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Feds' denial of charter AYP rule change will allow closer Philly school comparisons

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 27, 2012 07:01 PM
Photo: Mitchell Leff for City of Philadelphia

Ron Tomalis (left) and Mayor Nutter

Bache-Martin is a K-8 District-run public school in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia with about 400 students. People for People is a K-8 charter school with just over 500 students not too far away in lower North Philadephia.

If state Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis had had his way, these two schools would have been judged by different standards in determining whether they met federal achievement goals.

But earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education shot down Tomalis' rule change for calculating so-called adequate yearly progress (AYP) for charters. The federal department's action will have an impact in Philadelphia, where more than half the state's charter schools are located.

For one thing, it will allow parents to make more of an apples-to-apples comparison between charters and District-run schools -- at least when looking at test scores.

Here's what happened:

Tomalis decided, before getting federal approval, to treat charter schools as whole districts in calculating whether they  made AYP. Tomalis applied the change for the 2011-12 school year at the urging of charter advocates.

Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, argued that treating charters as individual schools instead of districts put them at a disadvantage and that Tomalis' action leveled the playing field.

The standard for whole districts is less stringent than that for individual schools. For districts, it breaks down K-12 into elementary, middle and high school grade spans. Meeting the standard in just one grade span is sufficient.

For individual schools, all tested grades must hit the mark.

Using the new system, a higher percentage of charters than regular public schools met the federal benchmarks in 2012. And there was a big jump from 2011.

But the feds told Tomalis: no go.

"Pennsylvania is obligated to make AYP decisions for all schools and hold all schools to the same standards," said the U.S. Department of Education letter from Assistant Secretary Deborah S. Delisle.

Delisle ordered the state to recalculate and publicize the new AYP status of charters by January. An analysis by the Allentown Morning Call found that 52 of them had one or more grade spans that did not meet the federal benchmarks.

Legally, charters in Pennsylvania are considered Local Education Agencies, or LEAs, the equivalent of districts. But Delisle noted that there are some small single-school districts in Pennsylvania that receive AYP calculations as both schools and districts. The same should happen for charters, Delisle said.

There are more than 80 charter schools in Philadelphia. Last year, using Tomalis' method, 43 Philadelphia charters - more than half - made AYP, compared to just 33 District-run schools. We will know in January, once the individual school standard is applied, whether that number will go down for charters.

School District leaders have decided not to comment on this, said spokesman Fernando Gallard. They are already in hot water with charter advocates for not accepting applications for new stand-alone charter schools, citing adverse financial impact.

Treating charters as separate districts also had an impact on enforcement of new testing security protocols put in place as a result of the investigation into possible adult cheating on standardized tests.

The state imposed stricter testing protocols on all District-run schools, even those where no statistical evidence of possible cheating had been found, including the requirement that teachers not proctor their own students. For charters, because they are all their own legal entities, only those with problems had to follow the stricter protocols.

PSSA scores dropped considerably for 2011-12, which Tomalis attributed to the more stringent test security and others said was at least in part due to severe budget cuts. In Philadelphia, the drops were more widespread in District schools than in charters.

One more thing: Last school year, District schools were already feeling the brunt of those budget cuts. The impact of those cuts hits charters this year.

 

 

 

Comments (12)

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on November 30, 2012 7:01 pm
"We will know in January, once the individual school standard is applied, whether that number will go down for charters." We ALREADY know - just look at the AYP results http://paayp.emetric.net/ The percentage of Philadelphia charter schools who made AYP was 17 - 20%. This is slightly above School District schools. As the article indicates, much stricter testing requirements were place on all District but not charter schools. So, the "great miracle" that the SRC wants to see in most charters is not happening - at least with standardized test scores.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 1, 2012 9:16 am
Easier comparisons between Charters and Public Schools?? That is not what the Politicians want. They want to sell the dismantling of public education by rigged numbers. More games to come. Remember there are liars, Damn liars and statistics when it comes to these comparisons, And the Damn liars control the statistics ,
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 1, 2012 5:59 pm
The rate of charters (percentage) will still be twice that of the district. Yet, charters still get 80% of per pupil funding.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on December 1, 2012 11:11 pm
I hear all the time that receive only 80% of what traditional public schools receive. Can someone from the Notebook or who has expertise in the logistics of funding explain how much funding charters actually receive relative to TPSs? There are some costs that districts bear -- e.g. facilities costs and capital costs -- that don't apply to many charters. So the funding is not exactly apples to apples.
Submitted by Paul Socolar on December 2, 2012 12:27 am

Here's the actual language that explains what district costs get excluded from the calculation:

(2) For non-special education students, the charter school shall receive for each student enrolled no less than the budgeted total expenditure per average daily membership of the prior school year, as defined in section 2501(20), minus the budgeted expenditures of the district of residence for nonpublic school programs; adult education programs; community/junior college programs; student transportation services; for special education programs; facilities acquisition, construction and improvement services; and other financing uses, including debt service and fund transfers as provided in the Manual of Accounting and Related Financial Procedures for Pennsylvania School Systems established by the department. This amount shall be paid by the district of residence of each student.

(3) For special education students, the charter school shall receive for each student enrolled the same funding as for each non-special education student as provided in clause (2), plus an additional amount determined by dividing the district of residence’s total special education expenditure by the product of multiplying the combined percentage of section 2509.5(k) times the district of residence’s total average daily membership for the prior school year. This amount shall be paid by the district of residence of each student.

 

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/charter_school_...

 

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on December 2, 2012 5:09 am
Another issues with charter funding was to be addressed by the PA Legislature this year but failed: "That means the state and school districts will continue giving excess pension contributions for charter and cyber charters schools." http://paindependent.com/2012/11/failure-to-reform-charter-funding-leave...
Submitted by Ken Derstine on December 2, 2012 8:14 am
Editorial: Charter school funding reform must address pension from the Delaware County Daily Times "Public school districts fund charters through a by-district tuition rate, which includes calculations for pension contributions. On top of that, charters are eligible for pension contribution reimbursements from the state at the same rate school districts receive. A special audit released by Auditor General Jack Wagner in June said that eliminating this situation could save $500 per student annually, or around $50 million, Pa. Independent reported." http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/12/02/opinion/doc50baceee4ef0652...
Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on December 2, 2012 8:08 am
Also, remember that all K-8 charter school students receive free school bus transportation--this is a huge perk that is unavailable to most regular education Philadelphia Public (district-run) schools. If we really want parents to have school "choice" to ALL schools outside of their catchment ( and I am not necessarily saying we do), we have to realize that transportation is a hugely important issue. It is one more way we are not competing on a level playing field.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on December 2, 2012 9:19 am
Parochial / Private school students also receive state funding which too often is "forgotten" in the voucher debate. Besides transportation, private/parochial schools receive Title 1 funding, There are also School District teachers (e.g. reading, special education) assigned to parochial / private schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 2, 2012 8:32 am
the issue of school funding for philadelphia is always a sore point. district schools complain because they don't get the same as lower merion. here's a suggestion, move to lower merion! they have more to spend on everything. they are rich. the reality of philly school funding is that the district gets more and wastes more. it is likely that their math would show charters as the problem. the problem is that every time they change leaders they paper over the losses and pay off the person leaving. start with hornbeck and track it to ackerman. it went for a lot to an ungodly amount. it is easy to blame the charters. charters do take money, but less relative to district costs. charters also take kids, so they reduce the costs of the district too. fire teachers, close buildings, gut 440 and you 'll have your savings. we all have a relative who is always in need of help, but when you visit them you find that they live on a grander style than you. they expect you to subsidize them. that's how the charters feel about our cousins at the district.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 2, 2012 11:37 am
Districts are funded for each charter student receiving transportation. Not a perk. Despite your pension article, charters still funded at about 75% to 80% of per pupil given to district. Wagner verified that number, also. Close every charter and there are still academic, facilities, budget and safety problems. In fact, these are the same problems that have been plaguing the Philly education system for decades.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 2, 2012 11:22 pm
you're so right. there seems to be a lapse of memory by most of these guys. the district was awful before charters came on the scene. back then, when they spent $8,000/student they complained that they needed more money. now they get $13,000/student and they're still awful and still crying for more money.

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