Now, as far as the charter school issue… The charter school aficionados were out by the hundreds, students and all. The issue is crystal clear. The backers of charter schools want no restrictions whatsoever that would stall their growth. Support of the legislation is sure to be a dominant issue in the mayoral campaign. (See Globe report here.)
We’ve all heard the charter school mantra before. Charters do a better job. Period. The evidence: MCAS scores. Here’s why the “evidence” is flawed: 1) Charters cherry pick their students and subtly discourage Special Education students and ELL students from both applying and remaining in their schools. How else can we explain their universal and consistent-throughout-the commonwealth failure to enroll students in both categories despite charters having a “random” lottery? And 2) The MCAS is — to say the least — an imperfect measure of success. The MCAS is both coach-able and narrowly-focused. It’s hardly a good indication of a school’s performance, a student’s learning, or a rigorous and balanced education.
The MATCH Charter school, much held out as the King of all charter schools, came in tied for #1 in the state in both the 10th grade Math MCAS and the 10th grade English MCAS in 2012. They have much to be proud of; just ask them. But are these scores too narrow a
|The MATCH School: Tied for #1 (Math and ELA) on MCAS in Mass, but #265 on the SAT. Why the discrepancy?|
measure of the school’s success? Let’s consider how well the MATCH did in statewide ranking but using SAT scores instead.
In the statewide SAT ranking, MATCH came in 265th place from the top, below the BPS, which came in 255th place. We know that SAT scores are not a great indication either… but shouldn’t we expect some consistency at least? Shouldn’t it be a fair question as to how MATCH can top the state in the 10th grade MCAS — in ELA and Math — but sink to position #265 on the SAT?
The MATCH pattern shows up in other well-regarded-on-the-basis-of-high-MCAS-scores charters as well. Boston Collegiate is tied for #1 in Math MCAS and #51 in English, but ranks #176 on SAT. Boston Preparatory Charter follows the same pattern: #51 in English and #11 in Math, but #222 in SAT rank. We’d be hard-pressed to find any public school district with the same pattern.
This unusual elite-charter-school pattern begs the following questions: How is it that some charters do so well on the MCAS and so poorly on SATs? And how is it that the so-called high performing districts tend do well on both measures? We know the answer to the first question. It’s a lot easier to “prepare” for the narrowly-focused MCAS than to study for the SAT.
In truth we ought not make too much of performance by either measure. After all, much of what explains a school district’s success is found in zip code origin. But if the charters wish to live by their performance on the MCAS, they ought to be held accountable for their performance on the SAT as well. The discrepancy found between their high MCAS scores and their low SAT scores cries out for investigation — at least before we conclude that charters have been the resounding success they claim to be.
(Prior to the state house hearing, WBUR held a mini-debate between BTU President Richard Stutman and Boston Foundation CEO Paul Grogan. The topic: the expansion of charter schools. Listen here.)
Please take a moment to notify your legislators to support the Peisch bill and to oppose the Menino bill as well as the attempt to eliminate the charter school cap. It is quick and easy. A minute or so of your time, clicking here and plugging in your zip code/address, and your emails will be sent to the appropriate people. Thank you.