The recent commentary posted on the Stamford Advocate blog by columnist Wendy Lecker paints an incomplete picture about charter schools. A review of the charter school data for the schools reauthorized in June 2012 presents a far more diverse student achievement picture than was presented by Ms. Lecker.

As mentioned, there were seven charter schools reauthorized in June of 2012.  Of these, the two in Stamford–Trailblazers Academy and Stamford Academy–are populated mostly by minority and low-income students who have unfortunately experienced repeat failures in the traditional public school setting. Many of them have literally been written off as unable to succeed in school, much less graduate. (Trailblazers has 95% minority enrollment and 91.4% low-income enrollment, while Stamford has 94% minority and 88.4% low-income.) Consequently, student achievement and high school graduation data for these two schools is low, but a significant improvement over expected results, absent their intervention. Because all students in the public education system in CT are held to the same standards, these factors are not readily apparent in reviewing the data.

Observing that enrollment at Milner, a school partnering with Jumoke Academy, has gone down, Ms. Lecker writes, “we can already see that Jumoke’s Milner is not the same as last year’s Milner.” Well, we certainly hope not. Over the last three years at “last year’s Milner”, students scored an average of 32.8 on the School Performance Index (SPI). Put in lay terms, that means most Milner students were not even scoring at the “Basic” level on their CMTs. In contrast, Jumoke students scored a three-year average SPI of 80.1 (which is close to the statewide achievement target of 88). That score indicates that many Jumoke students had “Advanced” and “Goal” CMT scores. As measured by test scores, students at Jumoke were more than twice as successful as students at Milner. There’s nothing unreasonable about the hypothesis that a partnership between Milner and Jumoke should advance student learning at the former Milner School.

Of the four remaining renewals, two–Achievement First-Bridgeport and Elm City Prep–are Schools of Distinction, a designation for the highest performing or most improved schools.

Amistad Academy is a focus school because its graduation rate of 58.6% falls below the 60% threshold established for that designation. (Ms. Lecker incorrectly reported a graduation rate of 49%.)  Amistad’s three-year SPI of 80.8 (CMT) and 75.6 (CAPT) also indicate high student performance. In fact, Amistad’s statewide average for the overwhelmingly low-income and minority populations it serves far exceeds the statewide average for the same subgroups. These results are likely to translate into continuously improved graduation rates over time.

The Bridge Academy, despite boasting a high graduation rate, indeed has some low test scores (three-year SPI of 61.2 in CMT and 56.2 in CAPT). That’s probably why the state has so reasonably given the school Review status (which means school improvement planning is already underway).

While public charter schools in Connecticut, like traditional public schools, have areas warranting improvement, their academic condition is not as dire as Ms. Lecker portrayed, nor is it void of examples of high achievement.

6 thoughts on “The Rest of the Story–on Connecticut Public Charter Schools

  1. Duke says:

    Your support of the privatization movement speaks for itself. Fail to mention the difference in population during this time period.

    Do you care to give the numbers of sped, ELL kids in these charter schools compared to the real public schools?

    Deception on your part Rae Ann.

    • CCER says:

      We support the measures that close the Achievement Gap while raising academic outcomes for all students.

  2. Marie says:

    Lots of charter tricks when it comes to the lottery and their “waiting lists”, too. Can you have a waiting list when you send kids back to public school and you are not fully enrolled? See here and full link:

    JJ notes that this charter chain spends millions of dollars each year on recruitment, advertising, public relations, and marketing. This is a necessary business expense to drum up thousands of applications for a small number of seats. The lottery–and the drummed up demand–makes a case that more charters are needed. That seems to be the business plan.

    The lottery is a clever marketing tool. It occurs to me that it’s the same marketing approach used by Teach for America. The more applicants they have, the more they can turn down, and the better the brand looks. There is a certain snob appeal to having a few winners and a lot of losers.

    Not like those public schools that take any student who walks in off the street.

  3. Garland Walton says:

    Thank you for helping us clarify that not all charters are alike. One of your commenters would like special education rates published, and we’re happy to oblige for our two alternative Stamford schools (which are State charters): The middle school student body is 26% special education, and the high school, 23%. I believe both are about double the rates for both the Stamford district and the state. Thank you also for pointing out that improvement over past performance is what we are being measured on. I think many folks still don’t understand or know that the State Dept of Education is moving toward evaluating schools on whether or not they’re helping students make sufficient progress (i.e., the CMT’s vertical scale score growth measurement) instead of just looking at who’s proficient, which tells you just a tiny part of what happened that year. Our schools act in service to the district by providing an educational setting that gets results while removing from district schools students who often cause behavior disruptions and bring their scores down. Those students come to us far, far behind, but with us, they make major progress; despite that, because they’re so far behind, often times don’t hit the proficiency mark. But that in no way means they failed for the year. I guess the question is: Are we ready to redefine success so we can actually ID methods that show results? If it means more kids can finally start learning again and get off the path to dropping out, I’m ready.

  4. Marie says:

    What measures? Standardized testing? Do you know about any other types of measures or are you just memorizing the reformy privatizing talking points?

    How else, besides filling in bubbles or choosing the “correct” answer as created by a profit making testing company, do you assess academic outcomes?

    And the achievement gap IS a reflection of the income gap, opportunity gap, resource gap, etc…..which is a fact that the privatizers like to ignore. Blaming the teachers is so much easier.

    Maybe you could teach for three years in an underperforming school and get back to us on your experiences rather than preaching from an office and a computer.

  5. Terry says:

    Not only is CCER’s Executive Director overlooking the facts by defending the Jumoke Academy but the Commissioner’s Network Program and Governor Malloy’s education reform plans are failing to provide the most vital services to the children of the Milner School and especially the schools large Latino population.

    If that is what the Connecticut Council for Education Reform considers a success, it is a sad day in Connecticut.

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