Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Today's Random Thoughts

-Flypaper has a piece on the startling drop in enrollment in traditional public schools in Washington D.C. (down 17% from last spring). It seems enrollment is at 37,000 right now compared to a little over 44K last year. Apparently everybody is leaving city schools for charter schools. Except for one little detail that the Washington Post reports: not everybody enrolls on the first day of school. In fact, last year at this time enrollment stood at 15,000. I'm not going to pretend to know whether or not 7,000 more students will enroll before the Oct. 1st deadline (deadline for funding purposes, that is), but I think I'd wait a couple weeks before panicking if I were running the D.C. schools.

Besides, the more interesting part of the piece (to me, anyway) is why enrollment has surged from 15K to 37K. Not only was the start of enrollment moved up a couple months, but principals have been hosting BBQs and recruiting parents at other community events. I've always wondered exactly how traditional public schools would respond to competition from charter schools. It seems that this might be one way D.C. has chosen to respond. Of course, for the good of society I think we'd hope they're response would to make their schools better. But maybe BBQs are a first step in that direction.

-Tennessee has had one of the more restrictive charter school laws in the country. It's my understanding that only students who fail state tests or attend schools deemed in need of improvement are eligible to enroll in charter schools. And we have relatively few of them here. But of those few, one has had trouble dropping kids off on time (9pm one night), and another is now on academic probation for low test scores (story here). I was told a while back that the KIPP here is one of the lowest performing in the country -- I have absolutely no evidence to present of this, it's simply what I heard from somebody who volunteered there. And I can't help but wonder if severely limiting who can enroll in charters in this manner makes it much more difficult for charters to succeed. Given that these are the kids that charter laws are supposed to help, that would be somewhat troubling.

-the SAT results are being parsed, and it doesn't look good for anybody who was hoping to see a shrinking achievement gap. Aaron Pallas points out that the average Asian student in NYC outscores the average Black student in NYC by 151 points in math and Whites outscore Hispanics by 108 points in writing. Elsewhere, Checker Finn argues that the lack of closure in the gap between students of different races and socioeconomic statuses means that reform hasn't yet penetrated high schools. I think there's more to it than that, but most of the recent reform has been focused on grades 3-8.

No comments: