As a general rule there are not a lot of reasons for conservatives in Massachusetts to smile come election time but WCVB polls on Question 2, the expansion of charter schools in the state is an exception:
On charter schools, 49 percent of likely voters support the question and 39 percent oppose, with 12 percent unsure. With leaners, the support goes up to 52 percent and opposition to 41 percent.
In fact there has been a divide on the question amongst liberals with the Boston Globe editorializing against fiscal objections to charter schools and some Cambridge city officials spitting from their fellows on question 2.
US News has noticed this split between the liberal grass-roots and their leadership on this issue
But why do many civil rights groups oppose charters? The more deeply one looks, the more puzzling the question. Unlike rank-and-file teachers, the African-Americans we surveyed support charters by a nearly two to one margin. Forty-eight percent of African Americans say they favor the formation of charters, while only 29 percent stand in opposition, with the remainder taking the neutral position. In fact the opinions of African-Americans resemble those of the American public as a whole – 51 percent support, 28 percent oppose, 21 percent neutral. A March Boston Globe poll found much the same level of support for charters in the Bay State as we found nationally, both among the public as a whole and among all demographic groups.
Not only does the black community support charters, but African-American students enjoy over-representation in charter schools. According to the U. S. Department of Education 27 percent of all charter students are black, even though black students constitute only 16 percent of the overall public school population. Hispanic students at charters (30 percent) are slightly over-represented, as their share of the school-age population is 25 percent. But white students constitute just a quarter of the enrollees at charters, even though they are half of all students attending public school. Mysteriously, the NAACP calls this segregation
This divide has not slowed down the teachers unions and their allies. In my home town of Fitchburg a local office opened up in the parkhill plaza area with a big sign Fitchburg Educational Association over it. This has been a source of the lawn signs against question two that have popped up all over town. In my travels I’ve yet to notice any such comparable effort locally on the other side.
the Massachusetts Department of Education released the accountability results for schools across the state. Sizer School, a 7-12 public charter in Fitchburg, has reached Level 1 status – an exciting accomplishment. In the aggregate and by subgroup, Sizer students met state targets for achievement. Sizer also saw strong improvement in subgroup performance in English Language Arts, and in moving students from warning/failing into proficient, and from proficient to advanced. This benchmark is due to the achievement and dedication of Sizer staff, students, and families. It represents diligence and is the result of hard work to ensure students understand and are able to demonstrate mastery of content and concepts in a testing environment.
According to the Massachusetts State 2016 glossary of accountability terms level one means?
Massachusetts’ Framework for District Accountability and Assistance classifies schools and districts on a fivelevel scale, classifying those meeting their gap narrowing goals in Level 1 and the lowest performing in Level 5. Approximately eighty percent of schools are classified into Level 1 or 2 based on the cumulative PPI for the “all students” and high needs groups. For a school to be classified into Level 1, the cumulative PPI for both the “all students” group and high needs students must be 75 or higher.
It defines “high needs students” as:
The high needs group is an unduplicated count of all students in a school or district belonging to at least one of the following individual subgroups: students with disabilities, English language learners (ELL) and former ELL students, or economically disadvantaged students. For a school to be considered to be making progress toward narrowing proficiency gaps, the cumulative PPI for both the all students group and high needs students must be 75 or higher.
Sizer school scored 76 on all students and an even higher 78 for “high needs” students.
Meanwhile according to state stats Fitchburg in General (Level 3 62/60) and the schools servicing comparable grade levels Fitchburg high (Level 3 60/51) Longsjo Middle school (Level 2 74/68) and Memorial Middle School (Level 3 61/53) did not do so well.
On the minus side Sizer overall performance relative to other schools in same school type was 40 meaning that 60 percent of comparable schools scored better. That might have been a good talking point for the folks at the Fitchburg Educational Association trying to move voters in Fitchburg voters if it wasn’t for the fact that Longsjo Middle school relative overall performance score was a 23, Memorial Middle school a 22 and Fitchburg high a lowly 10 barely making double digits.
As election day grows nearer those opposed to charter school expansion in Massachusetts find themselves in the same position as Senator Richard Russell of Georgia who during the debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1957 had a memorable exchange over the need for a such a law with Senator Pat McNamara of Michigan on the senate floor. Russell arguing for the status quo, noted McNamara’s stated racial issues in Michigan could be handled without outside interference and asked “Then, why does not the senator let us [in the south] do the same?” McNamara, in a loud voice answered the argument for maintaining things as they were by saying: “Because you’ve had ninety years and haven’t done it.”
That’s the dilemma of those hoping to reverse those polling numbers. If the local schools had produced results that parents wanted for their children the whole question of charter schools would be moot. But as long as the stats from the state and more importantly the results that are visible to the voters every time their children come home from school remain what they’ve been for years, lawn signs not withstanding the argument for the status quo will remain a difficult sell.
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