WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Closing a low-performing charter school: Good for kids? Really?

I always pitied kids whose parents moved, forcing those young people to attend new schools, make new friends and often adapt to a different curriculum, different teaching practices and expectations, etc. Even some kids from solidly middle-class backgrounds struggled with the transition.

That's how I feel about the announced, anticlimactic closure of the Reach Academy for Girls at the end of the current academic year. The axe falls. Another Delaware charter school bites the dust. This will be the FIFTH Delaware charter school to close since 2002.

State education officials insist this is in the best interest of the students. Really? Prove it. Track these students for a couple of years, and give us some success stories where low-performing students from Reach suddenly catapulted to academic excellence at their future schools. Or will the opposite happen? Demoralized by the closure of Reach, I'm guessing at least some of these young people will only feel alienation. Further, it won't help that the feeder schools to which Reach's former students are sent also struggle academically.

More than ever, I'm convinced charter schools - just like vouchers - are no panacea. If a school has selective admissions criteria, and ends up with students from relatively affluent backgrounds, of course it's going to do well (while draining the student pool from "traditional" schools). If the student body of a school hails from poor or working class neighborhoods, not so much! Little different from Milwaukee's two-decades-long experience with vouchers for poor students. Add to that equation inexperenced and/or inept administrators, and you've only compounded the problem. Too often, charter schools have become little fiefdoms for their founders/administrators.

The Maurice J. Moyer Academy closes, morphs into the 'New' Moyer Academy, and new concerns abound about the New Moyer's enrollment and curriculum.

Fly-by-night schools. I'd hate to be a kid worrying whether my school was about to close.

Remember the case of Delaware Military Academy? The state Auditor's office found Superintendent Jack Wintermantel, the leader and co-founder of DMA, frequently received double compensation for school expenses he charged to his personal credit card. And the audit report found Wintermantel continued this activity despite two warnings from the Secretary of Finance. But DMA's future is not in doubt. Given its more middle-class pedigree and its very mission, the knives won't be out for DMA.

By the way, I stumbled onto this blog, "Charter School Scandals"...


Posted at 7:11am on November 13, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Wed, Nov 13, 2013 5:50pm

Allan, I don't see the point you are trying to make here.

Either the schools are educating kids to measure up to the state standards, or they aren't. Are you saying that it is more important to keep the kids in bad schools so they won't feel alienated?

"Demoralized by the closure of Reach, I'm guessing at least some of these young people will only feel alienation." I think they also might be demoralized by realizing that their principals are crooks, their teachers aren't competent, and that they themselves can't read and do arithmetic.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Nov 13, 2013 7:16pm

I am making three points.

(1). Shifting students between schools, especially under such negative circumstances, is - in itself - a traumatic event. Even well-off kids who frequently change schools because of family moves suffer.

(2). It's likely most of these young girls will end up in feeder schools that aren't necessarily that much better than the poorly performing charter school they left.

(3). The Charter school movement has substantially failed to change outcomes all that much: Schools with disadvantaged kids still produce mostly mediocre outcomes. Schools with selective admissions criteria and student populations derived from mainly upper middle-class families (Charter School of Wilmington) will, of course, skyrocket to the top. Meanwhile, such schools bleed upper-end students from traditional schools, and therefore it shouldn't come as some great shock that the traditional schools aren't exactly hitting the ball out of the ballpark when it comes to test scores.

Allan Loudell

Thu, Nov 14, 2013 1:35am
Dunmore cannot be faulted for his misconception. If you don't know how good today's public schools are, but get told how bad they are, you probably are going to believe the myth you are told.

Human nature.

But that myth is not so. Children today are smarter and know more on these standardized tests, than you do or did. No one put us in charters; in fact, we thought we were getting a great education in our public schools... Speaking as an impartial observer, it sure looks like our generation did.

So how can today's school-aged generation be smarter than us, but be doing so poorly? Because the goals were shifted. It is if you took the Philadelphia Eagles, and said: Winning games is not important. From now on you must win games by 35 points or we are going to have to call it a loss.... Then you berate the Philadelphia Eagles for losing all the time! You fire the coach. You replace the players, and you still lose. You do it all again. The team gets so bedoozled; they play worse than they did before the changes...

That in a microcosm is exactly what is happening right now in our school systems...

The public school system was working until we broke it. We broke it by shifting the standard to a unreal level.... and now, everything is in disarray.

So now, in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee, the total average test scores of those city districts, between charters, vouchers and the what was left of public education are lower, than they were when they had only public schools....

If you want to fix education, you tax the wealthy whatever it takes, go with an 11:1 student/teacher ratio in schools with high poverty, and let teachers teach....

That is what every other country we have to compete with, is doing...

So, I hope you are now more knowledgeable about education and understand that charters destroy the very fabric of a city, state's or nation's educational system even when they succeed, and especially when they fail....

Thu, Nov 14, 2013 6:53am
Allan -

1 - I agree that moving can be "traumatic" on kids. I moved several times during elementary school, and it was difficult to start over. Losing a parent is traumatic, making new friends is merely difficult.

2 - I have no children so don't follow the local school scene much, but I would hope that if the feeder schools that these displaced kids return to aren't any better than the charters, they should be closed too. I don't know how that works.

3 - I thought the whole idea of charters was to bleed the more desirable students from traditional schools.

Kavips - I read of many college professors and administrators complaining that incoming freshman have to take remedial mathematics and writing classes instead of moving directly into college curricula.

As an example, UD offers: "Math 010 is a remedial math course and provides instruction on the algebraic skills needed for Math 114, Math 115, Math 117. It is a non-college credit math course." How do high expectations lead to this?

Thu, Nov 14, 2013 8:09am
Dunmore. Good point. Not all students make it through high school with math skills needed for Math 117. But that was always the case. Most never needed those skills the rest of their lives. Those courses are offered for those who do.

But if you look at the number of students to take them versus going into the regular programs, it shows immediately that our schools are not in desperate throes..

Somewhere I heard that class represents 1% of the incoming freshmen. One has to be careful of taking isolated cases and extrapolating major diversions because of them....

The human tendency is to hear stories like yours and go: "oh, that's terrible". When the truth is, 99% are doing just fine....

But it is nice that the University does offer such classes to assist those who want to go onward, but fell through the cracks...

Thu, Nov 14, 2013 9:20am
Kavips, I found an internet resource discussing the "readiness gap" in incoming freshman at various types of higher education facilities. This term refers to the number of students requiring remedial education, either math or language skills. For "selective" four-year programs it was about 10%, for state 4-year schools it was around 50%, and for two-year schools (Del Tech, etc.) it was over 60%.

I don't think that high schools churning out a good percentage of their students without college skills is a few kids falling through the cracks.

The link is here. I haven't researched the politics behind this group so I can't say if they are reliable.


Thu, Nov 14, 2013 9:54am
Thank you for that link. I'm working on that now; it's big. As of the first page of their report, it was sponsored by Achieve, which is financially in bed with the formation of the Common Core Standards... So they do have a financial incentive to exaggerate the downgrade in the quality of education.... not that this automatically negates their data. But, it does in the very least, create suspicion... I'm trying to flesh out their sources.

More later. :)

Thu, Nov 14, 2013 1:56pm
Kavips, ignore that report I mentioned earlier. I can find no evidence that they did any research. It looks just like a position paper that they issued to raise money and/or promote a pet project.

I have found no good research on the question of remedial education needed by college freshmen. Here is an article from Huffington (which I do not trust) that mentions that 1.7 million college students take remedial classes, but again, there is no research, just quotes from other sources.

This is an interesting issue and apparently most of the information is either fabricated or anecdotal. I will research a little more.


Thu, Nov 14, 2013 2:37pm
Kavips, OK, real data here. It looks like about 20-25% of incoming college students take remedial courses (data from 2007-2008).


Tue, Nov 19, 2013 12:34am
Sorry so late getting back. You were too late in warning me to back off from your first report. I deconstructed it entirely and found that the author of that report which incidentally that report was the sole source of data providing the proper outrage for Common Core to be created, ... actually, believe it or not, added the 33.5% of Californians not ready for prime time in English, to the 34.5% of Californians not ready for prime time in Math, to get that 68% of incoming student who were not proficient in math or English.... (for the mathematically disinclined, one cannot add percents of different categories to get a sum)

The standards you quote of 25% seem real and are very much in line with the California data used for that report....

Common Core was founded on a farce... 68% not ready for college? The rebuttal was published btw, in a major part thanks to you comment... :)

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