Thursday, September 13, 2012

What Happens When a District Intentionally Converts its Best Schools to Charters?

Linda Borg:

Providence is facing a tough deadline, however. The nine schools that have applied to be charters — seven elementary schools, Nathan Bishop Middle School and E3 High School — have to submit preliminary information to the state Department of Education by Oct. 1. The final applications are due Dec. 1.

Setting aside the elementary schools, whose identities have been inexplicably omitted here, E-Cubed and Nathan Bishop are the two strongest schools in the district without a test-in component (i.e., Classical and Greene).

This all has way more political import than substantive, because there just isn't that much difference between a district charter and a normal district school, especially given how much teacher hiring and evaluation has changed, and how much more intrusive RIDE is at both the district and charter levels. It is a kind of win/win insofar as the mayor gets a handwavy "portfolio district" and the union gets to not be destroyed.

Unfortunately one important issue will also be who gets credit for the subsequent performance of these schools. If E-Cubed's scores remain exactly the same, they'll soon go from a closely held secret in the district to a trumpeted example of the superiority of charters. So... whatever.

The biggest change will be in enrollment, and this is the most dubious part. There is no question that there is an advantage in not having to take random "over the counter" enrollments and requiring explicit application to a school. Even if it is not a huge advantage, it is definitely an advantage, so this change will tend to make the strong stronger and the weak weaker within the district. Probably not a good idea.

I don't think charters can have neighborhood enrollment preferences, so this would probably will make it more likely that our girls would be able to get into Bishop for middle school, which is a good option to have. Currently they'd be competing for the 20% of the slots reserved for students from outside the neighborhood with other district students who selected the school as their first choice. As a charter, I think it would be one big lottery for the whole city. On the other hand, then you're competing against everyone who spams their individual lottery, instead of people who chose the school first in the district choice system, so it could actually be harder for us depending.

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