Bill to impose cap on charters

Immediate moratorium in LA, Oakland Unified

Charter school supporters didn’t have to worry much about severe restrictions on their operations becoming law over the past seven years – not with Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. But they’re less certain now, with Jerry Brown in the corner office. Even though Brown founded two charter schools in Oakland, to get his budget passed, Brown is leaning heavily on teachers and classified employees unions that are pushing some of the bills that the charter community fears the most.

Near the top of the list is AB 401, which would put a lid on charter growth and immediately impose a moratorium in Los Angeles and other urban districts that have been the most welcoming to charter schools. Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco is the bill’s author; the California Federation of Teachers is the sponsor.

Last year, Ammiano’s  bill was passed by the Assembly only to get bottled up in the Senate. Back again this year, AB 401 is scheduled for a hearing before the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday.

The bill would cap the number of authorized charters at 1,450, and limit that number until 2023. (A bill digest says the moratorium would end in 2017; I assume the bill’s language is the official version.)

There are currently 912 charters in operation. But although the cap is 538 schools away, charters have been expanding at a rate of more than 100 per year and show no sign, even in hard times, of slowing down. Charters affiliated with high-performing charter management organizations, like Aspire Public Schools and Rocketship Education, are among those with expansion plans.

But the bill also would limit the number of charters to no more than 10 percent  of the number of schools in a district; those districts that reach that threshold would no longer be able to authorize any more charters, as of July 2012. Jed Wallace, president of California Charter Schools Association, said that the limit already has been reached in San Diego, Oakland, and Los Angeles Unified districts. With 180 charter schools out of about 700 public schools, Los Angeles has the most charter schools of any district in the nation. Not only are charter schools obviously popular with parents, but recently teachers in several Los Angeles Unified schools, El Camino Real High in Woodland Hills the latest, have voted to convert to a charter school. Earlier this month school trustees, in the latest round of their school choice program, selected eight of the 11 applications submitted by charter school associations to run all or part of 13 new or existing low-performing schools. The bill would preempt that process and district policy.

School districts, by law, aren’t allowed to consider financial impact among the criteria in considering an application for charter. However, with school districts and charter schools possibly facing further budget cuts, school districts – and certainly unions – are worried about the loss of student tuitions to new charter schools. But Wallace argues that “the state should be encouraging great schools that are efficiently operated, so there should be a greater emphasis on charters.”

Ammiano’s bill also would ban nepotism in hiring in a charter, prohibiting the hiring of a relative by anyone in a decision-making authority.

Among the more credible bills dealing with charter schools are two that take different approaches to weeding out poor-performing charter schools – which many in the charter community acknowledge is needed.

Disagreements over accountability

Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Julia Brownley has again introduced AB 440. Among its extensive provisions (many dealing with new auditing requirements), the bill would limit charter renewals to three years – instead of the customary five – for those charter schools that find themselves in School Improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools that are in the fifth year of School Improvement would be denied a charter renewal.

SB 645, introduced by Sen. Joe Simitian, a Democrat from Palo Alto, would take an approach favored by the California Charter Schools Association. Charter schools up for renewal that fail to meet one of three criteria would have to go before the State Board of Education to justify their charter renewals with additional data. Those criteria are:

  • An API score of at least 700 in the most recent year;
  • A growth of at least 30 points in the API score in the past three years;
  • An API rank in at least the top 60 percent of schools with similar demographics.

The criteria would not apply to new charter schools and to those designated by the state as serving students with a high risk of dropping out. Excluding these schools, the Charter Schools Association says that 43 schools – 8½ percent of charters in operation – would fail the threshold (although only a small number of those would be up for renewal in a given year).

One opponent of both bills is Eric Premack, executive director of the Charter Schools Development Center in Sacramento. School Improvement status is a poor measure of school quality, he says, since most schools in California will end soon end up in School Improvement unless the law is revoked or changed. And he said that the minimum 700 API score and even the 30 point gain over three years will have the effect of encouraging charter schools, especially small schools with fluctuating API scores, to force out troubled and struggling students that many currently serve. There are more effective ways to hold charter schools accountable, according to Premack, who has been hired by school districts to do independent appraisals of charters up for renewal.

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  1. It’s not immediately clear to me why any school should be shut down, or fail to have its charter renewed, if (1) it is obeying applicable laws and keeping the promises made in its charter, (2) no one is filling their own pockets and getting rich off the venture, (3) there is no imminent danger to the students, and (4) a waiting list demonstrates viable, continuing public demand for the school. Failing these conditions, any attempt to shut down a school or to deny its legal right to exist represents the illegitimate oppression of one group of tax-paying citizens by another, usually due to the private agenda of the latter. Monopolies often try to enforce their advantages through legislatures, but the latter are wise to resist unless a compelling, overriding advantage resulting from that monopoly can be demonstrated. This is not generally considered to have been the case in California’s education, which in fact has not enforced a monopoly on its wealthier citizens, who can afford private schools, but only on the poor.

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  2. Charter schools have accountability, if the parents don’t like it they vote with their feet. Ultimately I would like neighborhood schools to be accountable to the population they serve and not to some arbitrary state test that does not test real life skills, problem solving ability or other higher levels of blooms taxonomy.  Schools should have a vote of confidence by the parents and failing to meet a certain threshold of parent satisfaction that the school is adequately preparing the students, the school would be forced to make changes or be closed.

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  3. If you can’t beat ‘em, take it to the Legislature and shut ‘em down. Truly disgusting. Well kids, too bad you cannot afford private school!

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  4. This legislation is unfortunate, and not just for charters.  I believe that this kind of reactionary throw-up-the-barricades approach to School Choice could have very negative impacts on public school funding generally in CA.  Charter schools are public schools too.  When you look past all of the rhetoric and demonization, they simply represent a different way to provide a free education for some of the less-well-served children in the next generation that we all will depend on someday.  Most households in CA do not have school-age children, and that segment is growing.  Most taxpayers in CA work in competitive settings where customers have choice, and where one has to work pretty hard, every day, to make sure that customers are getting the best possible products and services.  These taxpayers without school-age children rely largely on their work frame of reference to interpret how organizations work — or ought to work.  And increasingly, those people seem to see traditional public schools as archaic, byzantine organizations that operate in some kind of parallel universe, with concerns that are primarily bureaucratic, rather than responsive to their end users’ interests.  More and more, I see these people throw up their hands and say, “It’s hopeless.” How likely are those people to support education spending in Sacramento, or vote for a local school bond issue or a parcel tax?  This kind of legislation, which attempts to stick a finger in the dyke against Choice — rather than embracing society-wide trends toward more choice, more individualization, and more value — will provide another reason for all of those voters to say, “It’s hopeless.  There’s no point giving these people another dime.”  And that will not be good for anyone in education.

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  5. While I agree that Amiano is a prime example of government corruption, where a powerful political constituency is protected at the expense of other competitors, and the expense of all those who could be better served by those competitors, this isn’t just a matter of the parents who choose to send their kids to a charter and those who operate those charters. If those parents were just spending their own money, the role of government should indeed be very constrained. But all taxpayers are being forced to fund schools and so the interests of those taxpayers should be paramount. I’m fine with providing parents with choices as long as they aren’t in conflict with those interests. Foremost among those interests is that taxpayers should be receiving the best possible value for their dollars in terms of the educational outcomes from the schools they fund.

    I had thought the advantage of charters would be that if they failed to provided good academic performance, that they wouldn’t be allowed to continue to fail students and the taxpayers funding their education, unlike the way regular schools have been allowed continually fail with little consequence. That hasn’t been the case. I’m happy to see some reforms being proposed that would help end that, supported by charter advocates.

    I would like to see the worst of all poorly performing schools shut down. The continual improvement that’s possible is a function of demise of the worst players in any system. I’d like to see teachers willing to put their own livelihoods on the line by banding together to contract for taking over failing schools with charters that contained specific academic performance benchmarks. They could hire their own principles as their educational leader. But at least some of their compensation and their ability to continue would be contingent on performance. Since their own livelihoods were at stake, they would unlikely join with those they believed to be poorly-performing teachers and those who then turned out to be laggards would likely be asked to leave, if there weren’t unreasonable barriers to that occurring. It would be nice to see teachers who actually cared about, and were willing to be responsible for the educational attainment of their students freed from the corruption and constraints of so many government schools.

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  6. Alice, I agree with your accountability markers for neighborhood schools. As for Charters, I have been on the receiving end of  an excellent charter who would send students back to the local schools in the first three weeks of school. Usually, if not in every case, these were the students with underdeveloped language skills, lacking social skills, or mental health issues that made them very disruptive in a class. We all know that students with problems that we know little about helping, can wreck havoc with a class, especially if they are sent to a remedial class where many youngsters in the class have the same issues!

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  7. I agree with much of what you say, Jeff. The question (and this is a genuine question, not a rhetorical one) is what to do when there is real disagreement between, say, tax-paying non-parents and the parents of a particular, possibly extraordinary charter school regarding how to define good vs. poor “performance” (for example, see Alice Keeler’s comment above). In the Netherlands, for example, parents have a constitutional right to have their children educated as they see fit, even to the point of of having special schools established for them; they are, in this regard, probably the most empowered parents in the world. But if someone proposed an Al-Qaeda Madrasa under laws like these, would the other taxpayers have the obligation to fund it? It’s sometimes hard to know where to draw the line in these matters.
    And incidentally, I do know teachers like those you say you’d like to see in your third paragraph.

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  8. Bruce, the Dutch system does not allow children to be educated entirely “as the parents see fit”.  There is a national curriculum and national proficiency tests at various stages of secondary education to determine placement at the next level.  In addition, all teachers belong to the national teachers union.  It is conceivable that a school could ignore the national curriculum, but the “Madrasa” risk is low.  It would be difficult to implement such a program with accredited teachers, and the students would not be prepared to move onto the next stage of their education.  (There are several formal stages of schooling there.)  But your main point about parent empowerment is true.  The entire system is basically “voucherized”, with all types of schools on an even playing field in terms of funding, which follows the student.  Schools are operated independently, or in consortia, and there are no attendance boundaries and no “school districts” (think of how much that alone saves!).  Parent choice is less about curriculum and more about choosing a school based on the educational philosophy, school leadership and management practices, caliber of the teaching staff, and facilities.  Just as in the U.S., parents in The Netherlands know how to “investigate” a school and know how to look for “quality” factors that are important for their families.  (Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, and Chile also have systems offering significant school choice but with consistent national curricula and testing.)

    The important thing worth noting, I think, is that schools can be managed quite differently than we do in the U.S.  Looking at examples from other countries could be instructive for charters, even if our districts probably aren’t nimble enough to make such changes.  When I attended high school in the Netherlands (the system has changed somewhat since then), I attended a Benedictine school run by monks in hooded robes (even though I was not Catholic).  The school had no athletic fields, no swimming pool, no lockers, no library, and no cafeteria.  There was a gym and a paved central courtyard for recess, with covered areas for rainy days (most days).  We used the town’s good library when we needed books, and outside sports were done in the fields of the nearby public park.  Students interested in a given sport participated through the numerous club programs in the city.  Most students did at least one sport, and I would say that most students seemed pretty fit.  (Riding a bike to school every day helps.)  The facilities and academic program provided a huge contrast to my American high school, even though both served predominantly blue collar towns.  The instruction was more demanding than in my Dutch school, but I saw no evidence that the students were any more talented or “selected” than students in my American public high school.  (Although the school also prepared students for university admission, I was tracked into a program for non-university bound students, because of my rudimentary language skills.  Most of my classmates went on to trade and professional training, but not the university.  Here in the U.S., they would probably have split about evenly between community and four-year colleges.)  Some kids really struggled.  Everyone had to study at least two languages in addition to Dutch (there aren’t enough Dutch textbooks to study any discipline thoroughly at a post-secondary level, so students know they simply have to master English and read at least French or German).  Everyone also took math and science, every year, as well as history and social studies.  Even with a huge influx of immigrants over the past decade, Dutch students as a group still seem to perform well, based on OECD rankings, and with lower spending per pupil than we have in the U.S.  They don’t have the high poverty rates we have here, but I don’t think that fully explains why their non-poverty schools seem to perform so well, and so consistently.  There certainly isn’t some bureaucratic monstrosity breathing down their necks, micro-managing each school, or enforcing some artificial standard of “accountability”.  Personally, I think that the choice exercised by parents explains a lot.  Schools in The Netherlands can, and do, disappear when they fall out of favor with parents.

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  9. I’m not a huge fan of shutting down schools, including over test scores — and that includes charter schools that are functioning effectively enough to avoid giving grief to  the district’s elected board of education.
    But charter schools’ “long waiting list” claims are chronic BS. I can give you numerous examples (just ask) of highly hyped charter schools’ boasting of long waiting lists, while their other actions demonstrate that they’re actually desperately struggling to fill spots. (Reporters need to have their skepticism mechanisms operating at full throttle when reporting these claims, too — just make that quick undercover call to ask if the school has room for your child!)
    Also, the satisfaction of the families in the charter school is not the only valid gauge — far from it. For example: 10 years ago, when the San Francisco Unified School District was moving toward severing its contract for one charter school with then-hyped, now-fizzled, controversial, for-profit Edison Schools Inc., these issues were cited: Significantly higher costs (and other resource drains) to SFUSD than projected; dumping of special ed and other challenging students onto other schools; and low achievement.
    As it turned out, Edison’s client districts all over the nation had the same problems with Edison, which is why almost all of them are now former client districts. (It didn’t help that Edison had a practice of  contracting with a school district and then immediately issuing press releases bashing  its new client and touting its own superiority — for an enterprise that was supposed to bring free-market efficiencies to public education, you have to wonder about the efficacy of that practice. But sorry, I digress.)
    In any case, when a charter is dumping its challenging and costly-to-educate students on other schools, the parents of the non-dumpees in the charter school are likely to approve of that practice, aren’t they?  Also, until legislation corrected this a few years ago, California districts were required to fund charter schools at a set amount that in some districts meant that charter high schools got $800 more per student per year than non-charter high schools — meaning the students in the non-charter high schools were getting less to subsidize the charter high schools. Wouldn’t the parents in the charter high schools just love that situation?
    So, those are some clear reasons why the satisfaction of the charter parents is only one gauge for judging a charter school and should be greatly outweighed by the school’s overall impact of the charter on other schools and students and the entire district.

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  10. Thank you, Jim; this is a very insightful post. I’ve read about the Dutch schools, and know of their high PISA rankings (approximately the highest in Europe, excluding Finland), but haven’t had the pleasure of a first-hand account from someone who studied there and in the U.S. I think such rather easily gotten information can help suggest ways forward for us Americans. We also often overlook that the Europeans are producing scores competitive with ours in reading, math, and science while also making sure their students learn at least a couple of foreign languages. This may be another sign of greater efficiency in the use of time and money. Thanks again.

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  11. And yet we Americans profess admiration of successful European school systems but push to do things the exact opposite way.
    – We blame, bash, attack, vilify and deprofessionalize teachers, while school systems like that in the Netherlands respect them (well, I’m not sure how well Jim Mills’ hooded monks are paid, but I assume they’re not the norm). We especially attack teachers’ unions — which, after all, are professional organizations of teachers working together — while European cultures support unionized teaching forces, as Jim Mills states. (And now this blaming/bashing etc. is extending to all public employees, an attitude that is also not visible in European cultures.)
    – We set a ridiculous goal that all students must go to college, or the students and their schools are branded failures. Meanwhile, since we insist that college matriculation is the only successful outcome of K-12 education, we’ve discarded any semblance of vocational/technical education. European school systems track students into vocational or college tracks and provide a thorough vocational education system. How does anyone think this is viable?
    Subcategory: Our system makes college the expenditure of a lifetime (except possibly housing) for many families, while European systems (I don’t know about all of them: some/most/many) provide a low-cost college education. This makes our goal that all students must go to college even more ridiculous, to the point of being completely insane.
    Sub-subcategory: That fact makes it outrageous — uninformed or flagrantly dishonest — to compare U.S. college-going/college-graduation rates to those in Europe.
    – We regard expenditures on social welfare with increasing contempt and are working to shrink them to almost nothing (while giving generous tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and allowing major corporations to escape paying any taxes at all). European societies support strong social safety nets. I have Dutch friends with elderly parents living in the Netherlands, and it’s striking how little they have to worry about their parents’ getting care and support with the activities of daily living, compared to the degree to which we Americans have to worry about our parents in our increasingly cold and heartless “you’re on your own” society. And of course do we even need to go into the comparative health care systems?

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  12. Not to mention up to two or three years of paid maternity leave and free early childhood education programs.

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  13. Caroline, we admire the Dutch school system because they do certain things exactly the opposite of how we do things in the U.S..  They allow complete parent choice in school selection, and use that as the primary driver of accountability.  Here, we do almost exactly the opposite:  we rely on school district bureacracies, composed of people with often middling talents and limited concern for individual students, to make all sorts of micro-managerial decisions about quality and delivery processes that plague students, teachers, parents, and even site administrators — all without delivering substantive improvements after decades and billions of mis-spent dollars.  The central-planning model may make all sorts of sense from an intellectual perspective.  (I’ve spent enough time in Ivy League schools to understand the confidence that highly educated people tend to have about running the world for the rest of us.)  The problem is that this centralized, top-down, no-choice model just hasn’t worked — not from the days of the Supreme Soviet’s first 5-year plan, right up to the days of modern American school district administrations, one of the last bastions of Soviet-style planning.  I know that people in education always like to wait for “more research”, but come on!  It’s been 90 years!

    A digression…People used to think I was kidding when I said that the best preparation for working with school districts over the last 13 years was the time I spent traveling behind the Iron Curtain, before the Wall fell.  I can tell you, in all honesty, that this comparison is not a joke.  The mentality of that system, minus the gratuitous cruelty, is more prevalent than you might imagine in many school districts (particularly the large ones).  People in such systems are so convinced that they are working in the best interests of the “people” that they ignore all sorts of incredible daily indignities — the waste, inefficiency, lost time, low standards, miserarble outcomes, contemptible work environments, demeaning treatment at the hands of bungling managers, loss of professionalism, corruption, cheating, and of course, the ever-present anger and resentment toward others who have somehow “gamed” the system to get more.  And then, one day, they simply can’t ignore it anymore.  If you’ve ever gotten to know people living under such a system, and how they come to realize the need for change, you’ll get a glimpse of why more and more parents (and teachers!) are starting to demand “liberation” from our school district apparatchiks.  (Earnest reformers like Secretary of Education Arne Gorbachev think they’re going to tweak the system enough for it to survive.  My guess is that they’ll have about as much luck as Mikhail did…)

    Why the digression? Because it relates to an important area of agreement with Caroline. (I’ll ignore her indiscriminate cheers for those fabulous and famously solvent European welfare states).  She is absolutely correct that our increasing focus on having “everybody” go to college is misguided.  It is unfair to students with valuable skills and aptitudes that won’t benefit from a college program.  And it is unproductive for society as a whole, because those students often lose out on the training that we really need them to have to do their work.  Too many people in the U.S. graduate (or more accurately, don’t graduate) from college without the grades and skills to actually use their college experience in a career.  (And remember, our college completion rates are actually worse than our abysmal high school completion rates.)  As Caroline seems to recognize, it isn’t possible to adequately prepare students for non-college learning after high school if you try to force them into a college track curriculum during high school (assuming they tolerate it and don’t drop out).  But to offer an alternative curriculum almost always raises the charge of “tracking”, which I believe she is saying is not politically viable in our current educational system.  I agree.  Given our aversion in the U.S. to the very notion of different-aptitudes/different-outcomes, I’m not sure how any politicized entity like a school district can promote that option.  Part of the problem, again, lies in the centralized, one-size-fits-all monopoly nature of our school district structure (which as we know, some other countries don’t have).  Here again, School Choice can deliver benefits.  A school that is free to serve the unique needs of parents and children who are in that school by choice could tailor its programs to serve non-college bound students.  Parents who wanted another direction for their children would not be threatened by that school’s policies. They would simply enroll their children in a school that is more appropriate.  And that is exactly the kind of scenario that completely baffles defenders of our school district monopolies.  They want to introduce Gorbachev-like “reforms” and “individualized” approaches into a system that is almost designed to avoid differentiation.  Caroline’s concern for the non-college bound is perceptive and well-placed.  Her faith in the ability of the status quo to serve those students is not.

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  14. Thanks for exposing the Edison charade.  They were the charlatans of the touted competition for the Innovation Extrodinaire of past administrations. 

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  15. A response to Jim Mills:

    I would say that both of us are picking and choosing what we admire about the Dutch school system, based on how each item jibes with our personal views on controversial education policy issues. However, I’m hereby staking claim to the big-picture issues. The Dutch believe in respecting, supporting and rewarding teachers. The reformistas here do the opposite. The Dutch believe in adequately funding education. The reformistas here believe in defunding public education to divert funds to the fads and nostrums that they support, those that redirect public money into private pockets. The Dutch believe in a strong social safety net that combats the harmful effects of poverty. The reformistas here believe in blaming teachers for the effects of poverty.

    Regarding choice, I’m not an opponent of a fair choice system (if you Google, you can find me quoted in Reason magazine supporting San Francisco’s all-choice enrollment system). But a system that pits one “choice” against public schools as a weapon, and hypes that “choice” with deceit, fraud and trickery, is not a fair choice system.

    I certainly agree with you about the confidence that highly educated people have about running the world for the rest of us. Diane Ravitch cites the scholarly tome “Seeing Like a State” as a strong influence on her views. The book describes social experiments inflicted by those who viewed them from a great height, oblivious to the situation on the ground. But in discussing those highly educated people with that great confidence, you’re overlooking the point that the reformistas promote highly educated people with zero experience and expertise in education as those who should run the world for the rest of us; they scorn, disdain and devalue actual experience in classrooms.

    We who are battling the reformistas’ falsehoods object to our national education policy being set by people like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, who have no experience, expertise or qualifications except for being immensely wealthy. As my fellow Parents Across America founding member Sue Peters of Seattle asks, “Why should Bill Gates have more say over what happens in my child’s classroom than I do?”

    I don’t know what horrible hellhole school district you live in, Jim. Your experience with the horrors doesn’t reflect my experience in 24+ kid-years as an urban public school parent.

    By the way, I’m not opposed to tracking. I’m a pragmatist, and I think it’s a more effective way to meet the needs of individual students.

    I believe that it’s the non-educators whose views are far more respected today than those of educators who promote the “all kids must go to college or be failures” notion – either sincerely, out of sheer cluelessness, or cynically, as a way to set public schools up for failure.

    I do in fact respect our educational system and our teachers, and I do think that if the misguided notion that college is the only successful outcome of K-12 education would begone, and there were adequate funding, our educational system could restore an effective vocational/technical component.

    I dispute that my cheers for European “welfare states” are indiscriminate. European nations overall have far superior health and economic outcomes than ours – longer lifespans, lower infant mortality, far lower poverty. If they’re struggling to balance budgets, so are we, and we have horrible outcomes in those areas.

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  16. “San Francisco All Choice.”  Now that’s a hoot!   Lots of districts offer “open-enrollment” like that.  The “good” schools in a district, to the extent they exist, fill up fast, and then the devil takes the hindmost.  Some choice.   You can choose any school you want, so long as the same District still runs it.  Caroline, if Safeway were the only food market in the Bay Area, but with lots of stores to choose from, would you call that “choice”? 

    (To be fair to SF, the city also offers 10 or so charter schools.  But as we can all see, that’s too much choice for some people.)

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  17. You need better information about SFUSD, Jim Mills. While it’s true that the most popular schools get more applicants than they have openings and are hard to get into (which is also true of some charters, though not nearly as many as CLAIM it to be true), the number of popular schools has been expanding rapidly — “exploding” would not be an exaggeration — during the period that our district has been all-choice.
    Here’s a partial list of SFUSD schools that were largely viewed as unacceptable by middle-class families at the time we were first applying in 1996, and are now extremely popular: Miraloma Elementary (the neighborhood school we rejected, which under the choice system became one of the most popular schools in the district), Fairmount Elementary, Leonard Flynn Elementary, Alvarado Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Harvey Milk Elementary, Sunnyside Elementary, Jose Ortega Elementary, Peabody Elementary, Lafayette Elementary, McCoppin Elementary, Rosa Parks Elementary, Monroe Elementary, Robert L. Stevenson Elementary, Francis S. Key Elementary, Ulloa Elementary, Sunset Elementary, Marshall Elementary, Grattan Elementary, Aptos Middle (which my kids attended starting at the time it was inaccurately considered a “dirty,” “dangerous” “ghetto” school), Roosevelt Middle, James Lick Middle, Balboa High, Galileo High.
    SFUSD has a few charter schools. A couple, both unaffiliated with the corporate charter movement, are viewed as reasonably desirable — Gateway HS and Creative Arts, a K-8. Overall, SFUSD’s smattering of charter offerings is modest and basically wan. The two KIPP schools are not full and do not have splashy lotteries or waiting lists. That may because there is a good selection of non-charter schools to choose from. (There are some other charter schools that are hyped outside SFUSD and that have snookered the Chronicle into some inaccurate coverage*  but are actually not very successful or popular — those would be Leadership and the two Envision schools, City Arts & Tech and Metro Arts & Tech.)
    I’ve been a very involved SFUSD parent since 1996 — or 24+ kid-years and am pretty well informed, Jim Mills. Do you have information to counter mine?
    By the way, it’s the left-green-progressive contingent on our school board that has been the biggest booster of charters, with the more moderate members the better informed, clear-eyed skeptics.
    *I refer to a column by Chuck Nevius a few years ago puffing Envision Schools — a damage control project after Envision had to fold a school — that was completely non-reality based; and an op-ed package with Bruce Fuller’s byline also puffing CAT and Metro. Both were based on flat-out inaccurate information, which I will detail upon request.

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  18. It’s terrific that of the 105 traditional schools listed on the SFUSD web site, you consider 24 of them to be “popular”.  They aren’t quite popular enough to keep SF from having the highest percentage of students enrolled in private school of any major city in the state (3 in 10, triple the national average), but hey, I’m glad that you are happy with the “choice lite” arrangement (also called a “labyrithine assignment plan” by the NY Times, which may have joined up with the SF Chronicle, the “Greens”, and “billionaires” in the Great School Choice Conspiracy).  After so many years of apparent racial and ethnic discrimination in SFUSD, it’s good to see that a court settlement could move things in the right direction.

    The manager of my local Safeway probably feels that the other nearby Safeways are part of his competition.  And I’m sure he’s right.  But most of us in the neighborhood are glad that we have additional choices.

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  19. Jim, we are so off topic, but you really are just launching missiles from a position of very little knowledge — I don’t know why you bother. Do I launch arguments against you in areas where I know almost nothing and you’re thoroughly involved and informed? It’s a bit of a waste of time and energy.

    I’ll try to be brief with my responses.
    1. As I said, I was giving a partial list off the top of my head. That didn’t include the schools that were already popular and successful in 1996 when we were applying to K, and wasn’t a complete list either. Again, the list is, as I said, a partial, off-the-top-of-my-head list of schools that were viewed as failing in 1996 and are now popular and successful. PARTIAL. My point is that a large number of schools that were previously disdained became newly popular and successful under the all-choice system, and that number continues to increase. It would be interesting to count up the percentage of schools in SFUSD that count as “popular with the middle class” compared to other urban districts, but I don’t have the wherewithal to do that research.
    2. SFUSD has had an unchanging percentage of families going to private school for decades now, under a variety of assignment plans. The high percentage generally correlates with high income and also a high Catholic population, by the way (not to deny that families leave because they fear they can’t get into the top schools, because they fear the kids their kids might sit next to, etc.). However, it’s evident to the involved observer that families who in my time as an incoming K parent would have gone private without a thought have now begun taking SFUSD seriously as an option during the years of the choice process. If you look at the growing white percentage in our schools — higher and higher as you go down the grades, earlier and earlier  — you can see the likely result of that.
    3. The fact is that a choice system (whether for public, charter or private schools) will result in some schools that are oversubscribed and leave some applicants out, and yet in SFUSD, school after school has been improving to the point that applicants who got left out of the A list  schools start taking a new look at B list schools, which rapidly become A list schools. In my part of the city, watch Glen Park Elementary and Junipero Serra Elementary hit the A list in the next couple of years, for example.

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