Morgan Brown joins Charter School School Partners
Minneapolis. MN. 8.2.10. Morgan Brown,
who most recently served as Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota
Department of Education (MDE), has joined Charter School Partners
(charterschoolpartners.org) as its Director of School Improvement.
|Charter School Partners is a non-profit organization whose passion is to nurture and grow high quality charter schools in Minnesota. We will do whatever it takes to close Minnesota's achievement gap and ensure every child in Minnesota has the opportunity to attain an education that allows him or her to succeed in life — no matter what income or ZIP code.||
Minnesota’s Charter Schools – (To Date) An Unfulfilled Promise
By Al Fan, Executive Director, Charter School Partners,
June 15, 2009. Charter School Partners welcomes this Stanford University CREDO study (Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States) on the effectiveness of charter schools both nationally and in Minnesota. The report makes plain what CSP and the Minnesota charter school community know to be true: while the promise of the charter school as a vehicle for delivering high quality education is great, it has not yet been fully realized in the state.
In two areas of the study, Minnesota charter schools demonstrated success compared with traditional district schools: better serving African-American students in general and its ability to show achievement gains in students who've been enrolled at their schools for more than two years. Yet, the study nevertheless illuminates a clear need for improved quality across the board.
The Stanford CREDO Study paints a very clear picture of the need to improve the academic achievement of Minnesota’s charter schools.
Statistically, the idea of creating a random virtual twin for each charter school student based on the criteria they used is extremely rigorous. CREDO even included the baseline achievement scores as a matching criteria so no one could argue that students choosing to go into charter schools start significantly behind their peers in a traditional public school (TPS), i.e. the study attempted to remove any factors that would cause a significant selection bias in the study.
CSP agrees with most of the conclusions of the study as it relates to both the national and statewide statistics. However, an analysis of the data for Minnesota does suggests that the findings may be slightly less representative of the total Minnesota charter school environment than for the other states:
• During the four years of the CREDO study, MN
experienced its greatest increase in the number of charters since 1991-
64 new charters or 43% of all charters were less than three years old.
The first years of a new charter school almost invariably have their
lowest test scores.
• The CREDO study represents only about 40% of Minnesota’s charter population. The study includes 10,190 charter school students from grades 3-8 with data collected between 2004/5 and 2007/8; at the end of 2008, there were over 27,000 total students enrolled in Minnesota charter schools.
• The CREDO study employs a matching algorithm to make comparisons between the performance of students in district schools and charter schools -- this methodology results in only 70% of MN charter students being matched (70% of the 40% figure mentioned in the first bullet), the lowest percentage of matched students in any of the other 15 states profiled by the study (Table 1, page 18 of main study).
• This resulting demographic profile of the 70% of the matched charter school students understates the concentration of minority students, special ed students, FRL students, and ELL students in their analysis (see Table 2 on pg 19). For example, in the CREDO study for Minnesota, only 25.2% of the matched charter school students were Black or Hispanic. In the 2008 Minnesota Office of Legislative Auditor (OLA) study, 52% of charter school students are minorities. In the CREDO study, 12.5% are ELL. In the OLA study, 21% of Minnesota's charter school students are ELL.
FULFILLING THE CHARTER PROMISE
We are confident the quality standard can be improved in Minnesota’s existing charter schools. The national CREDO study shows that that there are charters, and communities of charters, that are nurturing high levels of student achievement and closing the achievement gap where it exists across the country. Further, the study shows us what charters can do and what, collectively, Minnesota charters aren’t yet doing.
We in the charter community in Minneosta are at a crossroads: Do we have the collective will to do better as a charter community? We strongly believe so. This year, Minnesota’s state legislators and charter leaders collaborated to refine the state’s existing charter law to improve charter school accountability and increase performance.
While we support any school, district or charter, that takes seriously its obligations to its students and the state by providing high quality instruction, we also support the CREDO study’s recommendation that “when schools consistently fail they should be closed." CSP believes that any school should live this creed: Succeed, turn it around, or shut it down.
CREDO has told the first part of MN's charter story: Minnesota is committed to a promising policy idea, the charter school, but we have not yet made good on that promise. We look forward to working with schools to tell the next part of the story: MN's charter community will fulfill this promise by building and nurturing high-quality schools and by closing failing schools.
Al Fan is Executive Director of Charter School Partners, a new non-profit organization, recently formed to improve business excellence, academic excellence and to build a community of charter school excellence in Minnesota.