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I sent this to each Senate Committee member:
Dear Sen. xxxx
I am a TN educator and I’d like to ask that you consider some facts about public education reform in TN generally and the proliferation of charter schools in particular.
The testing & accountability measures in TN were written by ALEC and by for-profit entities that have an interest in privatizing public education.
The value-added model (TN version is TVASS), marketed as an indicator of teacher quality, is junk science according to the American Statistical Association and by a majority of independent researchers: The lit review is here:
How can an education system improve if Congress allows junk science to dictate the direction of our education system? Test scores are designed to sort & rank. Testing is not learning- it’s a tool that teachers know when & how to use. Congress doesn’t dictate to any other profession how to use the tools of their profession. Why should teaching be any different?
All around the country VAM & standardized test scores are being misused to close schools, disperse, destabilize poor communities, sort out high needs (e.g. expensive children in SPED or at-risk) and privatize. The Dept of Education is now promoting VAM junk-science for colleges of Education.
Accountability has been in short supply for TN’s charter authorizer Achievement School District (ASD) and for outside consultants sucking up our tax dollars for invalid teacher evaluations and useless standardized tests(e.g., TEAM/TAP was developed by convicted felon Michael Milken & his brother and has no valid research line to support it’s claims)
Here are some persistent problems with charter schools & education privatizaion that deserve greater accountability and compliance.
1. Increased Segregation
• The vast majority of high-poverty charters fail due to racial & socio-economic segregation. The high-poverty model has not met with success at a national level.
• The most comprehensive study of charter schools completed to date found that only 17% of charter schools outperformed comparable traditional pubic schools.83% of public schools are better than charters. New Orleans Charter Schools have the lowest ACT scores in the country.
• Many families now believe- as do virtually all leading colleges & universities- that racial, ethnic, & income diversity enriches classrooms.
• The main problem with American schools in not their teachers or their unions, but poverty & economic segregation.
Kahlenberg (2013). From all walks of life: New hopes for school integration. American Educator. Winter 2012-2013, pp. 2 – 40.
2. Sanctioned Discrimination or Whose Choice?
• The first choice of most parents is to send their child to a high-quality neighborhood school; it is unclear how this bill supports that choice. In fact, we have seen how the rapid expansion of the charter sector has undermined neighborhood schools, drawing resources from them and at the same time expecting them to serve our most at-risk students. –
• Charters take public money yet have the legal status of private schools.
• Charter organizations have gone to court to protect themselves from educating & retaining ALL children.
• Charters discriminate against children with disabilities, children who do not test well, or who do not fit into inflexible discipline policies. Such children may be admitted to bolster enrollment but are expelled or counseled out after BEP funds are distributed, Public schools lose $6,000/child and face class overloads near testing time.
• Charters advertise ‘choice’ but overwhelmingly exclude parent voice.
• Parents have no legal recourse to challenge harmful charter school practices. Charters may legally ignore the key aspect of parent involvement: school level decision- making.
• Parents and the public are consistently misled about the community desires for a charter school. Charter waitlists cannot be confirmed and many records are slipshod.
• In New Orleans where all public schools have disappeared, the most difficult to teach children have been abandoned.
Green, P. C., III, Baker, B. D., & Oluwole, J. O. (2013) Having it both ways: How charter schools try to obtain funding of public schools and the autonomy of private schools. Emory Law Journal, Vol. 63.303.
Welner, K. G. & Miron, G., (2014). Wait,wait. Don’t mislead me! Nine reasons to be skeptical about charter waitlist numbers. National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado, Boulder. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/charter-waitlists
Gabor, A. (2013) The great charter tryout. The Investigative Fund. http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/investigations/politicsandgovernment/1848/
What we support:
More community schools just like the highly successful Pond Gap in Knoxviile, TN.
To improve the schools we have, rather than shutting down or turning around traditional schools to make way for more charter schools.
All charter schools to have neighborhood boundaries and accept all children from within those boundaries whose parents choose to enroll their child at the charter school. Charter school enrollment processes should be consistent with and as simple as those of neighborhood public schools.
Charter schools should be held accountable for their enrollment, discipline, transfer, and other practices.
Charter schools and all other schools receiving public funds must be equally transparent and accountable to the public.
Finally, TN has a shameful 45% child poverty rate. My state has one of the highest rates of low wage & minimum wage jobs in the country. Our public schools in TN need resources- not privatization- to compensate for failed political & economic policies.
Thank-you for your work & consideration,