Monday, February 15, 2016

FACT CHECKING the "Massachusetts Charter School Fact Check" Website

On Friday February 12th, Governor Charlie Baker joined many of the state’s charter school advocacy groups at a State House event where they rolled out a new “Fact Check” website about charter schools. 

I took a look at it and... I'm sorry, but the fact is - the information on the website is incredibly deceptive and incredibly inaccurate. If you can just bear with me for a few blog posts (this is #1) I'd like to pick the "facts" apart, item by item.

Massachusetts Charter School Fact #1
"Massachusetts Charter schools are Among the Highest Preforming Schools in the State."
 (Note:If you click on the images they will pop out. Then click the back arrow to get back)
Screenshot from the "Facts" website
And on the left of that screenshot you'll see:
"Boston's Three Brooke Charter Schools Outperformed Every Other School in Massachusetts" 
Yes, the Brooke schools test well, but there's a lot more to that statement than meets the eye, and that's a theme throughout the "facts" website.

I'd like to use the three Brooke schools as examples because 
  • I've already taken a hard look at them and how they operate.
  • According to the "facts" site they're the best schools in Massachusetts. 
First, let's look at the attrition of Brooke charter schools, and by attrition I mean following the population of a cohort through, year to year, and not the DESE definition of attrition: students that leave over the summer.   
(Note:If you click on the charts they will pop out. Then click the back arrow to get back)
The citations for all of the Brooke charts I'm using on this blog post can be found here.

It's safe to say that the cohort attrition (not the strange DESE attrition) of all of the Brooke charter schools is nearly 50% of a cohort, from the time the cohort enters, till the time they graduate, and that's actually par for the course for all of the charter high-schools in Boston.

There are reasons for this kind of population loss, and the reasons are disturbing.

Two of the three Brooks schools, the two that have been around the longest and have a little more data available on the DESE website, punish the children an extraordinary amount, but what I'd like to point out about these two is the amount of punishment the children with disabilities receive. The Brooke out of school suspensions for children with disabilities is the red column, the Mass state average is the orange column to the right of it.
(Note:If you click on the charts they will pop out. Then click the back arrow to get back)
If there were populations of students you wanted to get rid of, this would be a good way to do that. By repeatedly suspending a student, over and over, that student and that students parents lives become completely unmanageable, and the student will soon leave the school. 

Brooke charter school Mattapan isn't off the hook, their suspension rate is also crazy high, but the DESE site doesn't have a breakout number for children with disabilities. 

(Note:If you click on the charts they will pop out. Then click the back arrow to get back)

Something else that's really odd is the unbelievably low populations of English language learners in the three Brooke charter schools.

What I don't understand is: with a lottery entry system - that draws from the same population of children as Boston Public Schools - how is it possible that Brooke has so very, very few ELL's?

Brooke East Boston is the best of the three, but still averages less than half the population of English language learners as Boston Public Schools. East Boston is followed by Brooke Mattapan, that has an ELL population that's somewhere around one fifth of what BPS has.
(Note:If you click on the charts they will pop out. Then click the back arrow to get back)

Last but not least is Brook Charter School, Roslindale, which seems to be able to maintain a near zero ELL population. 
Can someone please explain to me how this is possible with a lottery entry system?

What's obvious to me, and I believe this will be obvious to any objective person, is that the reason Brooke charter schools seem to do so well is because they are selecting which students they want to keep and which students they want to throw back to Boston Public Schools. 

Comparing Boston's charter schools to Boston Public Schools is not comparing apples to apples. It appears to be a two-tier system that's separate and unequal - where one system is allowed to select it's population at the expense of, appallingly, the one that actually takes all children.

What's really crazy is that BPS is now forced to send $120 million dollars a year, an average of nearly $1 million per BPS school, to charter schools that BPS never wanted and never asked for. Schools that claim to be superior - a claim that simple doesn't hold up under the least amount of scrutiny, and we seriously need some scrutiny because Massachusetts is now spending $420 million a year on what, from my point of view, is a complete waste of money and does nothing more than defund and cripple the district schools.

Next up (next blog) 
"English Language Learners and Children with Special Needs Perform Significantly Better in Boston's Charter Schools"
No, wait. I think this post covers that. 

Next up will be - Other eyeopening "Facts" about Governor Bakers Charter School "Facts" Website.

John Lerner, BPS Dad.

Member of the Boston Education Justice Alliance and OPENBoston