WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Possible (or probable) closing of Reach Academy for Girls

Delaware's only all-girl public school -- Reach Academy for Girls near New Castle -- could very well shutter its doors at the end of the current academic year.

Last night saw a public hearing where those affiliated with Reach essentially pleaded for clemency for their school, despite all the data showing students' proficiency levels below, or far below, average in just about every category.

Still, alumni of Reach Academy pleaded for the school to get a stay of execution. It got emotional.

Check out coverage of that public hearing from WDEL's Tom Lehman -- http://www.wdel.com/story.php?id=54817

I think charter schools have now been around long enough to reach some tentative conclusions about their efficacy:

They don't produce miracles. Give me a charter school backed by the elites and with selective admissions, a more broadly upper middle-class student body, and you'll get a charter school which catapults to the top in test scores. What a shock! The Charter School of Wilmington is exhibit 'A'. (Meanwhile, such charters tend to drain some of those affluent students from traditional public schools, and then folks express dismay and surprise when test scores at the traditional schools show little upward movement or remain stagnant. Shocked, I tell you!)

Give me a charter school with students from families of modest incomes - often struggling families - and you'll likely get a different result.

Does that mean dramatic academic improvement is impossible at such schools? Of course not. Every so often a national network will profile a school somewhere in the United States which defies the the norm. But those are the exceptions. Let's be blunt: There's a very strong link between student performance and poverty -- or affluence. It's that simple.

I've been following the school situation in Wisconsin for a number of years. In 1990, the Badger State implemented an experiment with vouchers, where a small number of students from low-income families got $ to attend non-sectarian, private schools. The results have been lackluster.

Should anyone be surprised? Just the other day came news of another study finding poor kids falling further and further behind of their more affluent counterparts -- even before kindergarten and first grade.

And then comes what I call the double-whammy: Even if a kid from a challenging background does comparatively well in the early grades, he/she will confront the pervasive pop culture & peer influences later on that demean academic achievement... exacerbated these days if a kid sees someone who did relatively well in high school and went to college... yet STILL can't find a decent job.

So should Reach Academy for Girls be closed? Can anyone prove to me that these kids would be demonstrably better off going to a different school? Does it advance the charter school movement to see these schools evaporate?

Posted at 8:22am on November 7, 2013 by Allan Loudell

<- Back to all Allan Loudell posts

Comments on this post:

Thu, Nov 7, 2013 9:09am
Allan, that was a pretty good synopsis of the entire charter program... It is hard to be against all charters, because in some cases they do good. Just like in using leeches as your preferred method to cure disease, one could get lucky once or twice. But the overall synopsis of charter schools now going on 23 years in most places (1990 was the beginning), they are schools - like every other - and nothing else.

A study previously mentioned in this blog showed the full effect of allowing charter schools in a town or district. Using data from Philadelphia district, and averaging all the scores from both public, private, and vouchered charter schools, the net average for the entire district dropped significantly (I remember something like 30%) since charters were allowed to enter in 2004.

Essentially adding all the negatives and positives created by allowing charters, gives a lower combined average total than just having all one's resources devoted solely to public education.

This landmark study shows that when you pull good students out, the bad students won't stay at the same level, they drop too. Since there are more of them than good in impoverished areas, the entire educational system flattens out.

The answer is simple if not some quick fix. Have the public system take over all charters; have more resources be devoted to those areas where children are starting off behind; and tax or borrow enough to get the job done right the first time.

Like that automobile transmission commercial frequently playing on WDEL, it also pays not to skimp on education, but to get it done right, the first time, which in education, is the only time.

One would certainly never think of only proffering 40 ships for the invasion of Normandy because it would mean we'd spend too much money on diesel fuel..... Instead, we should plan for what the job will entail, and execute, then figure out its cost and pay for it.

Thu, Nov 7, 2013 9:14am
I'm probably the only person who feels sorry for those girls who will go through one more year and come out further behind their peers who stayed in public schools. It is just sad, and is the human part of the equation of charter proponents who gloat: "See the system works as planned; the bad schools have to close down."

Yes, they close down. But at such a cost. A real high human cost. Probably better to have never started the charter school program. But back in 1990... who knew?

Thu, Nov 7, 2013 9:16am
And thanks for mentioning Milwaukee... It would be nice if you could get someone on air from there (from either side), to make their points...

Fri, Nov 8, 2013 3:08am
Since this is an educational topic, I'll tag this on here just to keep you informed. Late last night the NAEP tests scores were released and those scores are the ones which will determine whether "Common Core" and "Race to the Top" are effective.

Apparently they are not. Despite spending $191 million on toys, Delaware schools did not raise their scores from 2011 to 2013. Only one test in one grade was higher. Some were lower. Some were the same. States not doing "Common Core" continued to show strong gains....

If enough people crow about it, it marks the death knell for Obama's "Common Core" package... One can spin off excuses, but bottom line is that it does not work.

All four states which were ahead of all other states in implementing Common Core, showed zero improvement. New York, Kentucky, Delaware and Tennessee.

When parents complained to the DOE Secretary and Governor, they were told, just wait for the NAEP. It will prove all is working...

It proves just the opposite.

Fri, Nov 8, 2013 3:30am
Just caught the News Journal's story. It leads with "test scores show major progress."

But if you read the article, it fails to explicitly tell you ALL the big gains came under Carper and Minner, and as I mentioned above, then we went nowhere from 2011 to 2013, when we spent $191 million of Federal money.

This is why no well-read person can trust the News Journal. They have been accused as being a mouthpiece for the Markell administration, and that is exactly what it is. In truth, had we left education alone, our scores would now be higher. Those states with high scores all left education alone. Those states with lower scores or no gain, are the ones heavily involved with "Common Core".

The problem is that telling only one side of the story while knowing it is not true, is the same thing as lying.

Just saying: This would be a good story for WDEL and WDDE to get out front of the News Journal. There certainly is enough alternative material pointing out every one of the errors the News Journal is trying to cover up...

Add your comment:
Attention: In an attempt to promote a level of civility and personal responsibility in blog discussions, we now require you to be a member of the WDEL Members Only Group in order to post a comment. Your Members Only Group username and password are required to process your post.

You can join the WDEL Members Only Group for free by clicking here.
If you are already a member but have forgotten your username or password, please click here.

Please register your post with your WDEL Members Only Group username and password below.

Copyright © 2014, Delmarva Broadcasting Company. All Rights Reserved.   Terms of Use.
WDEL Statement of Equal Employment Opportunity and Outreach