Charter schools can’t handle the truth

September 29, 2014
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In a recent Chicago Sun-Times op-ed, Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) peddles the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

He accuses the Sun-Times of painting a negative picture of charters schools based on its analysis of the results of the Northwest Evaluation Association Measure of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) administered to the majority of Chicago public elementary schools during spring 2013 and 2014.

The Sun-Times’ analysis concluded that neighborhood schools demonstrated greater growth than lottery-based charter schools and Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) turnaround schools.

Mr. Broy took exception to the Sun-Times comparing charter schools to non-selective magnet schools, arguing the comparison should be between charter and neighborhood schools located near each other and serving the same demographics (poor minority students) versus a citywide comparison (middle-class white students).

Talk about a white male playing the race card.

His second argument is that in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, some charter schools did not have to administer the NWEA MAP test to their students, or that some charter schools tested on a different schedule. Because of this, there is no 2013 data to compare to the 2014 data to measure academic growth.

How can Mr. Broy preach accountability when charter and contract schools are not held to the same excessive testing requirements as neighborhood schools? Talk about the hypocrisy of his argument for holding schools accountable.

The op-ed desperately focuses on charter schools in three black communities for his “black-on-black” comparisons (always the charter schools’ fallback).

He wrote that KIPP-Create Middle School (grades 5 and 6 only), located in Austin, had 80 percent of its students meet or exceeded national growth in reading, 83 percent in math. What he did not explain is that the growth he referenced were within the 2013-14 school year in which students were tested in September and the same cohort were retested in May.

CPS chose to use the spring-to-spring comparison for growth because some schools – particularly unaccountable charter schools – might intentionally tank the September test in order to make the May test scores look good (gaming the system).

As a further discourtesy, he excludes comparing KIPP to another Austin neighborhood school Henry R. Nash, which is next door. Nash’s growth has been steady and stronger than any KIPP school – and is no longer on probation.

In conclusion, as the saying goes, “it is more difficult to prove the truth than it is to disapprove a lie.”

In this case, Mr. Broy made it easy for me.

Austin resident Dwayne Truss is on the board of directors of Raise Your Hand and also a member of Chicago Citizens United to Preserve Public Education.

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