effects of competition across all outcomes,” including improved public school student performance, higher graduation rates, greater public-school efficiency, smaller class sizes, better teacher salaries, and improved housing values. Not one of the analyses found that competition harms the performance of public-school students.”

No commentary necessary. It seems like there would be no debate, but apparently, Ivy League studies of 200 scientific analyses are not enough for everyone including these guys.

From an article by Jennifer Radcliffe in the Houston Chronicle -
Amigos por Vida is a charter school in Houston that leased and converted part of an apartment complex. It is a relatively small school and has situated itself where many of the kids can walk to school.

“Lauren Macedo…[a] seventh-grader walks just a few yards from her apartment to the state-sponsored charter school”
The proximity is ideal for the impoverished immigrant community: Kids have few excuses for missing class and, when they do, teachers are a short walk from their front doors.
…family members can easily get to campus for parenting workshops and teacher conferences.”

Another advantage of using charter schools is that they cannot issue bonds and increase property taxes to pay for facilities. They have to raise their own funds to build schools or to lease space.

“Unlike traditional public schools, charters can't ask voters to approve bonds for construction. Charters that attempt to own, rather than rent, face the challenge of raising funds and financing loans. In this case, Amigos Por Vida needs to persuade the community to chip in roughly $3 million, while financing the rest.”

If the school has to use funds to pay for rent and a public school does not, surely less money in the classroom means lower results, right? Wrong.

“The campus is starting to pile up accolades. In 2006, it received the Governor's Excellence Award for high scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. In September, it received a U.S. Department of Education award for helping to close the achievement gap.”

But who wants to go to school in an old apartment complex?

“More than 250 students are on Amigos' waiting list.”

Also from the Houston Chronicle, an article by Lisa Gray -

She describes the experience of a boy named Deonté who was having many problems at his traditional public school. The KIPP Polaris Academy was recruiting middle school minority boys. The school wanted kids who had been in trouble at other schools, and kids with lousy grades and test scores. The principal, Shawn Hardnett, chose a Frederick Douglass quote as the school motto: "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." What a refreshing perspective to see a school seeking out the worst kids and trying to reform them.
The end of the story, which I recommend everyone read the whole thing, was particularly poignant.

[The principal] summons Deonté to the center of the room. The boy squirms with pride, examining his certificate as the cafetorium echoes with applause.

Deonté swells as Hardnett pulls out his cell phone.

Cheryl Powell [his mother], at work, braces herself for a call from Deonté's school,then hears that her boy has won an award, that he's done something great. "You're sure?" she asks in tears. "My son?"

She gets her answer. On cue, every boy in the room shouts: "Deonté!"

As always, tell me what you think.

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