national newsletter

Roadblocks to transferring schools

Welcome to Chalkbeat’s national newsletter! We’re working to help you make sense of efforts to improve education across the country. You can sign up for any of Chalkbeat’s newsletters here.


The big story

There are lots of debate — and stacks of research — on how charter schools perform compared to district schools. Today we’re focusing on a separate, but related issue: the extent to which charter schools enroll new students in the middle of the school year.

The jumping-off point is a new study showing that charter schools in Washington D.C. take far fewer students mid-year than district schools — about 1% vs. 8%. (Interestingly, the study found no evidence that charter school students left their schools more often than district students, a common claim made by charter critics.)

Little is known about the issue nationally, but the results in D.C. look similar to an analysis of Oakland charter schools. Some charter networks also shared with us how many students left mid-year vs. how many came in, and in most cases, there were more students exiting than entering.

Other research has found that having more students arrive mid-year slightly lowers the test scores of students already in a school. If charters are accepting many fewer of those students, then, that’s another reason it can be complicated to directly compare the academic results of charters and district schools.

“If one part of the public school sector is not enrolling students mid-year, then those challenges are really concentrated elsewhere,” said Neil Campbell, co-author of the D.C. study. “That creates an equity concern, and a concern when you’re comparing results across sectors.”

Read the full story here.


Local stories to watch

  • New York City education officials are finally communicating with parents about the presence of lead paint in their children’s schools. Following inspections, more than 900 elementary school classrooms were found to have deteriorating lead paint. Officials say they’re working to make schools safe by September, but they provided little guidance on whether students should have their blood tested.
  • More than twice as many Denver students were handcuffed in recent years than the district had originally reported. District officials now say 155 Denver students were handcuffed over the last two school years, not 58, and a disproportionate share were black. They’re attributing the discrepancy to an incomplete database search and have since enacted a strict limit on handcuffing elementary school students.
  • For the first time, Detroit’s Teach for America teachers are being trained locally. In previous years, TFA’s Detroit teachers were trained in other cities — a practice TFA has drawn criticism for nationally.
  • An Indianapolis housing development meant to help retain teachers isn’t doing that. One year in, 15 homes in “Educators’ Village” have sold, but only seven have gone to teachers — a reminder that it’s nearly impossible to narrowly target such projects and they don’t removing existing barriers to teacher recruitment and retention, like low pay.
  • Illinois will be the second state to require seniors to apply for federal financial aid in order to graduate. The law follows in the footsteps of Chicago, which requires high school seniors to have a post-secondary plan to graduate. Advocates say the state  should now focus on assisting students who don’t qualify for federal aid, or are limited in seeking it, such as immigrant and undocumented students.

Each year, freethinkers flock to the Texas Tribune Festival, running Sept. 26-28 in downtown Austin, for one of the largest nonpartisan gatherings of lawmakers, policy experts and community leaders in the nation. This year’s Fest will feature three days of programming on matters of politics and public policy, 400 speakers, 125 interactive conversations, one-on-one interviews, and unparalleled networking. Learn more and register using discount code CHKBT19 for $50 off here.


Research roundup

How K-12 schools can sustain — or not sustain — pre-kindergarten gains. High-profile research out of Tennessee has shown that any benefits from the state’s pre-K program quickly faded. A new study helps explain why: Pre-K students saw sustained gains if they went on to attend a high-quality elementary school and be taught by a highly effective teacher, but that was only the case for 12 percent of pre-K students. The findings are similar to prior research showing the benefits of Head Start are more likely to be sustained when students attend well-funded K-12 schools.

Why don’t elite schools in Chicago boost test scores? A new study elaborates on the surprising finding — which we’ve covered before — that coveted exam schools like New York City’s Stuyvesant don’t lead to clear benefits for students who attend. In Chicago, attending such a school had no effect on ACT reading scores and lowered math results. The researchers say the reason is that some exam school students might have otherwise attended a Noble charter school. They show that Noble, a large network of high schools in Chicago, substantially boosts students’ ACT scores.


First Person


DeVos watch

On Monday, 30 U.S. senators penned a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her to provide assistance to students affected by the closure of three for-profit college chains.

And a new report from The 74 provides a look at how DeVos’ proposed changes to Title IX could affect how sexual misconduct is handled by schools. The 74 found dozens of cases in which girls — many of whom were students of color — had been punished by their schools after reporting an alleged sexual assault. After suspending a female student who said she’d been raped, one Florida district argued in court that its disciplinary decisions shouldn’t be second-guessed, echoing language in the DeVos amendments.


2020 vision

Before becoming a senator, Elizabeth Warren was a law school professor. Before that, she was a public school teacher. The question remains: Will her background in education help or hurt her on the campaign trail?

School integration came up again at last week’s Democratic debates. This time, Kamala Harris was asked by moderators if she and Joe Biden share the same view on “busing.” Harris said that on this issue, she and Biden “could not be more apart.”

Also at the debate, Michael Bennet joined the conversation on school integration to point out that schools are still deeply segregated. Yesterday, the former Denver schools superintendent went to South Carolina’s “corridor of shame,” where the longshot candidate looked to capitalize on that moment on the debate stage. There, he touted his support for universal pre-K and increases in teacher pay.

Asked about his past support of charter schools, Cory Booker criticized Michigan’s charter school law, which he said lacks accountability measures. He said he would prioritize raising teacher pay and special education funding.


Names to note

Leslie Boggs was named president of the National Parent Teacher Association.

Teresa Meredith ended her term as Indiana State Teachers Association president and is now back in the classroom.


What we’re reading

  • How funding and other concerns derailed a years-in-the-making innovation school in Massachusetts, backed by XQ. Hechinger Report
  • The California Teachers Association has spent over $4 million this year on lobbying focused on limiting charter schools. Sacramento Bee
  • Texas legislators were hoping a new law would spur districts to turn struggling schools over to charter operators; many are instead working with nonprofits with close district ties. Texas Tribune
  • Predictive analytics can put college students on a data-driven path to graduation, but some worry the algorithms are invading students’ privacy and funneling them into easier majors. APM Reports

(Photo: Caroline Bauman)