Sunday, November 23, 2014

James Merriman on Chalkbeat

James Merriman, of the New York Charter School Center, has real media abilities -as in professional media abilities. This is the guy who helps charters schools.  He's recently been in the Times and on Chalkbeat for challenging the chancellor to prove her claims that Charters release students before testing times. He's a go-to guy for the media when a reporter needs clarification on something like charter law or amounts of charters and has written in defense of charters (and school accountability) in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

That's why I was stunned -stunned- to see him (or someone using his name) responding to a comment I dropped on a Chalkbeat piece (linked above) about charter students. Even more impressive was that he actually engaged in a fairly honest discussion around the topic! That's really impressive because, it is social media, after all, and the moniker I've chosen is 'nuts.

So, two possibilities here, either a troll (a particularly rather infamous troll on NYC Ed websites) decided to sockpuppet himself as a leading Charter School defender to get my attention, or .... I owe James Merriman a shout-out for responsible discourse in the comments section of a blogpost!

I'm a  teacher. I like to catch people doing good, so if it's the latter, then the guy deserves credit for actually stopping to engage in detailed discussion (something no one seems to do these days).  (Of course, if it's that troll pretending to be someone important then, whatever. Trolls are people too, right?)

The back and forth (along with NYCEducator's awesome comment) is pasted below.

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    Merriman said that the center had “no evidence” that charters counseled out students before testing.
    He's right. Charters counsel students out at the end of October, once funding is locked in for the year and they money stays with the charter after the student is counseled out. They don't wait until test time.
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      This is not correct. Under state regulation, specifically 8 nycrr 119.1, charter school per pupil amounts are calculated based on attendance and not on a count day/BEDS day structure as in the case for districts and how their state aid is calculated. If you read the regulation, you'll see the process for making that calculation and adjusting for increases and decreases in enrollment (based on actual attendance) each bi-monthly payment period with a final true-up at the end of the year.
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          If you can't trust a paid advocate, who can you trust?
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              If you can't trust a paid advocate, who can you trust?
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                  Not to belabor the point, but here is everything you might want to know about invoicing process:

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                      Sounds like a bit of a straw man argument to me. Seems you're speaking of state aid. The district (the DOE) directly gives charters quite a chunk of cash every two months as well. I was referring to that. Seems to me those chunks are based on enrollment. From that law:
                      (d) Public school district of residence obligations.
                      (1) No later than the first business day of July, September, November, January, March and May of the current school year, each public school district with resident pupils attending a charter school shall pay directly to such charter school the appropriate payment amounts as specified in subdivision one of section 2856 of the Education Law that are attributable to the enrollment of such pupils as reported to the public school district by the charter school no later than 30 days prior to each such payment date...
                      (3) The school district financial obligation per resident student enrolled in a charter school shall equal the sum of:
                      (i) the product of the school district's adjusted expense per pupil and the current year enrollment of the pupil in the charter school as defined in paragraph (b)(3) of this section; and
                      (4) The total annual obligation due to a charter school by a public school district shall be the sum of the annual financial obligations for all resident students enrolled at any time during the current school year in the charter school.
                      (5) School districts shall include the enrollment of resident students attending charter schools in the enrollment, attendance and, if applicable, count of students with disabilities reported to the department for the purposes of claiming State aid.
                        see more
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                          I can understand the confusion and I was not as specific as
                          I should have been in using the word attendance. First things first: charter schools do not receive distinct per pupil aid in the form of state aid directly from the state and then some additional aid from the district (special education funding is a special case and somewhat different in some respects as is federal title funding). Rather state law and implementing regulations require the district to turn over a per pupil amount to the charter school calculated (to simplify) as a subset of the per pupil expenditure of the
                          As to how one calculates enrollment, the implementing
                          regulation for the state statute is controlling, since state law gives the commissioner the power to determine it. That regulation, 8 NYCRR 119.1 defines enrollment as: 
                          “Enrollment for each charter school student shall mean the quotient, calculated to three decimals without rounding, obtained when the total number of weeks of the period of enrollment of such student is divided by the total number of weeks in the full school year of the educational program or service of the charter
                          school. For the purposes of this section, three consecutive days of enrollment within the same week and within the same month shall be the equivalent of one week of enrollment, provided that no more than four weeks of enrollment may be counted in any calendar month.“ 
                          In other words, enrollment is determined by the number of weeks a
                          student is enrolled divided by the number of weeks in the charter school’s yearly schedule. In explaining this, I sloppily used the word attendance, which is a related but different concept. Because of how the commissioner’s regulation defines enrollment for this purpose, and If you read the entire regulation, you’ll see
                          there is a process for truing up projected enrollment for a billing period against the “actual enrollment” meaning actual weeks the student is enrolled, which is necessary given that students may come and go during each of those bi-monthly payment periods.
                          I appreciate and understand your skepticism but on this
                          issue, there is little room for interpretation.
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                              That was actually a straight forward explanation and thanks for it. Reading it over, it does look like the distribution is handled on a bi-monthly basis but, as you say, Special Ed funding is a bit different (as are titles I and III funding). Just putting that out there.
                              First, the statute seems to be interested in the total number of students enrolled. So if a given charter releases students that do not seem to be the type they can work with, replacing those students with others would seem to be a fairly simple solution. There is great demand for charters. If a students 'isn't a good fit' and goes to a district school, there is another student waiting for the seat, no? Some thoughts on a practice like this (asking because there are lots of charters who do play by the rules and work with the students they select from start to finish. It would seem practical to call the others out).
                              Second, your defense is admirable (honest observation), but it really doesn't square with the oodles of anecdotes out there from district schools, Those stories say -pretty clearly, I think- that charters release students to the district schools (and, as I've heard, particularly after the DOE school budgets are locked at the end of October. The accusation is that the district school receives the students, but not budget adjustments for the students). Right now, the defense doesn't square with that. It seems like you've given the chancellor a choice to either present enrollment information to prove her assertion -which would, of course, call out powerful charter organizations by name, and start another word war (6 weeks before budget season) or shut up about the topic altogether. Those are tough terms to dictate. Have you at least checked with district schools as to what some of their experiences are on the ground?
                              (by the way, honest engagement is always cool Thanks for it.)

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