Committee Hearings Tonight: Charters And Historic Preservation

Two hearings on bills of mine that might be of interest to folks here:

We increased the number of potential charter schools in the state last night.  I voted for the measure, but as I mentioned on the floor, I’m still very concerned about charters’ creaming off of students who have more involved parents, and who are therefore predisposed to achieve at a relatively high level.   I describe the problem in more detail over here, but the essential concern is that to get into a charter, a kid needs a parent to usher him or her through the process and who will pledge to be highly involved in his or her education.  Ideally, every parent would be willing and able to be so committed to their kids, but we don’t live in an ideal world, and so kids without that sort of support can’t get into most charters.

H7415, to be heard before the House’s Health, Education, and Welfare Committee, addresses the issue by creating an opt-out system, rather than an opt-in system.  Charters that believe they can do a bang-up job of educating anybody and everybody should love the idea, as it provides them a chance to prove their mettle.  And we ought be very concerned about those that express apprehension — a school that’s not willing to work the a true cross-section of the public school population should not be funded with public dollars.

H7584 would allow cities and towns to require demolition bonds and other assurances from developers that want to tear down historic buildings, and is inspired by the rash of demolitions in downtown Providence over the course of the recent boom years — none of which have yielded the promised new developments.

Now, for comic relief, here’s the leaning tower of Sioux Falls:


7 thoughts on “Committee Hearings Tonight: Charters And Historic Preservation”

  1. Can you send me an email at

    In general, it’s important to get in touch with Reps and Senators, and make sure the bill is on their radar. But there’s probably more specific organizing that we could coordinate around. There’s a Senate version that’ll be up for a hearing too, and it’d be great to have more people come out to testify on it. (Sorry I didn’t get notice of the House version out sooner.)

  2. 1) I think you’re looking at the portion of the bill that’s already existing law.

    and for parts 2 and 3-

    I agree with some of what you’ve written, but a lot of it also underscores the concerns. The pervasive rhetoric coming out of charters in RI — not all of them, but most — is that they are _better_ learning environments than traditional publics. And so part of the purpose of the introduction of the bill is to force people to acknowledge that most charters have inherent advantages. That they get to deal with a body of highly informed and engaged parents, and the students thereof, is one of them. A big one.

    There’s a longitudinal study along the lines of what you describe that’s in progress. It’ll probably show what the Boston study showed — students entering charters were advantaged relative to their peers in their district schools. This is a huge concern, especially as the percentage of kids who are in charters grows, as it’ll mean that relatively disadvantaged, harder-to-educate kids make up an ever-larger proportion of those in traditional publics — creating a new divide in our educational system, and requiring that more money go to traditional publics, on a per-student basis. This, in turn, has obvious implications as we try to construe a fair funding formula.

    The Boston study also showed that charter kids did better on tests than those who didn’t get into the charters, which was surely partially based on pedagogy, but some of the effect can surely be chalked up to concentrating a bunch of students together, all of whom were expected to achieve at, say, the 80th percentile relative to their district school peers.

  3. Great video. Could someone please explain to me again, how the Twin Towers fell?

  4. Dave — I can’t say I’m wild about charter schools… but definitely anti-random demolition for the erection of… well, parking lots. Vis: the former Police/Fire HQ. Now that I think of it, there were not a lot of architectural quality reasons for saving that lame building.

    That aside: is the demo video a demonstration of how the RI legislature goes about deailing with the budget?

  5. This randomization process is a terrible idea.
    1) Why the ridiculous requirement that an equal number of offers be made to urban and non-urban communities? Do these offers have to remain equal throughout the randomization? What if kids in a suburban or rural community don’t really want to go to a mayoral academy? If the offers have to remain equal, you could conceive of a situation where nearly every kid in a suburban community gets an offer and very few in an urban community do because those in an urban community that receive an offer take it.
    2) This is no better on the creaming than the current method. First of all, charter schools by design are supposed to offer unique academic programs and possibilities that are both not available in public schools and potentially not desirable for some families. An extended day as long as the one at Democracy Prep, for example, is not something that all parents want for their kids. So even if you have to “opt-out” of the lottery, you still have to “opt-in” to the school. If people are choosing to attend these charters somewhat blindly you’re going to see a lot more mobility and transferring into and out of charters. We know that there is a HUGE information gap about charters to parents and the public in general. Most people do not know that charters are public schools and cannot be religiously affiliated. Far fewer are familiar with the unique elements of a charter in their neighborhood. That’s why they don’t opt-in. If they “win” some kind of lottery they didn’t even choose to enter, and they know that there is limited access, then we’re going to signal to parents that you want to be at a charter. Charters are exclusive and hard to get that golden ticket so you should go. And of course, knowing next to nothing about these schools, there may be many cases where this is just plain wrong. Considering all of the research we have to demonstrate how disruptive changing schools can be, I wouldn’t want to create a system which allows for a lot more “oops” scenarios. You’ll make both the charters and traditional public schools worse.
    3) If the charters are over-subscribed, we have the power to setup program evaluation studies that watch students who were entered into the lottery but did not end up attending the charter. If you want to evaluate whether these charters are creaming based on parent characteristics, use these experiments that are generated each year to get meaningful data. Now that RI has a unique student identifier for every child in the system, it’s simply a matter of teaming up with Brown University or a consulting group or another local university to do some basic program evaluation.

    Creaming is something worth worrying about, especially when we see that most RI charters have fewer ELL students and fewer students in poverty than the districts they draw from. A new funding formula in RI would help to incentivize charters to reach out to attract more at-risk students by attaching additional state dollars to them. However, let’s not forget that charters are public schools done different, not necessarily public schools done better. Randomization of opt-in students can still demonstrate the effectiveness of these schools without sending the wrong signals to already underinformed parents, potentially to the detriment of all schools to increase mobility. And let’s not create rules which remove random from randomization. If you choose to be included the lottery, then randomization should be allowed to run its course. Deviations from the proportion of applicants is to be expected, but should not be substantial in a properly administered lottery.

  6. Jesse C. Polhemus

    Dave, would you please suggest the best ways that citizens could support this bill? I’m part of a group called Preserve Urban Providence, and this is exactly the sort of thing we’re interested in. Thank you very, very much for your hard work.

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