This week on the Charters & Choice news roundup, we start with a couple stories on facilities issues for charter schools in California, bop into Iowa for an item on presidential candidates chasing the home-school vote, and then wrap up in New York where some charter school policies are coming under fire.
But first, to the Bay Area, where San Jose Mercury News reporter Sharon Noguchi reports on how hard it is for schools to get buildings, forcing many to adapt in less than ideal ways:
California #CharterSchools Scramble for Leases in Tight Real Estate Market | http://t.co/BkabrUac7k | #SchoolChoice pic.twitter.com/ZHk9taIdqN
— Choice Media (@ChoiceMediaTV) April 8, 2015
Farther down the coast, Los Angeles charter schools scored a facilities win... maybe? The California Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the way the L.A. Unified School District was distributing classroom space to charter schools was unconstitutional. Details from Maura Dolan at the L.A. Times:
But whether the new method would lead to expansions for L.A. charter schools was unclear. The guidelines laid down by the court contained plenty of room for interpretation. Charter advocates predicted that at least some schools would get additional space. An attorney for LAUSD said no new charter school classrooms would be required."
Now to Iowa! Where GOP 2016 presidential hopefuls have their eye on an important voting bloc: home schoolers. Or so reports Catherine Lucey for the Associated Press:
Eight years after Mike Huckabee tapped the support of evangelical homeschooling families as part of his winning coalition in the 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses, a lineup of GOP hopefuls is seeking to duplicate that effort. ... 'Some of the most coveted activists in the Iowa caucuses are homeschool parents,' said conservative radio show host Steve Deace, himself a homeschool parent who appeared at Thursday's event."
And finally on to New York City, where the fast-growing, high-achieving, politically polarizing charter school network Success Academy was featured in a story by The New York Times this week. The paper took a deep dive into the network’s controversial teaching and testing methods:
Students at @SuccessCharters are very successful. But at what cost to themselves and teachers? http://t.co/FeDiEoN0iH pic.twitter.com/RPQoyGWegL
— NYT Metro Desk (@NYTMetro) April 6, 2015
New York is also at the center of the growing backlash over backfill. What’s backfill, you ask? It’s when a school replaces its students who drop out or leave. The issue that some advocates are now raising, is that lots of charter schools don’t do that. Here’s an excerpt from the story I wrote on the issue:
If charter schools are losing the kids who are doing worse and they don't replace them, then their scores will look better," said Jeffry Henig, a political science and education professor at Columbia University's Teachers College. "And if they're not replacing them, then they will have an advantage, if the race is to improve proficiency, because traditional public schools have to backfill."
Could backfill be the next front in the debate over whether charter schools are equitably serving students?
We shall see. In the meantime, if you have a story to suggest for next week’s Charters & Choice news roundup you can either tweet it to @ChartersNChoice or leave it in the comments section below.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.