Tag Archives: Diversity

Corporate Reformers Make Their Demands: Integration, Wrap Around Services, Career Training

So far the corporate reforms in New Orleans have delivered significant student achievement gains.

A recent, rigorous study by Doug Harris noted:

 We are not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time… The effects are also large compared with other completely different strategies for school improvement, such as class-size reduction and intensive preschool.

As I wrote in a recent report, the reforms also radically increased equity.

It is well within reason to make the claim that New Orleans is both the fastest improving and most equitable urban district in the nation.

But corporate reformers aren’t satisfied.

In a recent op-ed, Ben Kleban, the CEO of New Orleans College Prep, wrote:

The evidence is clear — diversity in schools requires intentional design. So, I would propose a systemwide approach to manage the enrollment of all our schools — let’s make them all “diverse by design.”

We could allow all of our public schools, not just a small group, to add some form of admissions criteria — based on income level — for a subset of seats in entry grade levels, and allow that diversity to flow up one year at a time to the whole school.

In a recent interview in Education Week, Patrick Dobard, the head of the Recovery School District, noted the following:

I feel like the first 10 years has just been laying the foundation of getting good academic growth, and the foundation of schools solid. I think the next 10 to 15 years is literally around those areas, again, that are called like “wraparound services,” so what are the mental health interventions that we could put in place? Do we need more than school psychologists? Maybe we need psychiatrists, and really dig into some of the deep, emotional trauma….

Another big area of focus is around how do we create a more robust career and technical education component within our schools? A lot of our high schools right now are like college-focused in the “no-excuses” model, but we really need to start diversifying our portfolio, and our school leaders have embraced that.

The first phase of New Orleans reforms was an intense focus on student achievement.

The next phrase layered on an intense focus on equity.

The third phase may be very well be much more holistic in nature, with a focus on diversity, mental health, and careers.

Of course, one could make the argument that New Orleans educators should have focused on all three issue areas right from the beginning.

Perhaps.

But reform is incredibly difficult. And trying to do to much can lead to nothing getting done.

Moreover, I think the order of operators is roughly right: achievement -> equity -> holistic reforms is a logical sequence in attempting to transform a dysfunctional educational system.

As for how to make the next phase of reform a reality, I’m not entirely sure. Integration is notoriously difficult to achieve. New Orleans social services have been chronically poor. And career training so often leads to lowered expectations.

But if any group of educators can figure out how to achieve broad scale integration, effective wrap around services, and high-quality career training, I’d bet on the corporate raiders of New Orleans.

The Connection Between Choice and Humility, Edition Two

diversity

Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter have an op-ed on diverse charter schools in today’s New York Times. 

I enjoy Richard and Halley’s work and am aligned with their goal of achieving more socioeconomic diversity in our public schools.

In their new book, I am quoted on the benefits of diverse charter schools.

That being said, I believe the thesis of their op-ed falls into the trap of many charter school commentators (which I have written on before). 

Many commentators praise charter schools that align with their vision of what makes a great school. Many of these same commentators then dismiss charter schools that do not align with their vision.

Not enough commentators give credence to the idea that different families want different things for their children.

While socioeconomic diversity is a noble goal, it may not be the number one priority for all families.

So yes, let’s support socioeconomic diverse charter schools.

But let’s also recognize that these types of schools will hopefully be only one of the thousands of school model innovations we will see when we hand power back to educators and families.

Lastly, perhaps the greatest irony of the piece is that it dismisses the strong evidence of the benefits of charter schools for African-American students while making a case for a specific type of charter school that (as far as I know) is supported by little rigorous research. 

The Potential for Diverse Charter Schools

I agree with their take that diverse charter schools hold promise for both increasing student achievement and good citizenship.

When I worked at NSNO, we invested in a diverse start-up charter school, Bricolage Academy, for these very reasons. So far, the school is off to a strong start.

However, while there are high-performing diverse charter schools across the country, I have not seen a rigorous study that systematically studies their effectiveness. And, all told, this is still a young sub-movement within the charter school sector.

So while I’m bullish on the model, I also think the slim evidence base on these charter schools warrants caution.

The Research Base on Diverse Schools

I think Kahlenberg and Potter make significant mistakes in how they communicate and interpret research.

First, they site weak evidence for their argument that diverse schools benefit students.

They note: “Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Mathematics show that low-income fourth graders who attend economically integrated schools are as much as two years ahead of low-income students stuck in high-poverty schools.”

There are major, obvious methodological reasons not to use one-time NAEP scores to support any education intervention.

Kahlenberg and Potter would be wise to trust Matt Dicarlo at the Shanker Institute when he says NAEP scores “can’t be used to draw even moderately strong inferences about what works and what doesn’t.”

The Research Base on Charter Schools

Kahlenberg and Potter write: “the diminished teacher influence and increased segregation might be tolerable if charter schools regularly outperformed traditional public schools, but in reality, although much media attention is showered on high-flying charter chains like KIPP and Success Academy, on the whole charters do about the same.”

This is a dangerous half-truth that is often repeated.

Yes, charter schools, on average, perform about the same as traditional schools.

But, as I’ve written numerous times, CREDO’s 27 state study on charter schools found that African-American students in poverty who attended charter schools achieved nearly two months of extra learning per year.

Kahlenberg and Potter clearly care about the fact that African-American students continue to suffer from poor educational opportunities.

As such, I am unsure why they ignore this evidence, especially when the data comes from the very study they are referencing.

And, perhaps most surprisingly, they site no rigorous evidence for the actual charter model for which they are advocating.

The Purpose of Charter Schools

Kahlenberg and Potter open their article discussing Albert Shanker’s original vision for charter schools. Shanker’s envisioned that charter schools would be a place for empowered teachers to develop innovations that the traditional public could then adopt. 

I have two thoughts on this.

First, I find Shanker’s vision to be an odd one. If Shanker thought that empowered educators would innovate more frequently, then why only grant this power to a few select schools, and why keep in place the existing structures that are  hampering innovation?

Second, while I think it is important to understand the original vision for charter schools, it is an unclear to me that we should give this vision much weight. Just because something is created for one reason does not mean we should be beholden to this rationale.

In Closing

I think it bears repeating:

Yes, let’s support socioeconomic diverse charter schools.

But let’s also recognize that these types of schools will hopefully be only one of the thousands of school model innovations we will see when we hand power back to educators and families.