Tuesday, September 27, 2016

FL: Bad Retail Management As Ed Policy

If you have worked in the retail world, you have probably had this experience. If you teach in Florida, you're about to.

Somewhere way up the corporate ladder, some guys in a board room declare that they predict an awesome quarter for the corporate coffers. This awesome result is based on an uptick in revenue and that uptick is based on... well, it's based on pressuring the sales force. Not improved product, not greater demand in the marketplace, not any attempt to create a new relationship between the brand and the customers. Not any of the things that would actually be the responsibility of those boardroom guys.

No, what's going to happen is that the new Sales Goal Figures will be passed down the ladder until we finally arrive at a meeting between a store manager and the sales staff in which the store manager informs them that they are expected to move another $2,000 in merchandise per week.

What's the corporate assumption here? Well, it's not that the product or the corporate structure needs to be tweaked or fixed. The assumption is that, somehow, the sales staff could sell more if they just...well, did it.

Management may offer or impose some new policies or procedures (develop a customer call list and hit it every day, cry when you are trying to land the sale, or tackle customers when they get in the door and don't let them up until they buy something). But these are implemented backwards, after the fact. In other words, corporate doesn't say, "We've got some new ideas that we think will improve your sales so much that we can reasonably raise your goals." No-- it's "We are going to raise your goals. Here are some wild-ass guesses at things that might help you meet those goals."

This is bad management, and it can be found all over the retail sales world. It burns out sales people, gives management an excuse to keep wages low (you didn't meet your numbers again this month, Vern), and worst of all, it encourages sales staff to view customers as adversaries (I need to get your money away from you-- stop holding out on me).

Florida remains determined to establish itself as the leading state for Bad Education Policy (watch out, North Carolina) and so the Florida Board of Education decided to set "ambitious" education goals for state schools.

According to the strategic plan, reading and math scores on the Big Standardized Test are going to go up 7% by the 2019-2020 school year. So math and ELA numbers will both go from 52% to 59%. The graduation rate will increase 7.1% because that will increase the rate from 77.9% to the nicely rounded 85%. Postsecondary completion is going to increase by 10%!

Florida calls this a "strategic plan," and that's sort of accurate if you overlook the fact that there is neither a plan nor a strategy.

This is not a coach saying, "We've got these great new plays to try and I think they will raise our scoring 25%." This is a coach saying, "Get out there and score more points. Somehow. I don't know how-- just do it, dammit!"

This is not a corporate bigwig saying, "With the new strategies we have in place, we project the following improvements in our revenues next quarter." This is a corporate bigwig hammering his fist on the desk and hollering, "Bring in another ten percent in revenues or I will fire the whole damn lot of you." This is the heads of Wells Fargo saying, "I want every front line salesman opening 50 new accounts per month. I don't know or care how they're going to do it-- just tell them to do it or I'll can their asses." (The part where the corporate boss acts surprised by rampant cheating comes later.)

What's the theory here? Children will be getting smarter over the next few years? Teachers have been holding out and when faced with super-duper targets they will finally shrug and say, "Well, okay, I guess I'll finally really try to do my job." Or is it just that if we have a "bold" target set for no reason other than we aimed somewhere between "too small to be impressive" and "so large it's clearly ridiculous" and then we just threaten teachers and schools to go ahead and hit it, somehow.

This, of course, was the operating theory of No Child Left Behind-- set goals based on unicorn tears and fairy whispers and then just threaten people real hard so that they'll meet those goals. The whole rest of the country has since figured out that the NCLB operating theory is junk and gets you a whole lot of Nothing Good. So kudos to Florida board members for throwing one more burning sack of donkey poo that is the dumpster fire of Florida education policy. If nothing else, you are making many other states look enlightened and wise by comparison, and for that, those of us who don't teach in Florida thank you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Center for Ed Reform All In on Privatizing

The Center for Education Reform, Jeanne Allen's charter-and-choice advocacy group, is having a senior moment. Under the breathless headline, "Nation's Most Senior Education Reform Group Relaunches," CER has issued a press release about "its complete refocus on the changing landscape of American education, taking on the most difficult issues that no other national organization is currently pursuing."

Wow! What plucky drive these folks have! This appears to be a follow-up to the manifesto they issued this summer. I waded through the whole thing here, but let me summarize even more succinctly--

Reformsters have gotten too wimpy and off-message, allowing themselves to be too often engaged by the dupes of the evil teachers' unions, and so now we must have bold and decisive leadership that unashamedly embraces the value of turning education over to corporate control. We must learn a lesson from the fate of the Common Core, struck down in its prime because its defenders did not boldly resist the evil forces arrayed against it (and not at all because it sucked and couldn't deliver any of what it promised).

But now, the CER has found new focus, new dedication, and, apparently, a new English-to-corporate gobbledeegook translator:

Coming on the heels of an intensive 8-month review of the organization, the larger education ecosystem and the hundreds of new entrants to the market that have emerged since The Center was founded in 1993, the Center’s board, team and advisors crafted a new theory of change to refocus the intent of education reform toward every student -- no matter their stage in life, where they live, and how they learn. By leading the creation of a new eco-system that has innovators and entrepreneurs at the center of the work, CER will ensure that thousands more thought leaders and millions more people become engaged in new efforts to advance educational excellence.

That is some rich baloney there. There's lots of choice language here, but the key phrase is "eco-system that has innovators and entrepreneurs at the center of the work." Nowhere here is there even a whisper or a hint of respect or care for public education as we know it, the "conventional wisdom" that Allen says she wants people to buck. This is just straight-up corporate privatizing let us take over the whole sector talking now.

This comes with some sort of ill-defined retooling of CER itself, apparently, though what comes out is phrases like "the intensive 360 review of the education reform sector and the Center’s own capabilities has resulted in a novel and impactful new organization and mission." Impactful, huh? Sounds awesome. Maybe a graphic would make all this clearer and plainer:

Okay, maybe that's a little too plain-- I hope nobody was paid much to come up with that graphic. But here's one thing that has clearly changed about CER-- in this press release, someone other than Allen gets to speak:

“Innovation is the pathway to opportunity,” said CER Vice Chair Michael Moe, the co-founder of Global Silicon Valley Advisors (GSV). “Our work must no longer just be about reform, but about results, which can come about from thousands of disrupting innovations and efforts across the world, if we are willing to explore them.”

Allen has chided me in the past for making fun of CER, but honestly, when people insist on writing this kind of obfuscating jorgonesque fluffernuttery, how can one not? As Horation puts it to the rambling and wordy Osric in Hamlet: "Is't not possible to understand in another tongue? You will do't, sir, really."

This is corporate baloney-speak, aimed at the same corporate folks who want so very much to get their hands on public education dollars. As elaborated in their manifesto, CER wants to see the handcuffs and regulations taken off charters, and for a million opportunities to be financed. Allen is sure it is time to just stop pussyfooting around and sweep the damn public schools with their double-damned unions right off the table. I don't know how many folks in the charter-choice camp she's in tune with (probably not the ones saying, "Yeah, okay, maybe we should stomp harder on the rogue fraudsters"), but she should be very happy under the reign of Fuhrer Trump, should that come to pass.

There's really not much that's clear here except that CER is fully behind a privatized school system. In their New Mission statement, they call for "improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth," and I guess it's nice that Our Youth made it onto the list at all, but if a man says, "I pledge to make love beautifully and sweetly-- particularly to my wife," I'm not sure his wife would find that very reassuring. When CER calls for "conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education" they are not talking about improving anything for students. They are talking about creating a better investment climate so that hedge funders and Wall Street titans can more easily make bank on the backs of the education system. I suppose it's nice that CER is clearer than ever about that, but just because someone is clear that they want to do something that's dead wrong, that doesn't mean it isn't dead wrong.

NAEP Board Still Includes Few Educators

See, John King. This is one more reason we have a hard time taking you seriously. Because for all your big talk about teachers being leaders and raising the profession and teach to lead and all the rest, when it comes time to put people in charge of Important Stuff, actual teachers do not get the call.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is sometimes called the nation's report card. It is the grandmama of Big Standardized Tests, the measure by which other BS Tests are sometimes measured. The NAEP is managed by the National Assessment Governing Board, and King just announced the appointment of six members to four-year terms on that board.

“We are honored to welcome these exceptional education leaders to the Board,” King said. “The Board plays a vital role in helping to shape education in our country, and their perspectives and insights will be major assets in strengthening the status of The Nation’s Report Card as the gold standard for measuring academic achievement.”

Exceptional education leaders! Well, that sounds awesome. Who are these exceptional education leaders? (Spoiler alert: not people who have ever spent time in a classroom.)

Rebecca Gagnon- Gagnon is a member of the Minneapolis School Board and a stay-at-home mom, whose board campaign was marked by the kind of union support that makes reformsters cranky. But educational experience? Not so much.

Andrew Ho- Ho is a professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Ed, specializing in psychometrics and test-based accountability.  So he at least has some expertise in the testing field. And some of his writing suggests that he has a good grasp of the problems that occur when politicians and policy makers start playing with test result data.

Terry Mazany- Mazany is president and CEO of the Chicago Trust, one of those organizations formed by businessmen when they want to run a piece of government (in this case, education) without being elected, but look like public-spirited good guys while they're doing it. Mazany has been an occasional superintendent and one-time interim head of Chicago schools. Arne Duncan put him on the NAGB, where he is now the chair.

Jeanette Nunez- A GOP state legislator from Florida (aka ten-time finalist for "Worst Education State in USA"). She's been a political staffer, a hospital administrator, and a part-time college prof.

Joseph O'Keefe- Jesuit priest who's been a visiting professor and has been long involved with Catholic school biz and teacher assessment. He's here as a non-public school administrator.

Alice Peisch- A Dem state legislator from Massachusetts. She's currently head of the Joint Committee on Education, and has previously been a town clerk and school board member.

Look, these may all be absolutely swell people. But clearly the slate was selected with an eye on the optics and yet still, somehow, nobody whose background is firmly rooted in the classroom was included. And while the group is soliciting nominations to fill four more positions, those open positions are for an elementary school principal, two general public representatives, and a testing and measurement expert. Yes, this committee that shapes the gold standard of assessment, which in turn shapes instruction and education in the country, has spots set aside for regular civilians.

By law, the NAGB has twenty-five seats, and of those twenty-five seats, a grand total of three are set aside for actual teachers. There are four general public members of the general public, two governors, two principals, but three testing and measurement experts. There's ample opportunity to include people who are heavy in actual classroom background, but instead we've got folks like Massachusetts Pusher of Privatization Mitchell Chester and Ken Wagner, brought in to be Rhode Island's educational Reformer in Chief after helping New York State try to launch the inBloom data mining adventure.

So KIng can make noises about teacher leaders and building respect for the profession, but at the end of the day, when the feds want to do Important Things, it's not teachers that they call upon.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

ICYMI: Readings from the week (9/25)

As always, remember to share and spread the word. Everyone can be an amplifier.

Don't Believe the Charter School Hype

Charles Pierce is one mainstream journalist who has taken up the cause of public ed and given reformsters some serious grief. Here's his take on the charter push in Massachusetts

Preaching to the Educhoir

William Ferriter reminds us why preaching to the educhoir is not a waste of time.

A Righteous Anger

Opposing charters is not enough-- not when public schools are screwing up.

Drowning in Systematic Injustice

Rev. William Barber speaks up about the unrest in Charlotte. As always, there is real fire in his words.

Finance Is Ruining America

Alana Semuels at the Atlantic looks at how hedge funders and other financial wizards are spreading poevrty and screwing up the US economy

This Was the Summer of Charter School Discontent

Daniel Katz runs down the set-backs, disappointment and general shenanigans of the charter industry over the past few months.

M-Stepping Those Results Right Into the Trash Can

Looking at your child's test results in Michigan (though even if you're not in Michigan, some of these issues are very recognizable).

It's not about Race

An exceptional look at race, culture and history, from the Anglo-Saxons to African-Americans

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Essential Reading for Education Activists (and Wonks)

Corporate, privatized, market-driven education reform hasn't worked-- and now there's a book chock full of research to prove it.

The National Education Policy Center is based at the University of Colorado (Boulder) School of Education. They look kind of like what I always imagined when I thought of an actual think tank-- one that was interested in real inquiry and research, and not just put together to lobby for a particular set of ideas. They've created a network composed of many of the top researchers in the education policy world (just look at this list of fellows) and they are a regular source of actual education policy research (as well as doing solid analyses of other research that is out there, even when it's just "research").

William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo have put together an important (and huge) look at what's been going on in education. Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms is a collection of twenty-eight articles from a rather amazing array of top scholars in the field, looking at what has been tried, what hasn't worked, and the research says will work.

The preface, foreword, and introduction lay out the vision pretty clearly and forcefully. In the second paragraph of the preface, Mathis and Trujillo summarize where we are pretty succinctly:

Unfortunately, our review also confirmed that, despite decades of solid research evidence demonstrating the limited and contradictory effects of the market model on school reform, it is still the model that dominates education in this country, particularly in schools that serve low-income families and children of color.

In her foreword, Jeannie Oakes argues that cultural values have dominated the arena while pushing aside actual research-based approaches, and that the dominant value is a sort of behaviorism. Reformsters have "normalized the idea that school quality and equity will improve" as families shop in an unequal "competitive" marketplace. Oakes raises an idea that I confess I hadn't really considered-- that a market-based approach doesn't just fail to erase differences, but actually cements a marketplace of schools of varying quality. The implication is clear-- in a free market there must always be "bad" schools, and some students will be stuck attending them.

Instead of a system promoting equity and education as a common good

 market-based, test-driven reforms have only reinforced the weak notion that a high-quality education is a scarce commodity that few schools provide and that families must compete for good opportunities for their children.

This despite forty years of research that provided an enormous body of knowledge about the causes and consequences of educational inequality.

If the subheading of the book ("Lessons for ESSA") concerns you, the introduction makes it clear that NEPC does not have rose-colored glasses on about the new education policy.

Unfortunately, research (such as in this book) plainly tells us that ESSA preserves most of the unproductive structures and reforms that NCLB prescribed... at its core,  ESSA is still a primarily test-based educational regime.

The introduction points at a culprit: "The faith in test-driven accountability and punitive techniques for fixing schools is the dominant operational philosophy." And the writers also summarize the bulk of the research in the book as pointing to "one unambiguous conclusion-- heavy-handed accountability policies do not produce the kinds of schools envisioned under the original ESEA."

And all that is while we're still in the part of the book where the pages are numbered with roman numerals.

There is plenty to chew on here (the book is, after all, almost 700 pages). But it is worth the chewing, and I expect that I will visit several of the chapters by themselves in blogs in the weeks ahead.

The book is built in four main sections:

Section 1: The Foundations of Market Based Reform

These four chapters look at what got us here, looking at the growth and change of policy starting all the way back with the New Deal. In particular, Harvey Kantor and Robert Lowe offer an interesting idea by characterizing policy change as "educationalizing the welfare state and privatizing education." Heinrich Mintrop and Gail Sunderman consider how the failure of sanctions-driven accountability was completely predictable (but that doesn't mean we won't stay stuck with it).

Section 2: Test-based Sanctions: What the Evidence Says

Four really important chapters here, looking at what the research actually says about school turnaround strategies (spoiler alert: not much good), the effect of school choice on achievement, and the real costs of school closures.

Section 3: False Promises

This large section contains eleven articles that each address one of ed reforms beloved bright ideas. Paul Thomas writes about "miracle schools," and the American Statistical Association's statement on the use of VAM for evaluation is here. Stan Karp effectively beats the dead horse that is Common Core. Several articles look at the civil rights angles of plugging reform, and Anne Gregory, Russell Skiba and Pedro Noguera look at how the achievement gap and discipline gap are related. Private contracting, school choice--there's even a look at virtual education.

Section 4: Effective and Equitable Reforms

Here are nine articles delineating what actually does work, considering everything from poverty to adequate funding to class size. There's some talk about T-PREP as a model for evaluating education programs as well as a look at some community organizing programs that have been successful.

Section 5: Bottom Lining It

At the end, Mathis and Trujillo return to the stage to make some final observations and recommendations for moving forward under ESSA.

Those recommendations include addressing the opportunity gap, admitting that high-stakes, test-based accountability doesn't help students learn, and accepting that privatizing schools hasn't worked very well, either.


There's is a lot to read and digest here (did I mention it was almost 700 pages?) and my first pass through has been fairly cursory. Some of it is very, very wonky. And the odds are good that somewhere in those pages, you may find some ideas that you disagree with. If you are virulently anti-ESSA and anti-any-government-involvement-at-all, you may disagree with a lot.

However, it's well worth the time and effort to read work that is based on actual research as opposed to the kind of substance-free PR puffery that comes from reformsterland. Heck, it's even a good idea to take the occasional break from the ranting of various bloggers and absorb some actual scholarship.

The Gates Plan for College

Some days I feel kind of Rip Van Winklesque, as if I went to sleep and when I woke up the world had changed. Apparently while I was sleeping, the electorate rose up and elected Bill Gates the Grand Uber Head of Education. "Please," a bunch of you non-sleeping people said. "Redesign our entire education system. Redefine what it means to be an educated person, and redefine how a person gets an education. Please do that for us, and now that we've asked you to do this, please never ask us for any input on the subject ever again."

And so we got Common Core and high-stakes testing and Big Data Systems and a whole giant network of astro-turf groups pushing these policy ideas and a decade of corporate dismantling of public education, funded in astonishingly substantial ways by Bill and Melinda Gates.

But apparently while I was sleeping, y'all asked him to do something about redesigning colleges, too.

I'm looking at the most current version of Gates' Postsecondary Success Advocacy Priorities, which is kind of a non-meaning word salad of a title, but I'm thinking what we have here is what The Gates considers the priorities to advocate of in the process of redefining post-secondary success. Yes, I've read it so you don't have to, but if this is the kind of thing you let happen while I'm asleep, we've really got to talk.

The Overview

Higher education is the bridge to success. Well, it used to be, but now it's a narrow twisty high-priced toll bridge, and that's a problem. Mind you, the cost of that problem is not to the human beings who wanted to cross the bridge:

Rising costs and debt, stubbornly high dropout rates, and persistent attainment gaps threaten higher education’s ability to meet societal and workforce needs. Recent estimates show that the nation will need 11 million more workers with some form of high-quality post-high school education by 2025 than our system is currently on course to produce.

The Gates strategy is "dedicated to building human capital" by leveraging solutions, networks and incentives. So, yeah-- apparently the whole point of post-secondary education is to provide additional vocational training so that young widget-wannabes can grow into useful human capital. That human capital would be mostly poor and first-time post-sec education folks.

The rest of this is going to sound familiar to those of you who have been paying attention to personalized competency based education, credentials, and the cradle-to-career data pipeline.

The paper lays out three areas of emphasis and planning for The Gates.

Data and Information

The stated goal here is "a comprehensive national data infrastructure that enables the secure and consistent collection and reporting of key performance metrics for all students in all institutions." So once again we also have an implied goal of standardization across all institutions (otherwise the key performance metrics won't match) as well as a far-reaching and markedly creepy data system.

The Gates sees this as critical in answering questions like "whether and which colleges offer value."  The system they envisions mandates the linkage of every single private and public entity that collects or holds data about the individual students. The paper is talking about this mainly as a way to measure the value provided by post-secondary school, but that really doesn't make it seem any less creepy, and it doesn't take an even-slightly-paranoid person to imagine how such a database would be useful primarily for corporate employers, who could just order up exactly what they wanted from the Giant Database of Human Capital. Kind of like the creepiest match.com ever.

The Gates highlights some of the steps that have been taken to further this creepy dream (but not the steps that have been thwarted, like inBloom). All that has to happen is the giant data storage structure has to be built and everyone has to be told exactly what data points are to be collected and by what instruments and in what format. Oh, and every college and university has to agree to use the same metrics and system as every other college and university. That should be easy because colleges and universities love giving up their autonomy.

Finance and Financial Aid

Have you heard? Simply everyone in the country is talking about college affordability. Good thing you all asked The Gates to fix that while I was napping.

The Gates says the feds should make getting aid easier (they think the FAFSA is too hard, complicated and slow). The feds should also make more "resources" (aka "money") available to students to pass on to schools. Also, the aid programs should add incentives for sticking with it, getting the degree, and landing a good job. Which makes me wonder-- don't those things come with built-in incentives? And if they don't, is there a different problem that we should be looking at?

But The Gates wants some outcome-based incentives, and honestly it's a little fuzzy-- it appears we want these for both the school and the students. For the school, there's a real problem with such incentives, because if I'm incentivized to graduate students, then I am also incentivized to not accept students who are iffy in the probably-graduate department, which would actually make it harder to get into college for the kind of first-generation, poverty-background students that The Gates says they're especially concerned about.
Meanwhile, The Gates is having its buddies at Research For Action look into the various implications of outcome-based funding. Outcome-based funding is always a bit of a red flag because the natural extension of the idea is the kind of system where students are rewarded for each badge or credential they achieve-- this gets us a system where students are rats in a maze and education is reduced to a series of over-simplified hoop-jumping. But there are plenty of people working on developing just such a system.

Student-Centered Pathways

Well, now we're back to the world of upside-down reformster language. The problem as The Gates sees it is that college, with its "cafeteria model" course offering creates confusion and leaves students without a clear path. So to get rid of that confusion and provide clarity, why not tell them exactly what they have to do? See? Less choice is more happiness. Making students adhere to a pre-chosen path is student-centered.  Also, freedom is slavery.

This glorious future will be ushered in by Integrated Student Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS-- seriously, I didn't make that up). This software will use predictive analytics to help students stay on the right path to the right credential (which is what we keep talking about-- credentials and not degrees).

Also, "many low-income and first-generation students face the hurdle of passing introductory general education courses offered in large lecture halls with hundreds of students." So maybe it would be better if they just took their courses on the computer.

And standardization out the wazoo. Lots of students change schools, so all their credits and courses should be transferable. Also, remediation would go more smoothly if all the high school and college standards were aligned to each other, all across the board.

In summary, only by forcing every future widget onto the same one-size-fits-all pathway can we hope to provide a "student-cenetered" education experience that will best prepare them to be of use to their corporate overlords.

Why, it's a brave new world!

I'll remind you that these special Certificates of Human Capital Usefulness are being directed at first time, low-income post-secondary students. If you are a hopeful person, you'll conclude that's because The Gates wants to lead an action of social justice and economic uplift. If you are somewhat more cynical, you might conclude that folks from the Higher Classes would never allow their children to be subjected to such a system that treats them like easily-shaped widgets while devaluing higher education as nothing more than advanced job training run to benefit corporations rather than human beings. It is yet another redesign of an education sector into one more tool of the Betters class, a tool to shape the worker class into More Useful (and More Easily Used) corporate tools.

The whole thing is enough to make me very tired, but I swear, I'm not going to take another nap until everyone promises not to elect Gates to fix anything else.

The Word Charters Leave Out

The sales pitch, in various versions, pops up every time charter cheerleaders are pushing charters as the Big Solution in education.

"We know how to educate poor minority students."

The implication, of course, is that public schools don't know how to get the job done. The use of civil rights rhetoric further pushes the idea that charters can rescue non-wealthy, non-white students from a public school system that either can't or won't provide them with the education they need and deserve.

The problem with this assertion, however, is the words that charter fans invariably omit from the pitch.

The word is "some."

As in, "We know how to educate some poor minority students."

And that's a problem. That single word is the difference between a pitch that makes compelling sense and one that is simply a pack of weasel words. Let me tell you why.

First, some stipulations:

I'm going to skip for the moment my usual objections that the measures being used to determine whether a school is successful or not are grade-A useless baloney. Let's just pretend for the moment that we know how to measure student success.

And we can also insert my usual disclaimer here that not all charters are problematic, and particularly back before the rise of the modern investment-driven hedge-fundie charters, there have been charters that have truly added to the public education landscape. So I don't automatically hate charter schools.

I'm also going to acknowledge right up front that we have many schools and school districts that are not doing right by non-wealthy non-white students. That problem is real, and I am not going to pretend for a moment that if we just make modern charter schools go away, things will automatically be both hunky and dory.

So, what is the problem with--

We know how to educate some poor minority students

Problem #1: That is not the gig.

The public education gig is to educate all students. All. Students. Not some, not a few, but all. One of my objections to the rise of the modern charter is that it's a quiet re-write of the public education mission-- let's stop trying to educate everyone and just focus on the chosen few, and put Those Children in the underfunded holding pen that we'll call public school.

Some charter fans are open and honest about this; Mike Petrilli has noted that a charter mission should be to give "strivers" a place to get away from Those Other Students. But other charter fans deliberately obscure their omission of "some" and tout their ability to get good results with a few students as a sign that they know something that public schools do not.

Problem #2: This is not news.

I think this is one of the things about modern charters that absolutely drives public school teachers nuts. Charters want to claim that because they can achieve success with a small, select sample of students, they Know Something About Education. Dude, those of us in public education have known since forever that if we were free to pick and choose our students and could just get rid of the ones who don't want to learn the way we want to teach, we would look like education rock stars. Everyone knows that.

So when Boston charters start talking about their awesome results without also talking about their awesome attrition (and non-backfill) rates. When your charter system can point to a grand total of fifteen black males who went on to graduate from college, you are not showing us anything that public schools couldn't quickly and easily replicate-- if we were allowed to change the nature of the gig (see problem #1).

Bottom line

Some charters cream, deliberately, as a matter of policy (like these charters in California that got caught). Some cream more organically by targeting particular parts of the market with their advertising, and of course all charters self-select for families that are more involved in their child's education (and ask any public school teacher how schools would change if we had only the students of families that cared about education).

And we don't talk enough about the importance of the no-backfill rules in operation in many charter markets, guaranteeing that no new students ever come in in the middle of a multi-year program. Again- we already know that no-backfill would work, but that's not the public education gig.

There are charter fans who know better. Chris Barbic left the Tennessee Achievement School District noting that it's hard to raise the success rate of schools when you have to keep all the students that live in that school's community.

Anybody can do a good job of educating some students. Modern charter advocates should stop pretending they have invented the wheel. And if they really want to be honest, they can start using that one simple word-- some.