Charter school debate, Take 2

It’s happening, after all, from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Yes, it takes place in the Oakland school district administration building, in Hunter Hall, but it’s not being sponsored by OUSD, according to a disclaimer on the news release.

You’ll see the original players, as advertised the first time around

and some new ones, perhaps added to temper the panel: Kristin Gallagher, principal of Millsmont Charter School; Hugo Arabia, principal of Oasis High School Charter School; and Kim Shipp, former OUSD parent — and now Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland teacher union Jack Gerson, a teacher at Leadership Prep (Castlemont).

Chris Dobbins, the school board member who put this together, is moderating the whole thing. Here’s the gist, straight from the release:

Anyone who heard President Barack Obama call this month for more, not fewer, charter schools must recognize that charter schools are here to stay. For too long, the debate about charter schools in Oakland has focused on whether or not they should be allowed. That debate is over. We must now ask ourselves how charter schools and district schools can best serve all of Oakland’s students.

The purpose of this debate is to have an open dialogue about the tension between charter schools and district schools. The idea is to explore the community’s thoughts and concerns about these two types of public education. The event will be a success if participants leave with a deeper understanding of ways district schools and charter schools can complement each other.

There are strong perceptions on both sides. Do charter schools “cream” the best students? Do they neglect special education students? Are they staff by ill-prepared teachers and administrators? Are district schools mired by statutes and regulations? Are they tied too closely to unions? Do they shirk accountability?

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • La Voz

    Why create this circus? Anything connected with Chavis has a big top feel! This is going to make Oakland- forget about charters or district schools- look bad.

    Why is Dobbins allowing this circus to happen? Are there any other board members involved? Just read the media and posts.

    Yeah everyone cant wait-especially Chavis you watch!

  • Catherine

    If our students where performing well at our public middle schools, we would leave no room for charter schools to gain footing.

  • Pete, concerned parent

    I look at the public schools in Oakland, and I fear for my kids. At least my kids are still in the early elementary school age. But looking at middle schools and high schools here, it’s just a joke! Does anybody take a look at the API scores for these schools?? I don’t understand how anyone can criticize a charter school that outperforms a district school, when the point is that the charter school is doing a fantastic job at educating children. That’s where I want my kids to go! OUSD needs to emulate what the charter school is doing and get to the bottom of the problem: There is no DISCIPLINE in these low performing schools. Get it together OUSD!!

  • Loreta

    La Voz, you have it wrong. Chavis is not the circus. Children not learning, being passed to the next grade unprepared by the public school, that’s the circus.

  • J.R.

    I’ll let you in on a secret, charter school teachers and public school teachers are no different quality wise(many teachers alternate between the two). The difference-maker for charter schools is: they are not required to educate any and all students(you know the trouble-makers who cost so much instructional time, special needs and so forth). If you just look at the stats you would see this for yourself.Any school that is free of disruptive students who don’t want to learn, will do well. It’s not magic, just the student selection process.

  • Pete, Concerned Parent

    J.R. where did you get that information that charter schools don’t have troublemakers? That’s ridiculous. Of course there are troublemakers in charter schools, the difference is that there are consequences for their behavior. I agree that the quality of teachers are the same but you just made my point..there is no discipline in the public schools. Why are troublemakers allowed to misbehave in public schools? Why are students allowed to be disruptive in public schools? Because the schools have no form of discipline or consequences for their behavior. The charter school does have a way to deal with trouble makers/disruptive students. OUSD needs to check it out and see what is working. The problem is that teachers/principals are afraid of being sued! OUSD won’t back these principals/teachers up! Get off your butt OUSD!

  • Katy Murphy

    Not to interrupt the discussion, but did anyone make it to the charter school debate tonight?

    I meant to drop by, at least for part of it, but it was a hectic day to begin with, and unexpected news (i.e. the Oakland Tech robbery) threw my schedule for a loop.

  • Harold

    Pete – OUSD schools have to take any and all students. Charter schools routinely, recruit, the better students. that’s fine and dandy, but regular OUSD schools take every student. Fresh off of a plane from another country -OUSD. Severely disbled -OUSD. Been kicked out of a school -OUSD. ELL -OUSD. Thankfully, even with all the troubles OUSD has… we’re still more equipped to deal with every child (more so than charters). Your disdain aside; we will keep trying our best – every day.

    If students screw up in a charter, they will get booted and have to enroll in a OUSD school. The opposite isn’t true. If you are disruptive and get a DHP. You will not be welcomed with open arms in a charter school. There is a conspiracy to destroy public schools and Teacher Unions. Don’t fall for it. Cause if it works – your precious charter schools will be paying salaries less than the paltry wages Teachers the Archdiocese pays. And those API will fall along with the salaries.

  • J.R.

    The law requires that every child has a right to an education, so the public schools must comply with the law. Charter school parents are held responsible for the conduct of their child, and sign an agreement to that effect(and are not required to accept every child). Public schools are by law required to accept every child bend over backwards to the parents and children in the area of discipline(not the other way around like in my day).The bureaucracy has tied the educators hands on the issue of discipline due to threat of lawsuit(I guess?)Teachers are limited to imposing glorified time outs, and mini vacations.

  • Chauncey

    what happened to Ben? That was the ticket, instead we got some bums who were boring as hell!

  • Jose


    Do you think he was afraid to show up?

    La Voz, You said Chaves could’nt wait to be at the event. What happened?

  • aly

    Pete- i teach at the expulsion school for our district. without exposing details, i’ll tell you that the kids from the OUSD schools get expelled for offenses such as drugs, weapons, and assaults.

    kids we’ve received from the charter schools are expelled for “demerits” (which come from tardies, mostly…), a single fight, or verbal outbursts towards teachers. the charter kids that come to my school have committed what, as far as ed code goes, are very minor offenses. an ousd school could not legally expel them for the same things.

    i absolutely will not deny that the quality of the education at the charter schools is awesome. i love getting to go visit charters and see all of the learning taking place, but the kids i see there are most definitely on contracts with parents who are super-involved and dedicated to their children’s success. charter schools cherry-pick without a doubt.

    despite the charters’ choosiness, i accept their role and existence because i am grateful that the environment exists for those students who otherwise may not have made it out of oakland. i just know that i have kids who are just as capable with far less support and direction and couldn’t handle what charters expect of them.

    public schools and charters need to co-exist, as far as i can tell. the struggle is how to ensure they each get what they need instead of one winning out over the other.

  • J.R.

    Parents need to start visiting classrooms and see for themselves, much like the citizen ride-alongs with police. Just go and see what police and teachers do for a day, you will be shocked when you see how much they put up with.Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Go and see for yourself!

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    Hey, I want to know too — did Ben Chavis not show up? What happened? I had another meeting or would have been there.

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    Aly, your information is really valuable, but actually this isn’t necessarily true:

    i absolutely will not deny that the quality of the education at the charter schools is awesome.

    Despite all that creaming, the bountiful checks from the Billionaire Boys’ Club, the support of the well-funded charter establishment in other ways, and the puffy press they so often get (present company excepted, Katy), many charters are very unsuccessful academically, and their test scores show it.

    It’s not really amusing, for example, but my attention was caught a few years ago by a gushing piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on that aviation charter school in Oakland. The school hadn’t opened yet, but the reporter predicted that it would be an academic success, and quoted a future student who said he expected to do very well there in the future. (The possibilities this opens up to news reporting on events that haven’t happened yet are intriguing…) The outrageousness of that news reporting struck me so forcefully that I haevn’t forgotten it, so I did look up the school, and to stick with the aviation metaphor, its test scores have crashed and burned. (Hmm, I wonder if the former reporter now works for the wealthier-than-God charter school industry, a route other education reporters have taken.)

    anyway, just need to dispel the notion that charter schools are doing so great. Overall, they do no better than traditional public schools.

  • J.R.

    Just to be fair and balanced,I have a gripe with traditional schools on a few issues
    1.The education system has more layers than an onion(why do we need state,county, and local superintendents(and asst. supes).
    2.Principals should have the autonomy to make their schools run better(the ability to discipline and if necessary fire sub-standard teachers.
    3.Principals need more latitude in the area of corporal punishment for habitually undisciplined disobedient children.

  • Chris Dobbins

    Hey Everyone,

    Thanks to all for being in attendance that evening. We had over 80 people in the audience and I believe some important issues were raised. We are planning to have a follow-up debate/discussion sometime in May. In terms of Dr. Chavis, he apologized (and I announced that evening) that since he was friends with two of the officers, he attended their memorial instead. He will definitely be at the next debate in May.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    I’ve used the most recent figures available on DataQuest to compare charter school enrollment for grades 9-12 with OUSD’s district wide enrollment. When I get time, I’ll find the figures for OUSD’s regular high schools.


    African American: 28.6 vs. 34.8.
    Asian: 6.9 vs. 13.4
    Latino: 56.6 vs. 37.3
    White: 2.5 vs. 6.5
    Multiple or no response: 3.6 vs. 5.8

    Socioeconomic disadvantage: 68.5 vs. 64.0
    English Learners: 21.8 vs. 30.0
    Students w/disabilities: 2.6 vs. 10.0

    The district-wide API for students w/disabilities is 470. The district-wide API for all students is 674. If regular OUSD schools have approximately 3.8 times the number of students w/disabilities that charters do, take a wild guess at how their API’s will be affected.

    The charter schools which have a total of 2247 students in grades 9-12 for this school year (12710 total in district) are American Indian Public HS, Arise HS, Bay Tech, East Oakland Leadership Academy, Lighthouse Comm. Charter HS, LPS College Park, Millsmont Academy Secondary, Oakland Aviation HS, Oakland Charter Academy High, Oakland Military Institute College Prep, Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland Unity High, Oasis High, and Wilson College Prep. I didn’t include Civicorp Academy, an ungraded, high school recovery program for ages 18-24.

    American Indian Public HS, Arise HS, Oakland Charter Academy High, and Oasis High had zero students w/disabilities according to DataQuest’s most recent STAR reporting.

  • aly

    caroline: you are right. i was generalizing, and it is not at all true that all charters are awesome. i am thinking of select schools that i’ve visited and have experience with, particularly the aspire schools.

    aviation is struggling, as are many others. i will admit that i don’t like pointing the finger at struggling charters because with our public schools having a difficult time keeping up, it seems unfair to call the kettle black.

    the charter schools that seem to do the best with their kids- and in ways beyond test scores- are the ones that are linked to established families of schools. aspire, kipp, and leadership schools (not related to the leadership high at castlemont) come to mind as having created successful frameworks that support the whole child and are also generally accepting of most children- special ed, english language learners, all colors.

  • Pete, concerned parent


    You are so right! That is exactly why the traditional schools do badly. I agree with you 100%.

  • Jose, former student


  • J.R.

    I see the situation from a rather unique perspective(I would like to keep that to myself), and I just hate to see teachers incessantly bashed with all these generalized accusations. The MAJORITY of teachers out there(especially the new ones that are NCLB compliant)are dedicated,highly trained,highly educated professionals who are very well aware that they have a public trust, and hold our future as a nation in their hands(teaching the youth of America is a very serious responsibility). There are so many half truths out there that people hold the mistaken perception that our school system is garbage, and that is just not true. If a particular state has very high standards in their curriculum(as does California)the data may be deceiving until you break the numbers down.

    Like this chart for instance:


    Then you must take into consideration how diverse California is as compared to other states, we teach a lot more EL students than any other state, and so on.

    Are we perfect? NO, definately not, but these teachers are doing a very good job, while getting trashed in the media every day(this has resulted in a false public perception).If you repeat a lie enough times, it is treated as if it is the truth, and that can never be allowed to happen in the best country in the world.

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    I didn’t mean to point the finger at a struggling school so much as to single out the bizarre, ongoing press puffery that misleads so many people (President Obama!) into thinking that charter schools are the miracle that will save public education. Actually, as anyone who pays attention knows, they don’t outperform public schools, and range from excellent to foundering. (Again, Katy is exempt from this criticism, as are the San Francisco Chronicle’s current education reporters.)

    Charter schools were originally intended to be community-run — created and maintained by parents, teachers, etc. But it’s really hard to operate a school, so organizations such as KIPP, Envision, Edison, Aspire, etc. seem to wind up running most of them. They function as unelected school boards, answerable to no one and entirely undemocratic. And that’s without even getting into the grand plans of the Billionaire Boys’ Club for imposing their own plans on our public education system.

    The original vision behind the charter school concept has been corrupted by these interests.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-5067-LA-School-District-Examiner Ericha Parks

    I have filed an investigation report about charter schools. This piece examines “start up” charter schools. There is some shocking information that everyone must read before making a decision about charter schools. Cut and paste this link. Ericha Parks