Question 2: The Polling and the Stats driving the Charter School Argument

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Question 2: The Polling and the Stats driving the Charter School Argument

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.

These polling stats come despite the oppo­si­tion of such lib­eral icons as Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren com­ing out against Ques­tion 2. And the NAACP main­tain­ing its oppo­si­tion to such schools.

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.

Of course it could be the rea­son for the inac­tiv­ity of the pro-​question 2 side might be a deci­sion to allow the results from the Sizer School, the local char­ter serv­ing grades 712 speak for itself

the Mass­a­chu­setts Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion released the account­abil­ity results for schools across the state. Sizer School, a 712 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 6260) and the schools ser­vic­ing com­pa­ra­ble grade lev­els Fitch­burg high (Level 3 6051) Longsjo Mid­dle school (Level 2 7468) and Memo­r­ial Mid­dle School (Level 3 6153) 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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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.

These polling stats come despite the opposition of such liberal icons as Senator Elizabeth Warren coming out against Question 2. And the NAACP maintaining its opposition to such schools.

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.

Of course it could be the reason for the inactivity of the pro-question 2 side might be a decision to allow the results from the Sizer School, the local charter serving grades 7-12 speak for itself

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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