Thursday, January 31, 2013

CREDO Study "Reinforces The Essence" Of "One Million LI(v)ES" Campaign To Close Schools

When we last left Macke Raymond and her jolly band of "researchers" they were busy drawing dubious conclusions about New Jersey charter schools that didn't seem to match up with their actual data.  We uncovered that it was fairly likely, despite Commissioner Cerf's assertions that CREDO was not "part of the bandwagon" that the key players at CREDO were in fact little more than a bunch of ideologues masquerading as researchers.  We tied it all up with a bow and demonstrated that for years Raymond Macke, CREDO's research director, has been leading the "war" against public education for almost a decade.
So in 2005 Raymond studied the "emergence of markets in industries dominated by monopolies" and now she studies "the effectiveness of public charter schools." 
To me, the question then becomes, is her current research really about "effectiveness" or is it a way to ensure that the charter market continues to "emerge."  This is certainly the goal of her funders. 
There is no way to read Raymond's speech at the Chartering 2.0 Leadership Summit and not question wether the dubious conclusions drawn from her research are nothing more than a weapon in the arsenal of charter advocates to win the "war" she describes.
In 2005 Raymond stated that to win, charter advocates must demonstrate that charters "produce much better results."  And now, lo and behold, 7 years and a couple million reform-bucks later, she's producing the research findings to "prove" just that.  
And now CREDO has released another "report" that proclaims that if a charter is "good" when it opens it will stay "good" and if it is "bad" it will stay "bad" so you might as well close the bad ones ASAP and open up a bunch of charter chains, right?
This report’s findings challenge the conventional wisdom that a young underperforming school will improve if given time. Our research shows that if you start wobbly, chances are you’ll stay wobbly,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, CREDO’s director and the study’s lead author. “Similarly, if a school is successful in producing strong academic progress from the start, our analysis shows it will remain a strong and successful school.” 
“We have solid evidence that high quality is possible from the outset,” Dr. Raymond said. “Since the study also shows that the majority of charter management organizations produce consistent quality through their portfolios – regardless of the actual level of quality – policy makers will want to assure that charter schools that replicate have proven models of success.”   
Let me hide my surprise that CREDO has released a report that backs up the One Million Lives campaign launched by Greg Richmond, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and New Jersey's own Chris Cerf.
Thousands of charter schools provide an excellent education to students around the country. But there are still too many students in both traditional and charter public schools who don’t graduate and too few students academically prepared to succeed.  While many charter schools perform at the highest levels, many others perform at the lowest levels.  
It is time for the charter community itself to fix the failings in the sector so that more children have the chance to attend a great school. 
One Million Lives will engage charter school authorizers, along with a broad coalition of school operators, lawmakers, funders and others, to lead the way in closing failing charter schools and opening many more excellent ones. (emphasis NOT mine)
Not that I needed my suspicions confirmed that NACSA and CREDO are in this campaign together, but  in case you're not convinced yet, this is from the NACSA press release about the CREDO study.
“This study reinforces the essence of our One Million Lives campaign. There are still far too many children in America that are not getting a good education. We need to have the courage to act quickly and decisively to give more children the chance to attend a good school and we now have better data to support those actions. We need to approve only strong proposals for new charter schools, replicate those existing charter schools that are doing well, and have the integrity to close the hundreds of charter schools in this country that are failing our children.” (emphasis mine)
If there is any doubt left in your mind that CREDO is biased enough to merit serious suspicion, then read the email below from Macke Raymond to Andy Smarick from June of 2011.  It's titled "Media contact courtesy heads-up" and Raymond informs Smarick that Star Ledger reporter Jessica Calefati "hunted" her down for a story on school closings.  Raymond informs Smarick that she told Calefati that the NJDOE's reforms are "needed to move the sector in positive directions" and assures him that even though Calefati was looking for dirt, she "didn't offer any." 

Can anyone really continue to pretend that CREDO does not have an agenda that mirrors that of the nation's most prominent reformers and their research conclusions should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism? 

Andy Smarick was quoted by Joy Resmovitz in her Huffington Post piece today about the release of the uber-reformy CREDO report.
The report comes one day after civil rights and community leaders chided the White House for not stopping school districts from shutting schools. "The civil rights issue is that we're providing really bad schools to low income kids," said Andy Smarick, a former federal and New Jersey education official who now works at Bellwether Education Partners. "Chicago made a bad policy call when they closed schools without providing better options. We need not turnarounds but the replication and expansion of great schools."
He went much, MUCH further with Emma Brown in today's Washington Post.
It boils down to this: Traditional urban school systems are broken and can’t be fixed. They have to be replaced. And charter schools should be the blueprint. 
“Chartering is the replacement system for the failed urban system in my view,” Smarick said Tuesday.
Smarick advocates for closing low-performing traditional and charter schools, allowing only successful institutions to continue operating. If that means that struggling school systems are forced to shrink into minor education players in their respective cities — well, so be it.
Smarick sure does make it clear what these folks want; the disappearance of traditional public school systems.  Of course, he neglects to say WHY charters should be the blueprint, but I'm sure he'd like you to believe that it's "for the kids."  

We're just supposed to ignore that charter operators can double their money in seven years using New Market Tax Credits in low income communities to arrange private financing for charter schools in urban districts.  We're just supposed to ignore that there is LOTS of money to be made closing "wobbly" urban charter schools and opening edubusinesses!
The New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC Program) was established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investments into operating businesses and real estate projects located in low-income communities. The NMTC Program attracts investment capital to low-income communities by permitting individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their Federal income tax return in exchange for making equity investments in specialized financial institutions called Community Development Entities (CDEs. (emphasis mine)
If reformers like Raymond, Richmond, Cerf and Smarick get their way, urban schools will be reduced to businesses and real estate projects for the rich. And don't think for one minute that if they find "success" in urban areas they won't come after suburban areas, too. Richmond has done it before, he will do it again.

THIS is why it's important for ALL of us to fight together to reclaim and reframe the debate about school closures.  Keeping them OPEN is the "civil rights issue" NOT CLOSING THEM.  And if it's a war over our public schools the reformers want, in the words of Smarick, well, so be it.

Who do YOU trust with your children's schools? Parents and educators fighting for community based schools that educate all children, or edupreneurs leveraging tax credits to create lucrative charter chains that segregate students and churn out test scores as the sole indicator of "success?"

Don't believe their lies.  This is not about education.  It's about money.


  1. Schooling in the Ownership Society has important additional information about the Credo "study":

  2. Teacher activist Anthony Cody has an important article about the CREDO study, including a reference to this blog:

    Churn for Charters is No Solution
    from Anthony Cody’s Living in Dialogue blog

    “The "charter movement" has recently recognized that they are vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy if they demand that traditional public schools be closed for poor performance, but fail to enforce the same standards on charters. This report proposes that we spread the churn that currently plagues public schools into the charter sector. This may be more "fair," but is not, from my perspective, likely to make things much better for students.

    Sharp-eyed parent activist Darcie Cimarusti has done some digging to uncover the hidden messages here. The lead author of this study is Margaret Raymond. Her background is in the study of the "emergence of markets in fields dominated by monopolies." While the 2009 CREDO study showed little evidence that charters offer much value, Dr. Raymond is apparently acting as a shadow advocate for the sector.”

Read more: