Hope for Failing Schools

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One of the toughest decisions that parents is deciding where to send their children to school. For some parents the choice is straightforward, because the options are limited by funds and availability of a parents time. Those kids just have to go to the local public school, no doubt about it. However, many parents consider alternative options like private school or "home school". In addition, public schools now offer options such as charter schools and magnet schools. It is an arduous decision because there are pros and cons to each option. The parents that have the option are not choosing traditional public school. Millions in funds and unlimited human capitol is redirected from traditional public schools to charter and magnet schools. Traditional public schools are not competitive and now displacement and marginalization. I have focused on how traditional public schools can benefit from the charter school model. The hypothesis to be tested by the research is to develop a plan for introducing successful charter school activities into traditional public school classrooms.

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1) Introduce the problem (APA 2.05)

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2) Explore importance of the problem (APA 2.05)

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3) Describe relevant scholarship (APA 2.05)

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4) State hypotheses and their correspondence to research design (APA 2.05)

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Focus and Framing

Proposed Title of Project:

Traditional versus Charter Elementary School: Hope for Failing Schools

The issue or problem on which the investigation focuses:

Since passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, state departments of education across the U.S. have been busy creating or modifying school accountability systems to meet NCLB guidelines. Ultimately, NCLB seeks to have all public school students proficient in English/Language Arts and mathematics by 2014. To identify schools in danger of not meeting this goal, states must establish student performance benchmarks and identify schools not making "adequate yearly progress" (AYP). Those consistently failing to make AYP can be ordered into "radical restructuring," which may include having the state intervene in running the school (U. S. Department of Education, 2002). Given these NCLB provisions and the growing number of schools not meeting AYP, the number of state interventions in low-performing schools will certainly increase. The rising number of schools failing to make AYP under the law is inevitable, its critics say, because of what they see as the law's unrealistic requirement that student achievement rise on a pace so that all students are proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-2014 school year. However, supporters of the NCLB law say that the numbers suggest that the law has spurred many schools to take steps to improve.

The environmental context of the investigation and the principal stakeholders:

The stakeholders involved would be the children receiving the education, the educators that will be teaching, the school administration, the parents, and the school board. The child will be affected throughout that child's lifetime based on the quality of education they receive. The educators could be affected because they could change their perspective on the possibilities inherent in different teaching styles. The school administration could suffer from the educators' inability to teach the children what they need to know to get passing scores on key tests. The parents could suffer because their local school may be shut down. The school board could suffer because it receives funding based upon the schools' test scores.

Organizations, policies, programs and service affecting the issue in the local context:

Federal educational leadership is specific about the direction that state educational leadership should take to improve underperforming schools. State leadership must calibrate these ideas and policies with the political, economic, and cultural realities that exist in their state. School boards must map out how they can draft and implement these policies based upon the current and future employee quality, and what school boards can pay for now with resources available.

The purpose of the research:

The purpose of the research is to develop a plan for introducing successful charter school activities into traditional public school classrooms. The tasks and organization of charter schools need to be examined for applicability grade by grade. An area charter school could be set up as a mentor for up to three traditional elementary schools in its immediate area. That way there is an exchange of ideas and a more collaborative attitude towards school improvement.

Deconstructing Literature

Research of Organizational Material

The Alachua County School District is ranked thirty-nine of sixty-five districts serving more than twenty eight thousand students. Currently, there are two schools in the district that received an 'F' school grade. The grade of 'F' means that the school has not met adequate progress of lowest students in reading and mathematics within two years. Currently, the district is compliant with the school choice option and offers many charter and magnet school programs. Of the 2,889 Florida schools graded this year, nearly three quarters (2,125) are considered to be high performing (receiving either an "A" or "B" grade). Additionally, the number of schools considered to be low performing decreased significantly compared to last year. Forty-five Florida schools earned an "F" (2 percent), a decrease of 38 schools compared to last year. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed the nation's first statewide voucher program into law on June 21, 1999. The Bush/Brogan A+ Program gives every public school in Florida an A-F grade, with vouchers made available to students in schools that receive an F grade in any two years out of four. With the vouchers, parents may pull their children out of the failing schools and send them to another public school or to a private or religious school. Before this legislation economically disadvantaged families were stuck in low performing schools. Charter schools are a hybrid - half public school, half private school. Private schools also offer more accelerated, college focused courses and are more intent on honing their students to go to college. Public schools often have the philosophy that each student is different and college is not for everyone, and students are not pushed in that direction, though they may choose to strive for it on their own. Though private schools can be quite costly, there is more and more legislation moving towards school vouchers where families could take the tax dollars that would be directed toward a public school education and use it for private school tuition. Charter schools attempt to merge the idea of whole child character education and the traditional idea of an inalienable right to free public education.

While there are many differences between public and private schools, the primary difference is the approach to discipline. In a private school the rules of the school are clearly laid out when parents sign the contract to attend a private school. Discipline promotes an atmosphere for learning.

Discipline is a critical part of the three way partnership private school education is all about. When parents sign the contract with the school, parents commit to a three way partnership. While the school takes care of the academics and provides a host of other services while the child is in attendance, parents are required to be involved. The school will not allow silent or absentee parents. Private and charter schools will insist on parent involvement. The true measure of the charter's movement's value to this country will be its ability to point the way toward a better - more effective, efficient, and dynamic-model of public education. Charters are living challenges to all traditional assumptions about what the education of young people. And these charter institutions are to new ideas and willing to experiment with traditional concepts of accountability, accessibility, and portability.

Research of Published Material

Goldhaber, D. D. (1996). Public and Private High Schools: Is School Choice an Answer to the Productivity Problem? Economics of Education Review, 15(2), 93-109.

Heyneman, S. P. (2005). Student Background and Student Achievement: What Is the Right Question? American Journal of Education, 112(1), 1-9.

Hoxby, C. M. (2004a). Achievement in Charter Schools and Regular Public Schools in the United States: Understanding the Differences. Cambridge, MA: Department of Economics, Harvard University.

Krueger, A. B., & Zhu, P. (2004a). Another Look at the New York City School Voucher Experiment. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(5), 658-698.

Rouse, C. E. (1998b). Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 113(2), 553-603.

Walberg, H. J., & Bast, J. L. (2003). Education and Capitalism: How Overcoming Our Fear of Markets and Economics Can Improve America's Schools. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

Willms, J. D. (1985). Catholic-School Effects on Academic Achievement: New Evidence from the High School and Beyond Follow-up Study. Sociology of Education, 58(2), 98-114.

Florida Department of Education, http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/ (Office of Independent Education & Parental Choice).

Florida Department of Education, http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/pdf/0708/factsheet.pdf (2008 School Grades and AYP fact sheet).

A survey will be sent out to gather information from educators within the District to understand the extent to which charter or magnet school customs influence a traditional public school teacher's approach to instruction.


Methodology Assumptions:

Hoxby 2004 discuss charter schools are a form of school choice that a growing number of people find interesting. This is because charter schools may provide positive competition for regular public schools. They may also be innovators in school management, curriculum, and the use of technology. They may provide alternatives for children who would otherwise be confined to failing schools. An effective, safe alternative school may be especially important for families who are disadvantaged because they often lack the means to escape a failing school by moving to another area. Charter schools are public schools and thus accept all students equally. Also, charter schools participate in their states' accountability systems and obey many state and federal regulations. The essential difference between charter schools and regular public schools is that charter schools exist on a fee-per-student basis. If they can attract students, they can grow.

However, if they fail to attract students, they will inevitably close. In short, charter schools combine elements of regular public schools and private schools and therefore interest people who want to see reform in American education but who worry about a laissez faire market for education.

Berends, et al, 2006 review where we are in terms of charter school effects on student achievement and describe where we might go to better understand charter school effects across various studies. First, we review charter school research on student achievement and assess the reviews of charter school studies. Second, we argue that research is at a point where we can begin to outline a more systematic, rigorous meta-analysis of charter school studies for a clearer understanding of their effects on student achievement. Third, we argue along with others that we need to open up the black box of charter schools, including gathering data on instructional and organizational conditions that promote achievement as well as unpacking the curricular and instructional differences among charter and regular public schools and classrooms.

In Studying Achievement in Charter Schools: What Do We Know? Hassel (2005)

summarizes 38 comparative analyses of charter and traditional public schools' performance. Several criteria had to be met in order to be included in the analysis: 1) The study had to be recent-all were released in or after 2001; 2) The study had to compare charter students' achievement on standardized tests with that of traditional public school students; 3) Rigorous methodology had to be utilized in the analysis; and 4) The study must have examined a significant segment of the charter sector.6 The central findings and methodological strengths and weaknesses of each study are delineated in tabular form to allow comparisons across studies. Hassel found the methodological quality to vary across charter studies. Hassel argues that seventeen of the studies, which utilize data only from one point in time, fail to examine how much progress students and schools are making over time; therefore, they are of limited use in drawing conclusions regarding the effectiveness of charter schools. Twenty-one of the studies attempt to examine change over time in student or school performance; of these, nine follow individual students over time (Hassel, 2005).


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