Voucher, Charter Schools at Risk

All thanks to the No Child Left Behind waiver.

School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender was the most vocal critic of the waiver during last week’s public hearing. The waiver, he says, would allow the state to remove voucher schools from choice programs and seize power from charter school authorizers without giving them any chance for improvement.

“Unfortunately, the waiver released by DPI does not hold all schools accountable equally across all sectors, and details by which schools will be measured and held accountable are yet to be determined,” Bender testified Thursday. “If approved as written, the waiver would allow DPI to remove MPCP and PPSCP schools from the school choice programs and to supersede charter school authorizers that fell into the lowest five percent of persistently low performing schools that fail to improve and meet certain yet to be determined benchmarks within three years. On the other hand, public schools would be given a series of three-year time periods with several options to choose from to work toward improvement.”

The big issue lies in the fact that the improvement window for voucher and charter schools is limited, which is not the case for public schools.

The lack of specific language for both voucher and charter schools – the majority of which operate under very different guidelines from traditional public schools – is a concern for School Choice Wisconsin. It suggests that the waiver will increase the power that the state holds over choice schools. According to their research, this is something that has not been a piece of other states’ applications in areas where vouchers and tax-credit scholarships assist students.

The biggest issue for these schools, according to Bender, is a limited window for improvement. Regular public schools that are deemed lowest performing would be put on a rolling three-year intervention period in hopes of improvement. They would have no strict timeline for closure if changes cannot be made. Choice and charter schools would have only a three-year window before closure, and only one shot at improvement. The disparity between the two groups, testified Bender, is inherently unfair.

Since the waiver is still being shaped by input from legislators and others, it’s imperative to let your state Representatives and Senators know that public, charter and voucher schools all need to be on level playing field when it comes to improvement for schools that perform poorly.

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What’s going on in Manitowoc schools?

Official seal of Manitowoc, Wisconsin
Image via Wikipedia

The whole district failed the reading requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Jefferson Elementary School and the Manitowoc Public School District did not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress in reading for the 2008-09 school year, the Department of Public Instruction announced Tuesday.

The district must meet the AYP target next year, or it will be identified as needing improvement. The preliminary progress reports indicate Jefferson and the entire district did not meet its required 74 percent reading proficiency as required by the No Child Left Behind law.

Students with disabilities did not reach the goal, causing the problem, Superintendent Mark Swanson said.

“I don’t say that as an excuse or an apology,” Swanson said.

Tests are administered in mid-November and the results are released at the end of the school year. The “frustrating” part is the district has two months to work to close the gap before the next round of tests, Swanson said.

The district has to meet the proficiency mark in 17 sub-groups to comply with No Child Left Behind. The district met each category with the exception of students with disabilities.

“We are really drilling the data and pulling it apart … so we can make an analysis of what is working or not,” Director of Pupil Services Dawn LeLou Matte said. (Source: Manitowoc School District, Jefferson Elementary fail progress report – Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter)

Hopefully they can get things turned around.

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