Charter Schools: The good ones aren’t flukes (or cherrypickers)

Charter schools are all the rage these days. The public is increasingly smitten with them – in this year’s Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup education poll, 68% of respondents said they support charter schools, up from 42% in 2000 – but few people know what charters are, reports Time. When the education journal Education Next asked Americans some basic questions this summer about charter schools, such as whether they can charge tuition or hold religious services, fewer than 1 in 5 respondents knew the correct answer (which was no in both cases). The confusion is so pervasive that more than half of the teachers surveyed couldn’t answer the questions correctly either. Scenes of charter lotteries are currently being used to wrenching effect in two documentaries, Waiting for ‘Superman’ and The Lottery, but the process of randomly selecting which kids get a better shot at life in high-performing charters has a troubling echo in the policy world: In too many states, charter schools are treated in a similarly random way. The mantra from charter-school opponents is that charters are no better, on average, than other public schools. The implication is that consequently there is little to be learned from charters and less reason to have them…

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Public opinion turning against Obama education plans

A new Gallup Poll has found fewer Americans approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing in support of public education, but they continue to have a highly favorable opinion of their local schools, reports the Associated Press. The drop in the president’s education approval ratings—as found in the random telephone poll of about 1,000 Americans in June—mirrors the drop in his general approval rating in other recent polls, said Shane Lopez, senior scientist in residence for Gallup. The education poll released Aug. 25 was paid for by Phi Delta Kappa (PDK). It found 34 percent gave the president a grade of A or B for his work in support of public schools, compared with 45 percent at the same time in 2009. They gave even worse grades for the quality of the nation’s schools, but said they approve of their local schools. Americans picked school budgets and improving teacher quality as their top education issues, but said they were mostly unaware of the impact of Congress’ stimulus dollars on education. “We have a love affair with our local schools, especially the schools that our children attend,” Lopez said. But that doesn’t mean people have a deep knowledge of how schools get the money that makes them succeed, he added. The PDK/Gallup poll has been criticized in previous years for framing its questions to validate the organization’s agenda—support for smaller classes and higher teacher pay and criticism of the No Child Left Behind law. PDK critic Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, thinks the organization did a slightly better job this year of exploring the issues, but dislikes the way the poll was presented. “I’m not so sure this is a public opinion survey, rather than an attempt to influence people to think in a certain way about the issues,” Allen said…

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