Summer colds often reoccur and linger for many weeks—but they do not persist nearly as long as the seemingly endless and often erroneous content in Orange County Register editorials regarding Palm Lane Elementary School. Last Sunday (August 2), the paper reserved almost an entire page for two editorials to bemoan the appeal by the Anaheim City School District and its Board of Education of the recent court ruling to approve the conversion of Palm Lane into a charter school.

Writer Lisa Snell began with a patently false statement: “California’s charter schools have proven more effective [emphasis added] than traditionaAPI CHARTERl public schools at educating children who aren’t native English speakers,” a statement based upon a conclusion in Success for English Learners in Charter Schools, a report by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA, 2015). In fact, the report concluded: “Across several data sources and over several years, English learner student performance is higher at charter schools. . . . Some of the differences were modest” (p. 3). Behold the proven more effective performance of charter schools, as asserted by the CCSA (p. 17); note the misleading minimum score of 660.

In fact, during 2010–2013, the most recent years for which API scores are available, there was not a statistically significant difference between any pair of API scores. Scores each year for students in traditional schools and charter schools were virtually the same. (See figure below.)

Darrell Huff, author of APPIthe classic text, How to Lie With Statistics, referred to the type of figure created by the California Charter Schools Association as a “Gee-Whiz” graphic. Changing the proportion between the ordinate and the abscissa—truncating scores below 660—is biased and deceptive, used as a means of trickery to propagandize instead of to enlighten.

 

A second finding from the CCSA report was that enrollments for English learners were “lower at charter schools than at comparable traditional public schools” (p. 49). “Charter schools enroll 8% fewer EL students when compared to traditional public schools” (p. 23). That charter schools enrolled fewer EL students than traditional public schools likely accounts for some elevation in scores among EL students in charter schools.

Educational activist Gloria Romero charged board members with unlawfully snubbing the judge’s ruling: “It was nothing less than a smackdown.” Does the Board of Education have the right to appeal the decision of Judge Barnes? Of course. Romero, however, charged the district with resorting to bullying and secrecy, and “the trustees
. . . sued their own parents [sic] to prevent them from using the law.” Romero also falsely asserted that the board increased “the contract of the law firm they retained to fight parents.” The board increased the amount of the retainer, but to file an appeal is a legal right, and not synonymous with fighting parents. Moreover, the increase was needed to pay for additional legal services, not for the exclusive use to “fight parents.”

For the board to appeal the court’s ruling at this point seems questionable, but it has a legal right to do so. Romero also denounced members of the Board of Education: “Not one of the trustees actually bothered to attend one day of the trial.” It is my understanding that the board’s legal counsel discouraged board members from attending the July court proceedings. And contrary to Romero’s innuendos, the Register editorials did not cite any evidence that the Anaheim City School District and its Board of Education have not complied fully with the court’s decision.

This so-called reform effort to convert Palm Lane into a charter school seems to be much more about control and power than improving the school’s instructional programs. Snell concluded, “Sadly, however, Orange County has not been supportive of charter schools.” More remarkable is that parents throughout California have not supported converting traditional schools to charter schools. Since the enactment of the Parent Empowerment Act in 2010—more than 5 years ago—how many public schools in California have been converted from a traditional school to a charter school based upon the Parent Empowerment Act? One school.

In 2013, there were 5,802 public elementary schools and 1,288 public middle schools in California, a total of 7,090 elementary and middle schools. What is an appropriate word or phrase to describe a law that affects .014% of a population, in this case a law that has resulted in converting one traditional school to a charter school within 5 years following its passage? I nominate the word unneeded and the phrase a glorious waste of our legislators’ time.