Wednesday, January 01, 2014

When The Best And Brightest Have No Freakin' Idea What They're Doing

How is the education establishment going to react to this?  Charter schools, which they hate, run by state universities, which they love, being recommended to be shut down, which they love, by an organization, which they hate, that supports charter schools, which they hate:
The California Charter Schools Association called Thursday for the closure of a West Sacramento charter school that is run by UC Davis, Sacramento City College and the Washington Unified School District.

West Sacramento Early College Prep, which served 119 students last school year, is among the worst-performing campuses in the state based on standardized tests.

While the statewide organization is a champion of charter schools, it believes that calling for the closure of struggling programs demonstrates that charter schools are willing to be held accountable, said CCSA President Jed Wallace...

The West Sacramento school is one of six charters that CCSA has identified; the others are in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, Antioch and Delano.
Ever hear of anyone in the education establishment making calls to shut down low-performing public schools?  Me, either.

The funny thing is, one could argue that perhaps this school is doing fine given its population, that its "value-added" is significant.  To argue that, and to counter that argument, would require the usual sides to reverse their usual positions!

No matter how you look at it, though, the performance of the students at this school is among the worst in the state.  It ranks in the bottom 15 schools in a 4-county region.  They may be doing wonderful things at that school, but there's no empirical evidence for such a belief.  And the excuse they gave was a classic:
Levine says students at the school don’t fare well on the state’s standardized tests, known as STAR tests, because they aren’t aligned to “the way we want them to think.” He said the school adopted project-based learning in 2008 that is more closely aligned with the new Common Core State Standards curriculum that California students will begin to be tested for in 2014.

The dean noted that California students are no longer taking STAR tests. He questioned why the charter association is using an “outmoded” measure to decide if a school is performing well academically.
Isn't that beautiful?  I'm told that Common Core will boost students' academic thinking beyond mere regurgitation of facts, that they'll understand the material on a deeper level.   If this school is teaching its students to operate that way, wouldn't those students perform even better on the STAR tests, which supposedly ask for only a cursory, fill-in-the-blank-style understanding?

I'm no fan of the Common Core standards or of the effort to use them to impose so-called discovery learning or any other educational fad on us, but even CC supporters must concede that using CC standards to excuse and explain low performance is a harsh indictment indeed.

But here's the fun part:  this school is run with input from the University of California, Davis.  A UC campus.   If this school is the best those eggheads can come up with, how much confidence should we taxpayers have in that university's school of education?  Why should prospective teachers pay to attend a UC program with such results?

Will the California Charter Schools Association's proposal lead to any introspection on the part of the movers and shakers at Davis?  Sadly, I wouldn't bet on it.  They're ideologues, evidence means nothing to them.


Larry Sand said...

Kudos to CCSA for doing the right thing. If charters don't do the job, they should be shut down. And it would behoove UC Davis to take stock of its program; apparently there is much room for improvement.

Elaine said...

I call bs.

My school is one of the top 20 on the state. I use a lot of project based learning, and I have been integrating common core for 3 years now. Our scores have gone up.

They are just not teaching effectively. So yes, they either need to change to improve or close.

allen (in Michigan) said...

The public education establishment is only interested in achieving their goal which is stuffing the reform "toothpaste" back into the tube. If CCSA helps them do that the education establishment will celebrate the closing of the school and not mention the CCSA.

The real tragedy in this story is the position taken by the CCSA.

The essence of charter school reform is parental empowerment. CCSA has lined up with those who believe parents aren't to be trusted with that power and that if parents won't abandon a charter which those officials find objectionable then it's up to the wise heads at CCSA to see to the task.

Bad idea and bad precedent. The solution to a lousy charter isn't to shut it down but to push for more schools for parents to choose from.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't a regular public school run by the Stanford ed school recently forced to close for awful performance?

Anonymous said...

A charter school run by Stanford was shut down recently (for some value of recently).

-Mark Roulo