Goldstein Gone Wild!

Here’s an op-ed by MATCH School founder, off-message Democrat, keen student of Bay State policy and politics, and all-around good guy, Michael Goldstein. From the Boston Herald but not online. He doesn’t brag about his school, but he could. For aficionados only: More Goldstein here and here.

Some Charter School Facts Aren’t Taught

Boston Herald, January 3, 2005

By Michael Goldstein

Everyone starts the New Year with lists. So here are 10 things about education reform I bet you didn’t know.

1. You knew that there continues to be an achievement gap, with race and income as the big predictors. You probably didn’t know, however, black and Hispanic students in some suburban districts do better than in others. Framingham and Brookline have 57% and 55% of their African-American kids earning “proficiency” on Grade 10 MCAS math, whereas Newton and Lincoln-Sudbury have just 39%.

2. You’re used to Boston Public Schools getting constant criticism. On the same test, black sophomores in Boston earned “proficiency” at a 30% rate, beating the Lexington mark of 25%. Would you say Lexington High’s math department is failing? No Child Left Behind was designed, in part, precisely to do this: identify struggling kids in well-regarded suburban schools.

3. Did you know that black and Hispanic sophomores from Boston had the same proficiency as those in Cambridge? Yet Cambridge spends about 50% more on each student (over $5,000 per year more per child).

4. You’re used to hearing the argument that teachers leave cities for the suburbs because of the pay. Did you know that according to the Department of Education, the average Hub teacher salary is higher than in every nearby suburb, including Weston and Wayland? Another theory is that teachers want better working conditions. That is one reason Boston is trying to break some larger schools into smaller, less chaotic ones.

5. Did you know the Boston superintendent and many teachers want more than the current 19 pilot schools (which come under the school department but not union rules)? But once Boston charter schools were capped at 16, unions began opposing pilot expansion unless they can get something else (like salary hikes)?

6. You knew that with the controversial attempts at desegregation of Boston Public Schools some three decades ago, white enrollment had declined. Did you know it’s gone from roughly 60,000 then to about 9,000 today? Or that BPS then served about 90,000 kids of all races, and now serves 61,000 total?

7. When charters started a decade ago, you heard Boston charters would “cream off the white kids”, because their parents are more motivated. The DOE 2003 data shows Boston charters serving 70% black students – more than the 47% in the district as a whole.

8. The anti-charter playbook used to claim the charter school funding formula was unfair, and if that was fixed, they’d stop complaining. Did you know that Haitian-American Representative Marie St. Fleur led a successful effort to amend the formula last year, indexing it by poverty and special needs students? Probably not, since charter opponents continue their assault.

9. More recently you’ve heard charges — especially from teachers union officials who despise union-free charters — that charters schools aren’t doing well. There are 29 open-admissions high schools in Boston. Charters were ranked #1, #2, #3, #4, and #9 out of 29 on MCAS proficiency.

10. Did you know the Department of Education is considering a new MCAS measurement system pioneered in Tennessee and Minnesota, called “Value-Add”? The idea is similar: given your starting MCAS (in 8th grade, for example), how many points can you gain (by 10th grade)? Wellesley High gets to say it’s amazing because it happens to have kids who show up with huge MCAS scores, despite the fact that their MCAS proficiency gap (white+Asian compared to black+Hispanic) that exceeds 50 percentage points. And without Value-Add, Hyde Park High will continue to be excoriated, because it serves kids who show up with failing scores, instead of accounting for how much improvement they make. If “Value-Add” is approved, it has the potential to answer, once and for all, which area public schools – suburban or city, district or charter, large or small – actually help kids the most.

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