New York

Another round in the fight over charter school research methods

Thanks to commenter Tim, who alerted us to the latest entry in the ongoing conversation on how researchers should properly measure the performance of charter schools.

Researchers from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) are responding to their colleague Caroline Hoxby’s criticism of the methodology they used in their national study of charter school performance. That study found that the majority of charter school students in 15 states and the District of Columbia performed as well as or worse than their peers in traditional public schools.

Hoxby, a fellow Stanford researcher, last month released a study of New York City’s charter school students that concluded that charter school students were significantly outperforming students in the city’s district schools. Along with that study, she released a memo arguing that the CREDO study’s more mixed conclusions about the performance of charters were based on a “serious statistical mistake.”

The CREDO researchers, led by director Margaret E. Raymond, responded earlier this week with a long technical analysis refuting Hoxby’s claim. They argue that her criticism is irrelevant to their overall conclusions on charter school performance.

What struck me about the CREDO response, though, was the researchers’ note explaining that the conclusions of the two studies are not necessarily in competition with one another. The two studies have been frequently characterized as presenting conflicting outcomes, but the CREDO researchers write that this might not be the case:

It should be noted that this peer‐reviewed CREDO study found that charter school performance
varied considerably.  Some communities and states have gotten the policy right and are able to
demonstrate positive charter school results.  The recent results for New York City (NYC) indicate that it,
too, has a focused and effective charter policy.  Along with states like Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri,
these results offer a glimpse into the realm of what is possible when the barriers to entry are removed,
the authorizers are high functioning and poor quality schools are removed from the field.

On the other hand, the CREDO study shows that nationally there are more poorly performing
charter schools than good ones, leading to obvious and important questions about why some charters in
some communities do better than schools in other environments.

Education Next’s Eric Hanushek has an interesting blog post on what this means for how we interpret the results of the Hoxby study:

[T]he NYC study can be thought of as proof that the best charter schools, as judged by parents, can dramatically outperform the alternative traditional school.  That is important information, but it is impossible to know how to generalize it to other environments with different state laws, different union contracts, different district governance, different financing arrangements, and the like.   Just on the surface, nobody would think that it was possible to generalize from NYC (one million students) to LA (700,000 students), let alone to Kansas City (20,000 students).

Of course, both of these comments accept that the results of the Hoxby study are conclusive, a subject that has been vigorously debated in New York.

One other interesting item of note: neither the CREDO nor the Hoxby study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal, though both have had elements of peer review. The CREDO study was reviewed by four outside experts, Education Week reported. The Hoxby study is currently posted as a working paper by the National Bureau for Economic Research, which opens the research up for review by other scholars, though it’s unclear if any feedback was incorporated into the study before it was widely released. Hoxby also told Education Week that the paper is under consideration for publication by two journals.

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.