Sunday, May 19, 2013

You're not entitled to your own facts, Mr. Nemeth

It's been some time since I hit a nerve with Mr. Nemeth over at the Sunday Telegram, so I suppose I was overdue. 

For those wondering just what he's referencing, the letter to the editor was in the Boston Globe, not the T&G, so you may well not have seen it. It was in reference to their (not surprisingly for the Globe) one-sided coverage of the charter school hearing at the State House last week. And the Globe has a strict 180 word limit on letters to the editor (mine clocked in at 178 before it was edited further by them), thus it was rather short. 

With all due respect to Mr. Nemeth, I was at the hearing last week at the State House. It's not that big of a room, so I know that he was not. Thus I not only heard the testimony of the pro-charter forces; I heard the testimony of the gentleman from Stanford, flown in specially by the Boston Foundation to present his findings. Representative Denise Garlick of Needham, the House Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, directly asked him if he had controlled for the affect of parents on educational attainment when comparing charter schools and regular public schools.
Not only did he concede that they had not; he said that any such study would be unable to do so, as parents had "opted into school of choice."
That's not dishonest, Mr. Nemeth; that's what he said. 

As for whether charter schools exclude particular students, the numbers speak for themselves. Here, for example, are Spirit of Knowledge's 2012 numbers as compared to the Worcester Public Schools:
  • Spirit of Knowledge serves 31.2% low income students; WPS serves 70.1%
  • SoKA serves 11.9% special education students; WPS 20.9%
  • SoKA serves 15.6% ELL; WPS 24.3%
Here, in case you're interested, are SOKA's 2011 numbers. I haven't asked for 2013, because frankly it's rather depressing to keep asking the same question and getting the same answer. Perhaps now that SOKA is on the Board of Education's agenda for Tuesday, I will. Of SOKA, Commissioner Chester says:

 In nearly three years of operation, SOKCS has employed four executive directors, has not maintained a sound or stable financial condition, has failed to maintain adequate membership on its board of trustees, has not provided the academic model proposed in its charter, has not shown promising academic results, has a significantly decreased enrollment from what it projected in its application, and will face financial challenges as a result of its drop in enrollment.
And that's just one of Worcester's charter schools. While Worcester's other two charter schools are (thankfully for their students) not so benighted, the comparisons of population would reveal similar trends.
So the makeup of Worcester's charter schools is not that of the general WPS population, Mr. Nemeth. That's the truth.

I'm more than happy to argue the relative merits of charter schools with Mr. Nemeth or with anyone. 
I do take issue with being called a liar in print on the Sunday editorial page.
I get my facts straight before I write or speak. I would suggest that Mr. Nemeth do the same.

You're entitled to your own opinion, Mr. Nemeth; you're not entitled to your own facts. 

1 comment:

Jim Gonyea said...

One thing in the charter school discussions that is often over looked is the opt in process. Charter schools require application. The parents who choose to apply are very motivated and engaged in their children's education. Because of the engagement of the parents these kids are going to do well no matter where they are. I will always argue that the education performance of a child is most impacted by the engagement level of the parent. And simply by choosing to make an application the parents have shown themselves to be engaged. And this is a piece that Nemeth and the Shadowy Editorial Board of the Telegram fail to even consider. They think charter schools have some sort of educational magic wand.

Here's a test that would be interesting. Take a charter school and make it's enrollment a random lottery of all students that has a constraint in that the lottery needs to reflect the demographics of the host community. Then see how the test results work. Not only will you remove the factor of motivated parents, but you'll also remove the demographics aspect. Then after five years you'll have a better picture if it's the model or the demographics of the student body that is the differentiator. Obviously I have my opinion.