UA fudges charter school report | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, July 1, 2010

UA fudges charter school report

Posted By on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 5:49 AM

This one's for the public school/charter school wonks, but it's also an enlightening piece of information dug up by Little Rock School District lawyer Chris Heller on how the Walton-inspired education "reformers" up at the University of Arkansas massaged the numbers in attempting to show the Little Rock School District isn't harmed by the state's unlimited approval of open enrollment charter schools in Pulaski County.

A note from Heller and a document he dug up in an FOI of the "reformers" show that the charter schools are draining a big number of white students out of the magnet schools. These are the schools the state agreed to support in a federal court agreement as a means of stemming re-segregation in the district. This is particularly important at the middle school level. The UA researchers hid this critical piece of data in a report Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is now trumpeting as holy writ. Holy s*** is more like it.

The numbers are almost beside the point. You need only look at the clutch of predominantly white schools created in the county to understand these state-encouraged creations harm conventional public schools. If they were luring kids failed by their schools it would be one thing. Generally, they are not, based on scores of white kids enrolling in the majority white schools. If they were working hard to keep the tough kids it would be another thing. They are not. The tough cases are "counseled" back to conventional public schools.

Still. Academics suppressing data to improve the look of their report? Climategate, anyone? UPDATE: See UA response on the jump.

HELLER'S NOTE

board members and dr watson -

let me give you a little background about the attached document. last year, as judge miller was preparing to schedule hearings on the unitary status petitions of pcssd and nlrsd, he requested status reports from all the parties. we filed ours on september 11, 2009 and raised issues about the state board of education's unconditional approval of numerous open enrollment charter schools in pulaski county. we claimed, among other things, that the charters were enrolling students who would otherwise have attended magnet schools, thus undermining the 1989 settlement agreement.

in response to our status report, the office for education policy (oep) at the university of arkansas published on september 28, 2009 a biased report (see my email dated 9/28/09) which was critical of our arguments. when we filed our motion to enforce the settlement agreement on may 19, 2010, the oep published in response an updated report (also biased) on may 27, 2010. we sent an foia request for documents related to the may 27 oep report and the attached document was included in the response.

as i'll explain below, the attached document shows that we are correct about the impact on magnet schools.

table 4 of the september 28, 2009 oep report showed that 178 white students left lrsd for charter schools in the 2008-09 school year. oep claimed that those transfers did not hurt desegregation. the attached document, which oep has not published, shows that 101 of those 178 students came from magnet schools. this impact on lrsd magnet schools is not mentioned in the may 27, 2010 oep report, despite the fact that the report has a section titled " where do students transferring to charter schools come from...?".

i'll present a litigation report at the july board meeting. i thought you would like to have this information about oep and the impact of charters on magnet schools in the meantime. ch

THE COPY OF THE DATA HE FOUND AT UA THROUGH FOI

From: "Nathan Jensen"
To: "Gary Ritter"
Subject: Question about White Student School of Origin
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 2009 16:01:32 -0500
% Minority # of Student Transfers (08-09) School(s) of Origin (N)


55-68% minority enrollment

62 transferred students

9 Mann Magnet Middle

1 Parkview Magnet High

16 Booker Arts Magnet

8 Pulaski Heights Middle

13 Carver Magnet Elem

2 Gibbs Magnet Elem

3 Pulaski Heights Elem

10 Williams Magnet Elem


45-54.99% minority enrollment

0 transfers

Less than 44.9% minority enrollment

33 transfers

3 Forest Park Elem

9 Jefferson Elem

21 Carver Magnet Elem


greater than 68% minority

83

(just did this to double check that I had the right N for white students, which I do)

Looks like the majority of white students did come from magnet schools — 72
from the first three groups, and another 29 from the final grouping for a total of 101 of the 178 students. What should we make of this?
Regards,

Nathan C. Jensen

Research Associate, Office for Education Policy

Department of Education Reform

University of Arkansas

ANSWER TO QUESTION POSED IN NOTE: The researchers decided to bury this salient point.

PS: I can't explain the discrepancy that shows different numbers for Carver Magnet under two categories.

UPDATED RESPONSE FROM GARY RITTER AT UA

Of course, we disagree with your accusation that we were intentionally misleading...we were not. The numbers in our September, 28, 2009 report are perfectly consistent with the numbers in our email that you reproduced on your blog. Table 4 on page 9 of the document shows that, in fact, 178 white students did transfer from the LRSD, with the majority (95) transferring from above-average white schools.

In our analysis, the policy question we were answering was about the overall racial composition of the traditional public schools that charter students exited (magnet schools, which are traditional public schools, were included in this overall set of schools). Thus, our guiding question did not differentiate by individual school, because we were interested in knowing the overall impact these transfers have on all schools, and all students, in the LRSD.

Finally, and perhaps most important given your inappropriate accusations, the email you posted on your blog was sent after we released our first report (report released on Sept. 28, 2009, email sent on Sept. 30). This is something that we considered after our report was released. In any event, our question of interest focused on the impact these transfers have on all schools, not just on a specific subset of the traditional public sector.

However, as a service unit in the state flagship University, it is the goal of OEP to answer the questions that are relevant to important policy questions. So, if anyone — including yourself or Mr. Heller — would have asked us to provide information about how many of these students come from magnet schools, we would have been happy to do so. I would also be happy to speak with you more about this (in person or on the phone) if you would like.

Thanks for your interest in our report,
Gary RitterDirector, UA Office for Education Policy

ARK. BLOG COMMENT

By the time of the updated OEP report, if not long before the first report, the impact of charters on magnet schools was a key part of Little Rock's criticism of the state policy on charter schools. Why else would the UA have been moved to make the analysis Heller found. It's disingenuous to say, "if only someone had asked."

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