2016 Year in Review

It has been just over 300 days since I started this blog, and in that time, I have written 95 posts. I started it as a dinky little Tumblr account, and have grown into a full-on Blog. And while I started by just sharing this with my students and friends, there are now people, whom I have never met, that subscribe and actually read what I write. That is still such a weird idea to me….

I have deeply enjoyed posting my thoughts this year. I found it therapeutic at times. We operate in an educational landscape that is so dominated by fads and gimmicks – I really found it nice to step back and try to ask the question “really?” and let the data try to give an answer.

I covered so much in the last year, so I thought it would be fun to end this year by going back over some of the many topics I have written about. So here it goes.

I started off by looking at the Core Index. The Core Index measured schools effectiveness in a variety of measures – but even that couldn’t stop it from being slightly tilted in favor of wealthier, whiter schools. It also was more generous to high schools than middle or elementary schools. Yet, I found it had some merits, as it was pretty well correlated with the old API Measure. In an attempt to even the playing field, I created a FO’REAL score by creating a regression based on demographics, and ranking schools by their comparative performance. This way, schools that were beating the odds rose to the top.

As a former charter teacher myself, I then decided to take a look at how charter networks performed. I compared charter network schools to their closest local school of the same grade level and looked for patterns. Alliance and KIPP were strong performers, while PUCGreen Dot and Aspire had poor or mixed results.

I spent some time looking at compensation this year too. Earlier in the year, I looked at the public figures regarding principal compensation. More recently I looked at the compensation of Charter School Executives. I also tried to take a look at teacher compensation, but found it very difficult to compare with the data out there.

I then turned my focus on Co-locations. I took a look at three colocations and compared the traditional schools and charter schools that existed on the same campus by looking at three case studies: Celerity Nascent and 42nd Street, Bernstein and APEX, and the massive Birmingham High Complex. The results were mixed – sometimes the co-located charter outperformed, and other times the residential school was the star.

Over the summer, I turned my sites on Teach For America. As a TFA alumni myself, I wondered what my TFA friends were doing now. After some really creeping social media stalking, I found that very few were still teaching – but many were involved in education in some way. I also looked at the Last In First Out (LIFO) policy and explained how it may have fueled many of those young teachers to become charter school advocates. Still, there were some down notes about TFA – for example, Math and Science teachers from TFA do not seem to be sticking around – instead moving on to other careers.

I also really enjoyed writing about school naming. A couple times this year I looked at how math-focused schools did not really do that great on math tests, and the same went for science. I also found that schools names really have no impact on their scores, and schools with “avenue” in their name outperformed schools with “science”.

I penned a couple of more opinionated pieces too. With all the backlash on common core, I wrote a post about what Vice President Elect Mike Pence did in Indiana and how changing the Common Core is a major hazard for data nerds like me. I also wrote an opinion on Great Public Schools Now and how little money was being offered to LAUSD by the Eli Broad backed initiative.

Some of my favorite posts to write this year were the uplifting ones. I think the best post I wrote was about a charter school that serves primarily parenting and pregnant teens. New Village Girls Academy really stood out to me as a strong use of charter schools to do something that is important and difficult. I also wrote about the most improved schools in Los Angeles and highlighted the success of Foshay Learning Center. 

But I have also been highly critical of many educational events. The CCSA vehemently defended a school that they themselves ranked as a 1 out of 10. The California Department of Education gives out educational awards, but mostly wealthy schools qualify. I pointed out schools that have major socioeconomic achievement gaps. And I questioned the CAASPP website and the SBAC test for high schoolers.

I look forward to what I can do next year. Early in the year, we should be getting new Core Index scores, as well as UC admissions data. I am also excited to do a little more digging on how charter schools operate. If you have any ideas for a post on any topic, feel free to drop me a message on my contact page – I always respond and often turn those ideas into posts. And of course, if you haven’t already – you can always subscribe to get these posts emailed directly to your inbox as soon as I start up again.

This will be my last post for a few weeks. I hope you have a Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year. See you in 2017!

2 Replies to “2016 Year in Review”

  1. I’m one of those people you don’t know but who relishes your posts. Like you I have a mixed background (charter, traditional public) and I so appreciate the service you are providing the field in keeping us all in honest dialogue. Thank you so much!

  2. I’m like Valerie, I happen to know Valerie as a colleague. You do excellent work and it’s so appreciated. Thank you for bringing so much transparency to the local public ed world. You should have also noted how YOU were highlighted in L.A. School Report for your great work in the classroom too. Thank you for all that you do. I shared your site with GATE parents of my kids’ school this evening at a meeting I facilitated on middle school options.

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