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Posted on Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

Bill to lift caps on charter schools in Michigan needs deeper examination

By Letters to the Editor

I want to express my heartfelt thanks to state Sen. Rebekah Warren for organizing a most informative Community Town meeting at Washtenaw Community College on Monday, Nov. 7, on current bills before the Michigan Legislature regarding lifting caps on charter schools and related issues.

Although this package of legislation is dubbed the "Parental Empowerment" package, the truth, as explicated by the three panelists, is quite different and much more complex.

Don't take my word for it -- read for yourself the information available online from two of the panelists: Dr. Gary Miron, Professor of Evaluation, Measurement, and Research at Western Michigan University and Dr. David Arsen, Professor of Education Administration and Policy at Michigan State University.

Neither of these gentlemen are enemies of charter schools, but they have done their homework and are cautioning the Legislature to move carefully in this area. For those who care about the future of public education in this state, take time to get informed:



Judith Schmidt
Ann Arbor



Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 1:31 a.m.

From the Stanford University Study: 1) States that have limits on the number of charter schools permitted to operate, known as caps, realize significantly lower academic growth than states without caps, around .03 standard deviations. 2) Charter school students on average see a decrease in their academic growth in reading of .01 standard deviations compared to their traditional school peers. In math, their learning lags by .03 standard deviations on average. While the magnitude of these effects is small, they are both statistically significant. NOTE: the study does not control for the impact of students changing schools 3) The effects for charter school students are consistent across the spectrum of starting positions. In reading, charter school learning gains are smaller for all students but those whose starting scores are in the lowest or highest deciles. For math, the effect is consistent across the entire range. 4) Charter students in elementary and middle school grades have significantly higher rates of learning than their peers in traditional public schools, but students in charter high schools and charter multi?level schools have significantly worse results. 5) Charter schools have different impacts on students based on their family backgrounds. For Blacks and Hispanics, their learning gains are significantly worse than that of their traditional school twins. However, charter schools are found to have better academic growth results for students in poverty. 6) English Language Learners realize significantly better learning gains in charter schools. 7) Students in Special Education programs have about the same outcomes. -continued in the next message-


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

The assertion that the proposal to lift the cap on charters ought to have deeper examination is a fair one. Unfortunately, the Free Press link presented doesn't appear to lead anywhere. The piece by Dr. Miron is too general to be of any value, I'd love to read more about his research or hear what he would recommend to improve the legislation on the table - is any of this available This is one of the most hotly debated public policy issues of our time, yet the infomation presented here is minimal. What can we learn from the charter schools that ARE doing better than traditional schools in their district with similar demographics? What can we learn from teachers (charter or traditional) whose students excel further than their colleagues? Instead, the debate swings to the extremes and we're missing out on an opportunity. Our traditional schools are falling behind the rest of the world (according to testing by the OECD, of which Dr. Miron serves as a consultant). Yet the stance held by many in traditional public eduction is to maintain the status quo. Traditional schools invest less in curriculum in order to pay step increases; a higher value is placed on Sports than academic extra-curriculars; Middle Schools offer dances but lack science fairs; bredth is the goal in our comprehensive high schools at the cost of depth. There are practices in successful Charter Schools that can be injected into traditional schools, some at little cost. Many charter school parents, myself included, would much prefer having their kids in their neighborhood school; but the academic gap is too wide.

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

I am forced to support YOUR KIDS with my tax dollars. That's fine. But I want those tax dollars to support the PUBLIC school system, not charter schools. You want to send your kids to a different school? Good for you - just don't ask me to pay for it. Don't undermine the funding of our public school system.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 11:54 p.m.

Charter schools ARE public schools.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

Now that I've read further I do see comments on both sides and realize the most pop. ones are @ the top. Recently I heard about a charter that fired a kindergarten teacher bc she would not adjust scores on a standardized test administered in the fall, to the satisfaction of an assistant principal. The assistant principal wanted the teacher to force the hands of children unable to understand and color in bubbles on this test: a test that would show kids before development over time had taken place. The teacher was fired bc she refused to re-administer the test and force false results. Whistle blower anybody? But the environment of fear that had been created for the staff kept her silent, accepting termination (and of course, collecting unemployment to save her home from going under). This kind of thing is much easier to cover up in charter or private environments where there's little oversight.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

CakeRoll - Can you provide a source for this story?


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

Why are the only comments on this article from flaming conservatives? is not presentlng a balanced view.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

Arguments aside whether charters are producing any better students than the's the problem I have with charter schools. As a taxpayer, in most cases, every time a charter is set up we're paying for another "set" of overhead costs. Each charter has a building that must be maintained, it must be heated and cooled, it must be cleaned, etc. And this new charter school needs a leader (principal) and all of the associated staff to make a school run - not including teachers. At the same time, all of the public schools from which these charter students came, continue to operate......with no decrease in operating costs. The "net" cost to taxpayers is an added set of overhead costs that we have to pay for. Shouldn't we be closing a public school for every charter school that opens up to offset the added costs to taxpayers? Can you imagine the howl we'd hear from communities if that were the case? My point? How many schools can Michigan taxpayers afford to operate and still have money to spend "in the classroom"?

tom swift jr.

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 2:40 a.m.

I sincerely hope those that are advocating for Charter Schools are sending their children to a Charter School.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:49 a.m.

I would, but all the charter schools in the county have lotteries or waiting lists. And I have twins.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 2:28 a.m.

Oh, I wouldn't be looking at charters to give good education, just the illusion of giving a good education, they have profits to make, and special ed kids to kick out. There are some sorry situations in general education classrooms, there's certainly room for improvement(and I'm no fan of unions, I view them as necessary evils,) but go on, take your kid to a charter, best of luck, you'll need it. They don't actually teach better or more, and they spend far less on the kids than a traditional schools and it shows.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 7:07 p.m.

The majority in Michigan are and will be for profit. Not for profit don't do that great either, they are plagued by mission creep of various people in the school, too many chiefs, and while they don't make money, the rules are often very arbitrary about what the schools policy are. And they still aren't organized enough to manage a high needs kids, they are always scrambling with not enough money. What is the answer educationally? What if the big picture is to break the unions and then let neighborhood schools reconstitute...and everyone who is jumping aboard the charter school train is just getting used in the process?


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 6 p.m.

Cette - I am talking Non-profit charters like Mr. Thompson wanted to open in Detroit. He made his fortune building roads, and wanted to give back. He was willing to put a large amount into the schools. Do you want to comment on this or only on the for-profit schools that you dislike?


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

Oh no, if someone wants to run an organized school versus disorganized, that's an improvement in my eyes. What is missing is ownership of teaching all children, and working constantly to improve service, which is delivery of public education. seriously, not just maintaining and improving profits for the company. What's the company doing with the money they make? I mean, you complain bitterly about AAPS financial transparency, and they will look like their finances look like a library shelf at the local library compared to any data a for profit will cough up. And how does a parent go about improving a charter? What kind of mechanism is there to do so? What are the venues for complaints etc? No BoE there to complain about and vote someone else in if you don't like the direction it's going in. Who verifies the data coming out of charter, especially a for profit? If it's a private company enterprised, wouldn't the rules be different? Do you really believe that humans won't take advantage of this system and short the kids for their own financial gains? Really????


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:51 p.m.

So Cette - You want to limit the discussion to schools currently operating in Michigan, but use studies that go outside that range. Is this because the non-Michigan models blow your case? Remember that the American Federation of Teachers forced Mr. Thompson to drop building and operating 4 non-profit schools in Detroit, a district that really could have used those schools. So one major change to have a non-profit school in Michigan was defeated by teachers - in a district with a graduation rate that approaches 25%.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

Most in Michigan are, and those that aren't are often plagued by organizational problems..


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:23 a.m.

Not all charters are for profit, the Harlem Project an excellent example of a not for profit charter. The 4 schools that Mr. Thompson wanted to build and fund would have also been not for profit. The American Federation of Teachers blocked those schools.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 12:02 a.m.

Charters have serious and significant problems, and it's pie in the sky thinking they will be saving the educational day. They will however, drive down teachers salaries, and I believe that's their real reason for existence. I'm sure the Republicans will back more charters, plus they are money makers for their supporters. Charters will be the coming educational scandal, and the days of lousy teachers being protected by the union will be replaced with the upset and anger of how the kids were treated and what happened to them in these poorly regulated, untested, schools where no one is watching what is actually going on. They aren't held to the same standards as traditional public schools. Honestly, if you want to make sure there aren't,you know, shall we say, riff raff public school kids attending school with your children, you should make enough money to pay for private school and put on airs..


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

Voice of reason, as difficult as it was to obtain good special ed service in a traditional school, and it is, it's approaches impossible in a charter, they will tell you the school is not a "good fit" for your child, and they will make sure that that is true. All that effort you put in a traditional school and got results will go nowhere in a charter.

A Voice of Reason

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

I have a special ed kid and believe that the school system has not been accountable for her learning. 100s of hours of meetings and a poor special education teacher stood in the way of him getting a new reading program that all other schools in town had, because she knew what was best. Even the principal at this top school in town said she had limited hope for her. It is only because I constantly advocate, go into mediation, hire professional advocates ($2000), etc. and with a few good teachers and finally a good program, that I am getting a decent education for him in the public schools. I am (and she) is the lucky one because I have the time and look for solutions. I am concerned about all children in special education and am not sure that the public schools are obligated to these kids learning. Let a charter school, that is committed to outcomes and success, educate my child. If education is for profit, and the kids are not learning, people will pull their kids out because they have a little word called "Choice". Remarkably, he has going up 5 reading levels in one year (with the right reading program). In addition, my child has had constant bullying, harassment, injury, etc. at school. This is what you consider a great education? Anything is better than this!


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

give me a break's the other way around. And seriously, when there's taxpayer money to be paid out, plow it back into the schools, not some big ole company, that's busy denying FAPE to needy special ed kids.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:12 a.m.

cette, public schools have been around, how long? Charter schools are still in their "comparative" infancy dealing with fewer resources and far less money, not to maetion the union sabotage and misinformation folks like you disseminate readily. Step up to the plate and admit you are afraid of the competition but don't make things up.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 2:32 a.m.

I have heard differently, that what's going on in inner city charters is a disgrace. Check out great and see how many Detroit area charters rank above a 2. I think places like South Arbor, that mines kids from no less than 2 university towns, ends up with better scores. What a surprise. It used to be the joke that whoever worked at a charter couldn't get a job in a regular school, now with the economy so poor it's probably not so true, but they are quite unregulated, and there aren't just another traditional school that's well run.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 2:26 a.m.

cette - They have to do the same MEAPs that the rest of the schools do. If you look at studies on Charters, they seem to work better in inner cities where the districts are truly broken. The problem with most studies is they don't compare students from the same zip codes against each other, so some studies bias to say charters are better, some bias to say charters are worst. In my mind charters are just another school in almost every case. One the truly elite programs (The Harlem Project comes to mind) shine as charters when compared to the general population. That may be because most charters are in troubled districts and comparing them to non-troubled districts may be too steep a curve for most of them. If the state is going to do more charters, they need to hold them to HIGHER standards, not the same standards.

A Voice of Reason

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

I make enough money to pay taxes and we all deserve the best education for our children. My son's biology book is over 15 years old and know there are 6 kingdoms instead of 5. Why haven't our schools invested in new books? Teachers make over $100,000 per year (including benefits), have no accountability and have a guaranteed job/are impossible to fire. Yes, sorry it is not good enough for me. Wait until the MEAP scores are correctly reported where 35% is no longer a passing grade and see if you feel the same about the education your children are receiving.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

Their are credible arguments for the reform of "public" schools too.........maybe we should "cap" those also. I'm so sick of these public union advocates whose only interest is preserving the status quo through misinformation and fiction masked as credible evidence. How about the Detroit are they doing? How is it that "educators" aren't interested in expanding the educational horizons and opportunities of students? How is it that "educational failures" are blamed on a lack of "parental involvement" but when legislation is considered to "empower parents" the unions feel threatened with that empowerment?


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:08 a.m.

So now any one with the facts and able to articulate a credible argument is "dishonest"? You make this too easy David. Keep up the good work. You'll soon have everybody convinced charter schools is the way of the future for the children. You just feel you can dismiss "parental empowerment"?

David Briegel

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 1:14 a.m.

Because there is a complete lack of honesty in the right wing anti union rhetoric!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 11:10 p.m.

Dirtgrain, what choice will the poor have? At the worst, the same choice they have now. At best a system that will let them use the tax dollars set aside for their child the way they think it will best be used.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:02 a.m.

You have overlooked one key thing: when parents who can manage it pull their kids out of a public school, only the poor will remain, and their school will get worse. It's happening in Ypsilanti. The end goal is not equal access (check out what the Mackinac Center is pushing for (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. The goal is vouchers to parents to spend on private or public schools. We'll have complete economic segregation if they have their way. How will that make us a better country?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 10:23 p.m.

Five comments in it is clear no one has bothered to read the links Judith provided, much less even click on them. As usual the animosity towards traditional public schools is based in anecdote and emotion, not facts and research. Ditto for the unquestioning support for charter schools.


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

For once I agree with the Ghost. It is a well written book.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

Diane Ravitch is worth a look on this subject, and especially her most recent book, _The Death and Life of the Great American School System_. That is, for anyone with an open mind on the subject. Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

Ms. Northside - Again you mischaracterize what I said or did. I have read the Stanford study, I have even reviewed it face to face with a professor in one of the education schools and a professor of statistics. I did that a while ago. The Stanford study have several built in bias issues that the authors under questioning have admitted. For one it does not compare progress of like bodies of students. The suggested zip code to zip code comparision is one the authors have acknowledged at a conference (that I did not attend and only have second hand knowledge of, but it is second hand, not third or fourth hand) needs to be done. So I would suggest you take the time to look at a much wider range of view points and stop only reading what the MEA posts as good sources.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:04 a.m.

Northside and David are spouting union rhetoric backed by union misinformation to suit their needs, then start name calling and making accusations of ignorance. Just the kind of &quot;educators&quot; we want our kids exposed to? I think not. It's time to give these folks some competition......competition that they fear greatly because it will expose their weaknesses and in-competencies. You two are your own worst enemies, keep up the good work and charter schools will soon be on every parents &quot;want&quot; list.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:28 a.m.

Mr. Bee you did the same thing you so often do: put forth an opinion, in this case with near-total disregard for the research the writer presented. There are plenty of sound studies comparing charter and traditional public schools, the Stanford one being a biggie. You spend a lot of time posting on education on this site so might want to get acquainted with some of that research. But perhaps doing so would be inconvenient in that it wouldn't always fit your opinions? It's out there; you just don't seem to want to see it.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:20 a.m.

Sorry northside, but your assumption is wrong, not only did I read the two provided, but 7 others that offer different view points. That is part of why I did not snap off a response. The jury is out on charters, and the two links provided are on one end of the bell curve of analysis. There are others at the other end of the bell curve. As usual, there is very little analysis that seems to aim for a balanced review and does not choose statistics to support their cause. A really good analysis of charters by someone unbiased is really needed.

David Briegel

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

You have figured out the &quot;genius&quot; of the radical right wing Curmudgeon Club! Faith based and opposed to facts and science. FAUX opinions!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 10:02 p.m.

Charter schools can work, and they can be a mistake. Public schools can work and they can be broken. Detroit's public schools are broken. Anyone who has a different opinion has not done their research. Charter schools IN poor neighborhoods with teachers that know the students and families are hard to build and run, but they have proven to be successful - it takes a special teacher to want to work in these schools and do the whole job. The burn out rate is high, and the people who succeed are the real heroes - when it comes to teachers. We need to be able to focus the best and brightest teachers on the districts that really need to improve. Most teachers would hate it, but having 1 state wide teacher's contract with the ability to move teachers to districts that need their skills and commitment would be the best thing we could do. Charter schools or no charters schools.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 12:08 p.m.

Ms. Northside - You will note, I have never taken on the salaries the teachers make. I have never pushed for eliminating teachers, and I have done a number of analysis that would allow budget cuts without eliminating teachers. I am PRO education, not the established way education is done. I believe in teachers and students working together to create a learning environment. I am against excessive overhead, out of date models, and biased studies. I am for all students having a chance in the world, regardless of the parent's circumstances. Today we throw away 75% of the children in Detroit (yes, less than 1 in 4 students graduates in Detroit). This is a drag on the state. Other districts are also in poor shape. Sorry if that messes up the way the AAEA, MEA or NEA thinks, or means you might have to do something different in your career.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

Ah yes Mr. Bee, your positions are always just about the students. And anyone who disagrees with your positions doesn't care about them.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 2:21 a.m.

Mr Briegel - I agree, cutting pay is a bad thing to do. I always have agreed with that. The good teachers are heroes. Most teachers are good teachers. The great teachers are super heroes, the children in the worst situations should have first &quot;dibs&quot; on the super heroes. They need the hand up. myOpinion &amp; northside - The State Police have had to move on 30 days notice for over 100 years, yet the best law enforcement professionals in the state all want to be state police officers. Yes, they lose people to sheriff's departments, etc. But, the best all want to be State Police officers and their families moved on average 6 times in the last 30 years. No reason teacher's could not do that too, though I suspect it would be 2 or 3 moves early in the career and a chance to settle in after that. All - I told you this would get negative reactions, would be the best thing that could be done for students, which is what education SHOULD be all about. It should not be about the teachers or the parents - but the students.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

&quot;Having 1 state wide teacher's contract with the ability to move teachers to districts that need their skills and commitment would be the best thing we could do.&quot; Are you serious?!? Yeah, that'd make teaching a desirable profession. &quot;We're sorry but you and your family need to move again this year. We need you in ...&quot;


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

DonBee, I agree with your premise - that Charter schools can work. But your solution of moving effective teachers around the state like cogs in a machine are a bit unrealistic. Are we going to go back to the days of unmarried teachers (that's what it was like where I grew up). I grew up in an era where men worked and women stayed home and raised the kids. And, lots of men (and their families) in corporate America moved all over the country. That was part of the deal in getting to upper management in a larger corporation. But, i think that state-wide contract would have teachers topping out at $50,000 and there would be no hardship pay (e.g., for uprooting your family; for having a house you can't sell; for having to establish new friendships over and over).

David Briegel

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 10:30 p.m.

And we will attract the &quot;best and the brightest&quot; by cutting their pay and benefits and treating them like second class citizens? Actually Don, teachers ARE the real heroes!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

And what do you do for a living Judith ? Got every dime of my money that says you are a member of the MEA ? Charter schools give parents &quot;choice&quot;, while the current system gives parents ( especially low income ones ) no choice. Good Day

A Voice of Reason

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 2:06 a.m.

Also, it is interesting that this opinion article is perfectly timed with a AAPS School board member expressing her views in a A2Journal article. Any person with an ounce of PR experience knows an organized campaign when they see it. The money should follow the children--even at the University level.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

You have a story (or lack there of) with a bunch of links, really? What, just needed an excuse to have a smear campaign on something you didn't like? Most of us like charter schools, it means we can choose educators with our values, instead of liberals.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

You hold that thought with your &quot;phony&quot; values, anti education, anti science, and flat earth beliefs that you view as factual evidence. Where was the &quot;further examination&quot; when the unions were successful with those Democrats when &quot;imposing&quot; the caps? Just so you know, it takes &quot;two wings to fly&quot; and there's a lot of &quot;flap&quot; on both sides of the fuselage.

David Briegel

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

Nobody mentioned union but YOU. I have never been a part of any union. I didn't name call or spout dogma. I spoke facts and widely held beliefs about the silliness of right wing &quot;values&quot; and dogma! And it seems to me that Judith was analyzing facts and creidible information. Something that the right wing has difficulty with!


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

David....sounds like union rhetoric, what happened to the even keel art of education and considering options based upon factual and credible information instead of name calling and misinformation? Dogma has no place in the classroom and unions have dogmatically diminished the educational options of students. It's time to change that strangle hold of a monopoly.

David Briegel

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 10:50 p.m.

Oh, the phony &quot;values&quot; of your beloved right wing! Anti education, anti science, flat earth, and Can I Have Me Some Trickle Down? Newt's Family Value's? The &quot;genius&quot; of Herman and Rick and Michelle?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

Choices = segregation de jure. What choices will the poor have?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

Dirtgrain. I understand that, and guess what, they'll stay in non-charter schools. I'm not saying non-poor are any more involved, just that if they want a better education, the poor can get more involved, like any other sector. Hopefully the charter schools have admission standards so that smart motivated kids have a chance to get ahead instead of being in a school system hell bent on keeping everyone the same and working hard on non-hard working kids to make them just average.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

People who can afford to transport their kids to other schools will have that option; that will not be a viable option for some. Joe.blow, I see some rich and middle class kids in my classroom who don't want to be there, either.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

The poor can get more involved in there kids education, then charter schools would go away. Instead our kids have to be in school with kids who don't want to be there with parents who aren't involved and with teachers who find it easier to pass a poor student than to fail them and increase the educational standards.

Michigan Reader

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

Charter school students' parents don't pay out of their own pocket--public dollars follow the students to the schools.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

Right, Charter Schools that's a scary thing. Parents might have choices in where they can send their kids and if enough of these open the MEA might not be able to collect enough union dues to keep people like Rebekah Warren in office