Department Of Two Things Can Be True At Once

Given the tone and polarization of the education debate false choices and overheated rhetoric often emerge around issues where multiple things can be true at once.  A current example is Atlanta. It seems quite likely there was a lot of cheating, but there was also some genuine improvement.  An emerging example is this issue of charter school waiting lists, it’s popping up in Chicago and now in Massachusetts.

The large numbers of students on waiting lists are undoubtedly inflated because students are on waiting lists for multiple schools, schools don’t always update lists in real-time so students are actually enrolled at a school of their parent’s choice even if they’re on a waiting list elsewhere…you get the idea. This seems like a no-brainer and I thought it was pretty common knowledge. But at the same time, even accounting for those issues, in places with caps and restrictions on growth – for instance Illinois and Massachusetts – there is also much more demand than there are seats.  Both the inflation and the demand are happening at the same time.

More generally, from where I sit I don’t get the fervor to deny parents options in the public sector anyway. I get the short term politics (special interests and all that) but longer term it seems like a self-defeating educational and political strategy.

Update: Michael Jonas with some good points on this.

4 Replies to “Department Of Two Things Can Be True At Once”

  1. Hi Michael,
    I would have to agree, the Atlanta school system debacle is a very unfortunate situation that I’m sure of which many teachers in that system wish would have never occurred. However, this is a situation where “two things can be true at once” it is true that cheating is wrong and many would agree that it should have never happened regardless of the pressures placed on teachers, administrators and school boards. But it is also true that we as teachers, administrators and school boards should not be placed under such stress. It is true as well that we as teachers should be highly qualified and held accountable for our actions in the classroom but to push teachers and administrators to cheat to obtain the desired test scores is just unacceptable in my opinion. It has to be extremely hard to deal with the pressures associated with being considered a failing school district or a failing school under the terms of the NCLB act, so it leaves you to question why did they do it? What were they (everyone involved) up against? What would have happened if they didn’t change those scores? And what will happen now?

    A Concerned Teacher

  2. Here is a ‘no-brainer” for you- why not deflate the hype and take out the guesswork and just run the actual authentic validated wait list number?

    These intentionally exaggerated lists are being used to raise charter caps, charter new schools, replicate others and in NYC displace programs and supports in public school buildings.

    If the charter industry relies on false and inflated data to advance its agenda, who then would you say is practicing “short term politics (special interests and all that)”?

    In the interest of fairness there must also be some basis of comparison- there are tons of district schools with more applicants than seats. If we are going to aggregate and track this “charter demand” don’t we need to do the same for schools of other types?

    Yes, indeed, we do get the idea- all too well, I am afraid!

  3. Even better:

    According to the Globe, some charters keep students on their waiting lists for years. An appropriate analogy might be if Harvard began referring to the 32,994 students it didn’t admit this year as a “waiting list,” then added that number to the 32,270 it didn’t admit last year, giving it a “waiting list” of 65,264, or a fiercely urgent case for lifting the Crimson Cap.

    The Waiting List for Superman?

  4. More charter nonsense fro Andy (Smarick)’s home:

    Mr. Holder talked about the funding formula – specifically how to calculate the risk factor and we talked about the number of students with IEP’s. Only 19 students had been identified at this point, but it is believed that there are many more. It would take at least 30 days for a student to get an IEP if the testing and evaluations were just now being initiated. ERESC is contracted to do our evaluations but whether or not they have sufficient staff to fast track evaluations so we could complete IEP’s timely enough for the students’ Special Ed status to be included on the October 15th count is unknown.


    Janus Holder, the 100 Legacy Treasurer, had to say about how those seats should be filled:

    Next, Mr. Holder spoke about the components that make up the projected deficit. The largest factor contributing to the deficit is the fact that the majority of the students enrolled come from Irvington, which pays approximately $1,500 less than Newark.
    Mr. Holder stated that we need to try to get more NPS students since their per pupil rate is higher, but Newark is saturated with charter schools and parents have many options. Irvington looks to be the best area to recruit students since that municipality has few charter schools so their options are limited.

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