Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What are they doing right?

Propel McKeesport Charter won an award based on student achievement:

This school really does seem to show "significant gains" and "dramatic" results: 100% of 5th and 6th graders proficient or advanced in math ("more than 85 percent of its 385 students in grades K-8 are eligible for federal free or reduced lunches, 73 percent are minorities and 13 percent are in special education").


Questioner said...

The schools principal "attributed the success of the school to Propel's professional development program, the collaborative culture among the teachers and their mission to teach to each student's needs."

Another factor may be diversity- schools that are economically and/or racially diverse seem to do better than those that lack this diversity.

Anonymous said...

The notation about "collaborative culture" should not be a lesson lost on other schools developing plans to empower teachers.

Questioner said...

Speaking of charter schools- at this very moment a space at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is being renovated for Pittsburgh Cyber School for students. PBT HS students used to go to Schenley.

Cynical said...

I'm not going to deny the very real - and very admirable - successes of some charter schools. In fact, I'd consider one if my child was in a hopelessly failing public school.

But I need to make a point here.

And I say this as someone who believes in public education as a key way to get this diverse nation to work together as one.

Charter schools are often held up as evidence of the "failure" of traditional public schools.

Do not jump to conclusions!

When you read about the success of a charter school, ask yourself these two questions:

1. Is the charter school selective in the students that it admits? The existence of a waiting list is strong evidence of a "yes" answer here.

2. Does the charter school drop their disruptive or unmotivated students? This is a hard question to find an answer to and often takes some digging around.

If the answer is "yes" to either of these questions (and it usually is "yes") then the success of the charter school CANNOT be compared to the results from a public school!

After all, would you be impressed with the success of a hospital that only admitted relatively healthy patients?

Would you be impressed with the success of a hospital that quickly discharged those patients who did not get well quickly enough?

The same goes with charter schools.

Questioner said...

How does a waiting list tell us the school is selective? There are many reports of "first come first served" schools that have waiting lists.

Re: dropping problem students- in that way, charter schools seem more like magnet schools within public school systems. It would seem that they could be compared to magnets with comparable dismissal practices, although it's true that this information can be hard to find.

Questioner said...

A great experiment would be to let a successful charter come in and run an existing public school for a year to see if results could be replicated.

cynicalparent said...

That's part of the problem -- there are successful schools -- there aren't successful systems of schools. Even KIPP which is often touted as a successful charter system has an amazingly high "loss" rate at its successful charters.

That is, the kids who stay do well, but they have often lost half or more of their students over the course of 2 or 3 years. The students they generally lose at the very highest rates? The same one with the poorest scores at public schools.

It's pretty easy to see that a lot of their success is based on keeping kids that are...successful.

Or as I've heard someone put it, at charters those who can, stay, those who can't...go back to the public school they came from. And now that public school has lost several more of its "can" students, too.

Questioner said...

The strange thing is, the same trend is ocurring at some magnet schools. For example, University Prep lost a third of the ninth graders who started last year. If the remaining students do well the school will be pointed to as a model.

anothanon said...

Other than the higher profile magnets, is it really that hard to get dismissed from one of the programs?

As far as what the charters are doing right, could it be just a manageable number of students making the difference? Some charters have more than one staff member in classrooms where needed probably made possible by operating fewer buildings. Class size is a major factor in any school. Not many charters participate in organized sports but do offer several alternatives. The list goes on, and yes, a kid not conforming at a charter will end up back at his home high school. Of course we can try asking for numbers under RTKL.

Stephanie said...

I apologize for not chiming in earlier but I wanted to add that Charter schools, Cyber or brick and mortar are PUBLIC SCHOOLS they have to follow all of the federal IDEA laws and PA State laws regarding charter schools. However, as an advocate of students with special needs I have spoken and helped many families who have been told by these same charters that, "we cannot service your child here" or they say they will send them back to their districts if they misbehave etc.... and parents don’t know they have rights! Since the charters use these strategies to weed out students who have behavior needs or those who are significantly disabled, would definitely help bring up test scores and give the charter more spots to give to higher achieving students.

she said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
typer said...

I have read on other Pure threads about expected staff cuts for 2010-11. Reading the article on Propel and taking the time to google charter school success stories leads you to think about the value of two teachers in a classroom or a teacher and a qualified aide in a classroom. When I first heard about differentiated instruction I wondered how it worked. Could the key be two in a classroom to have the practices be effective? To avoid cuts to staff, where else can PPS trim operating costs?

Questioner said...

Many people have observed that administration is growing quite a bit larger. So one approach might be to redirect money spent on administration to more staff in the classroom. Another area where expenses seem to have increased greatly is consulting contracts. This money also could be redirected to the classroom. It is hard to tell for sure, but the charter schools seem to devote relatively less money to administration and consulting.

Questioner said...

Here is the most recent PG article on Propel McKeesport:

Anonymous said...

This article in today's P-G about the proposed charter school in Hazelwood, mentions that this charter would cost the district 2.5 million dollars for the 200 students.

What really jumped out at me was the fact that the district paid 37.3 million dollars in 09-10 for the 2,549 district students already in charter schools! That is alot of money and alot of our students in charter schools. That speaks volumns to me that something is wrong with our school system that so many students opt out.

Recently two different families of potential high school students said they are sending their children elsewhere despite the Pittsburgh Promise. Their children have been in our school system up through grade eight. All the change and uncertainty makes them uneasy. One family is sending their child to a Catholic school, and the other family is sending their child to a private school.

The bottom line is that people who can afford to pay for education, will send their children elsewhere. Families who can't afford to do that, opt for charters.