An old prairie school (
by Dan Burns
Mar 5, 2024, 7:30 AM

Charter schools are worse. Deal with it.

From recent, all-too-rare actual fact-based reporting on this:

In 2023, there were 78 public schools in Minnesota where zero students in at least one entire grade level were rated “proficient” in the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests in reading or math, according to Department of Education data analyzed by The Reformer. These numbers exclude alternative learning programs for students who struggle with traditional school, as well as distance learning programs.

This is an extremely conservative measure of student underperformance: Substantively there is little difference between a school where 0% of fifth-graders meet standards and one where 5% or 10% do, and if those latter schools were included the list would be much larger.

For comparison, about 50% of all Minnesota public school students rate as proficient at math and reading. That number has been declining since the onset of the pandemic.

Most of the schools with extremely high failure rates — 59 of the 78 — are public charter schools like JJ Legacy. Many bear lofty names — Rochester STEM Academy, Skyline Math and Science Academy, Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy, to name a few — that belie the realities of low achievement at those schools.
(Minnesota Reformer)

Actually some people have been telling it like it is for quite a while. For example:

This is why charter schools cannot be fought with evidence and reason: It is primarily an ideological and political project. Nothing about the promises given around charter schools has come true except that they provide an alternative, in some places, to regular public schools. For a movement built around “outcomes ” charters have not proven to be superior to regular public schools. In real-world comparisons they do worse. They have not innovated in ways that have profited their regular public school counterparts. There is no theory about why charter schools might provide a better education other than the unproven notion that competition will produce superior results. And charters have not been held accountable for their poor outcomes, increased segregation, failure to innovate, and constant churn.

(If it seems like I’ve hyperlinked that one before in my stories here, more than once, it’s because I have. It’s replete with unarguable facts, is why I keep doing so.)

A couple of things I often feel compelled to go on about:

Everyone who takes a rational, fact-based view of the matter knows that using standardized testing as a primary measure of student achievement, effort, and preparedness is bullshit. The only thing those tests do really consistently tell you is a kid’s parents’ income. Therefore, those like myself who strongly support real public schools, and regularly and publicly argue and proclaim on their behalf, can be accused of a measure of hypocrisy when we turn around and use standardized test scores as a basis for bashing charters and vouchers. But, as the saying goes, you “fight fire with fire.” It is after all charter/voucher advocates who are constantly (and very selectively) ranting about standardized test scores, and using them to “justify” further attacks on public education (and to allow private equity to foist purported “fixes” like Science of Reading). It’s a safe bet that a whole lot of high-functioning adults in contemporary society, likely including plenty in the school deform movement, would have considerable trouble with at least some current junior high-level standardized tests. I’m not suggesting that means that they’re stupid; far from it. It’s just another very down-to-earth indicator of how meaningless standardized testing really, ultimately is.

I also get why some parents honestly believe schools where most or all of the students trace their ancestry to a particular country – Laos, say, or Somalia – are best for their kids. But are they really? As the Reformer article notes many of the lowest-performing charters are extremely segregated in that way. And is the best way to prepare your kids for real life really to try to keep them in maximum comfort zones all the time? A lot of the money currently being spent on highly segregated charters would be far better invested in immersive language programs, and plenty of other things, in community schools. With trained, certified teachers, and all that.

Ideally, our whole education system would be grounded in great traditional/community public schools in every town and in every city neighborhood. That, however, would soon result in entire generations being able and willing to reason from facts. Which would present a massive threat to our current greedhead, militaristic governing status quo. If you just understand the preceding you’ll understand what the education deform movement is really all about, even though plenty of its most ardent proponents aren’t really consciously at all aware of that themselves.

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