From Scot Lehigh’s column in the Boston Globe today comes this intriguing snippet:
Over the years, as he’s been thwarted on various aspects of his education agenda, I’ve prodded Mayor Menino to support more Commonwealth charters. After the mayor testified against raising the charter cap this week, I queried him about a new study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, which shows Boston charter students making significantly larger learning gains than their counterparts in the traditional Boston schools.
“I’m not going to get into a debate about charters,” his honor grumped. “You like that study, I don’t like it, OK?”
But why doesn’t he like it? Beyond quipping “because you read it,” the mayor wouldn’t answer.
Inquiring minds want to know: why doesn’t Mayor Menino like the so-called CREDO study? Perhaps I can be of some assistance, Mr. Lehigh…
Mayor Menino Hates Walmart
Mayor Menino was a staunch opponent of Walmart’s plans to open shop in Boston. And he’s rightfully suspicious of the fact that Walmart money is paying for virtually every aspect of the campaign to eliminate the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts. In fact, the Walton Family Foundation, which is funded by Walmart profits, even paid for the CREDO study of which Lehigh is so enamored. (See page 2, “acknowledgments.”) As for whether the Waltons flew the CREDO expert into to testify at this week’s Statehouse “hearing,” I suppose we’ll never know…
The Mayor Actually Read the Study
I happen to know that Mayor Menino finds reading academic studies relaxing, and that he poured over the CREDO report. Menino found page 13 of particular interest, when the study’s authors acknowledge that Massachusetts charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of English Language Learners than the public schools. He understands that this is a particular issue in his city, where the percentage of students who are still learning English in the Boston Public Schools has risen from 19% to 30% just since 2009. And while the Mayor is a regular reader of Scot Lehigh so knows that charter schools are outstanding and are achieving miraculous results with the exact same kids who attend the public schools, Menino also knows that a full 1/3 of charters in Boston enroll virtually no English Language Learners at all.
The Mayor Is a Critic of CREDO’s Methodology
While some of his would-be replacements might not know the difference between “crudo” and CREDO, they don’t call Mayor Menino ‘the professor’ for nothing. Menino has serious methodological questions about CREDO’s approach of matching up real charter school students with fictional amalgamations of statistically similar students in the same area. For Menino the issue is one of control: he “gets” that while the CREDO study controls for the charter students’ individual characteristics, it can’t sort out whether attending school with an entirely English-speaking student body affects their performance, or whether it makes a difference that the charter students have parents who opted to enroll them in a charter school.
The Mayor Is Worried about the Future of His City
An avid student of education reform, Mayor Menino has observed with interest the experiments with charter schools in other cities. He sees that in many cities, the public school system has been reduced to the schools of last resort, with a far higher percentage of non-English speakers and special needs students than the charters with which they now compete for resources. Also, Mayor Menino is incredibly proud of the fact that under his watch, more students in Boston are attending college than ever before. He knows that Success Boston and other initiatives to help all of the city’s kids are unlikely to survive the coming era of budget slashing and public school closures that will inevitably result from the elimination of the cap on charter schools.
The Mayor Knows that TFA Recruits Don’t Vote
Menino is troubled by the fact that teachers at Boston’s charter schools are both whiter and younger than the teachers they are replacing. Transforming Beantown into Greentown is one thing, but Mayor Menino doesn’t share Scot Lehigh’s enthusiasm for replacing the city’s teaching force, diverse in age, race and experience, with fresh, young teachers who are en route to law school. He sees how high teacher turnover is at Boston’s charters and wonders about the long-term political implications of replacing the city’s teachers with smart temps. Do they even vote?
The Mayor Recognizes the Sound of a Cash Register When He Hears It
Mayor Menino is an old-school pol and he still remembers the days when local politicians padded their pockets with no-show public sector jobs. But these days Mayor Menino can’t help but observe that an awful lot of people seem to be getting rich in the name of helping young minority students achieve. And Menino would really like to know: what is up with all of the rich white people flocking to the boards of the city’s charter schools? Is it really a good idea for an entirely minority charter in Roxbury to be run by an all white cabal of bankers? And why does that particular member of the Board of Directors of UP Academy sound so familiar?