Public Schools Need Radical Reform, Educational Leaders Must Answer the Question: BY WHAT METHOD?

Dr. Wood, Thanks for your continuing efforts to improve American education. I am responding to your invitation to readers of February’s issue of the Forum For Education and Democracy newsletter to analyze a first draft of an article written by Carl Glickman: “Closing the Participation Gap: A Thought Piece.”

To introduce myself, you will remember me from 1999 when, through the initiative of the West Carrollton Teachers Association, you made a public address in West Carrollton about ideas in your book, Schools That Work. I met you at the South Dayton Airport and took you to the meeting. I later visited, along with two other teachers, the school where you were principal, Federal Hocking High School, and interviewed you for a well received and extensive article that was printed in our teachers’ association newsletter, WCEA News.

Mr. Glickman’s article prefaces the development of five points by saying that their purpose is to show, “how to educate students successfully for valued and valuable citizenship.”

Mr. Glickman’s points:

  1. Education should build upon student interest.
  2. Schools and school programming should reflect the fact that students need to examine, challenge and improve upon conventional assumptions.
  3. Education should enable students the capacity and choice to work and participate in communities different from the community of one’s birth.
  4. Schools should be intellectually challenging places and involve students, faculty, parents and community members in significant decision making.
  5. Schools need to use a pedagogy of democracy throughout classrooms.

Stating goals in education has been proven to be much easier than actually accomplishing goals. We all remember George H. Bush’s program, developed with the nation’s governors, called “Goals 2000.” These goals outlined what public education should seek to accomplish by the year 2000. But, as it turned out, the year 2000 came and went and little progress was made in reaching those goals.

Setting goals is easy, the question is: how shall standards / goals be accomplished? Mr. Glickman’s first point is a wonderful goal, “Education should build upon student interest.” Haven’t educational thinkers perennially articulated this goal? But, the accomplishment of this goal has been elusive.

In 1991, I had the opportunity to attend a W. Edwards Deming four day seminar in Miami, Florida. Deming, known as a “quality guru” for his work in transforming Japan industry after WW2 and for his later work with American industry, notably Ford, was well into his nineties when I had the chance to meet him. Deming was somewhat enfeebled but he could still speak with a loud voice to emphasize a point. He particularly liked to roar, “By What Method?”

Deming said goals and quotas mean nothing unless there is a method or plan to bring those goals to reality. He ridiculed “Goals 2000.” He would read a goal and would say, “What a great goal, but, BY WHAT METHOD?”

Deming’s most famous demonstration at these seminars was called the “red bead experiment,” which consisted of a large box of small balls, mostly white but maybe one-third red. He had a special paddle that would scoop ten or so of these balls up at once. Deming would call volunteers from the crowd, corporate executives, and would proceed to let each volunteer reach in the box and choose, without looking, a paddle full of balls. Red balls were considered errors or defects. The executive who produced few or no defects was highly praised, while the executive with many defects was sternly warned. Deming had a large chalk board where he kept track. When the same executives had a second chance, since it was all random, the results changed. The executive that previously had been praised, now was warned with something like, “After that last good performance report, you must have started goofing off.” Deming had a good comedic sense.

Deming’s point, that he belabored with his red beads, was that it is the system that determines quality, not people. His statistic was that 85% of quality issues are determined by the organization of the system — and only 15% of quality issues are determined by all other factors combined, including the quality of personnel. Deming’s point is that if you want to accomplish a goal, you better have a system built on sound theory, you better have a well thought organizational structure to accomplish it.

Certainly, if public education could implement Glickman’s first goal, that “education should be built on student interest,” our schools would be transformed. Our educational system, as it is, however, simply is not structured to empower personalized, individualized education that implementing this goal would require, and simply wishing the system to be so structured will not make it so.

Glickman writes, “Schools should avoid all students learning the same material at the same time, students should not be sitting and listening passively, and students should not be categorized, labeled, and placed in fixed ability groups and tracks.” But what Glickman says schools should avoid, is exactly what many schools every day strive to accomplish. Wow. Quiet students listening passively. Most middle school and high school principals would think that great. And the idea that students should not be graded and categorized or tracked is a notion that absolutely contradicts the operational reality evidenced every day in our bureaucratically organized school systems.

To implement Mr. Glickman’s five points, it seems to me, would require radically changing school structure as it presently exists. Tinkering with the system, by adding a program here, formulating new school policies there, can only result in marginal improvements. Deming’s assertion that quality overwhelmingly is determined by organizational structure is an idea, based upon my own experience, that rings true to me.

Mr. Glickman’s timid examples of improved instruction within the present system — geometry teachers having students build models, science teachers monitoring the local environment — are a big weakness in his presentation. He implies that through individual teacher effort schools can be transformed — if only everyone would try a little harder. But, anyone who has taught in a typically organized public school knows that the actions of a teacher in the school are sorely constrained by time, by curriculum, by contract, by ingrained past practices. A geometry teacher who used teaching time in activities designed to engage student interest would be severely criticized by his administration and by the parents of his students if, because of his efforts, his students “covered” only a fraction of the standard assigned geometry curriculum.

A central Deming idea is that a system must be focused on accomplishing a purpose. Right now school purpose is defined by academic tests. Mr. Glickman’s vision of school purpose transcends what is measured on academic tests and centers on, “how to educate students successfully for valued and valuable citizenship.” Sounds good, but if this phrase is to have a chance to impact school reform, it must be explained.

It seems to me that educational leaders should be spending a lot of effort in clarifying what it means to be educated and what it means to educate. The public needs to be shown a vision of authentic education, a vision of school purpose that transcends the purpose pursued by the present system. Authentic education is centered on the development of the individual. It is not indoctrination; it is not focused on creating worker capacity to serve the economy of the state. Authentic education is abhorrent to totalitarian governments.

The hope for our nation is that a vitalized system of public education can provide authentic education to its citizens. “To educate” certainly goes well beyond credentialling, well beyond meeting state standards, well beyond what we attempt to accomplish via state standards and state tests. To become educated is what wise parents want for their own selves and what they want for their own children. And, as John Dewey said, it should be what communities should seek to provide for all children in their community.

To proclaim a goal such as “Education should build upon student interest” is not helpful if such a goal does not answer the key question, “By what method?” Tinkering within the present system will not work. Mr. Glickman’s article makes me conclude that he fails to appreciate the intransigent nature of the present system.

My own conclusion is that the present system needs radical reform and that it is the task of educational leadership to envision a reformed system. Key questions: How should the purpose of schools be defined? What would a school look like that could accomplish that purpose? How would such a school be organized? How would it allocate resources. What theories of organization, motivation, learning should guide such a school? By what criteria should such a school be evaluated? What should the role of a teacher be in such a school? How can the vision of reformed schools and reformed school systems be brought to reality?

Previous posts that discuss improving public education: A Great Question: How Can We Tell If a School Is Excellent? and
Strickland Should Use Charter Schools To Help Fulfill His Promise: “Reform and Renew the System of Education Itself

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15 comments to Public Schools Need Radical Reform, Educational Leaders Must Answer the Question: BY WHAT METHOD?

  • As you know, Mike, I teach in a school that has emphasized the importance of using the environment as a context for learning. I feel strongly that this is a key to “building on student interest” and making learning “real” to the kids. You wrote:

    “A geometry teacher who used teaching time in activities designed to engage student interest would be severely criticized by his administration and by the parents of his students if, because of his efforts, his students “covered” only a fraction of the standard assigned geometry curriculum.”

    I see our efforts at ‘building on student interest” being stymied by the NCLB emphasis on reading and math that pulls struggling children from science and social studies for rote drill. I recognize the necessity for an emphasis on reading and math as core skills that, unmastered, will cripple the student in other areas, but, it seems to me that we will quickly reach a point of diminishing returns as hands-on, real world exploration is replaced by constant drudgery of drill for high-stakes testing.

    It seems to me that reading, writing, research, figuring, that grows out of investigations of the environment around us will produce learning and skills that will stick. Yes, we still have to learn multiplication tables and phonics. But even those kids who struggle need time to investigate and explore.

  • T. Ruddick

    Well, in addition to the “method” problem, there is the conundrum of having silly goals in the first place.

    Anyone who writes “schools should use a pedagogy of democracy throughout classrooms” is displaying a stunning ignorance of the meaning of the word “pedagogy”.

    It is well and good to suggest that everyone be permitted to engage in decision-making; we Americans like that idea. Except that not everyone is equally equipped to make informed decisions, and many of us don’t have the time to participate in micro-managing every aspect of every essential service. There are currently no proposals that all shareholders get to participate in every decision made in health care, in courtrooms, in electrical safety codes. Why should every significant decision be left up to the inexpert and the partisan–isn’t this attitude what opens the door to censorship and to “intelligent design” curricula?

    Cutting to the chase, schools ought to be responsible for educating children so that they can become independent learners. That goal is not best served–and in some cases it’s contradicted–by Glickman’s high-sounding declarations. Bring a person to the point where s/he can self-educate, and the goals of employability and citizenship will also be addressed. Bog the process down with a wish-list of preconditions and pipe dreams, and nothing much will be accomplished.

    I’m fond of applying these “school reform” ideas to professional sports teams. How would the New England Patriots play if someone imposed NCLB standards? How would the Red Sox succeed if they had to use CQI principles? So let’s apply Glickman’s list to the Cleveland Cavailiers: every player should play according to his own interests; should examine and challenge conventional assumptions about basketball; should play in diverse communities (huh?); should play in systems where coaches, owners, players, sportscasters, and fans participate in significant decisions; should employ a strategy of democracy on the court. Are we laughing derisively yet?

  • T.Ruddick, you and I disagree on many things, but not this. Yes, I am laughing! Some of this stuff is preposterously pompous, but vacuous phrases. Not only is the phrase “schools should use a pedagogy of democracy throughout classrooms” a display of stunning ignorance of the meaning of the word “pedagogy,” it also is so amorphous as to mean just about anything.

  • Eric

    Oldprof writes, “How would the Red Sox succeed if they had to use CQI principles?”

    Here you go:
    Most great coaches and leaders agree on the basic formula for leading successful teams. It includes:
    * Create a constancy of purpose. (Deming, Colins, Belichick, Wooden)
    * Drive out fear and build trust. (Deming, Lencioni, Wooden, Belichick)
    * Remove barriers that stand in the way of performance. (Torre, Auerback, Belichick, Wooden, Deming, Collins, Lencioni)
    * Focus individuals on areas in which they will be successful. (Auerback, Belichick, Wooden, Collins)
    * Lead, Lead, Lead

    Let’s not conflate Deming with Forum for Education and Democracy. The last such bait-and-switch occurred when Hillary Clinton took $100K to promote the Magaziner/Tucker’s education plan as if it were Deming-inspired. As a result, the nation failed to meet its year 2000 education goals.

    Too bad Democrats like Hillary Clinton are too partisan to attend to Deming expositors like Newt Gingrich. Whatever your opinion of Newt, he deserves respect for identifying Deming’s contribution and soliciting Deming’s critique.

  • T. Ruddick

    Nice try, Eric, but CQI is otherwise known as “Baldridge” and in fact is a distortion of the principles that Malcolm Baldridge thought were important. So your citations don’t really refute my assertions. Frankly, I think if we stuck with Deming and Wooden, as you seem to suggest, we’d be WAY better off.

  • Eric

    Since Baldrige is less prescriptive than Deming, where’s the conflict?

    Or are you objecting to AQIP?

    In any event, if you believe Deming to be a better fit, have you made that suggestion? How was it received?

    Baldrige and Deming both inquire “How do you know? By what means?

  • T. Ruddick

    Eric, Baldrige and Deming both have lots of ideas. Baldridge is most widely known for a complicated process that involves extensive committee work to make simple decisions–as I commented to a colleague recently, “it seems to me that this decision, five years ago, would have been made in a private conversation between one technician and the ITS director.”

    Deming comes to us from statistics. His “quality circles”, flat management hierarchy, and step-by-step problem solving procedures can be found mirrored in other theorists’ ideas, but his statistical methods for analysis are what makes his program successful. None of the other programs rely on data so much as Deming, and Deming would probably note that Baldridge complicates, rather than streamlines, decision-making. There’s the conflict.

    Perhaps you’d appreciate the book “Management Fads in Higher Education” by Robert Birnbaum. It’s one example of the kind of education research we need more of–an objective, clear-eyed critical look at programs like these, rather than a subjective report on “how we feel about what we did” (which is the type of study that predominates the literature).

    Summary: Birnbaum tracked seven management initiatives popular in higher education (and also K-12, tho’ he didn’t look there) since the 1970s, including TQM (the precursor of CQI/AQIP), Zero-Based Budgeting, Planning Programming Budgetary System, and Business Process Reengineering.

    What he discovered is that every one of these programs followed a similar process. Each originated in business or in government, and quickly made the leap from one to the other. In every case, they were proclaimed the “magic bullet” that would resolve a plethora of problems. They would be adopted widely, but after a period of application, it became clear that they did not work as advertised. Their leading proponents then proclaim that the shortcomings were not due to failures in the program, but to incompetent implementation. Then the next fad would begin to spread.

    AND ONLY THEN, after the programs failed to operate as advertised, does higher education begin to adopt them–with the same cycle of implementation, failure, and blame that had already played out in the private and government sectors.

    Birnbaum might have been justified in simply concluding that the administrators in higher education are pretty stupid, but he dug more deeply. He noted that these programs do seem to lead to successes in some isolated instances, and he found that Baldridge had already explained it; Baldridge considered his “quality” initiatives to be far less important to the success of an organization than other factors, in particular “nexus” decisions–choices that must be made that will create enduring conditions in the organization, such as important personnel decisions.

    So, Birnbaum concluded, the organizations where ZBB or TQM or Benchmarking worked were probably the ones that had done a better job of those “nexus” decisions–in essence, they had a superior workforce that was capable of making a program yield results despite its inherent flaws.

    That being the case, it’s probably a far better idea to do management by walking around, to do professional development in hiring practices for greater validity, and to rely on a variety of decision-making processes that are applied based on the importance, timeframe, and technical difficulty of any problem to be addressed.

    Sadly, we aren’t seeing that much wisdom.

  • Stan Hirtle

    Talk of Pedagogy and various management theories,seems to ignore the fact that public education is not just one system but several. We have public education in high achieving suburbs where communities are in fact dependent on the comparative higher quality of the public schools. These of course are also the more affluent suburbs. We have the high poverty, low achieving and often minority dominated public schools of cities like Dayton and a few suburbs of similar demography. We have inner ring suburbs that fall somewhere in between in test scores and sociology, pretty much as paths of mobility. We also have schools in smaller rural communities, who were the main Plaintiffs in the deRolph school funding litigation.

    Most of the attention has been focused on the poverty stricken urban schools, with some toward the large suburban schools that get most attention after a Columbine type shooting incident by suicidal, alienated gun wielding kids. Some of the posts here also look to the ideal school system that would produce ideal educated participants in the society of the future, often positing a society where poverty is presumed to be either nonexistent or irrelevant. However those who look seriously at poverty see education as about the only force that has a chance to break the cycles that preserve poverty and provide some kind of upward mobility. This does assumes that there will be non-poverty level jobs available for people who have successfully managed to make their way through the educational system.

    Given the self replicating cultures of poverty that exists, it seems likely that the only way to accomplish this is to have a Marshall Plan of sorts for education of the poor, investing large amounts of skill, time, energy and money into working with people who get less at home and less from their surrounding culture than people in the well educated and affluent suburbs. Right now it seems that we lack the inclination and the structure to do this. In fact it seems like we lack the “Nexus decision”, as the term is used in a previous post, that this is worth doing. In fact things are organized for this not to happen. Each school system competes with other school systems, an arrangement that encourages people to flee the problem rather than fix it.

    Rather school systems become the Nexus decisions for various interest groups interested in affirming and preserving their values into the future. Religious groups, ethnic groups, social classes, ideologues and people valuing various visions of society are all demanding their due. In addition, it seems like education has developed a jargon that separates it from everyone else. Does anyone else ever use the term “pedagogy” in their daily lives? This makes it difficult if not impossible to come to any sort of social consensus about what should happen with public schools

  • Eric

    Tom,

    I’ve been at the same Baldrige training as your AQIP people. I don’t recognize the NIST Baldrige criteria in the “Baldridge fad” you relate–though I’m not disputing your observations. Please consider comparing the official Baldrige criteria with your organization’s quality improvement effort. Baldrige folks are collegial, recognize the difficulty of quality improvement, and ought to welcome polite, accurate, timely feedback. If AQIP (at some level) has strayed from Baldrige, you could perform a service for the nation by helping it get back on track.

    I’ve wanted to check out Birnbaum’s book (#525,343 in Books) since you first mentioned it. Sorry for the delay; is it something we would discuss, or would I be dismissed as a fool for not immediately conceding it to be a dispositive treatment?

  • T. Ruddick

    Eric. you see in your document that aspect of Baldridge described on page 19, article 5.1

    (2) HOW do you foster an organizational culture conducive to HIGH PERFORMANCE and a motivated
    WORKFORCE to accomplish the following:
    • cooperation, EFFECTIVE communication, and skill sharing among all FACULTY AND STAFF, across classrooms, departments, schools, colleges, and locations, as appropriate
    • EFFECTIVE information flow and two-way communication with faculty leaders, supervisors, and administrators at all levels…
    • the ability to benefit from the diverse ideas, cultures, and thinking of your WORKFORCE”

    And yes, the details are in the devil, I guess. Some institutions where things would be gotten right under any system will have a clue when AQIP’s cross-disciplinary communication is considered “appropriate” while those who will botch it anyway will run off on a frenzy of hodge-podge committee appointments.

    And you seem to think that one voice crying in this wilderness is able to get the North Central Association to see the error of its ways? Sorry, but I’ve realized–perhaps too late–that NCA does not care to enforce its own standards; they and the other regional accrediting agencies have long functioned more as rubber stamps than as rigorous licensing organizations.

  • Stan Hirtle

    In today’s Dayton Daily News, Columnist Leonard Pitt had another of his “what works” articles on successful urban schools. http://www.miamiherald.com/living/columnists/leonard_pitts/story/448204.html

    The school in question is a Catholic School, which means it can be selective in a way public schools can not. But the kids this school, called Crossroads Foundation, does not select poor kids that are academic stars, but those who are poor, are motivated, but who have not yet performed to their full potential, and who have supportive parents. Lastly those who would probably not survive on the streets without the school. What do they get, huge amounts of attention, investment and intervention. They get tutoring, skills workshops, family counseling. A Catholic view of sex education, to be sure. But perhaps most significantly a personal touch from people in charge who know everyone, with hugs, handshakes and laughs all around, a sense of connection that makes the place work. 100% of kids graduate and go to college.

    This picture runs up against some conundrums. Do you guess which kids can go the farthest and protect them against being held back by those with the most problems and deprivation? Former Dayton Superintendent James Williams said no, abolishing “gifted” programs because of what they said to those kids and parents who weren’t in them. Do you lavish resources on kids to overwhelm their problems? Won’t parents who gave advantages to their kids object? Can bureaucratized public schools deal with the multiple demands of working for everyone in any other way between being stifling bureaucracies that no one wants to be in? Can you have the kinds of caring relationships that make schools like this work, not just in specialty schools like Stivers or DECA but in the school down the street? Does a marketplace of small schools, high choice and high turnover allow the kind of consistency and stability in who the kids are that allows good schools to be good? Or does it just guarantee that there will be a lot of underresourced and underperforming schools?

    All of this seems more real than the acronymns for these various theories of Deming and Baldridge. I have not studied these things and so do not share the enthusiasm of some of the other posters. An issue may be whether schools are the same kind of communities that factories and other private commercial organizations are. Or whether schools have to be communities in which teachers, kids, parents and the larger community relate together in a positive way to end up with people who are both productive enough to get jobs and be productive at the higher end of the brain using spectrums, as well as being citizens in a democracy and human beings one would enjoy sharing a neighborhood with.

  • T. Ruddick

    Ah, Stan, the point where the purity of abstract theorizing gets besmirched with the noise and wrangle of actual human interaction. You sure know how to shut an academic up :-)

  • “It seems to me that educational leaders should be spending a lot of effort in clarifying what it means to be educated and what it means to educate. The public needs to be shown a vision of authentic education, a vision of school purpose that transcends the purpose pursued by the present system.”

    Wait a minute. This is bass-ackwards. If any of the goals mentioned in the article are going to be achieved, then what needs to happen is that that experts should be spending a lot of effort LISTENING to the public that’s supposed to be served by schools. The public needs, not to be shown, but to show a vision of authentic education and purpose.

    You can’t radically change the structure of an institution when you keep the fundamental flaw that threatens it in the first place.

  • Some people hate charters schools, some love them, some analyze them. They appear to doing well in Georgia. From the Georgia Public Policy Forum:

    Positive Lessons from Charter Schools in Georgia

    By Andrew Broy

    Georgia’s 71 charter schools are outperforming traditional public schools and are serving a more diverse and economically disadvantaged population, according to the Georgia Department of Education’s most recent Annual Report on Charter Schools.

    The findings, based on 2007 data, correct many of the misperceptions that surround the state’s charter schools and are particularly significant in light of the increased attention charter schools have received from legislative leadership over the past two years.

    In 2007, the General Assembly enacted a law that allows entire districts – not just individual schools – to apply for a charter. Districts promise improved student achievement in exchange for freedom from certain state and local rules. This session, the Legislature is considering the creation of a new statewide authorizing commission that would have the power to establish new charter schools.

    Charter-related initiatives frequently generate controversy. The annual report helps those involved in the discussion differentiate between the facts and the fallacies and provides concrete data that policy-makers should consider when passing on charter policy. Most important, as education reforms generate increasingly rancorous debate, the report provides compelling evidence that charter schools in Georgia deserve serious consideration as a school improvement strategy and option for parents and students.

    In 2007, charter schools in Georgia met state testing goals – or made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) – at a rate that exceeded traditional public schools. In 2006, fully 85 percent of Georgia charter schools made AYP, compared with 82 percent of traditional public schools.

    By comparison just 42 percent of charter schools made AYP in Florida, the state with the third-highest number of charter schools in the nation. The national average for charter schools was 64 percent, compared with 73 percent of traditional public schools. Georgia’s success rate makes it a leader among chartering states and bolsters the notion that quality chartering, not merely more charter schools, is the key to charter success.

    Indeed, while most reputable national studies of relative charter school performance have yielded mixed results, the performance levels in Georgia are increasingly encouraging. During the 2007 school year, for example, charter high schools in Georgia graduated their students at a rate of 90 percent, compared with an average of 72 percent for public schools generally. This is the highest graduation rate in the history of Georgia’s charter sector and comes at a time when state leaders are redoubling their efforts to improve high school graduation rates.

    Much of this success can be attributed to the fact that many charter high schools in Georgia were designed specifically to boost graduation rates. Charter career academies, for example, work in partnership with technical colleges and community colleges to offer a more engaging curriculum and to target students who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks.

    The results are all the more impressive when one considers the student population served by charter schools. During the 2007 school year, 56 percent of students enrolled in charter schools qualified for free and reduced lunch, compared with 50 percent for students statewide. In addition, Georgia charter schools are more likely to enroll racial minorities: Fully 61 percent of charter school students are racial minorities, compared with the statewide average of 53 percent. And 43 percent of charter school students were African-American, the highest percentage recorded since the first charter school opened in Georgia in 1995.

    These performance levels should be lauded. They should not, however, obscure the reality that some of our schools – charter schools and traditional public schools alike – are not performing at acceptable standards. Moreover, given the relatively small number of charter schools in the state (charter schools enroll approximately 3 percent of public school students statewide), the significance of these trends should not be overstated.

    Nevertheless, Georgia charter performance strongly suggests that we should encourage more schools to use curricular flexibility to help improve student learning. Simply put, Georgia’s charter schools are high-performing public schools serving a population that, on average, is more racially diverse and less affluent than Georgia generally.

    In one sense, Georgia charter schools have come of age and are beginning to reach a scale where they can impact many more students. But even as the campaign continues to open more charter schools, Georgians must never lose sight of the ultimate goal: ensuring that every Georgia school is filled with quality teachers successful at improving student performance.
    Andrew Broy is the Associate Superintendent for Policy and Charter Schools for the state of Georgia and a former Teach for America corps member. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.

    © Georgia Public Policy Foundation (March 14, 2008). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited.

  • T. Ruddick

    Rick, let me introduce you to healthy skepticism.

    Georgia’s charters are meeting AYP at a rate of 85% and the publics are at 82%. Did the statisticians provide a margin of error or a reliability figure for those numbers? If not, I suspect they’re not statistically significant–in other words, charters would show no improvement.

    Same for those ‘free lunch’ figures.

    The magic here seems to be that Georgia has linked charters to higher education institutions. EVERY early-college program so far has been successful, as far as I know. True, not every student can benefit from PSEO or DECA or any of the other options–but the ones that qualify almost always do quite well.

    A couple of years ago, the NY Times reported that a survey of high school dropouts revealed that the leading reason students quit is that they’re bored. College courses can be boring too (I supposed I’ve been responsible for some of that) but they take up less of the day and cover material only once or twice, not in endless repetition.

    So I’m interpreting your report to mean that a seniors-to-sophomores initiative will do much more for the general education level than any charter school movement. And it will have the added benefit of proper oversight so that we won’t be embarrassed again and again by lax accountancy and funding snafus, as we continue to be by the amateurish Ohio charters.

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