Who among us is not in favor of recycling? In that regard, Charles Chieppo’s recent Guest View (“MCAS story is getting tired,” Dec. 16) deserves kudos.
In parroting one of the favorite rote messages from the charter-school-industrial-complex, Chieppo, again, claimed that, ”charter schools were another success that emerged from education reform.” Despite the existence of not a single shred of proof that charters are any more successful than traditional public schools, Chieppo served up that aperitif in advance of the main course.
“Last year, a Stanford University study called Massachusetts’ charters the nation’s best and found that Boston charter schools do more to close the achievement gap than any group of public schools in the country,” he wrote.
Studies, from even the most prestigious universities, while often informative and topical, have neither quantified that charters are better than traditional public schools nor have they shown charters measure up to their enormous public relations bombast. Despite repeated and insistent attempts, no study or statistical analysis has yet shown that.
But the Stanford University reference is a common refrain in charter school circles. On these same pages, in another Guest View last month by another charter school balladeer, Sephira Shuttlesworth wrote:
“A Stanford University study found that the commonwealth has the nation’s best charters, and that Boston charter schools are doing more to close race- and poverty-based achievement gaps than any other group of public schools in the country.”
And the point Chieppo makes on MCAS is also redundant: “The term most often used to describe this year’s MCAS scores was 'stagnant.' It’s a word with negative connotations.”
The vast majority of top education experts all agree that MCAS scores, like other statistical measures Chieppo mentions, including National Assessment of Educational Progress, are but one aspect of a student’s profile. Students from lower economic strata, learning-disabled, and/or English-Language Learners — all subgroups that charters turn away in droves — are grievously underserved. Updated and “innovative” ideas about how to use alternative assessment like portfolios to demonstrate proficiency ought to be the primary focus of student growth.
Where is Chieppo and the vanguard of the corporate privatizers on that pressing question? Why do they never discuss better ways to educate and graduate the bottom 5 percent of our school population who “fall through the cracks”?
They are standing in the perpetual dry rot and mummification of standardized testing as the one-size-fits all solution to educating our students. As the national movement against privatization gains momentum, think tank, born again, education reformers like the Pioneer Institute have apparently decided to double down. Evidence of this is their increasingly harsh attacks after the Massachusetts Legislature resoundingly rejected the lift of the charter school cap.
Chieppo, senior fellow of the Center for School Reform at the Pioneer Institute, blamed Gov. Deval Patrick for the “stagnation” because he “eliminated the commonwealth’s independent school district’s accountability office.”
And with “no federal money on the line,” Chieppo blamed, “Mitchell Chester, Gov. Patrick’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, (who) opposed a recent attempt to lift the charter cap in poorly performing school districts and it failed earlier this year.”
There was comfort, however, for Chieppo in the familiar safe haven of the 1993 Education Reform Act, that, in his view, "(was) put in place in the face of fierce special interest opposition.”
There is hope still for the charter folks, dazed by the rejection of the charter cap lift last spring, but ready to jab and counterpunch now with the election of Charlie Baker to the overnorship of Massachusetts. Baker, an avowed charter school wonk, is one of their own.
Prior to the charter cap defeat, Baker, then a gubernatorial hopeful, said in a statement, "Now is the time for lawmakers to act and lift the charter cap for children stuck in under-performing schools. Access to quality schools in our cities requires immediate action and lawmakers should not sit on their hands as the opportunity to offer families hope for a better education ticks by."
Baker is, also, a former Pioneer Institute executive director. Just another example of recycling,-charter school style.