Friday, July 15, 2016

Do charter schools have advantages that accelerate brain drain?

Do charter schools have advantages that accelerate brain drain?:

Do charter schools have advantages that accelerate brain drain?


Do more charter schools have certain built-in advantages that lead to socio-economic segregation in public education, thus making the job of traditional public schools that much harder?
Some local school administrators certainly think so, but charter supporters are calling foul.
As families with the economic means and the motivation to enroll and send their child to a charter school that may be located outside the region do so, local superintendents say, it can leave districts with a higher proportion of less-advantaged and poorer children who aren’t able to do the same.
Indeed, the main reason many families who left the Gill-Montague Regional School District for School Choice or charter schools gave for doing so, were concerns about the peer-to-peer interaction between their children and other students, wrote Superintendent Michael Sullivan in a letter to state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg last year urging him to oppose raising the current 120-school limit on new or expanded charter schools in Massachusetts.
Sullivan said that scenario can become cyclical: “My concern is that this dynamic could lead to a negative cycle ... resulting in higher concentrations of underserved students in the districts they leave,” Sullivan said. “This in turn could lead to even greater interest in leaving for schools where parents perceive there will be a higher percentage of students who come from more advantaged circumstances.”
He said that trend could leave his district with a disproportionate number of students who have a harder time doing well in school.
Tamara Grogan, a Greenfield High School French teacher and member of the board at Greenfield’s Four Rivers Charter Public School, doesn’t deny some of those concerns may have validity, especially when it comes to parental motivation and transportation.
Savvy parents

“The place where the playing field is not level is in applications. That’s a valid criticism. If you’re a parent who’s willing to fill out a piece of paper, you’re different from a parent who is not willing to do so,” she said. “(District schools) have to bus everyone in, and (Four Rivers) doesn’t have to. The experience I’ve had though is most parents who are living out of the area are doing things to get there… carpooling… they’re finding ways.”
But Grogan said most local district schools can take advantage of state and federal grant programs to build or repair facilities, and that’s less common in charter schools. Four Rivers had to foot the entire $5.8 million cost of purchasing the campus and constructing its main instructional building, Peter Garbus, the principal, said. The state school building assistance bureau contributes about three quarters of school construction costs.
“Does Four Rivers have a gym? Does it have an auditorium? No,” Grogan said. “Does it have an art studio or a big music room? No. It has a rusty barn with a concrete floor, and that’s where they do all the gym stuff when it’s raining outside.”
Cherry picking?

Beyond just economic stratification, many critics of charters schools also accuse them of being able to artificially “cherry-pick” the students who attend their schools, either reducing the number of special needs students they accept by failing to offer adequate programming for them or by encouraging students with low academic performance to transfer back to their home district through strict discipline policies.
Four Rivers’ wait list currently has 74 students on it.
But according to state education data, that doesn’t appear to be the case in Franklin County, at least.
Garbus said the student demographics at his school largely mirror those of the county at large.
By race, data from DESE for 2015 shows that Four Rivers’ 217-student population included about half as many African American students as the county overall, according to federal census data, but nearly twice the number of both Asian and Hispanic students. Eighty-five and a half percent of the school’s students are white compared to 94.1 percent of the county’s total population.
By educational subgroup, the state’s Charter Analysis and Review Tool shows that Four Rivers, in Do charter schools have advantages that accelerate brain drain?:


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