The Small Schools Workshop, National-Louis University & Catalyst present:

Unions Organizing Charter School Teachers

A conversation with charter school activist Steve Barr and union leaders Marilyn Stewart and Jo Anderson

"If union bosses start patrolling their hallways, that’ll be the death knell of charters, as it has been for public schools." --Charter school advocate Clint Bolick
"We could have and probably should have organized
the Green Dot schools...They started with one charter school, now have
10, and in short order they’ll have 20 schools in Los Angeles, with all
the teachers paying dues to a different union. And that’s a
problem.”--UTLA President A.J. Duffy
In Los Angeles,
Steve Barr founded the Green Dot Public Schools, which currently
operate 10 high-performing, unionized public charter high schools. They
are about to start a new high school in New York in collaboration with
the UFT and its president, Randi Weingarten. Is Chicago next? How will local unions respond?
The Small Schools Workshop's Michael
Klonsky will moderate a panel discussion with Green Dot CEO Steve Barr,
CTU President Marilyn Stewart, and IEA Executive Director Jo Anderson,
exploring the role of teacher unions in charter schools in Chicago and
other Illinois districts.

Wednesday, August 15th, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Nationall-Louis University downtown campus, 122 S. Michigan Avenue, 2nd floor Atrium
This event is free of charge and open to the public.
For additional information:
Call: 773-384-1030 

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  • I keep hearing this story about how Charter schools kick out bad students. Is this true? Are there any stats regarding this? Is it possible that the children themselves decide they don't like the atmosphere at the Charter school? Are there stats showing the actual drop off rate of students in Chicago charter schools?

    It seems a lot of assumptions are made without any actual numbers to back them up. I'd like to see those numbers.

  • Re: Charter selectivity

    Charter schools *are* selective enrollment schools.

    The only real question is how that selection is made. And that comes down to two types of selectivity - active and passive.

    Active selectivity is obvious and similar to magnet schools: An admissions process guided by test scores and other academic or non-academic evaluation of the student and family.

    But passive selectivity is *always* in effect and that's important to recognize. So, what is passive selectivity?

    Unlike true neighborhood schools, where students are enrolled essentially by default, charter schools enroll students with parents who have the foresight, knowledge, motivation, time, and sometimes money to enroll their student in a charter. The mere fact that charters are not the default school for students makes them selective, even if that selection is not actively determined by charter policy. For instance, how did the parent find out about the charter? Do all parents know about all charters? Are parents aware that they have choices? Do parents care about improving a child's opportunity for success? Has the parent researched the charter? These issues and more all touch on ways in which charters are passively selective.

    Research clearly and consistently shows that the more active parents are in a child's education, the greater success that student will have in school. Charters select for a higher degree and/or higher incidence of parental involvement even if only taking the act of enrollment into account.

    But, you may say, parents can always choose to send their children to a different neighborhood school and that makes all neighborhood schools passively selective. No. That new neighborhood school is still, by default, primarily populated by neighborhood children. Charters are 100% schools of choice.

    Some charters are fabulous, some not so much, just like neighborhood schools. Some have good principals, some don't. Some have good teachers, some don't. And so on and so on. I don't think charters are a bad idea, though I would prefer that those teachers have the option of CTU membership. But because they are true 100% schools of choice, given the reasons above and others, they *are* selective. And that holds true even if populated by 95% neighborhood children.

  • 2:41, you wrote:

    Charter schools are not the panacea, but they do provide a better education for Chicago kids generally than non-charters.

    I agree that charters are not the panacea. And I believe they are a legitimate strategy for improving schools. But your second claim about charters, even generally, providing a better education is incorrect.

    Your claim might stand if charter schools were, in fact, educating the same students as true neighborhood schools. But they're not. Given the differences in student enrollment I mention in my previous post it is simply not an apples to apples comparison. Even so, research data, when taken as a *whole* rather than cherry-picked for its ability to support one side or the other, is inconclusive about the effectiveness of charter schools when compared to neighborhood schools. Do a google or ERIC search for meta-analyses of research on this topic and you'll see that it is entirely inconclusive.

  • In special education there has been a long history of public school district relationships with private special educaton schools that were run by not for profits. So Access Living and most other advocacy organizations for students with disabilities have no problem with school districts subcontracting with private schools.

    But we do have real concerns about the numbers of students with disabilities attending some charters, with numbers as high as 14%. The services these students need are in many cases simply not there. This creates a dynamic where charters who have enrolled seriously emotionally disturbed students for example try to find a way out of keeping the child. Not because they do not want to have these students, but rather because they feel abandoned by the school district. This results in counseling out in some cases. I have had two such cases at Access Living in the last year and I am sure there are more.

    The CPS needs to be transparent in presenting the special education funds going to charters either on the basis of per teacher reimbursment or on the basis of CPS special ed teachers who are assigned to charters by OSS. The CPS needs to be public in providing data on unfilled special eduation positions in charters and turnover rates for teachers in charters. Parents need this information in order to make informed choices for thier children. The CPS is not providing this information currently.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living

  • Charter school principal, you wrote:

    ...if there is any creaming, it is only for the parents that will fill out the enrollment form and figure out a way to get their child to our school.

    Do you really not think that effort and degree of caring is significant? And that it doesn't in some way effect your student population?

    You also wrote:

    I think that some of my fellow bloggers are trying to write off charters for being in some way selective.

    I don't write off charters because they are selective. I write them off because *on the whole* research data does not support the contention that charters are more effective. I also believe that charter school teachers should have the option to join the Chicago Teachers Union, but that's a discussion for another day.

    But charters *are* selective, and its an important issue. Comparing charters and true neighborhood schools is not a legitimate comparison because of that selectivity. Selectivity, even if passive, in my opinion has a significant effect on student performance. Charter and neighborhood student populations are different, even if charter students come from the neighborhood, if only because of the amount of care and effort charter parents put into a child's education. Is that difference significant? I believe it is.

    Of course there are other factors - teacher quality, fewer restrictions, etc. And I agree some charters schools do some things that work. Some neighborhood schools do some things that work as well. We should *all* learn from *any* school that works.

    Charter school principal, I hope you keep posting on 299. Your perspective is important and integral to this discussion.

  • Charlie,

    Excellent point on testing and data analysis. Cohort growth is clearly more important! How NCLB, states, school districts, and others came up with an evaluation system that ignores cohort growth is beyond me. (Have they been living in the Dark Ages?) My school is on probation and has been for years. The 11th grade students at my school do not meet 11th grade standards based on PSAE testing. But they achieve tremendous growth year to year, well beyond four years of development in the four years they are with us. Of course, that means doodley-squat to NCLB and such. Great comments!

    I guess we disagree on charter schools and selectivity. I'm attempting to find a doctoral candidate to study non-selective charters and the passive selectivity I've mentioned which I believe is significant. I'd be happy to be proved wrong. Regardless, there is always something to learn from a school that is effective no matter what the student population is.

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