A false debate over charter schools

For a fair number of people, the long-running debate over expanding charter schools in the state has become a bit tedious.  Those people aren’t parents like Dawn Foye.  Foye is a Roxbury mother whose 7-year-old son is a first-grader at KIPP Academy, a charter school in Hyde Park.  For her, the school has been a godsend.  She says her son, who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, has found at KIPP all that was missing at his public school, where he struggled to cope with his special needs.  Read Boston Globe article here.

Young KIPP girls’ basketball team defending another title

This year will be a year of rebuilding for the Panthers” says Chris Norkun, Athletic Director at KALC, “because seven of our seniors graduated last year, one being Captain Alex Huffman who earned a full scholarship to Middlebury College.”  KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate principal, Andrea DeAngelo, is this year’s new basketball coach for the four year straight champion team, taking over for Nathanial Jones, who coached the girls teams for 10 years.  The season home game opener will take place this Monday night, December 14, 2015 @ 5:30 pm at KIPP Academy Lynn, 90 High Rock St, against the strong contender Edward M. Kennedy Academy school.

Five years ago the KIPP Lynn middle school varsity girls went 15-5, then 19-1 (winning their first league title), then lost 13 of their 16 players who were 8th graders.  Then they reset the team and went 24-0, 22-1 and 28-1, winning the Charter School Cup Tournament, and the KIPP NYC Cup.  With a team of all 9th graders in the new KIPP High School they won the MCSAO 18-2.  In 2012 they went 21-0, the year after that 20-2, In 2014 they were 20-2 and last year they won for their 4th time.  This year’s game lineup will include playing a few more challenging teams and will feature sophomore Nayeli Germosen and either grader, Grace Camba.   Norkun forecasts the girls team will make the playoffs this year and be in the top 3 finalists with strong potential to win another championship.

KIPP’s athletic program has come a long way since 2005, when the KIPP Academy Lynn middle school was founded, with no athletic facilities and extremely limited equipment.   When the athletic program started, the coaches wanted to use athletics as a way to build up school pride.  That first year they took on both the boys and girls teams.  They practiced outside on outdoor portable hoops in all kinds of weather and created a culture of hard work and strong academics.  In 2012, the new High Rock building opened giving KIPP players an indoor court in a new gym setting them up for even greater success.  “Our girls and boys programs took huge steps forward last year as we systematically built toughness.  We can definitely say we learned how to play close games and I know all of our returning players look forward to building on last year’s successes and heart-breaks.”

The KIPP Academy girls’ basketball team is the four-time defending Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization champion, but returns just four varsity players from last season.  Read more here

M.I.T. research finds special needs students benefit from charter school education

By Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 7, 2015….Special education students and English language learners enrolled at charter schools are more likely to earn higher scores on the state’s standardized tests and reach certain other achievement markers than their peers in district schools, according to a study of Boston students presented Monday.

The study, conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Elizabeth Setren and discussed at an education conference held by MIT and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, found that special education students and English language learners in Boston charter schools experienced larger test score gains than members of the same groups in the city’s traditional public schools.

“Charters generate substantial gains for special needs students in math and English standardized exam scores, English proficiency, and college preparation outcomes,” the study concluded. “Even the most disadvantaged special needs students perform better in charter schools compared to traditional public schools.”

As the debate concerning charter schools has progressed on Beacon Hill, lawmakers, educators and parents have clashed over whether expanding access to charters or investing more in traditional district public schools guarantees an effective education for all students, including those who are disadvantaged or struggling.

The Senate is expected to decide next month whether it will take up charter school legislation. Charter supporters last week submitted 73,000 signatures to the state elections division in a step toward securing a spot on the 2016 ballot for an initiative that would allow more charter schools.

Charter school opponents say the privately run, publicly funded schools can craft policies that push out students who are more difficult to educate, skewing achievement statistics. Proponents say the innovative approaches charter schools can take lead to high-quality education.

“A large body of evidence suggests that urban charters generate large academic gains for lottery applicants,” Setren writes. “At the same time, critics of charter schools not only note that special needs students appear underrepresented in charters, but they also question whether charters serve these students well.”

Setren’s study followed applicants for 30 Boston charter schools, both those who were accepted via lottery and those who were not, throughout their Massachusetts public school experience. It found that, in Boston charter schools, 10 percent more special education students and 16 percent more English language learners scored “advanced” or “proficient” on MCAS mathematics tests than their peers in district schools. On the MCAS English exams, rates of advanced and proficient scores at charter schools were 9 percent higher for special education students and 14 percent higher for English language learners.

The study found that special education students in charter schools were 44.2 percent less likely to graduate high school in four years, but that there was no statistically significant difference in five-year graduation rates for special education students between charter and district schools.

Special education students attending charter schools are also more likely to meet the math and English proficiency requirement for high school graduation, become eligible for a state merit scholarship, take an Advanced Placement exam and score higher on the SAT. Charter school special education students were not significantly more likely to earn a passing score on the AP exams, according to the study.

Setren writes that she does not have enough evidence to definitively state which school characteristics better suit special needs students, but that higher staff-to-student ratios, extra learning time and intensive tutoring are likely important factors.


Charter school backers rally near State House

Over 1,000 parents, educators, and students marched across Boston Common Wednesday morning, November 18, and rallied near the State House to demand that legislators ease limits on the number of charter schools.

“Hey hey, ho ho. The charter cap has got to go,” chanted the marchers, most wearing blue T-shirts with the slogan “Great Schools Now.”

The rally was organized by Great Schools Massachusetts, which supports passage of Governor Charlie Baker’s bill that would allow 12 new or expanded charter schools each year in districts performing in the bottom 25 percent on standardized tests.  Read more here.