We Need to Tell the Truth
There were so many moments over the last four years when parents across America wished that the U.S. Secretary of Education would look out for their children. During her tenure as the nation’s spokesperson for education, Secretary Devos, seldom entered a traditional public school for a public event, although these schools educate 90% of the nation’s children and 95% of all the children in poverty.
After four years, the callousness and brazen bigotry of the Trump Administration drove the Secretary to resign. She said, finally, “Impressionable children are watching all of this and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgement and model the behavior we hope they would emulate.”
She should have owned up to her own failure of moral obligation and good judgment on behalf of public school students.
While the Secretary did not create charter schools, she was their champion, making no effort to press this emerging sector to deliver for kids. In Pennsylvania, charter school enrollment spiked 85% over the past ten years, now educating nearly 200,000 students.
Unfortunately, the impressive gains in charter school enrollment have not being matched by gains in performance. More than three quarters of 3rd through 8th grade charter students failed their math test, and 56% failed English Language Arts, based on the state’s official results of student testing. More than half of charter school 11th graders failed the Algebra Keystone Exam; 45% failed Literature. And, under the state’s accountability system, all of Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charters need improvement.
In so many ways, the charter school sector’s performance mirrors the lackluster results of traditional public schools, especially when the data is examined without bias or prejudice. It’s also the case that there are some rays of promise in the charter experiment worthy of consideration and expansion but seldom discussed in ways that support sound policy and replication.
That’s precisely why PCCY is launching the Pennsylvania Charter Performance Center. The Center will use facts, not rhetoric, to recommend practical and productive state-level charter school policy. The Center will close the information gap by delivering reliable information on charter and district-run school performance, so parents, grandparents, and local and state leaders have the information they need to make the best decisions for children.
New Orleans has been engaged in the nation’s largest charter school experiment since 2005. At the Center’s inaugural event, Doug Harris, Director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, will present compelling longitudinal research on New Orleans’ near total move from public schools to charter schools. Listen in on Wednesday at 12:00 pm as Doug discusses his findings and how to make the sector deliver on academic gains.
In far too many ways Secretary Devos’ tenure at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education copied the White House practice of amplifying falsehoods, putting political agenda and big donor interests ahead of what’s best for our country. We must start to tell the truth. After order was restored at the Capitol on Wednesday, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney received bi-partisan applause when he said, “The best way we can show respect for the voters who were upset is to tell them the truth.”
The Charter Performance Center is one way PCCY is showing respect to parents and policymakers by sharing the truth—good or bad—about one of the most important services we provide for our kids.