Friday, August 11, 2017

NYC public schools in close proximity to charters see increased test scores

Anti-school choice activists often argue that charter school expansion hurts existing schools, but a new study of New York City schools found that new charter schools are increasing the performance of schools around them.

The peer-reviewed statistical analysis, conducted by Temple University professor Sarah Cordes, indicates charter schools are not only helping the students enrolled, but also students at schools that feel pressured to increase performance due to their close proximity to a new charter school.

The study found that schools located within half a mile of a new charter school saw increased scores in both math and reading, and the increases become more significant the closer the schools were. The impact was felt most in situations where a charter school opened inside the same building as an existing school.

"The closer the school is, the more it's on the minds of the people in the building," Cordes explained to The 74, an education nonprofit.

Cordes found that the quality of the charter school does not have an impact on how much it helps other schools in the building.

"Just the presence of an alternative does it," she said. "It doesn't really matter how great that alternative is—it's just the fact that that alternative is there, it's in the building, and people see it every day."

Cordes's study, which looked at 900,000 children in grades three through five who attended a public school within a mile of a charter school, found that schools sharing buildings with charters saw upticks in student attendance and far less students failing to advance to the next grade.

There were also marked improvements in student safety and school cleanliness.

Cordes credits competition for most of the improvements, but she also notes that spending per student increased at the existing schools due to drops in enrollment.

Schools within half a mile of charters saw a nearly 5 percent increase in spending per student after the charter was introduced.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has fought to restrict the expansion of charter schools, arguing that his focus will remain on improving the city's traditional public schools.

De Blasio, however, was forced to agree to a charter school expansion in exchange for control over the city's public schools for another two years.

Cordes says she was surprised by the results of her research given the conventional wisdom on the impact of charter schools. "So much of the talk about co-location is so negative, I was somewhat surprised to see the effect was as positive as it is," she said. "I really went into this not knowing what I would find."

The report explains that further research is required to determine exactly what is causing the increased performance in public schools, and also to see whether the results are similar in other large cities.


Transgender Graduates Get $20,000 Each After Restroom Dispute

A Pennsylvania school agreed to pay three transgender students $20,000 each in a settlement allowing the students to use the restroom corresponding to their gender identity.

The details of the costly settlement—totaling $60,000 awarded to the students and $75,000 to their attorney—were released Tuesday after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette requested the information from the Pine-Richland School District under the state’s sunshine law, according to U.S. News & World Report.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Hornak issued a 48-page ruling in February 2016 explaining why the Pine-Richland policy discriminated against transgender students and violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, the Post-Gazette reported.

The students—two of whom identify as female but were born male, and one who identifies as male but was born female—sued Pine-Richland High School in October 2016. Each complained that the school wouldn’t allow them to use the restroom corresponding with gender identity rather than birth gender.

The high school initially enforced its bathroom policies in response to complaints from parents who said that allowing transgender students to use the restroom of their choice violated the privacy of the other students.

By agreeing to settle, the high school now allows students to use whichever bathroom “consistently and uniformly [matches their] asserted gender identity.”


K-12 School Agrees to Gender Inclusion Policy With No Notice or ‘Opt Out’ for Parents

After facing a lawsuit over its treatment of a kindergartener who identifies as transgender, a nationally recognized public charter school in Minnesota has agreed to adopt a far-reaching inclusionary policy.

In the settlement, the school promised to establish a gender inclusion policy that doesn’t allow parents to opt out “based on religious or conscience objections,” and also “not [to] call parents’ or guardians’ attention to the policy.”

The agreement ends a 16-month legal battle between Nova Classical Academy and David and Hannah Edwards, parents of a child who was born male but presents as a girl.

The Edwardses filed a complaint against Nova Classical Academy, in St. Paul, Minnesota, claiming the school “failed to protect their child and other gender nonconforming and transgender students at Nova from persistent gender-based bullying and hostility.”

They also claimed the school “denied their child the ability to undergo a gender transition at Nova in a safe and timely way.”

Their lawsuit, filed March 24, 2016, said the school violated two laws, the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the St. Paul Human Rights Ordinance.

Gender Justice, a nonprofit legal and advocacy organization for LGBT individuals, represented the Edwardses in the suit against Nova Classical Academy.

The school initially denied the allegations, but Gender Justice announced Monday that both parties had reached an agreement “through a confidential mediation process.”

In addition to committing to revise its gender inclusion policies to protect and respect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, Nova Classical Academy agreed to “pay damages of $120,000 to Hannah and David Edwards and their minor child, H.E.,” Gender Justice said in a press release.

Nova Classical Academy is a K-12 public charter school that enrolls 920 students. Based on the 2013-14 school year, U.S. News and World Report ranked its upper school as the No. 1 high school in Minnesota and the No. 16 high school in the nation.

The Daily Signal covered fallout from the case last year, quoting parents who objected to the proposed gender inclusion policies.

According to Gender Justice, “the policy changes at Nova Classical Academy are already underway.”

The child in question, however, now attends a different school, apparently as a first-grader.

According to the press release, the terms to which Nova Classical Academy agreed state:

Gender-Neutral School Uniforms

Nova will remove descriptions of disallowed clothing that includes language regarding “exposing the midriff” and “skimpy tank tops” and simply bar “any clothing not allowed under Nova’s school uniform guidelines.”

Nova will add a cross reference to its gender inclusion policy in the uniform guidelines.

Nova will eliminate gendered uniform policies and make all approved uniform items available without regard to gender.
‘Opt Out’ Not Allowed

Nova will not adopt any gender policy that allows parents to opt out of requirements in the gender inclusion policy because of objections based on religion or conscience.

Nova will not call parents’ or guardians’ attention to policy or law allowing them to opt out of specific instruction regarding gender inclusion.

Professional Development

Nova will provide professional development for all staff on supporting gender diverse students, by welcoming schools or another national LGBT organization that specializes in providing schoolwide training to help staff “respond to bias-based bullying and create gender inclusive classroom environments” by the close of the 2018-2019 school year.

Nova will ensure that all staff receive such training at least once every three years through 2025.


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