Suburbs and charter schools: More room for innovation

Interesting post by Fordham Institute’s Michael J. Petrilli on why charter schools ought to be viable options in leafy, affluent suburbs with great schools.

Petrilli says pro charter school forces typically focus on throwing a lifeline to poor kids in failing urban schools rather than their accelerated peers in the suburbs. But he says charter schools could have a strong role in the super zip codes such as Scarsdale, Bethesda or McLean, where the students arrive in kindergarten well ahead of the curve.

Petrilli maintains that the advanced abilities of the students create a conducive environment for charter schools because there’s less urgency to get the kids on track and thus “arguably more room for innovation and experimentation.”

Here is an excerpt of his posting:

What about kids who aren’t poor; attend schools that aren’t failing; and live in school districts that, by some measures at least, aren’t in dire need of improvement? I’m talking, of course, about our affluent, leafy suburbs. Do their residents deserve school choice too?

Does school choice also have a place in these “super zip codes”?

Many people believe it doesn’t—witness recent debates about suburban charter schools in New Jersey, Tennessee, and the Washington, D.C.-metro area. If people in those bedroom communities want choice, goes the argument, they can purchase it via the private-school market.

Perhaps. But as Andy Rotherham points out, forcing people to “go private” in order to get a customized education for their kids is not a great political strategy for building broad support for the public schools. When school levies come up for a vote, don’t districts want as many taxpayers as possible to have a direct stake in the outcome?

And “customization” is the real issue. Even in upper-middle-class communities, not all parents want the same things for their kids. From my own personal experience (Fordham is working on collecting more rigorous, non-anecdotal data—stay tuned for that), affluent parents break down into at least three groups:

Tiger Moms (and Dads), who want their kids pushed, pulled, and stretched in order to get into top colleges. They want gifted-and-talented programs in elementary school, lots of “honors” and Advanced Placement options in secondary school, and high-octane enrichment activities like orchestra, debate club, and chess teams. These folks have no patience for warm-and-fuzzy edu-babble; they want teachers who themselves attended elite schools and can help their charges attain the pinnacle of academic achievement.

Koala Dads (and Moms), who want school to be a joyful experience for their kids, big and little. They want lots of time for creativity, personal expression, social-emotional development, and relationship-building. Models like Montessori and Waldorf are catnip to these folks; they want teachers who can role-model a kind, soulful, tolerant, mindful way of living in the world—a sort of wisdom that goes beyond mere knowledge. They, too, aspire for their children to attend great colleges—but probably the liberal artsy/crunchy types.

The Cosmopolitans, who want their children prepared to compete in a multicultural, multilingual world. They want a language immersion program for their tots (ideally Mandarin, though they’ll settle for Spanish); International Baccalaureate (IB) starting in middle school at the latest; and at least one, if not several, overseas experiences in high school. They want multicultural, multilingual teachers—and aspire for their children to either run, or save, the world. (Yes, these are close relatives of the Tiger Moms—Madres Tigres you could call them.

Now imagine you’re the superintendent of schools in an affluent community that contains members of all three groups. How are you going to satisfy their differing demands? Elementary school is particularly challenging; does everyone do “Mandarin immersion”? Doubtful. Does everyone do a Waldorf-style “don’t read till your adult teeth come in” program? Double-doubtful. Instead, you provide a standard-issue curriculum, perhaps with a gifted-and-talented option, and maybe Mandarin and Spanish electives at select campuses. The Tiger Parents are relatively satisfied; the Cosmopolitans and Koala Dads, less so.

Is this the best we can do? Maybe taxpayers footing the bill, many of them without school-age kids of their own, don’t much care if the district fails to satisfy the whims of every parent; what good is a warm-and-fuzzy Waldorf kid to the economy, anyway? What the public wants is likely more practical: Young people who will go on to make a good living, be good citizens, and not be a permanent drain on the public fisc. If parents want more than that for their kids, they can pay for it themselves! Public education is a public good, not just a private good. If parents want a niche education, they can spend their own damn money.

Understood and in its way understandable. There are limits on what the public should be asked to support financially; schools that don’t help students reach basic proficiency in math and reading, in particular, don’t deserve public subsidies.

But in the leafy suburbs, where children come to kindergarten with all manner of advantages, schools could teach yoga all day and their students would still probably ace the state tests. There’s more margin for error there—and arguably more room for innovation and experimentation. The stakes just aren’t as high as they are in the urban core, where education is a matter of life or death.

Perhaps the best case for customization and choice in the ‘burbs is that it will result in better schools—those that are more vibrant and effective because they are allowed to be true communities with clear values, places that don’t have to be all things to all people. If one-size-fits-all doesn’t work in the city, why does it work in the suburbs?

127 comments Add your comment

Fred in DeKalb

July 23rd, 2012
6:34 am

Public schools can be perceived as inflexible with regards to their curriculum, much of what is established by states. Borrowing from an old ad campaign for Burger King, we are finding more parents that want to have it their way for their children. Charter schools could provide that opportunity as long is they don’t create barriers for others to participate.

It will be interesting to see if the use of a growth model as a measurement tool will cause some further the move of charter schools. At the end, it will be determined by what is being measured. Though a child may have become more fluent in Mandarin over the school year, it that isn’t being measured and considered, growth won’t be reflected through any testing.

dc

July 23rd, 2012
7:27 am

seems like one focus area ripe for a charter school is elementary age boys…. was watching two of them running through Target the other day, full of energy and needing to get it out. Then drifted to the thought of chaining those two boys to a desk in school…. Then we end up having to medicate these “uncontrollable” boys so they’ll act like little girls…what a shame.

Seems like a perfect area for someone to start an “outside school” where they can learn while running, jumping, playing, and not being forced to become something they were never made to be.

Mel

July 23rd, 2012
7:35 am

Well written article. I agree completely. Expecting a gifted child to be a “second teacher” so he isn’t bored and piling more work on him aren’t right and these approaches in no way fully develop his talents and help him grow.

Homeschool Mom

July 23rd, 2012
7:38 am

We already have the PERFECT “Charter Schools”, if you will in Homeschools! We homeschoolers provide our children the exact perfect environment that each of them needs to learn, grow, and thrive into adulthood.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

July 23rd, 2012
7:40 am

@dc…excellent point. I think single gender options are a really interesting area for charter schools to explore. A big issue, I think, is often how to select the kids who are chosen for these schools. Clearly, the “choice” options in DeKalb are less about choice and more about luck.

William Casey

July 23rd, 2012
7:48 am

Interesting article. The author, however, left out three groups of parents who must be reckoned with:

(1) THEISTS, who want religious indoctrination but cannot afford private schools,
(2) RETROS, who want schools to be like a romanticized version of what they were in 1960, and
(3) SEPERATISTS, who want segregation based on some self-determined criteria.

South Georgia Retired Educator

July 23rd, 2012
7:56 am

The state of Georgia has failed in its function of funding education and prescribing and enforcing what public schools ought to be about. We all know about the massive budget cuts of the past ten years that have all but shut down many school systems to the point that many systems are in the mode of “just getting by.” As the money has stopped flowing from the state, local taxpayers in most counties have refused to kick in more local taxes for public education. This has resulted in the state suspending public instructional and operational rules that systems were once required to follow under QBE. Consequently, kids suffer and local school systems face the bleakest future since the 1930s when many systems actually did have to shut down. There is money available to fund public education, but there is no courageous majority in the legislature willing to approve the funds. So, charter schools have actually turned out to be a diversion to suck the remaining life out of public schools while we all watch from the sidelines.

doh

July 23rd, 2012
8:16 am

They simply want to separate their drug using, oversexed, future white collar crime child from the darker, grittier, drug sellers, who are doing their daughters and will be future blue collar criminals.

Remember, a weapon can only hurt one bullet at a time. Destroy the economy because of greed, and you can wipe out a generation with just a pencil.

Another View

July 23rd, 2012
8:40 am

Charter schools already pick and choose the best students and do not have to take on all students like public schools. The article is simply a disguised argument to move to better areas knowing how poorly they have done educating the cream of the poorer student body. Once they move to the high end suburbs, they will say “look how much charters are better than public schools” and demand more public financing, and the public will fall for it one more time.

carlosgvv

July 23rd, 2012
8:52 am

You left out one group, the Christian fundamentalists. They want their children to be taught creationism and be able to practally memorize the entire New Testament. They want them taught that evolution is a work of the Devil, designed to send them to hell, that the Earth is 6,000 years old and is the center of the Universe. And, they must be taught that abortion is the worst possible mortal sin. Living in Georgia, these kind of parents are the majority.

Tabitha

July 23rd, 2012
9:00 am

I think the notion of “massive” budget cuts over the past ten years is an illusion. I would love to see how per pupil expenditures changed in the past ten years.
The old game of proposing a huge increase and then enacting an increase that is only large but calling the difference a “cut” needs to end.

Jane W.

July 23rd, 2012
9:28 am

Interesting article, though the author understandably ignores three types of blog bores we readers have to endure:

(1) PROUD ATHEISTS, who seek to punish the parents who didn’t hug them enough by targeting Christianity (though not “exotic” religions).
(2) ANTI-RETROS, who deeply resent anything reminding them of what total social failures they themselves were in high school (and beyond).
(3) SEPERATISTS, who prefer to portray society as separated between “victim” groups and those “victimizing” them (see also #1-2 above).

Erica Long

July 23rd, 2012
9:32 am

@Another View,

Nice try. Fortunately, everyone here knows that: (1) Charter Schools are public schools; (2) they are open to all students within their districts; and (3) charters only randomly choose their students via lottery. We also know that there are plenty of high performing public charter schools that are doing a great job with the same poor students that some traditional public schools can’t reach.

Mikey D.

July 23rd, 2012
9:38 am

@Tabitha:
Do some research. It’s no illusion. The cuts started under Purdue and haven’t stopped since. Furloughs, shorter school years, 40+ students per class… These things don’t happen when systems are flush with cash. The only area of education that has grown in funding has been the state DOE, as it stocks itself with all of these highly-paid “experts” to implement all of the “reforms” wrought by Bush/Cox/Purdue/Obama/Duncan, etc…

@Jane W.:
You forgot to take your meds this morning. Paranoia is a scary thing, huh?

skipper

July 23rd, 2012
9:40 am

The beaurocracy in the public school system has gotten totally out of hand! Teachers (and I come from a family of them) spend more time subscribing to the “feel-good” rule of the day and fooling with a bunch of melarky, from “sensitivity-training” to Lord knows what. All the talk in the world will not solve this cluster until somebody steps up and says “Hey Guys, all this mess is NOT what the Founding Fathers had in mind when a free public education was mentioned!” Hire teachers that can speak proper English (accents okay, but general proper enunciation is a must) and give then back the classrooms. When parents are not responsible, teachres SHOULD NOT BE BLAMED!

MB

July 23rd, 2012
9:41 am

One group you don’t mention, which piggybacks on frequent comments here, is the cohort of kids who don’t quite make the gifted program, but who are bright and motivated, who get slammed in the on-level classes in middle and high school. Many from this group (when financially possible) end up in private school because the parents want to avoid negative attitudes and behaviors (and low expectations) in the on-level classes. Of course (also a common refrain) if you could remove those who are being forced to come to school from those on-level courses, that would be much less a problem… hmmm, maybe someone will start a charter for minimalist students!

MB

July 23rd, 2012
9:49 am

@Maureen Could you possibly do a FAQ on charter schools? From posts here, it is obvious that people tend to be (somewhat) familiar with whichever iteration of charter is in their community but not that others exist. For example, Erica at 9:32, that all charters are public schools that serve student in their district and select by lottery. That IS true for a public conversion charter, but not for an independent (profit or non-profit) charter, local or state. An overview of the different types of charters would be very helpful to many. Thanks!

bootney farnsworth

July 23rd, 2012
9:50 am

@ Tabitha,

sorry, but the cuts are very real, and in many ways worse than people realize.

bootney farnsworth

July 23rd, 2012
9:52 am

I have no issues with Charter schools, but they must not be allowed to become publicly funded private institutions.

Mary Elizabeth

July 23rd, 2012
10:06 am

As a taxpayer who supports public schools, and who has not had a child in school for 13 years, I support the statement of bootney farnsworth at 9:52 am that charter schools “must not be allowed to become publicly funded private institutions” – especially not with the public’s money.

carlosgvv

July 23rd, 2012
10:06 am

Jane W.

So you think people are atheists because their “parents didn’t hug them enough”? I’m guessing you learned that in your Christian Academy along with a ton of other nonsense.

MB

July 23rd, 2012
10:06 am

Schools such as Thomas Jefferson HS (Alexandria, VA), Bergen County Academies (NJ), and Bronx High and Stuyvesant (NYC) are all public high schools which, in their communities, address many of the needs the author identifies. Some states have residential governor’s schools, most typically in the arts and STEM. HOWEVER, they all have competitive admissions processes, which are not politically expedient here and which also have led to “debate” other places.

Randy Glover

July 23rd, 2012
10:06 am

Once again, a recommendation for Charter Schools because they can ‘innovate’. I have been hearing this for years, but not once have I heard what those innovations actually are (besides Mandarin Chinese). Let me explain to the uninformed what makes a Charter, or Private school work (not all of them actually do).
1. Very strict rules. Very strict (no exceptions, my way or the highway)
2. They remain small. Notice that they don’t have 1,500 kids like some public schools because you can monitor individuals better when you are small.
3. Motivation. Either the kid, the parent, or both are very motivated to get out of a public school that is not managing well. They are grade motivated and ambitious. Give me that ability in my public school and you will see marked improvement.
All you have to do is pick up the phone and call a few of the successful ones.
By the way. How do we know that these kids that get into charter schools were not already outscoring their peers on tests taken in the public schools?

Consider the Source...

July 23rd, 2012
10:30 am

The Fordham Institute is a conservative, right-wing organization advocating for charter schools, vouchers and anti-union activities. This report is nothing more than propaganda.

From the Houston Chronicle:
“We could be described as right-of-center,” Institute spokeswoman Amy Fagan said. “We support education reform and are definitely critical of the status quo. We support school choice and more options for parents — including high-quality charter schools and voucher programs.”

The Fordham Institute has a right to publish its so-called findings, based on criteria that it alone deems valid. But readers should be informed on who is publishing the information before they conclude it to be factual in any way.

Jefferson

July 23rd, 2012
10:49 am

The rich get richer, the poor have babies.

lefty_316

July 23rd, 2012
11:01 am

I have no problem with my tax dollars being used to send kids to charter schools just as long as those schools are not teaching fundamentalist Christian nonsense. One must completely suspend disbelief to accept the Bible as being word-for-word true. One must be terribly weak of mind to believe God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. One must live in a land of illusion to believe the earth is only 6,000 years old. One must spit in the face of the Supreme Court to believe all abortions are murders. And one must be a close-minded fool to believe God hates gay people.

Any school that teaches any of the above is not a venue that deserves our tax dollars.

lyncoln

July 23rd, 2012
11:07 am

This is an interesting article.

I don’t think the article is arguing for ‘charter’ schools. Rather the article is asking why don’t wealthy school districts with large budgets attempt to provide more variety/experimental schools within the school system?

Instead of 3 standard elementary schools, why not 1 traditional curriculum school, 1 school with a language immersion program, and 1 with another focused approach like math and science or fine arts or montessori?

Maybe all parents might decide to go with the foreign language immersion program and the school system shifts all 3 schools to that type of program. Or 2 traditional schools and 1 math/science magnet school. Or any other variation/combination based on the interests of the parents/community.

What would be so bad about such a “pick your focus” style of public school system?

Jane W.

July 23rd, 2012
11:10 am

@Consider: Not content with damning Fordham Institute as conservative, you throw in “right-wing” as well?

Thus is one of the leading research organizations disposed of (in your mind) for daring to suggest reforms for failing public school systems.

How about we consider the source of your silly comment, as well as Gallup polling which consistently shows conservatives (me) outnumbering liberals (you) by a factor of 2 to 1 nationally?

Or do you see Gallup as a “right-wing” propagandizing organization?

ref: http://goo.gl/kj6wO

kg

July 23rd, 2012
11:49 am

I think more people need to read Diane Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School system before creating anymore charter schools. Its scary what could happen to the schools in America if we let this movement continue.

You can find out more about Georgia Charter Schools here:

http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx

Here you can find the annual reports on each charter school – SOME DO NOT MAKE AYP

http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/Annual-Reports.aspx

Mary Elizabeth

July 23rd, 2012
11:51 am

@lyncoln, 11:07 am

“Maybe all parents might decide to go with the foreign language immersion program and the school system shifts all 3 schools to that type of program. Or 2 traditional schools and 1 math/science magnet school. Or any other variation/combination based on the interests of the parents/community.

What would be so bad about such a ‘pick your focus’ style of public school system?”
==================================================

Finances will not support a “pick your focus style of school” for every student. (I, of course, exaggerate, to make my overall point.)

Magnet schools, within public school systems, have been around for at least a quarter of a century. This type of “pick and choose” by students’ needs must have overall planning and cohesion and that is why decisions regarding these schools, and how many of them the system can accommodate, is better left to public school systems. I have nothing against public charter schools, but I believe that – for prudence in finances as well as cohesion in programs, public charter schools need to be approved (especially in number) and guided under the jurisdiction of local school districts.

The public must, also, be wary of new and innovative programs that could inadvertently (or not so inadventently) have the end result of turning public schools, essentially, into private ones. We must work to improve the public schools we have; we must not dismantle them, even unintentionally. Doing so, would change the nature of “free” public education, which is now avaiable for every student in the nation.

Biologist

July 23rd, 2012
11:53 am

No talk of charters is complete without referencing the Stanford University study comparing charters to similar public schools:
Only 17 percent had students who did any better on the whole than their public school peers, in 37 percent they did worse, and in 46 percent there was no statistical difference. (This study was large and well constructed bit of research).
Think on this. Only 17 percent of charters do any better at all (statistically significant difference) than the correlating public school.
The “school reform” crown continues to push charters, but the results are just not there.

When groups like Fordham, The Broad Foundation, The Gates Foundation etc. perpetually push charters, one has to wonder what they are really up to.

Mary Elizabeth

July 23rd, 2012
11:53 am

Correction: “. . .decisions. . .are better left. . .”

Panthergirl

July 23rd, 2012
11:57 am

I thought the article was very interesting. I live in Forysth County and am the mother of two sons – one is of average intelligence and the other one is gifted. My average son has received a great education and I have no complaints. My gifted son, on the other hand, has been very poorly served by Forysth County schools. He just completed 10th grade and is still pretty unchallenged in school. The only class he had this year that involved any sort of effort was AP World History. He “coasted” through the remaining classes (all Honors) on his schedule.

I spent all of my son’s elementary years begging his teachers to do something to challenge him. It was exhausting and to no avail. For whatever reason, he didn’t test into the gifted program until 5th grade so we didn’t even have that resource. I will never forget my second grade parent teacher conference at Sharon Elementary where my son’s teacher shrugged her shoulders and told me that second grade was just too easy for my child. I felt trapped. My husband doesn’t believe in paying for private schools and I don’t believe that homeschooling is the right option for our family. (I’m not criticizing anyone who homeschools. I think many people do a great job. Its just not the right option for us. I don’t have the right personality or skills to effectively homeschool.)

I think Forsyth County does a great job educating average and below-average children; however, there is definitely a void (that could be filled by a charter school) when it comes to educating the gifted and high-achieving students.

Pride and Joy

July 23rd, 2012
12:03 pm

Bootnye says “I have no issues with Charter schools, but they must not be allowed to become publicly funded private institutions.”
I have zero problem with charter schools becoming publicly funded private institutions as long as they:
Spend no more of my tax dollars than the traditional public schools.
If a for-profit, greedy institution can teach my kids better than a greedy, failing traditional public school, I’ll glady fork my tax money and my kids to the for-profit charter. I want my kids to have a quality education at a reasonable cost and right now my traditional public school options in APS and Dekalb are expensive failures.

Pride and Joy/ Penn State

July 23rd, 2012
12:10 pm

I am surprised Maureen has not posted a blog regarding the sanctions against Penn State. Perhaps she is working on it now. I felt they wre appropriate and swift and Penn State isn’t fighting them. I breathed a very heavy sigh of relief. Maybe, just maybe, we are turning a corner where our society realizes football is not more important than the safety and security of children. Maybe.
Just Maybe those who don’t agree with what I just said will do the right thing, not for the right reasons, but because if they don’t do the right thing, the consequences will be too great to endure. My heart aches for the known victims and those who cannot come forward but maybe they’ll get some tiny relief knowing they were heard and they were believed.
I wish Joe Paterno would have lived to see his stature taken down and his “winning” records abolished.

Pride and Joy

July 23rd, 2012
12:12 pm

Homeschool mom says “We already have the PERFECT “Charter Schools”, if you will in Homeschools! We homeschoolers provide our children the exact perfect environment that each of them needs to learn, grow, and thrive into adulthood.”
Yes, HS Mom, and yet you pay the taxes that pay for others to go to school. Thank you. We appreciate that. Good luck to you, HS Mom. Wish I could be a HS mom too.

Ron F.

July 23rd, 2012
12:17 pm

Whether charter or public,when we begin making decisions from the bottom up, based on assessed needs within a school, then we’ll see the kind of success we all wish to see. Regardless of type of school, when a top-town approach where decisions made by politicians and administrators with no direct classroom input are the norm, then little effective change is likely to occur. If we can get around the politicians and extremists on either end via charter schools, bring them! A much simpler approach would be to do it in the schools that already exist. One major reason Tech High in APS failed was because they brought in a program that didn’t address the needs of their population. Rather than alter it, they paraded their “plan” around like it was the newest gospel of education, and we see the results.

Pride and Joy

July 23rd, 2012
12:21 pm

Mary Elizabeth, I do agree that a free public education is vital to the U.S. but as it is now, the public school system at APS is overpriced, crooked and a failure. I don’t want to dismantle the traditional public school but in some cases, like APS, I think drastic times call for drastic measures. I am not sure if you are faimiliar with Atlanta Public Schools but I am. I sent my children to one of the “best” elementary schools in APS. The one they brag about. My childrens’ teachers could not speak standard, common English. Their speech and their writing is atrocious and incredibly shocking. “If your child need (sic) to go to the bathrrom…” “His backpack (sic) go on the hook…” “The principal have inform (sic) me that….” They cannot write and speak English at a third-grade level and we marvel that the children cannot pass the CRCT tests…the teachers couldn’t pass them. APS hires based on race, not skills and education and for 14K a year per student, we could send them to a private school. I don’t want to dismantle traditional public schools but when they refuse to educate and continue to rob us, we have to make drastic changes such as opening charter schools.
Thanks for listening, Mary E. I enjoy your posts, even when we disagre ;)

Mary Elizabeth

July 23rd, 2012
12:25 pm

Pride and Joy, 12:03 pm

I understand your position.

However, as a retired teacher with no children presently in public schools, I do not want to have the taxes on my home spent to further dismantle public school systems in Georgia, which would happen if public vouchers are used to send students to private schools. I am looking long-ranged, down the road, and for all of the students. I see students and teachers – if public schools are dismantled for private ones, massively – being used mainly for profit purposes, with curriculum that doesn’t meet acceptable standards in many of these schools, where progress will not be monitored effectively in many of them, nor teachers’ credentials verified adequately in many cases. How as a conscientious and effective former public school teacher could I, ever, want my tax dollars used to create that scenario for schools in America – not to mention the very poorest in that socio-economic class who will be left behind in resource deprived and segregated (by class) public schools? A better answer for all, long-ranged, imo, is to improve our traditional public schools, using some limited charter schools, working with our present school systems, to aid in that improvement for all students.

Ron F.

July 23rd, 2012
12:28 pm

Pride: While I agree that systems like APS and Dekalb need complete overhaul, I wonder why so many feel we must punish the entire state for their failures. I’d fully support doing away with both BOEs and making both systems into model local charter schools, with each school functioning as a separate entity. It would certainly be better than what those poor kids have now. My fear is that in our efforts to fix them, we will underfund and force out systems like my own that are working and improving for our local population (only one middle and high school in the county). My hope is that we can find a workable balance, which in this highly charged political environment we have in Georgia right now, doesn’t look very probable.

William Casey

July 23rd, 2012
12:34 pm

@JANEW: Thanks! A man is known by the qualities of his enemies! Though, for the record, I’m not an atheist.

TYPE OF BLOGGER I MUST ENDURE: Small-minded, small-world “experts” on education who dabble in it when the whim strikes them.

Prof

July 23rd, 2012
12:37 pm

@ Jane W., July 23, 11:10 am.

Actually, there is considerable evidence that the Gallup Poll IS a “right-wing progandizing organization.” I’ve noticed that all of the conservative bloggers on here cite Gallup polls for their evidence, giving the website address of http://www.goo.gl.

To support this claim about Gallup polls, see the study, “Evidence of Systematic Bias in 2008 Presidential Polling,” by Leonard Adleman, Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, and Mark Schilling, Department of Mathematics, California State University, Northridge, at:

http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/stuff_for_blog/Evidence%20of%20Systematic%20Bias%20in%202008%20Presidential%20Polling%20%281%29.pdf

They find evidence of a significant right-wing bias in Gallup polls. The possible error for all polls that is always mentioned is a small sampling number of voters. But other possible errors—for which these two researchers examine the Gallup polls– of non-representative samples, biased wording, and non-response are also significant and can skew survey results.

All of these types of polling errors are consistently seen in the Gallup polls; and they demonstrate, Adelman and Schilling conclude, that the Gallup polls are biased significantly to the right.

Erica Long

July 23rd, 2012
12:40 pm

@MB (9:49),

You seem to confuse the privatization of services with the privatization of schools. There are various school-related services that are contracted out to private, for profit companies (for example, catering). The fact that a private company cooks the meals for a public school system does not make the school private. In the same way, contracting out the management function of public charter schools would not make those schools private.

William Casey

July 23rd, 2012
12:40 pm

My fear about vouchers and “for profit” charters is a widespread repetition of what happened in Georgia in late ’60’s and early ’70’s: a flowering of thinly veiled “Segregation Academies.” I’m obviously not including ALL charter schools in this assessment.

Jane W.

July 23rd, 2012
12:41 pm

@Biologist, and others (excepting our ever-present teachers’ union plants):

1) Charter schools are public schools.
2) Attendance at a charter school is entirely voluntary.
3) What groups like Fordham and Gates Foundation are “up to” is a search for solutions to public school systems stuck in failure.
4) Traditional public schools aren’t “free” of cost to taxpayers, nor free of “profit” for those securing lifetime employment in them.
5) A sizable percent of Americans look at the stagnation in test scores, and decades of education establishment excuses—and deduce that authentic reforms are called for.
7) Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools which fail to perform will fail to attract students. Period.

Jane W.

July 23rd, 2012
12:53 pm

@”Prof”

Like charter schools, polling organizations such as Gallup must depend on results to gain new customers. Your teachers’ union pollsters, right or wrong, can apparently continue to depend on your monthly dues checks.

(p.s.- Google and tinyurl.com provide widely-used URL shortening services designed for blogs like ours. Why not look into them?)

Ron F.

July 23rd, 2012
1:00 pm

“Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools which fail to perform will fail to attract students. Period.”

While you’re right about that point, my question is, who should be responsible for those failures? Is it wise though to fund any charter school because of a promise to be better than a similar traditional school? We’re throwing lots of money down the drain now, I’ll give you that looking at APS and Dekalb as examples. But I wonder how much money we should be willing to give to charters, when their success rates aren’t overall looking much better. We need redo the way we fund schools and systems like APS and Dekalb need to be gutted and rebuilt from the top down. What I don’t see, and am looking for, is how charters will be any better at guaranteeing success and how we’ll keep from throwing more good money at something that we can’t be sure will succeed any better in the long run. I get the whole parent control and local influence idea, and it sounds good in theory. But why aren’t charter schools faring better if they are supposed to be the best new thing out there?

Wondering Allowed

July 23rd, 2012
1:06 pm

@Pride and Joy –

We can see where you would be concerned about the teachers’ writing skills and grammar in APS. After all, if your children do not learn correct usage at school, where will they learn it?

And I quote from your post, “Their speech and their writing is atrocious and incredibly shocking.” Ironic, huh? Judge not, lest ye not be judged.”

another comment

July 23rd, 2012
1:10 pm

What is really missing in Georgia is the Votech option. My siblings school districts in upstate NY still offer two to three tracks in high school. They offer Regents/AP; Regents ( which is the College bound diploma) and then a General Diploma where in the Junior and Senior year students spend the afternoon at a VoTech school which is shared by two small one high school districts. The students who finish this program are career ready or they can go on to a two year technology college program. These districts have a very high High School Graduation rate, over 95%. Once out of the massive New York City School district, New York City is made up of mostly high performing small districts of less than 5,000 students.

School Districts that have more than one or two high schools don’t work, they are too top heavy.

Private Schools and Charter Schools are successful because they can demand discipline. They can demand parent participation.

Wondering Allowed

July 23rd, 2012
1:10 pm

BTW, a simple trick; substitute A and B for the nouns and adjectives in a sentence to check whether the singular or plural noun is correct.

Example: “A or B is/are correct” leads one to “is” being correct. “A and B is/are atrocious” leads one to “are” being correct. While technically, in the first sentence there is a singular noun, and in the second there is a plural or group noun, my trick is easier, especially for people like @Pride and Joy who might be too busy being judgmental and don’t have time to memorize grammar rules!