Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mythbusting: We Didn't Win Race to the Top Because We Don't Have Charter Schools

It's everyone's favorite theory of the day!

Randy Dorn:
Dorn said in a telephone interview that he believed Washington was not chosen as a finalist because its application did not include a plan for allowing charter schools in the state.

Josh Feit:
While the education reform bill that passed in Olympia this session did gesture toward some of the Race to the Top goals like giving the state authority to intervene in failing schools; approving of alternative paths to teacher certification; extending teacher tenure from two years to three; and creating a new teacher and principal evaluation systems (like a four-tiered rating system instead of simply good or bad—and lowering the legal standard for getting rid of delinquent principles), it did not radically alter the teacher evaluation system—as Obama wants—by tracking evaluations to student data. Nor did it embrace charter schools, another Obama standard.

The Association of Washington Business:
Washington was not included as a Round 2 Finalist. One of the key reasons is Washington does not allow charter Schools.

The Seattle Times:
The fact that Washington wasn't a finalist didn't come as a surprise. From the beginning, many voiced concerns that Washington wasn't making the kinds of changes that would earn a high score in the competition, given the federal government's criteria.

Washington lost about 40 points off the bat, for example, because it doesn't allow the creation of charter schools.

The Politics Northwest Blog at the Seattle Times:
Washington state on Tuesday failed to advance in the competition for $3.4 billion in education grants under Race to the Top, a performance that could not been helped by voters' rejection of charter schools that are a key -- albeit not mandatory -- part of the Obama administration's reform agenda.
And first out of the gate to lay this at Governor's feet, Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center. She brings up the charters thing, too.

This is all well and good, but how about we ask someone who really knows: The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Finds Eight Race to the Top Finalists Supportive of Charter Schools
Well, that's interesting, since there's 19 finalists. Let's skip ahead in their press release, but I'd encourage you to read the whole thing:
Unfortunately, three finalists fail to meet at least one Race to the Top guideline because they continue to block charter school growth. They are: Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio. Despite education reform efforts that may exist in these states, they are keeping high-quality charter schools from bringing parents another public school option. Kentucky, in particular, has yet to pass a charter school law.
Three more states with no charter schools, and yet they made it through to round 2. If it killed us, how come it didn't kill them?
Maryland, also a finalist, was shown to have the worst charter school law in the country according to our rankings.
The worst charter school law in the country. The absolute worst. They're a finalist, too.

For more evidence, go look at the detailed scores from the first round of the Race to the Top grants. Remember there that 41 states had applied and only two (Delaware and Tennessee) were awareded the grants. Given that, you'd think from all the sturm und drang above that it must have been the charter school points that set them apart, right?

Not really. Out of 40 points, Delaware scored 31, Tennessee scored 30. 14 states scored higher than both of them. The two places that got perfect scores for charters, Colorado and DC, were only in the middle of the pack for overall score.

We won't really know what impact our lack-of charter schools law had until they release the scores at the beginning of September. I'd suspect it'll probably be a lower score than most, but we don't know what the overall impact of our "innovation schools" gambit will be until then (innovation schools like Aviation High, which Secretary Duncan visited two weeks ago. Given that, and based on the available evidence so far, it's intellectually dishonest to say that charter schools killed Washington State's application.

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