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Yesterday, I called on the Center for American Progress to apply the same critical research-based lens to charter schools that they did with great success in summarizing the harmful effects of vouchers. I urged them to return to the roots of progressivism by supporting public schools, which enroll 90% of the nation’s children. I should have also urged to read John Dewey’s seminal work, “Democracy and Education.”
Thanks to Jeff Bryant for sending the link to his column explaining why the Center for American Progress stubbornly supports charters, despite the evidence. I missed when it first appeared.
CAP claims there is a “progressive” case for charters, but Bryant demonstrates that they rely on the biased assertions of charter advocates and even the marketing materials of charter schools. They disregard calls for a moratorium on charters by groups such as the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and the Network for Public Education.
CAP relies on the Walton-funded CREDO studies while ignoring critiques of those studies.
“Writing for The Progressive, my colleague California University – Sacramento professor Julian Vasquez Heilig says, “Charter school supporters and the media point to [this study] to say that African American and Latino students have more success in charter schools. Leaving aside the integrity of the study, what charter proponents don’t mention is that the performance impact is .008 and .05 for Latinos and African Americans in charter schools, respectively. These numbers are larger than zero, but you need a magnifying glass to see them.”
“CREDO’s studies have shown charter school performance to be a mixed bag,” writes Education Week’s reporter covering the charter sector, “and as a result, are regularly cited by both charter supporters and opponents, depending upon the outcome of a particular study….
”CAP’s attempts to find evidence of the “progressive values and practices” of charters become so strained that the authors frequently resort to links to the schools’ own websites, as if their marketing language is somehow proof they offer “equal educational opportunity and access.”
As their premier example of progressive charters, CAP points to the Noble Network in Chicago.
“The CAP authors extoll the Noble schools’ six-year college graduation rate of 31 percent, “well above the national average for low-income students,” as proof the schools have discovered a formula for success. But CAP authors ignore the way Noble produces those higher graduation rates by screening out certain kinds of students – principally students with learning disabilities and who have trouble with the English language – and imposing harsh discipline, “fees” for code infractions, and high expulsion rates that encourage struggling students to transfer out.
“Thus, Noble’s mostly black charters “post the highest student attrition rates,” in Chicago, a local reporter writes, “which are directly related to discipline, as students with high numbers of detentions are required to repeat the school year. Teachers say many students decide instead to transfer to a neighborhood high school and move on to the next grade.”
“Does that sound progressive to you?…
“Based on CAP’s progressive case for charter schools, it would be sensible to argue the progressive values that characterize much of CAP’s advocacy just don’t apply to the organization’s education work because of the influence of donors, the background of the staffers, or the close association CAP has to Washington Beltway elites, including members of former President Obama’s administration, who are devoted to charters.
“Another possibility is CAP’s case for charters is an attempt at a more nuanced look at the sector. Certainly, many of the well-intentioned people who operate charters and who labor in these schools deserve a nuanced consideration of their work, and CAP seems to believe critics of charters schools are “unreasonable” and “simply devalue all charter schools.”
“If this truly is what motivates CAP to make the case for charters, then the organization simply hasn’t spent much time seriously considering what charter school skeptics say.”