Kring’s Resolution: An Object Lesson in Half-Truths

Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring reportedly prepared the resolution to support parents of children attending Palm Lane Elementary School in their effort to create a charter school (AnaheimBlog, Nov. 12, 2015). The resolution, scheduled for a vote by the City Council on February 24, is an object lesson in an anachronistic ritual, a message drowning in an ocean of WHEREASes.

MYTH

The resolution overflows with inaccuracy—and hopes for an education that a charter school will not likely provide, and offering no basis to believe otherwise. Selected sentences from the resolution are italicized below.

Every California child deserves the opportunity to have quality education. Agreed, but it is unlikely that a charter school will provide that quality (AnaheimBlog, Nov. 17, 2014).

Over 1000 schools have been rated by the state of California as chronically failing to provide a quality education to the children attending those schools. Not exactly. A quality education should never be confused with schools whose students fail to record a given score on tests—which reveal nothing useful and provide no basis for improving instruction.

Typically, student achievement in charter schools is less than student performance in regular public schools.

Public charter schools are a proven model for providing quality education to the children they serve. Total nonsense. Typically, student achievement in charter schools is less than student performance in regular public schools (Center for Research on Education Outcomes, 2013). It is therefore highly doubtful that parents can “fix their broken local school by converting it into a charter school” (AnaheimBlog, Feb. 12, 2015).

Palm Lane Elementary School in Anaheim has been listed by the State of California as a failing school for over 12 years. True, but other elementary schools in the Anaheim City School District have been regarded as failing for multiple years (AnaheimBlog, Jan. 28, 2015). More important is identifying causal reasons for substandard performance and implementing polices and instructional practices that result in improved achievement. The principal reasons substandard student performance at Palm Lane have nothing to do with Palm Lane’s teachers or instruction. Regrettably, there is no quick fix for changing socioeconomic factors or quickly improving a student’s English fluency or a family’s socioeconomic status.

Approving this resolution would be a right and honorable act. Right and honorable? There is no moral issue at stake, so why do Palm Lane parents need a formal vote by the City Council for exercising a legal right? No vote is needed.

22 comments

  1. Matthew Cunningham

    With all due respect, Hugh, your column comes across as the pot calling the kettle black:

    “Agreed, but it is unlikely that a charter school will provide that quality.”

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not to present their opinion as fact. You have no substantive basis for making that assertion regarding Palm Lane. None. Referring over and over to single policy study and concluding it is evidence that converting Palm Lane to a charter school will make no difference is an enormous leap of logic.

    I have no intention of trying to change your opinion about charter schools, Hugh. But your characterization of this resolution of full of half-truths doesn’t even rise to the level of half-truth.

    Your view, as you have presented it in this blog, is that there is really nothing that can be done in order to provide Palm Lane students with a better education. A large majority of the actual parents of Palm Lane students do not agree with you. They prefer to empower themselves rather than throw up there hands and say, “Oh well! Nothing can be done! Let us recognize the futility of action!”

  2. Matthew Cunningham

    Some other resources on whether charter schools work:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_dismal_science/2013/05/do_charter_schools_work_a_new_study_of_boston_schools_says_yes.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/07/two-new-studies-show-charter-schools-work-if-you-give-them-time/

    http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21596558-charter-schools-are-working-new-yorks-mayor-wants-stop-them-killing-golden

    And a key distinction between public charter schools and a conventional public schools is the when charter schools fail, they are closed. When conventional public schools fail, they just go right on failing, and are often given even more money.

    • MC: “A key distinction between public charter schools and a conventional public schools is the when charter schools fail, they are closed. When conventional public schools fail, they just go right on failing, and are often given even more money.”

      Your assertion regarding failure applies more to Congress than public schools.

      From Slate: “It’s naïve to think that charters will be the silver bullet that solves the education crisis in America.”

      From the Washington Post blog: “Much of the research suggests that students in charter schools don’t do quite as well as their peers in district schools.”

      From the Economist: “A 2013 study by Stanford University found that the typical Illinois charter pupil (most of them in Chicago) gained two weeks of additional learning in reading, and a month in maths, over their counterparts in traditional public schools.” I have quoted the same study numerous times. Wow: 10 extra days of learning in reading. That any real difference existed is statistically problematic.

      My conclusions are facts, not opinions. Student achievement in the vast majority of charter schools is less than the corresponding achievement of students attending public schools–a conclusion supported by the sources you cite. There are some charter schools whose students do better than achieved by students in public schools. But not many. Betting on the success of a charter school is like taking a hit in Blackjack when you’re holding 18. Not a good bet.

      • Way to double down, Hugh.

        Actual policy discussion. HT to you both.

      • Matthew Cunningham

        “Your assertion regarding failure applies more to Congress than public schools.”

        That was a deflection rather than a refutation, Hugh. What is the penalty for failure for a conventional public school? A charter school certainly cannot go on failing its students year after year and still keep its charter.

        From Slate: “It’s naïve to think that charters will be the silver bullet that solves the education crisis in America.”

        Who is claiming they are a silver bullet? I’m not. I do say expanding the education choices available to parents and students is a good thing – do you disagree?

        Wow: “10 extra days of learning in reading. That any real difference existed is statistically problematic.”

        So, based on a study of Illinois charter schools and your opinion that those additional days of reading and math instruction are insignificant, you would refuse Palm Lane the right to convert their school to charter status? And what do you propose for them as an alternative?

        Your conclusions are not facts, Hugh. They are your opinions, based at least in part on at least some findings from these studies. Those studies and others also contain positive data about charter schools that can be used to advocate in favor of expanding their use. My point is that there is not, as you imply, an empirically-supported consensus that charter schools don’t work or do not make a difference and are not worth starting.

        • HG: “Your assertion regarding failure applies more to Congress than public schools.”
          MC: “That was a deflection.”
          HG: True.

          You ask about the penalty for the failure of a conventional public school. Your discussion narrowly defines school failure as substandard scores on school tests. The passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required yearly testing and impossible long-term goals. The height of insanity was the program instituted in Santa Ana by its superintendent, Al Mijares: “Above the Mean.” The very definition of “mean” guarantees that on any task, 50% of persons participating will score below the mean (below average). NCLB mandated that all students would become proficient (score at least average on tests of reading and mathematics by 2014)—another absurdity. Both ideas are analogous of requiring all students to high jump 6 feet.

          NCLB required each state to adopt an accountability system (i.e., statewide testing). Each year, however, the bar for passing was set higher and higher. Informed educators, often criticized by the public, knew when NCLB it would not succeed (http://www.fairtest.org/torrent-testing-errors). The standard for proficiency on tests adopted by states, however, varied widely in their difficulty (e.g., Massachusetts) and easiness (e.g., Georgia).

          MC: Expanding the education choices available to parents and students is a good thing – do you disagree?

          Suppose you generally play one hand of Blackjack, but tonight you decide to play 10 hands at once. Do you expect to win more money because you play more hands while still following the same betting strategy?

          MC: Based on a study of Illinois charter schools . . . that those additional days of reading and math instruction are insignificant, you would refuse Palm Lane the right to convert their school to charter status?

          From the same national study you cite: “Existing [charter] schools on average don’t make strong improvements” (p. 88). The most comprehensive empirical support for this conclusion is Hattie’s findings (https://anaheimobserver.com/2014/11/17/school-differences-dont-make-difference-one-matters/).

          I have never argued that charter schools fail, only that the probability of improving a child’s education does not usually lie in attending a charter school, a conclusion well-documented in the professional literature. In fact, the most important factor in school success is the teacher—a topic almost entirely absent throughout the discussion of parental action at Palm Lane Elementary School. I will address the teacher in an upcoming post.

  3. What percentage of O.C. schools did not meet their AYP goal this year? Using tests to determine if a school is any good is ridiculous. I venture to say that there were a lot of successful students that have gone to that school. When it comes to NCLB it is always the glass is half full. Too bad they have such a myopic view.

    Why doesn’t the board create a resolution that says it understands that it’s not all the school’s fault.
    That the city bears some responsibility and has failed the families with respect to a living wage and safe neighborhoods and they should spend time addressing those issues. The social issues that have way more of an effect on student learning than any curriculum ever will.

    That no one cares if the Angels leave, because the land is more valuable if it’s sold and developed.
    That Disneyland does not own or run the city of Anaheim. That we should fix our broken immigration system.

    Pull the trigger on the politicians.

  4. Only public high schools and high school districts received AYP reports for 2014.

    • So then API is the measure?

      • “A law passed in 2012, Senate Bill (SB) 1458, called for significant changes to the composition of the state’s high school Academic Performance Index (API). In 2014, the California State Board of Education decided not to produce a Growth API for two years during the transition to the state’s new Common Core standards and Smarter Balanced assessments” (https://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Pages/UnderstandingTheAPI.aspx).

        • Matthew Cunningham

          OK – and in the meantime, while we wait to see if yet another top-down solution will move the public education needle, are these parents supposed to put their children in suspended animation and revive them when their school is providing the quality education they want for their kids?

          For literally decades, the public education establishment pleads for more money and time, accompanied by assurances that more money and more time will do the trick. The sad reality is that children don’t stop aging while the public educations establishment gives the people more of the same.

  5. Given the prospect that you’re going to be left torn and burned near a concrete planter in front of Anaheim City Hall for writing this, Hugh, you’d be welcome to continue presenting your thoughts on the subject at Orange Juice Blog sometime.

    Of course, this invitation may not make it out of moderation….

    • Matthew Cunningham

      On the contrary, Greg. I have great respect for Hugh, even on those occasions where we disagree. I never tell him what he can or cannot write about, and I am pleased he accepted my invitation to blog here and share his opinions.

      You see, since he and I are both mature, reasonable adults, we understand that disagreeing with another person doesn’t mean you have to seek to ruin or destroy that person, or cast aspersions on their motives or otherwise cast them as malicious for holding a different opinion. You and your cohorts might learn from that.

      • You’re funny — especially as (1) I come from a far more ideologically heterodox blog and (2) don’t market myself as a character assassin for (part of my) living.

        We tap years of government and political experience to assist you in building support for initiatives and projects, creating positive awareness of your organization or project and guiding clients through the governmental process. We’re experienced with effective strategies for favorably influencing elected leaders, government officials, and community and opinion leaders—building coalitions and mobilizing opinion in support of your goals, and neutralizing critics.

        I kick people off of the blog I manage — sometimes upon request and sometimes even without it — for trafficking in anonymous personal attacks. But for you, it’s just part of “media strategy.” Your “mature and reasonable” self-representation contains too much irony for my blood. Then again, when you say what you’re paid to say, rather than writing out of conviction, I suppose that it is easier not to care as much.

        • Matthew Cunningham

          Greg, chill out. Really. Try gaining some perspective, not to mention a clue about who I am – instead of this caricature you have built up in your feverish imagination.

        • So what if you don’t “market” yourself as a character assassin, Greg? That’s what you and Cynthia and Vern and your other little buddies are. You’re blog is a joke. Nobody except other kooks takes you seriously. It’s the same half-dozen people patting each other on the back and agreeing with each other’s posts and comments.

        • For someone who always questions another writer’s understanding of law, your understanding of the public relations and public affairs function is laughable especially if you think PR pros are paid to say what they say. That’s not how it works at all.

        • Of Course Greg can revert back to the paranoid practice of everyone being Dan/Matt/Henry Gattis/Robert Darely/TruckDrivin’ Mike/Skalleywag/Demagague (who I belive was an elected official!)/Red Vixen/ DKMFAN etc……..

          The thin veil in which he operates behind is sheer. Greg is DESPERATE for attention.

          Meanwhile the parents at Palm drive are desperate for a good school for their children, which is NOT what they have. CHARTER ON BABY!

  6. NCLB was a bad idea. Does anyone even think that Bush could even pass the high school exit exam?
    He brought us 8 years of tax cuts for the rich on the backs of the middle class. Here is his legacy.

    http://www.southerneducation.org/Our-Strategies/Research-and-Publications/New-Majority-Diverse-Majority-Report-Series/A-New-Majority-2015-Update-Low-Income-Students-Now

    A war in Iraq that he started by lying to the American people. We actually borrowed money to fight this war. How is Wolfawitz, Cheney and others not in prison? Shameful.

    And how much does money matter to finishing college?

    http://www.vox.com/2015/2/4/7978481/college-completion-charts

    Here is my opinion. As I have said before, the charter school movement is about money, under the guise of choice. Anyone who looks into this movement finds that they make very little difference at all in achievement. This movement will be like deregulation of banks and credit default swaps.

    The public will be used to make wall street and their friends more money. We will be left with a huge bill after they realize that student achievement is tied to…Wait for IT….economic and social problems.

    And because wall street fights against the raising of minimum wage, and they don’t want universal healthcare, because it would actually help more people and they would lose money. They also attack unions because they actually help the working person get a fair wage and benefits. Why are unions so vilified? They have done a whole lot for the middle class, and as their numbers decline in some areas, you see wages fall and poverty increase. People should look back over our history when business owners exploited its workers and bought influence with politicians. Gloria Romero and Bob Huff are no different, as is the Republican controlled Congress. They all spend their days trying to get re elected or making money off of their past service and using their influence to make money in the private sector.

    I am still waiting to hear back from Huff regarding SCE firing American workers to be replaced by people from India, and how they exploited our guest worker program to do it.

  7. Great post and a nice change from the tone of some of the others (not to mention the back and forth in the comments which sometimes seem like a junior high food fight). One big problem I see with parent trigger is that it never attempts to identify through any means the actual reasons a school’s test scores may lag. Is there large student turnover? Does it have a larger than average population of non English speakers or special ed students? None of those would be excuses to not provide the best education possible, but they are factors that parent trigger can’t really address. Another problem is that, absent any analysis of what the actual problem is (other than the single criteria the trigger uses, stand
    ardized test scores, and Palm Lanes have had a steady increase over the past decade), the solution offered is really a “pig in a poke.” In this case it is a charter school. But as you point out, charter schools perform no better or worse than traditional public schools. Compounding the problem in this case is no one knows WHICH charter school parents are being offered, or which, if any, have even expressed interest in taking over. At the risk of a comical analogy–as this is a serious matter for parents and students–this is the equivalent of asking someone to dump their not perfect spouse so he/she can be replaced by the mystery spouse behind Door Number 3. Basically parent trigger says “things are so bad, that without any analysis, virtually anything we replace it with will be better.” I’m not sure that’s a safe bet for parents and kids.

    • You understand the problem and the absence of an easy answer to solve it. Palm Lane Elementary School faces the same instructional difficulties coped with by other local schools whose students lack English proficiency. The implementation of Common Core Standards only increases the difficulty faced by these schools because the new testing system adopted by California is an instructional and administrative quagmire. I regret not knowing an effective means to help Palm Lane parents understand that changing school type will not likely change student performance.

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