Saturday, February 7, 2015

The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools | Politics Uncuffed by Julie Erfle

The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools | Politics Uncuffed by Julie Erfle:



The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools




Feb 4th, 2015 | By  | Category: educationFeatured ArticlesMain Article

school crossing signLet me start by making a confession. My oldest son attends a BASIS school. BASIS schools are some of those “highly performing charters” that reformers love to use an example of everything that’s right with charter schools, while traditional school advocates use as an example of everything that’s wrong. I suspect the majority of folks who pan or extol the virtues of BASIS schools have never had a child attend one, so let me give you an insider’s look.
I pulled my oldest son from a traditional public school and enrolled him in BASIS when he was in sixth grade. His former school wasn’t a bad school. I liked his teachers. I spent a lot of time getting to know the administration.
But my son wasn’t thriving at his school. He received A’s in his honors classes but C’s and D’s in his regular classes. He was distracted in class and became increasingly disruptive (which is how I came to know the school’s administration).
He needed a change. He needed to be challenged.
I went to Parent Night at BASIS and was blown away by what I heard. An Arizona school ranked as one of the top high schools in the nation? In Arizona?? Teachers with degrees from Harvard and Yale and Stanford, with PhD’s and real-world experience. A curriculum that entails AP coursework as early as 7th grade, and the ability to finish high school with every AP class completed by 11th grade. Wow. What’s not to love?
My oldest son wasn’t happy with my decision to move him. He promised me he’d never, ever, ever like the school. But within a couple months, he was back to his old self, thriving both academically and socially.
It was the right decision, and I don’t regret it. But, like all good stories, there’s more to this than meets the eye.
Governor Ducey wants to “fund the wait lists” at schools such as BASIS. He’s fond of using the school as the poster child for reform. But those wait lists are a mirage.
It’s true that hundreds of students are turned away from BASIS and other top-rated charter schools in 5th and 6thgrade. But it’s also true that the turnover rate at these charter schools is astronomical, with hundreds of students opting out of the schools after a short period of time, and schools graduating as few as 20-30 students.
Many of the critics will say it’s because BASIS filters out undesirable students, such as those with learning or attention differences, while keeping the “cream of the crop.” And they’re correct.
The curriculum at BASIS isn’t advanced. It’s highly advanced, as in 2 or 3 years ahead of most schools, similar to the curriculum for highly gifted students. Remember when I said AP classes start in 7th grade? That’s not normal. And it’s not something that just any student can handle.
Starting in 6th grade, students take midterms and finals, and the final is a significant portion of the student’s overall class grade. It’s high-stakes testing at its highest. If a student fails even one class (with a small exception for some math classes), that student must retake the entire grade.
The vast majority of students, when faced with retaking an entire grade or moving on to a different school, will move on. So will the vast majority of students who struggle with such an advanced load and who find themselves spending 4-5 hours on homework every night. And the same with many students who are involved in extracurricular activities such as club sports, which requires time for evening practices and weekend tournaments.
This is why BASIS schools start out with hundreds of students and long waiting lists in 5th and 6th grade but end The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools | Politics Uncuffed by Julie Erfle:

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