The charter movement: 5K schools in 18 years

Via my inbox this week, I’ve been informed (and reminded) about the continued growth of independently run, publicly funded charter schools since 1992.

A news release from the Center for Education Reform, which advocates for school choice, celebrated a recent milestone: more than 5,000 charter schools now operating in the United States.

At a time when states are scrambling to compete in President Obama’s signature ‘Race to the Top’ effort, they really only need to look in their own backyards to see one reform that continues to make a difference in the lives of millions of kids. Today, 5,043 charter schools in 39 states and the District of Columbia are providing nearly 2 million families the option to break away from schools that are failing students and into schools that are serving them. Tens of thousands of others are on waiting lists for the same opportunity.

Nuance is scarce when it comes to the public debate over charters, which are largely un-unionized (at the moment) and enjoy a range of freedoms rarely granted to traditional schools. 

Detractors are often quick to pounce on any charter school, no matter how seemingly successful, because of the broader movement that school represents (and/or its unfair advantages, and/or and its effect on public education as a whole). On the other side, blanket statements like the one quoted above make it sound like charter schools are The Answer, as if they were all equally stellar.  

I didn’t blog about the well-publicized Stanford University charter school study that came out this summer, but I’ll do it now. It compared the test score gains of students at 2,400 charter schools in 15 states and Washington, D.C. to those of a demographically similar “virtual twin” in the traditional public school system.

The Stanford researchers found little difference between nearly half of the so-called twins on reading and math tests. In about 17 percent of the cases, the charter school twin fared better, and in 37 percent the regular public school twin did. Low-income students and English learners did better in charters than in traditional schools; blacks and Latinos did worse.

The researchers concluded that “tremendous variation in academic quality is the norm, not the exception,” and “The problem of quality is the most pressing issue that charter schools and their supporters face.” Here’s how the executive summary ends:

The charter school movement to date has concentrated its formidable resources and energy on removing barriers to charter school entry into the market. It is time to concentrate equally on removing the barriers to exit.

Do you agree the movement has over-emphasized quantity? The Oakland school district, which has approved dozens of charters over the years, especially when it was under state control, seems to be slowing down; the board rejected another charter last week, for the online charter school California Connections @VIMS (not the Waldorf-inspired school, as I previously stated). 

On the other hand, given the looming budget deficit and the fiscal impact of charter growth on OUSD’s enrollment and bottom line, I wouldn’t be surprised if those decisions are as much about quantity — meaning, as few as possible — as quality.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Union Supporter-But

    Charter schools work for those cultures who send their students to school KNOWING they will sacrifice whatever generational quality of life is needed to make sure their children and all future generations get an exemplary college education. Charter schools who choose like private schools, through an appropriate application process (because selection may be random, but the application process is not), will get the types of students and families committed to being at school every day prepared to learn.

    Cultures that do not KNOW their children are college bound nearly always value the self-esteem model of education as much or more than the education in the education model.

    Families who pull their students out of school to go away for the holidays or when relatives visit or to take care of sick family members value education differently than those who are waiting at the school doors before they open and who check backpacks before leaving the school grounds to make sure homework and all supplies needed for homework are in the backpack.

    Look at the schools with high concentrations of a particular ethnicity, then look at the average daily attendance rate of those schools, it’s pretty easy to see who values education.

  • localed

    Thanks for bringing this up, Katy. We need to really talk through the issues surrounding charters. If they are serving kids better than traditional schools, we should continue the growth. I often wonder if “school reform” is derailed by teacher unions and embedded systems in large districts that cannot navigate change. That seems to be the case in our schools.

  • Gail

    I’m curious whether the Stanford study (or any others) looked separately at charter schools that have significant additional funding and if so whether it found any correlation (or causation) between additional resources and “success.” The executive summary doesn’t appear to get into that but maybe the full report does. Clearly there’s a wide range in charter school resources, including among charter schools in Oakland; those like Oakland School for the Arts seem very well funded while others get nothing beyond ADA. Does anyone know whether the various analyses of charter schools address this?

  • Union Supporter-But


    We can take a look at the statistics surrounding poor students, students whose families support the education of the student to see if this matters. American Indian Charter School gets minimal funding, but has a great number of students whose ethnic culture supports education at a high cost to the current generation of adults, and Oakland Military Institute and Oakland School of the Arts do not.

    Look at the math, reading and science scores then go to greatschools.net and look at the ethnic breakdown. You will see the same correlation that Stanford saw. It’s about what matters to the person and the families. American Indian Charter School – Asian 42%, Latino/Hispanic 32% and African American 12% – API = 946, and 100% of students passing the high school exit exam at the end of the 10th grade.

    Let’s look at the highly funded OMI and OSA – OMI -Hispanic/Latino 36%, African American 28%, Asian 24% – API =708 and 80% passing the Language Arts and 72% by 10th grade (with more than double the resources per student as American Charter School).

    OSA -Hispanic/Latino 8%, African American 45%, Asian 2%, Multiple or No Response 30% – API =723 and 90% passing the Language Arts and 85% by 10th grade (with more than two and a half times the resources per student as American Charter School).

    This is going to be a wildly unpopular statement – but if you look at the schools in Oakland you will find a particular trend – it’s not the poverty (free or reduced priced lunches) that drives down the learning in schools it’s the combination of students. When a school is 51% or more African American and/or Latino/Hispanic (this can be one number or a combination of the two ethnicities), the students do not learn and show what they have learned on standardized tests.

    Where you can bring those ethnic statistics even down to 48% the learning and test scores rise. Why, I’m not really sure, but compare and contrast any schools in Oakland using those criteria (public, private, or charter seem to have the same results). If someone can show me even one example of a school with more than 100 students in Oakland where these statistics do not hold true I will publicly apologize.

    There seems to be a cultural shift in the school when the balance is tipped and the tipping point is at 51%. What this says to me is mix up the students. Mix them so that cultures that support self-esteem, drama, structure, language, whatever other than rigorous academic work at or above grade level – mix those cultures into the rigor of high academics, the students will rise to the occasion.

    We say we are a district that looks at the numbers, and I believe for the most part we do look at numbers, but not when it’s about race, ethnicity or culture because that makes us shift in our seats and look to see if anyone’s watching. Lots of people are watching our district, more foundations and charters can’t wait to come in and offer their own brand of solutions, but, if we really were a data driven district, we would pay attention to tipping points and populate our schools accordingly.

  • Alice Spearman

    This statistic would be true if the charter schools served all the students. If you do not fit the mold, you are pushed out, in the middle of the school year to attend the regular public schools. Ask them if they keep the stats of how many students leave, voluntarily or not to public schools and when. Also when do we condone segregation.

  • ousd funemployed

    It is worrisome that a school board member would say something like, “Ask them if they keep the stats of how many students leave, voluntarily or not to public schools and when.”

    This is a perfectly reasonable question. But it is also information that the Oakland Unified School District’s Office of Charter Schools collects from all Oakland Charter schools on a monthly basis.

    Doesn’t the Office of Charter Schools educate the school board about these matters? Alice, if you think that this is important information, and it isn’t being provided to you, why don’t you request it?

    It seems like the business of the district is suffering because certain people can’t even get along well enough to share simple data.

  • Steven Weinberg

    In reply to #4, Montera Middle School has more than 800 students with 56% African-American and Hispanic, and has an API of 813.

  • ralph

    Charter schools do not have to accept all students. Charter schools can kick out the non-performing students and those who do not abide by the contract. Parents pull their children out of non-performning public schools to avoid the hoi polloi who don’t give a darn about education. They should not have to deal with it in a charter school. This is probably the one time, I don’t care about the attrition rate. If you were going to act a fool, then the charter school was never for you and you took a seat from a more deserving student.

    No one likes segregation, but apparently there are some optimal numbers in public schools.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Grass Valley, 97% African-American and Hispanic, API 824; Kaiser, 60%, API 864; and Think College Now, 79%, 848 also meet the criteria set in posting #4. The interrelationship of ethnicy, economics, and scores is a bit more complex than a 50% tipping point.

  • Nextset

    I believe that at the “tipping point” ghetto culture predominates and progress ceases. The tipping point is often spoken of at 10%. Obviously 50% is too far gone.

    I have a theory that the tipping point can be higher if the school fights ghetto culture. To do so is not politically correct. Old schools used to do so. Black schools under the Old Guard used to do so. Older relatives of mine taught in all black schools that successfully fought off ghetto culture.

    And here’s how you do it. Unremitting hostility to ghetto culture. Drive out their language. Drive out their symbols. Denigrate their celebrities and humiliate ghetto advocates in the school. Replace ghetto notions with mainstream (ie Western Civ) norms and culture.

    Kwanzaa will not be celebrated.

    Learning and progress resume. It’s very simple, really.

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

    Here is the comparison between per pupil spending at Oakland Unified School District’s charter schools and its traditional public schools. The figures were obtained on 11/25/09 from the SARCs (School Accountability Report Cards) currently posted on the OUSD Web site, section VIII – School Finances. All are for the Fiscal Year 2006-07, the most up-to-date material which is publicly accessible.

    To Steven Weinberg: Would you be willing to describe for us what Basic and Supplemental per pupil expenditures might consist of, and why they would vary so much?

    OUSD Charter Schools: Basic / Supplemental / Total
    – MEAN = $6950 / $1200 / $8764
    – RANGE = $5113-$8757 / $276-$5505 / $5931-13290
    – AVERAGE = $7063 / $1693 / $8740

    OUSD Traditional Public Schools: Basic / Supplemental / Total
    – MEAN = $5015 / $1613 / $6492
    – RANGE = $4126-$6354 / $241-$2899 / $4630-$8886
    – AVERAGE = $4973 / $1533 / $6506

    1. Oakland Military Institute = $13290
    2. Oakland School For the Arts = $11000
    3. Millsmont Academy = $10454
    4. American Indian Public Charter School II = $9954
    5. Monarch Academy = $9712

    HIGHEST EXPENDITURES PER PUPIL @ OUSD Traditional Public Schools (top 5)
    1. Sankofa = $8886
    2. Burkhalter = $8052
    3. EnCompass Academy = $8044
    4. Acorn Woodland = $7995
    5. Maxwell Park = $7847

    The highest expenditures per pupil in all of OUSD are at the two charter schools which were launched and are actively supported by former Oakland mayor Jerry Brown, the Oakland Military Institute (OMI) and the Oakland School for the Arts (OSA). Spending at OMI exceeded the top per pupil spending at any traditional public school by $4404. Spending at OSA exceeded the top per pupil spending at any traditional public school by $2114.

    LOWEST EXPENDITURES PER PUPIL @ OUSD Charter Schools (bottom 5)
    1. Education for Change Achieve Academy = $5931
    2. American Indian Public High School = $6122**
    3. Education for Change at Cox = $7175
    4. Oakland Charter High = $7438
    5. Oakland Charter Academy = $7450

    LOWEST EXPENDITURES PER PUPIL @ OUSD Traditional Public Schools (bottom 5)
    1. Montera = $4630
    2. Skyline HS = $4873
    3. Joaquin Miller = $5065
    4. Chabot Elementary = $5125
    5. Edna Brewer = $5266

    ** This amount does not seem to reflect a Walton Family Foundation gift of $230,000 given to the American Indian Public High School in 2006 (2007 Form 990, for grants given in 2006). During 2006-07, this school’s total student body was 72 students. This would mean an additional $3194.44 per pupil, that is, if the money was spent on students at the school it was designated for. Maybe this large amount of money would be reflected in per pupil expenditures for a different year. Or, perhaps the grantors place few, or no, restrictions on how the grantees spend their money. It would be illuminating if the District, or some other entity, would investigate this detail.

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

    Katy: In national ed discussion circles, the charter school study which you mentioned is commonly called the “CREDO study.” Another charter school study was released a few months later is referred to as “the Hoxby study.”

    The CREDO study is the only one which was peer-reviewed before its release. The Hoxby study was released before peer-review, but that did not stop the Oakland Tribune from writing an editorial praising its findings. This is exactly how the mainstream media acts in a complicit manner.

    The Hoxby study has now been peer-reviewed by a Stanford professor affiliated with the Education and the Public Interest Center. The title of the 11/12/09 press release is: “Headline-Grabbing Charter School Study Doesn’t Hold Up To Scrutiny: Reviewer finds serious statistical flaws in research on NYC charter schools.”

    I don’t recall the Tribune mentioning the CREDO study, and the editors certainly did not publish a piece praising it. Are they ignorant, or in cahoots?

    If one traces the sources of who is pushing the charter school movement, they will find that they are business entities who have their eye on the eventual transfer public schools to corporate Education Management Organizations. Similar to what happened to local businesses when the “big box” stores moved in, the plan is to have KIPP, Green Dot, Aspire, Imagine, etc. acquire more and more of the market share until local public school systems (urban) entirely disappear. The gold at the end of the rainbow is access to a portion of the billions annually spent on public education.

    One of the strategies is to provide the charters with extra funding, while simultaneously starving the public schools. It turns out that Obama is corporate-friendly and is completely supportive of this scheme. Poke around online if you don’t believe me.

  • Chauncey

    So much hate for charters in this city. The old guard cannot accept it right? Look, fact is charter schools are here to stay- who is going to be the state or national leaders to take the schol reform movement away? Good Luck to ya!

    As for all of this talk about the eliminations of students and chery picking at charter , what does the district do? How is that so many staff OUSD staff members get their students into coveted schools like Peralta Creek or Chabot when my neighbors are rejected year after year? Luck? Cherry picking! Even some administrators in the top offices take heir kids to Head Royce instead of their own high schools! Its good for them but not for us dark folks-right!

    Not all of the charters are successful, so they sghould be scrutinized, as for sucessful ones, they should be encouraged to grow.

    As a parent of children living in deep East Oakland, I can tell you that most of the comments posted here do not reflect my community- perhaps they reflect the hills who have something to lose with charters. Those in the hood, we have another generation at stake. As for my representative- we elected her in the office, twice. I simply ask her to support the good ones and dont take the hate them all approach and sound like the defacto hippies of Oakland.

    OUSD id doomed…..just a matter of time.

  • Chauncey


    Why dont you rank the schools by performance as well- next to the expenditures. Then do the same for OUSD high schools? here you will see that a school like Oakland Charter High gets $7000 and is the highest performiing HS in he city , while Skyline gets $16,000 and almost lost accredidation.

    Oakland… you must learn!

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


    This piece is part of an essay written in early 2008 by AEI/Fordham’s Andy Smarick, a former Bush II Domestic Policy Council member tasked with K-12 and higher education issues:

    “Here, in short, is one roadmap for chartering’s way forward: First, commit to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to a secondary provider. The target should be 75 percent. Second, choose the target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable growth (fair funding, nondistrict authorizers, and no legislated caps), and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and unorganized opposition)[This is where the Trib’s editorial praising the Hoxby study comes in]. For example, in New York a concerted effort could be made to site in Albany or Buffalo a large percentage of the 100 new charters allowed under the raised cap. Other potentially fertile districts include Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.

    Third, secure proven operators to open new schools. To the greatest extent possible, growth should be driven by replicating successful local charters and recruiting high-performing operators from other areas. Fourth, engage key allies like Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools, and national and local foundations to ensure the effort has the human and financial capital needed. Last, commit to rigorously assessing charter performance in each community and working with authorizers to close the charters that fail to significantly improve student achievement.

    In total, these strategies should lead to rapid, high-quality charter growth and the development of a public school marketplace marked by parental choice, the regular startup of new schools, the improvement of middling schools, the replication of high-performing schools, and the shuttering of low-performing schools.

    As chartering increases its market share in a city, the district will come under growing financial pressure. The district, despite educating fewer and fewer students, will still require a large administrative staff to process payroll and benefits, administer federal programs, and oversee special education. With a lopsided adult-to-student ratio, the district’s per-pupil costs will skyrocket.

    At some point along the district’s path from monopoly provider to financially unsustainable marginal player, the city’s investors and stakeholders–taxpayers, foundations, business leaders, elected officials, and editorial boards–are likely to demand fundamental change. That is, eventually the financial crisis will become a political crisis. If the district has progressive leadership, one of two best-case scenarios may result. The district could voluntarily begin the shift to an authorizer, developing a new relationship with its schools and reworking its administrative structure to meet the new conditions. Or, believing the organization is unable to make this change, the district could gradually transfer its schools to an established authorizer.”

    And this is exactly what is going on.

  • Linda


    What is wrong with that? How many of your kids have had to attend woeful schools in the flatlands where death is more real than academics? Are you happy with the way education is witin OUSD in the flatlands compared to the hills? Cmon, look at the blatant disparities.

    People died to prove the earth was round at one point in our history. Do you think the world is flat Sharon?

    Why do you think a Whitehouse insider would have Oakland on his radar? Perhaps cause its reputation speaks volumes on a national scale?

    The article you submitted quoted Mr. Andy Smarick as saying, “Last, commit to rigorously assessing charter performance in each community and working with authorizers to close the charters that fail to significantly improve student achievement.”

    When will OUSD say that about themselves and their own schools? Instead, the bullhorns and leftist radical come out when the OUSD brass signals schools must close due to the budget. This is right to you?

    Ms. Spearman, dont ally yourself with people like these. They dont care about your neighbors or kids- they care about their ideals and unions.

    This is exactly what should be going on.

  • Chauncey

    My, My, My Sharon… arent you the wealth of petinent information. All of this data at your fingertips! Damn you are a resourceful digger of the info aint you?!

    Funny how facts get out so quick.. kind of like the propagandist campaigns of the Alinsky times right? He was smart.

    Problem is Sharon, that you, and most bullhorners in Oakland have a complex. Education and ghetto life is simply an intellectual or idealist affinity for you. Your kids aint never had a brother shot in front of them right? How many racial fights were your kids caught up with in OUSD? Where do your kids go to school?

    You think OUSD has an answer for the future of ghetto schools in Oakland? Where have they gotten us thus far. Every leader that enters answers to the board who in turn must answer to the un ion for the most part.

    These aliances will ultimately destroy the system. We are letting the teachers union run the schools.
    This will fail.

  • Yastrzemski

    Do you know what OMI does with the money, what they spend it on? All kids get their uniforms (including shoes) for FREE! Parents have to buy t-shirts, socks and a pair of black sneakers, everything else, including a winter jacket is given to the cadets. They also use the money for before and after-school tutoring/homework help for FREE, everyday from 6:30 – 7:30 AM and 3:30 – 6:00 PM. There are also FREE sports programs for kids too…so they have a safe place to be after school each day. This year every classroom was equipped with a Smart Board, that the students and teachers love to use. There is a minimal cost for a field trip, usually no more than $20.00, and if you can’t pay it…you can still go for….FREE.

    I’m thankful Jerry Brown raises money for this school and the population it serves. The kids that leave usually chose to do so, because they cannot handle being accountable for their actions.

    I know that you raise some excellent points, and usually have facts to back up your position, but the truth is, all Charters are not bad…some (like OMI) serve a population that OUSD would just let fall off a cliff. The kids from OMI succeed (check out the graduation rates….close to 80% go on to 4 year colleges). I think some of the Charters are terrible, and they bring the successful ones down.

    As a parent in the thick of the OUSD mess, with 3 kids in OUSD schools…it bothers me that someone from across the bridge in SF is so critical of parents like me who choose a Charter. Be thankful your kids are in SF schools and cut the rest of us some slack!

  • Steven Weinberg

    Thank you Sharon for your informative postings on this subject. I was impressed by the fact that even the lowest funded charter schools spent more per student than the average district school.
    You asked for details about the differences between basic and supplemental funding, and why they would vary so much from school to school. For regular OUSD schools the basic funding is General Fund money that is alloted to each school based on Average Daily Attendance. It varies by grade level, with K-5 schools getting the most, because of the state’s class size reduction program in grades K-3. High schools get a little more than middle schools because of the complexity of the master programs at that level. In addition, the district gives some additional basic money to very small schools, since every school, regardless of size, has some fixed expenses: principal, secretary, custodial, etc. (EnCompass, Sankofa, and Burhalter all made the highest expenditure list because they are small schools.) Most basic funds are used for teachers, site administrators, custodial staff, one secretary, and perhaps an attendance clerk, and basic supplies, textbooks, and office equipment.
    Supplemental funds come from various funding sources and have limits as to how they can be spent. The largest program is the federal Title One program. These funds are alloted to schools based on the number of students who qualify for the free and reduced price lunch program. Schools with too small a percentage of students in this category receive no Title One funds. (This probably explains all the schools on the lowest expenditure list.) The state has its own comp ed program that follows the same rules for alloting funds. These funds usually provide for extra teachers or classified staff to give students additional assistance. They can pay for staff development to improve teacher skills. They can pay for Teachers on Special Assignment to train and support the rest of the staff in meeting the needs of underperforming students. They can pay for books and materials that will help those students.
    The state also provides extra funds for each English Language Learner at a school. This money must be spent to improve the education of those students.
    There are many other smaller state programs. Nineteen Oakland schools have Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) grants that provide an extra $600/K-5 student, $900/6-8 student, and $1,000/9-12 student. These funds are used primarily for class size reduction. QEIA schools were based on need, as shown by low state test scores. (Maxwell Park and ACORN made the highest expenditure list because they are QEIA schools.)
    I am not sure what is included in these categories for charter schools, but Ben Chavis of American Indian Charter once told me that Title One funds for his school were based on the percentage of low income students at nearby regular schools. I’m not sure if that was really the case, or if it still is, but if it is that seems unfair.
    I’m sorry this post is so long, but even at this length it oversimplifies the school budgeting process and rules, which were always complex, and this year have become more so as a result of state funding cuts and federal stimulus money.

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

    Linda, Chauncy, and Yastremski: Wow, it looks like I pushed your buttons. FYI, I am not a union member and I don’t live in SF. I’ve been an OUSD parent for over 16 years. I enjoy reading and researching about education and other social issues.

    My biggest beef is that adults in this society treat children like crap on pretty much every level. This goes from the people at the corner markets near the schools who sell “hot chips,” candy and soda to the kids for breakfast, to the people running the movie theaters who have no qualms about letting very young kids watch extremely violent and sexual films, to the parents who refuse to permit their very depressed, sometimes PTSD-affected children see a school therapist at no cost, and on and on and on. Too many of America’s kids are constantly given the short shrift, especially those in communities like our own.

    The fact that foundations, venture philanthropists, and political associates have figured out they can throw a few dollars at the charters doesn’t distract me from the fact that they are perfectly willing to neglect so many other children. If they care so much about helping disadvantaged kids (as opposed to facilitating the handover of public schools to private hands), then why they aren’t they pouring their resources and energy into fighting for better school funding for the most deprived schools, strengthening tattered neighborhoods, establishing community centers, providing families with mental and health services and parent education — a la Harlem Children’s Zone — not to mention lobbying to increase urban employment? How many of these people have ever sought out the insights of the teachers and other staff members who spend years of their lives directly interacting with, and taking care of, Oakland’s most challenging and difficult kids — you know, all the ones who didn’t happen to be blessed with parents who are supportive and effective?

    I’ve spent enough time on OUSD campuses to know that a good deal of the wisdom for improving things is imbeded in the minds the people who are actually working with the kids. The disrespect they are subjected to by people who are usually outsiders is non-productive, cruel and unfair.

  • Steven Weinberg

    After further research, I believe the figures given for basic funds also include the per student cost of running the central district administration, which is more than $1,000 per student. That would also include the general fund contribution to the cost of educating special education students, which is fairly significant, since the special ed funds do not cover all the costs.

  • Union Supporter-But

    Steve with the exception of Think College Now which receives about 1.5 times the money of top performing schools, please look at the scores of African American and Latino/Hispanic students at the schools you quoted. On the low end only 19% are demonstrating their performance at grade level – a few rare cases you have 80% performing at grade level but the vast, vast majority of the schools you sited the scores are raised in spite of the high numbers of African American and Hispanic / Latino students whose average numbers are less than half performing at grade level.

    I do not feel it is as simple as the ethnic mix. But I know, and have watched in several schools, that parents of African American and Hispanic / Latino students will show up at the school screaming if their children were “disrespected” but those same parents would not scream or yell if their we lowered the standards and expected less of their students than we do of white students. We have several cases of grade inflation at the local middle school of African American students whose parents are active and want their children to go to college. But if you compare that “B” or honor roll grade to the work of a white or Asian student, you would find that the white or Asian student would have earned a C or lower on the same work. Parents don’t complain – even when the grade inflation shows up year after year of “honor roll” students working at below basic or basic levels.

    So, I should have been clear in my expectations of comparing API – API means that when an API score is X – the gap between African American students and Hispanic / Latino students is within 5% of the score. It is possible – look at Redwood Heights. It is not happening at Montera, Average percentage working at grade level: White 73% – 88%, Asian 76% – 93% with one low score of 64%, African American 14% – 48% with one high score of 75%, Latino / Hispanic 20% – 40%.

    Kaiser Elementary – The API does not apply to the work of African Americans and Latino / Hispanic students at Kaiser, Average percentage working at grade level: White 79% – 100%, Asian percentage of attendees to small to measure, African American 20% – 81%. Latino / Hispanic percentage of attendees to small to measure per grade.

    Grass Valley – The only category large enough to measure is African American and the percentage of students working at grade level standards range from 46% to 69% – hardly numbers worth shouting from the rooftops.

    Think College Now – The only category large enough to measure is Latino / Hispanic and the percentage of students working at grade level standards range from 17% – 88% with allocated resources at nearly 1.5 times the average. I will say, as a tax-payer I would be happy to pay now to have Hispanic/Latino students learning at a rate where 88% are working at grade level.

    Of the schools you sited, I agree that Think College Now is teaching the majority of their minority students at grade level. I would not agree that at about 50% or less of the African American and Latino / Hispanic students working at grade level is something to celebrate.

    I have tried to request the AP classes and tests taken by minority students and was told that I would have to submit a written request, that I may have to pay for the data and that I would have to allow Oakland Unified to approve anything I write using the data before it can be published. So much for freedom of information.

  • Darius

    first time here so i”ll let it roll…..Let me tell you guys something that you may not know- why do you think elementary schools like Think College Now are successful while the middle schools in the same hood like UPA aint? Because they cant control the kids no more. Its worse in high school.Cmon a weak minded person appealing to excuses who aint from the hood will have good success if they are in K-5, esopecially if their white. They are the authoritative figures in our minds still regardless of what we say).

    These schools train kids to be expect less and be happy and parents to cry when they dont get their way. Thats why people hate american indian and oakland charter… these schools dont play, but people are trained to want less in the hood.

    Put parents in check, stop playing nice with kids and get results and watch things change.for the previous post-Now teach schools like TCN to be not so weak on moms….oh I mean parents!

  • Nextset

    Darius: I like that part about “stop playing nice with kids”. The largely Black and Brown kids of OUSD are heading out into a cold hard world and they had better learn right now how to pass in society. Especially that part about tail and dog.

    As far as the Moms go – most of them are not qualified to have an opinion on such things as discipline. They should be told so – and their kids disciplined.

    As the immigrants can tell you this country is where to be if you are broke and ambitious. We need to start telling the poor and low class students that and tell them to get to work to make something of themselves while they still have time and opportunity.

  • Yastrzemski


    My apology first, I confused you with Caroline who does live in SF and your post reminded me of several of hers.

    I am an OUSD employee at a “hill school”. I see 1st hand daily how our wonderful administrator has to negotiate all of the complexities of the OUSD red tape. We have a very violent child in our school who has struck a teacher, kicked an aide and thrown furniture in the class….guess what….he is still there…endangering all of the kids in his classroom.

    At OMI….hmmmm let’s see…..EXPELLED! That is the main reason why parents like me send their children there…ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY.

    OMI “pours resources and funding” into a very bad neighborhood. That school is there in that particular neighborhood to offer the residents an alternative to the OUSD middle school IF they are willing to abide by the rules and be ACCOUNTABLE for their actions. The parents too. I’ve said it before. The students and parents all sign the behavior agreement…if you do not sign, your child does not enter the building…no exceptions. Look at where the 6th graders at OMI come from…not the top API elementary schools, that’s for sure.

    The OMI bulletin frequently has a blurb about the “drugs, guns, gangs and prostitutes” in the area. They walk kids to the BART station every day if they feel unsafe. It is crazy to think that OMI is catering to an elite set of parents or students…they will take any kid who is willing to work hard. OMI is a chance for some kids that would never get it without the school.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your statement about the permissive adults and what they let kids get away with these days. We’re actually on the same page with it. OMI was the answer that kept me (and my tax $$, and my 3rd child) in an OUSD public school.

    Can I ask why OUSD doesn’t take a look at some of the behavior and discipline policies of places like OMI and American Indian?

  • Alice Spearman

    For all those who want to know, I express my opinions on the blog just like anyone else, I read this Blog daily to know what other citizens think, sometimes I hear from citizens who live in District 7. I also do my research and read everthing I can get my hands on, but I do know a “slanted report and slanted opinions” to each it’s own. Charter Schools do not have to serve all students and they don’t. OUSD does. So there is a difference. Now, I do believe in choice, I subscribe to the saying “Do not sacrifice your children’s education for any reason”. There are some charters that are good, just like there are some public schools that are good, but on the same vain, there are some charters that are not good, just as bad or worse than many public schools. It is my job to evaluate all schools, snd in my neighborhood, if you are not doing what you are supposed to do, then changes need to occur public or charter. I am commited to ensuring that children in District 7 get an even chance, so if a charter or public school needs drastic changes, that is what I am going to do my best to ensure that they serve all children at the highest level possible. I know it can happen and it will. Also people need to know that public schools have to follow the Education Code when it comes to discipline, we cannot enforce many policies that OMI or American Indian Charter has in their discipline policies, I wish sometimes we could. Remember always,everyone deserves to attend any school they want, but OUSD serves everyone, not just those who “tow the line”, education is a right, not a priviledge, this is just my opinion, not the board.

  • Yastrzemski

    Thank you Ms. Spearman, I think that the rest of the Board should follow suit.

    Your post confirms what many others here have said time and time again.

    I continue to post because I think that the Charters sometimes get “lumped” together. Some are horrible and I think that their charters should be pulled and they should be closed down. But, some are doing well and they should remain as a choice for the families of Oakland.

    I do beleive that OUSD could and should explore their discipline policies. OMI’s do not differ that much. I believe that the difference lies in the fact that OMI actually enforces theirs’, while many OUSD schools do not. Education is a right, just like free choice is. I do not believe that “towing the line” is a bad thing. I know of many, many families who chose a private school or moved from OUSD simply because they felt the middle and high schools of OUSD were not safe. Even if it is not true (I know it is not), the perception is there, and it should be looked at.

  • Caroline

    Hi Yastrzemski, I’m the one who lives in SF. I follow this blog because I think what’s happening in Oakland schools is pretty important to education nationwide.

    Let me be really clear. I don’t criticize parents for sending their kids to charters. I understand why they would take advantage of those opportunities, in the cases where they opportunities do benefit kids. (Quite often, charter schools are badly troubled and the PR that makes them sound positive is entirely hype.)

    I do criticize charter operators (as opposed to parents) and the charter movement for their ongoing dishonesty and the big, phony bag of tricks they employ in attempting to harm public education and prove their schools “superior.”

    I view charter schools as similar to Wal-Mart: They often, though as noted not always, provide enticing opportunities, but they do harm and destruction in the big picture.

  • Caroline

    But, by the way, when charter parents attempt to defend the charter movement overall, THEN I will be refuting you as vigorously as I can. At that point, what you’re e basically saying is, “If it works for my kid, I don’t care what harm it does to anyone else.” To me, that attitude is immoral and indefensible.

    That’s still not the same as criticizing you for being a charter parent, though.

  • Union Supporter-But


    I sometimes wonder if those parents in hills schools think, well the public school is working for my child. If those other parents would just . . .volunteer more, help with homework, pay attention to their children, not have so many children . . . their children would learn as much as my child. Why should I have to worry about “those schools.” That is vigorously stating that the hills schools are actively teaching and the students are learning – – – it is the same thing as saying categorically charter schools are a good thing.

    However, I do not hear anyone on this blog saying that hills schools are not a good thing, that the scores are as high as they are only for white and Asian students (except Redwood Heights) and that AP classes, particularly AP math classes are virtually non-existent except for access to white and Asian students.

    Why do we feel it is our “right” to condemn charter schools in ways we wouldn’t touch a hills school? Is it because they are unionized? Is it because they keep more families from fleeing OUSD non-charter schools? Or do they just work behind the scenes to get the needs of their children met because they have the sophistication to do so?

  • Nextset

    Caroline: “To me that attitude is immoral and indefensible.”

    You need to get a grip. Collectivism is a concept that Stalin and his (largely Jewish?) buddies got to try out on a grand scale in the early 20th Century. It didn’t go too well – millions murdered and in misery. Lasted quite awhile, though. I rather prefer the Protestant Work Ethic thing. He who dies with the most money and all that… You can take your $$ and build a University but you get to name it and set policy, not the government and not the rabble either. See the difference?

    People do not owe other people anything after their tax payments. They certainly do not owe you their children’s future. The families with school aged children are out to get a good future for their kid and the rest of the town can fall down and go to blazes. When you understand that, you can safely plan your own life.

    If your distain for the Charter movement is based on your perception that people (meaning black, brown & poor people actually) have to send their kids to rotten-to-the-core ghetto public schools so that we can keep pretending that all people were born equal you are not operating on all cylinders.

    This nation is not about collectivism. Our families owe you nothing. We either fix the public schools so that deliver the educational quality of life of any Charter or we watch them collapse as people vote with their feet.

    I see no movement at all to fix the urban public schools. They are intended to be dumping grounds for undesirables – like the County Hospitals. The Charters (and the Internet Schools) are the future. Too bad. We once had good public schools before the legislature and the judiciary used them for social experiments.

    Brave New World.

  • Alice Spearman

    Nextset I must say if you put more of your energy in looking at what work in public schools than what doesn’t you might be able to open your mind to another way. It is apparent to me that you have a disdaine for parents and children of color, to the extent that all of them have no future and they all should be locked up. And people are “fixing” many public schools, there are many more that work than those that don’t. We have as many succeses as failures, they just are not news worthy. I find “It is the Neighbors, not the Neighborhood”. By the way, county hospitals are not dumping grounds, many many citizens do not have medical insurance and that is where they go for treatment. I am so glad there is somewhere for them to go.
    Your posts are so negative, mean spirited, remember, just like you have your opinion, other have the right to their’s too.

  • Alice Spearman

    Yastrzemski, the board is taking a close look at our discipline policies at this time in the Saftey Committee. The committee will make recimendations to the full board for any changes they may wish to offer, and I am a member of this committee. One thing that you said is true, it is in the enforcement. OMI and AIC both have extensive discipline rules which by law, public schools cannot have nor enforce.

  • Caroline

    Well, we have different moral codes, Nextset. My moral code holds that it’s wrong to say “I’ve got mine and screw everyone else, even if I hurt them while I’m in the process of getting mine.”

    Union-supporter-but — it’s obviously not a revelation that the rich have more and live better than the poor, and that (at least according to my moral code, if not Nextset’s) everyone who’s a “have” should be working to find ways to improve the lives of the have-nots.

    But I would still claim that wealthy schools don’t actively harm low-income schools. Charter schools DO actively harm non-charter schools. The charter movement basically keeps up a steady stream of deception in its effort to prove that its schools are superior to public schools and — more to the point — to win more money from the Gates/Broad etc. billionaires (this is, of course, one of the main purposes of the deceptions). Meanwhile, the free-market right/privatization faction is openly using charter schools as their foot-in-the-door strategy to privatize all of public education.

    So, again, just like Wal-Mart. “It’s working for me, so I don’t care about the impact on anyone else, or on the community.”

    Katy, I dispute that there isn’t nuance in my view, and as one of the most avid detractors of the charter school movement, I also dispute that I’m quick to pounce on any charter school.

    As noted, I don’t blame or pick on charter school parents for being charter school parents. If they start defending the deceitful and damaging charter school movement overall, that’s something else. What is that if not nuance?

    And similarly, it’s just not true that I pounce on any charter school. With charter schools in my own district (a small number), I’m pretty live-and-let-live with the ones that aren’t run by operators that behave deceitfully and unethically. And since I’m not an Oakland school community member and don’t know that much about individual Oakland charters, I only “pounce on” the ones that are obviously engaging in deceitful behavior, like KIPP Bridge, which manages to get rid of 80% of the African-American boys who start 5th grade there by the START of 8th grade (it’s not known how many, if any, are left by 8th-grade graduation).

    And I really don’t think I’m an exception; I’m as sharp a critic of charters as anyone around. So I disagree with your claim that there’s not nuance in charter critics’ views and that we’re quick to pounce on any charter school.

  • Yastrzemski

    Thank you Caroline for clarifying your point.

    I certainly do not think that the Charter movement as a whole is entirely positive. But, I think that in all fairness, the ones that are doing well and actually helping kids in Oakland should be recognized and not thrown into the same category as some of the awful ones.

    I feel the need to defend “my charter”, OMI because there are many incorrect and misleading statements about it on this blog. I think it is harmful to state that OMI spends more $$ than any other and just leave that info. to dangle….how about knowing what they actually do with the money. How many other schools provide uniforms and tutoring with a credentialed teacher for FREE?

    If there is something “fishy” going on there…it is not apparent to me (I am referring to how the school is run, day-to-day). They certainly do not “cherry-pick” for IQ or test scores or ignore minorites. If a famly chooses OMI, and they are willing to abide by the rules and work hard, the staff will bend over backwards to help that child stay there and go to college.

    Caroline and Sharon, I think it is great that you both provide thought provoking questions here and have a lot of information that I really enjoy looking at.
    BUT…I think that you both should try and be more fair while making blanket negative statements about Charters, and then naming specific ones in the same breath. There ARE some positive things happening at a few of them.

  • Yastrzemski

    Ms Spearman, Thank you for answering my question about the discipline issue.

    I am curious, what specifically are the rules that OMI or AIC have that are against the law or that OUSD cannot enforce? I am very interested in this. I am not aware of anything in the OMI parent handbook like this. I will look at it very closely again,though. I am an OUSD employee and work at a “hill school”.

    I would also like to hear what the Safety Committee has to recommend to the Board.
    Katy, can we get an update if this is on the agenda?

    Thank you again Ms. Spearman.

  • Caroline

    Thanks for the response, Yastrzemski.

    Regarding the fact that OMI has vastly more money than Oakland public schools, the point is that that’s enormously unfair and harms Oakland public schools and the students in them. It’s nice for OMI students that they benefit from the money by getting free uniforms and tutoring, but it’s not fair. Also, the money is raised in unethical (aka “fishy”) ways, as Attorney Gen. Brown manages to convince donors over whom he has influence in his position to give money to the school. And the official that would rule on the legality and ethics of that behavior is — Attorney Gen. Brown. So those are injustices that need to be challenged.

    OMI does cherry-pick. No, presumably not for IQ or test scores, and obviously it doesn’t ignore minorities. But the act that OMI only enrolls students from families “that are willing to abide by the rules and work hard” constitutes cherry-picking. Public schools can’t do that. And it’s wrong, harmful and unethical for OMI to proclaim itself superior when it’s able to cherry-pick.

    Of course there are positive things happening at many charters, but they’re largely happening while charters harm public schools, and that’s the point that I and other charter critics are making.

    (Katy, these are nuances.)

  • Darius

    The fact tha we got people from the hood like Ms. Spearman, having to talk all politically correct with these people who live in Montclair to discuss what is wrong with schools housing black and brown kids is part of the problem.

    My grandad went to segregated schools in the south and told us that kids would not mess around there beacause they would be hell to pay with teachers who were black and tough and knew all the games.

    He said that when they deseggregated…. “the rights and whites moved in and things went wrong for us…”

    Now I am born and raised in Oakland, but I believe that there is alot to say about that way. Cmon, I see my own ghetto slanging people go into school offices and play hell with the staff over some dumb sh**. And the whites bow down ? Browns are learning to do this as well and there goes the education of our kids.

    Schools have to put up with that? So if charters have special laws that allow them to be old schooled towards kids and parents… then Ms. Spearman , lets change ghetto schools to become CHARTERS RIGHT? You really think people from Harvard will change kids from the deep east? Please……

    If we really want to change Oakland, not the hills but the ghettos, schools and people have to be different. These soft slanted liberal educators from out of the hood anit going to do it- and you know that Ms. Spearman.

    Your voice should not have to be like theirs- your there to be different. Thats why I supported you.

  • Yastrzemski

    I do not have a response to your post, #37. OMI is bad because it holds kids to a higher standard of behavior?…because it actually enforces the rules that it has? The school will do anything for a kid that is willing to work hard…and it is cherry-picking? Do you honestly think OUSD would spend that money on free clothing for kids??? or free tutoring???

    Who has said that OMI is superior? (and to what?)

    To clarify again…OMI does not enroll ONLY students that work hard. Those students that are unwilling to do so CHOOSE to leave, after countless attempts by the staff to try and help them. These kids would leave any school that tried to hold them to any kind of behavior standard. The kids have parents that are at their wit’s end and send them to OMI because they think it is some sort of “boot camp”. They find out quickly that it isn’t, it is a College Prep program in a military framework, for kids who want to go on to college
    If you do not see the difference there, I don’t know what else to say.

  • Chauncey


    I agree with many of your points… but you need to understand the politics of the school board. They are accountable to the unions and they have a deep war chest.

    many hate charters, but private schools in Oakland have nearly three times (I believe) the population of charters. You think they’re black or brown?

    Districit people send their kids there and still talk mees about charters. That politics brother….thats all it is.

  • Union Supporter-But

    Darius and Chauncey:
    I wonder what would happen if students who misbehaved were required to have their parent or guardian sit with them one entire school day, including recesses / hall time and lunchtime?

    For those students who arrived late in the morning or were late getting to class, student and parent or guardian would be at the school for four hours on Saturday in a study hall?

    With my own sister, my mother took a week’s vacation without pay when she found out my sister was skipping school (high school) and went to every class with her including eating lunch with her. Our family ate a lot of boxed macaroni and cheese, canned soup and top ramin that month, but my sister got her rear-end to school, did her homework and ended up graduating on time even though she was a semester behind.

    When a student is in school, the teacher is responsible for teaching the material in a way the student learns the material no matter how long, or what it takes. That is there job. A student must arrive to school on time ready to learn, must pay attention and must have respectful behavior to the school, teachers, principal and fellow students. That is the parent’s job. If the parent’s need to come to school to do their job, then that is what the school board, principal and teachers should demand. If the teachers fail to teach, the school board, principal and parents should demand they teach. If the parents do not want to do their job, they need to home school their children. If teachers do not want to teach, they need to find another profession.

  • Union Supporter-But

    their job – not there job

  • Caroline

    OMI has the luxury of enforcing a higher standard of behavior and then summarily bouncing kids who don’t meet it.

    Public schools can’t bounce kids for bad behavior without major due process. So the kids bounced by OMI land in public schools.

    Of course it’s not inherently a bad thing — in a vacuum — to be able to enforce a higher standard of behavior. But OMI doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s not fair for OMI to boast of its superiority (oh, yes, it does) and rake in megabucks when it has that significant advantage and dumps its problem students on pubilc schools. It’s also not fair for it to get more money — how could it be? Are the students less needy at the nearest OUSD school? No, we’re back to “I’ve got mine and screw everyone else.” And that’s just wrong. If people can’t discern right from wrong, then I give up.

  • On The Fence

    I’ve been itching to comment about the data in posting #11, because when I look at the list of the 5 traditional public schools with the lowest funding, I notice a whole bunch of schools that I would consider for my own kids. In fact, I can very wholeheartedly vouch for the excellence of Edna Brewer and was surprised to realize what it is doing with so little! These are some of Oakland’s top middle and elementary schools. Undoubtedly, each of these schools is struggling financially with the little they receive, but that just makes me want to applaud them and point them out all the more! I’m pretty sure that many of their API’s exceed the better funded traditionals AND better funded charters.

  • Yastrzemski

    Caroline…I don’t think that there is a parent out there that would put another child’s needs in front of their own kid…it is ridiculous. It is not “screw everyone else”, it is responsible parenting. You are also misinformed about OMI’s ability to “bounce” a child. They have to jump through ALL of the legal hoops that the OUSD schools do (hearings with lawyers etc…). However…I think I said it in 2 or 3 of the above posts, students and families choose to leave because they cannot obey and abide by the standards that OMI sets. Just like they can drop out of any OUSD school.

  • Caroline

    No, charter schools don’t have to jump through all the legal hoops that public schools do! That’s part of the deal — they’re “freed from burdensome bureaucratic requirements.” That’s also why OMI can set standards that not everyone can meet.

  • Union Supporter But . . .

    Caroline: You know as well as I that a public school can document and get rid of students. Those of us who document frequently, well and give details (who, what, where, when, why and how) can get rid of students pretty darned easily – IF we are willing to do the documentation. The vast majority of teachers I talk to and principals I work with just don’t follow through on the documentation.

    Proof of what I’m saying is well-founded and can be shown with those students who are moved from school to school. I am currently working with three students who have been to 5 schools in 3 – 5 years because of the students’ behavior. If you are willing to document, you can get rid of violent, non-compliant, tardy/truant and disruptive students. If you choose not to document, you are choosing to keep those students in your classrooms and in your school.

  • Yastrzemski

    Sorry, you’re wrong…to expel a student, it is the same. The charter is held by OUSD and the parents have the same rights as a public school parent.
    What kind of standards do you think exist at OMI that kids at a public school cannot meet? The difference is that OMI enforces the rules and holds the student/family responsible for their actions. It is something public school should strive to do more.

  • http://baytechschool.org kris

    I have worked in public schools as a teacher for 5 years and now I have been teaching at a charter school. I feel truly inspired by the dedication, close community of students and teachers and positive culture in this small school environment. We strive for excellence and academic success. We don’t turn away any students at our school and we open our doors to everyone. I feel that charters can be very successful, especially when they offer diverse options for courses and electives programs in science, art, mathematics and technology based programs.
    Students can truly thrive in a small school culture, as their needs are met for individualized instruction and socratic dialogue within the classroom structure.
    I feel that charters are not attempting to push out the public school system, we are only offering students an opportunity for academic success within a small classroom structured environment. Parents should research their options and decide what placement is best for their child, looking at the programs and college aligned courses offered in both public and charter schools.

  • Union Supporter-But

    I was just at the district office today talking to an employee who used to teach in a school. I was talking about students who need additional help and that some teachers keep their doors open until 4:00 pm to help with homework or assignments that are not understood. This employee was very, very clear that the teacher should not be allowed to keep a classroom open in the afternoon. Even if that teacher wanted to do so because it creates ill will with the other teachers and the school.

    This is the difference between charter schools and our public schools. I have never heard an employee of a charter school say that a classroom should not be able to be open early or open late.

    This is not to say that union employees should have to open their classrooms early or to stay late – but if they want to, they should not be pressured or intimidated to close their doors.

    One last thing that I have noticed as a difference in public and charter schools – and this is a general statement, because there are some public school exceptions, so far I have seen two – public school students (elementary) are not allowed to be in the hallways, to talk to teachers or to even look at the bulletin boards to show parents or friends their work before school, at recess, at lunch or after school. Charter schools – and I have seen no exceptions – open their doors, their displays, their corridors, their classrooms, their teachers, their principal, their school staff openly roaming the school campus, making eye contact, calling each other by name, talking about the work that is happening at the school.

    In the elementary schools I am actively involved in teachers routinely stop students they see in the hall and disdainfully ask them why they are in the corridor, why they are not obeying the rules and if they want to have their parents notified – these were students who wanted to say hello to the past years’ teachers and who were showing off work on bulletin boards.

    That folks is a dirty dog shame – and the truth in many OUSD public elementary schools.