Greater Greater Washington

Should school choice work like bank choice?

A majority of public school students east of Rock Creek Park now attend charter or magnet schools, a fact that some consider a victory for school choice. If this trend continues, we'll have a system with no neighborhood schools at all, where everyone chooses a school from a menu, like you choose a bank. Is this an acceptable outcome?


Photo by markhillary on Flickr.

The Brookings Institution ranked urban school systems on various factors around its system for letting parents choose schools. The District scored 3rd in the nation on the overall index, largely because many kids opt out of their default local school.

Grover Whitehurst, the report's author, told the Washington Post, "The thing that of course stands out about the District of Columbia is that 40, 45 percent of kids are in schools of choicewhich is very high with respect to the rest of the nation."

Is this really a good thing?

It's better than leaving kids stuck in a bad school, sure. But this isn't a number we'd like to see go up indefinitely. Far better would be for most kids to want to choose their neighborhood school because it's a good school, while letting those who need or want a different or more specialized educational experience to make a different choice.

Charter schools have brought many educational innovations to DC and helped many kids. Unfortunately, the current track we're on is not to create high-quality neighborhood schools alongside high-quality charters and magnets, but just to eliminate one system in favor of the other.

Would that be a problem? Some proponents of education reform think that it would be just great to chuck our entire public education system and replace it with a collection of different schools, each competing for kids based on how good an education they can provide. That creates a strong incentive for schools to do better or get left behind.

Businesses cherry-pick the highest-margin customers

Would we want the market for schools to look like the market for banks, cell phone companies, or other businesses where you generally have an ongoing relationship with just one? This analogy shows some huge pitfalls for education if the objective is choice above all.

Most banks don't compete to get all customers. They compete primarily for the highest-margin ones: people who keep a lot of cash in their checking accounts, or charge a lot on a credit card. That's why these customers get big cash rewards or miles on credit cards, or perks like free checks, ATM withdrawal fee reimbursement, and higher interest rates.

Schools in the competitive market would have a strong incentive to get higher test scores, and to do so as cheaply as possible. The easiest way to do that is to try to attract the highest-performing kids and drive out the lowest-performing ones.

Test scores reflect a school's performance to some extent, but also the effect of parents and the community. At least right now, we don't have an effective metric that only reflects the effect of a school itself, and experts disagree on how to compare the progress of kid already ahead of grade level, with involved parents and extracurricular enrichment, against one from a kid starting well behind.

A purely competitive system will be a world where successful schools arbitrage flaws in the rating system and industry lobbyists convince legislators not to rejigger the formula in a way that pushes them to educate the more difficult kids.

Meanwhile, traditional neighborhood schools would end up being just a safety net system for any kids left overthe Medicaid of education. They would just serve those who have gotten kicked out elsewhere for disciplinary problems, those whose families lack the basic initiative to research and apply for other schools or the means to transport kids across town, and those whose parents went to the neighborhood school and feel nostalgic.

Charter schools were originally supposed to serve as innovation centers, free to try out new education approaches that, if successful, neighborhood schools could adopt. However, when the number of neighborhood schools is continually shrinking so dramatically, what schools will be left to adopt successful innovations?

While the DCPS's slow pace incorporating validated innovations into neighborhood chools is frustrating, the solution is not to create a two-tier education system with neighborhood schools as the educational safety net or destroy the neighborhood school system completely. For a parent of a child in a neighborhood with a bad local school, it's understandable to want to escape this failing system, but just writing these schools off will not serve DC kids, especially our neediest ones.

Greater Greater relies on support from readers like you to keep the site running. Support us now keep the community going.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time

Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 
Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

Comments

Add a comment »

we'll have a system with no neighborhood schools at all, where everyone chooses a school from a menu, like you choose a bank. Is this an acceptable outcome?

Yes, because for many DC'ers, the alternative is considered unacceptable: neighborhood schools mean that students in nice neighborhoods get nice schools that they are protective of, and students in not-so-good neighborhoods get poor-quality neighborhood schools. So neighborhood schools have to go on the chopping block in favor of "people get to choose their own schools." That actually seems fair. What if I don't like the neighborhood and the students in it? I certainly wouldn't want to be stuck in a neighborhood school.

by JustMe on Dec 13, 2012 1:22 pm • linkreport

What about the impact on traffic? High school and middle school students can get around on their own, on transit, but what about all those grade school parents trudging their kids around before and after work? I'd love it if they all used public transportation, but realistically they don't. I've heard some incredibly commuter stories from some parents of grade-school kids that are in charter schools...I can't imagine that on a city-wide scale.

by dc denizen on Dec 13, 2012 1:29 pm • linkreport

Charter schools were/are a great option for parents in DC who are involved in their kids educations and just needed to a good school to build on what they had at home. Now there is the issue of there are a lot of kids in DCPS whose parents aren't involved in their education (either through neglect or inability b/c of work or what) and DCPS still has an obligation to make sure those kids get a quality education.

I think at first people thought that charters could do that as well but I don't think that's the case and there needs to be a new, complementary way to figure that out.

by drumz on Dec 13, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

There was a time when bank choice WAS limited. We used to have a monopoly on telephone service, and a controlled oligopoly on airlines. Does anyone want to go back to that? We still have a monopoly for cable and power in some areas, but how happy are we with PEPCO or Comcast?

The introduction of choice has downsides, but I think that the burden is on those who oppose choice to convince us.

by SJE on Dec 13, 2012 1:35 pm • linkreport

@SJE: I think part of the reason this keeps coming up is out of nostalgia for the old system. There are good reasons for that system: if a system was functioning well it minimized duplication of school resources; it provides a sense of local community to students, parents and neighbors. OTOH, if was broken as it was in DC, it was FUBAR.

Given the latter, I say good riddance.

by goldfish on Dec 13, 2012 1:49 pm • linkreport

The faster the quality of schooling is decoupled from property prices, the better. Bring on the choice.

by Ohhsweetconcord on Dec 13, 2012 1:50 pm • linkreport

EVERY child deseves a quality education. It doesn't matter where you live, how involved your parents are, if you "won" a lotetry or not. Every single child deserves a quality education. Period.

So that's my first thing.

But second is, YES, school choice is important. I attended my neighborhood public schools (not in DC). They were and are considered to be part of a "great" system. And I was miserable. I went to those schools because there's were I was told to go, not because I wanted to. If I had been able to choose my high school the way I picked my college and grad schools, I have this feeling it would have been a wildly different time. I read about some of these DC charters and think, "Man, I would have loved to be in a school like that."

I don't know that there is an esay answer. How do we balance creating quality schools with school choice? And do schools get to pick their students, or does the lottery system remain? How to we fairly allocated fund? How do we ensure those funds are resulting in quality schools, even if they are located in the poorest neighborhoods? All these difficult questions are tied together.

(Don't get me started on the testing mania that has gripped education in this country for the past 15 years.)

by Birdie on Dec 13, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

Why would citizens in the country of freedom accept that their government, through the location of their residence, determines where their children go to school?

School choice seems a no-brainer.

Until I came to the US, I never considered the fact that you could not choose the school you would want to go to.

by Jasper on Dec 13, 2012 2:09 pm • linkreport

While the DCPS's slow pace incorporating validated innovations into neighborhood schools is frustrating, the solution is not to create a two-tier education system with neighborhood schools as the educational safety net or destroy the neighborhood school system completely.

100% on board with this. Why are we allowing DCPS to shirk its legal mandate of educating DC's children by providing a "menu" of school choices, mostly private ones? DCPS needs to listen to students, teachers, and parents on how to fix not-up-to-par neighborhood schools.

@dc denizen: I suppose more busing can be instituted, but that's expensive and just adds more stress into a student's day (as a student who would get picked up at 6:45 am and dropped off at 4:50 pm everyday, I sympathize). Ideally, students should be walking/biking to school along safety corridors with crossing guards and bike lanes.

by John Marzabadi on Dec 13, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

It's important to remember that a choice is only a choice if you can afford it. School choice was supposed to work by forcing the neighborhood schools to up their game, so that only a few children would have to commute halfway across the city every day. This is a burden on any little kid, to devote an hour every day to travel when they could be learning or playing. But it's especially burdensome on poor kids who have to navigate public transit on their own to get to school, and less burdensome on the rich kids who can get a ride from their parents every day.

by Tom Veil on Dec 13, 2012 2:40 pm • linkreport

100% on board with this. Why are we allowing DCPS to shirk its legal mandate of educating DC's children by providing a "menu" of school choices, mostly private ones?

DCPS didn't create the charters nor do they control them, so I don't understand how you think they are "shirking" their responsibility in this way. DCPS competes directly with the charters.

Also I don't think DCPS is interesting in dumping as many kids as possible into charter schools given the battles they have to fight to close down expensive school buildings when DCPS schools are under-enrolled.

As for the "slow pace" of innovation at DCPS, they are innovating where they can do so most easily (with teachers) and trying to avoid getting into protracted public battles that waste staff time and political capital.

Charter schools do have a lot more flexibility to innovate on things like the length of the school day since they avoid union rules and have far less oversight than DCPS. Oh, and if your charter school experiment fails and the school has to close, there's always a backup in DCPS waiting there!

by MLD on Dec 13, 2012 2:50 pm • linkreport

Forgot to add that school choice is really just trying to naturally create the environment that would be created by the factor we KNOW would actually improve school outcomes (but is a political non-starter): FORCED BUSING.

by MLD on Dec 13, 2012 2:51 pm • linkreport

Given that charters generally don't perform any better than regular schools. This seems like a smoke screen a system that continues to me anemic and is addicted to gimmicks rather than a serious look at what it takes to help children achieve.

by Rich on Dec 13, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

We all know that DCPS only has busing for special ed students, right? I mean, I get the sarcasm, but I'm always surprised by the number of people who are unaware of this basic fact.

by Tim Krepp on Dec 13, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

Forgot to add that school choice is really just trying to naturally create the environment that would be created by the factor we KNOW would actually improve school outcomes (but is a political non-starter): FORCED BUSING.

I think the school outcome of that is for everyone with children who can afford to do so moves out of DC. Also, it has the same problem as charter schools -- no neighborhood schools will exist anymore -- with none of the advantages-- namely parents happy with the schools their kids are in.

by JustMe on Dec 13, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

Just because the public school system is confronting some difficult issues doesn't mean it's been "written off". The charter system is helping to force DCPS & WTU do what they otherwise wouldn't...challenge their existing business models, innovate, and improve. That's not a bad thing, that's a great thing. Instead of blaming charters for their own success, how about turning the question around and asking DCPS & the WTU what they're doing to compete?

by Brooklander on Dec 13, 2012 5:13 pm • linkreport

The lead paragraph is a bit ambiguous: are you suggesting that we'll end with no neighborhood schools in the whole city, or none East-of-the-Park? Because west-of-the-park DCPS schools are doing fine and are often sought-after.

One thing that needs to be kept in mind here is that middle-class families EOTP have ALWAYS opted out of their neighborhood schools; in earlier decades it was largely to out-of-boundary DCPS schools. The rise of charters has more or less coincided with these OOB spots WOTP becoming harder to secure as more WOTP families opt for DCPS.

The schools on Capitol Hill, while geographically EOTP, are also highly sought after. In fact, they are evidence that once a neighborhood has a critical mass of middle-class families, DCPS neighborhood schools can become good schools.

Middle-class students will do well in schools that are predominantly middle-class. We also know that at-risk students do better in predominantly middle-class schools than they would in predominantly at-risk schools. There is no evidence that small numbers of middle-class students in predominantly at-risk schools will either improve the performance of the at-risk students or perform as well as they would in predominantly middle-class schools.

DC's present demographics indicate that there's not enough middle class families to have all the schools be predominantly middle-class. So we're going to be left with a substantial number of predominantly at-risk schools, and the problem of educating predominantly at-risk students has really never been solved.

The idea that DCPS could, with its existing resources, "innovate" its way to success with predominantly at-risk students needs far more evidence than pointing out that some schools with longer days do well. As has been noted, DC charter schools as a whole do not out-perform DCPS, and there are no charters, no matter what their strategy, with predominantly at-risk students that have posted performances that are clearly and substantially better than normal, in ways that can't be explained by selective recruiting or the Hawthorn effect or other non-scalable phenomena. Further, consider the Harlem Children's Zone, which deals with a comparable demographic to DCPS. Using millions in private investment, it's pulled out far more stops than DCPS could ever hope to, most of which are expensive, and although it's doing better than the regular schools, it's still not finding universal success and is not anywhere close to the results of ordinary suburban predominantly middle-class schools.

What a number of charters are doing is making it viable for more middle-class families to stay in the District with school-aged children, further increasing the feasibility of the District as a place to raise a middle-class family, and helping convince increasing numbers of middle-class families to settle in the city. As the numbers grow, it might one day be possible to have all DCPS schools predominantly middle-class, but until then, the charters are the bridge.

by thm on Dec 13, 2012 5:58 pm • linkreport

I'm reading some comments suggesting that charters are 'beating' DCPS systematically. There are good charters, and I think that is great, but the only way to determine whether charters are an improvement over public schools is to compare students from similar neighborhoods with similar demographics, where one group chose charter schools and others chose their neighborhood public schools, and to determine which group enjoyed better outcomes.

Ken Archer is making a different (valid) point: Those DC public schools that are enjoying the most success right now are the ones west of Rock Creek Park and some campuses on the Hill; the DCPS schools facing the most trouble are the ones in neighborhoods where the charter movement has taken hold more strongly.

by Austin on Dec 13, 2012 6:04 pm • linkreport

There are hundreds of services that are provided on a neighborhood basis -- dry-cleaning, banking, groceries, barbershops. Here's a thought experiment: who would benefit if you were required to purchase neighborhood services in your specified residential zone? Certainly not consumers. Enrollment boundaries are not something that school systems create to benefit families; they create them for their own benefit, because they can since they have monopoly power.

Second point: I've lived in crappy neighborhoods. One of the things about crappy neighborhoods is that all of the local services are crappy, whether it's the corner store or the supermarket, the bank or the dry-cleaner. Those with the means travel to better neighborhoods for their daily essentials. It's not at all surprising that the same dynamic would exist with education.

You can see this differentiation in the way that people in different neighborhoods react to proposals for things like chain restaurants. In tony neighborhoods, the idea of say an Applebee's is greeted with much throwing up of the hands and shrieks of "Quelle Horreur!" In crappy neighborhoods, people dream of one day being able to get a meal without someone screaming obscenities or your shoes sticking to the floor.

by contrarian on Dec 13, 2012 9:09 pm • linkreport

Any workable scheme for improving schools in the District that is limited strictly to the District is doomed to fail unless it is some blunt variation of resegregation--but along economic lines rather than racial.

Inter-district busing would work but is not realistic. The failure of the courts was in not imposing busing across school system "boundaries" whose purpose became the reimposition of de facto segregation.

The reality is that you cannot have a majority poor school system that works for the kids. Therefore, you need to somehow "shuffle the deck". For that you have two options: mandatory busing across school district lines, or relocating some greater percentage of poor families in other, lower poverty, school districts. 

The first of these is never going to happen. The second is happening already.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 8:23 am • linkreport

And I agree with @thm that charters are a "bridge" to the point where DC''s poverty numbers begin to look more like its neighbors'. Until that time, charters will provide a decent public education to a relatively small number of kids, but they're by no means a way to deliver a high-quality education to all (or even a majority of) DC children.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 8:28 am • linkreport

The reality is that you cannot have a majority poor school system that works for the kids. Therefore, you need to somehow "shuffle the deck".

Generally true, but I'd amend it to say a majority poor school system can't work for all the kids. There's a decent-sized minority for whom it does work - but they're not in majority poor schools. And there's the problem - the concentration of middle-income and wealthy kids in a select few schools. (Busing won't remedy that, by the way, because many of those kids will remove themselves from DCPS if busing was in play.)

Regarding the general piece, it's hard to argue with any of the discrete points it makes - but I came away scratching my head. It asks, "Is school choice a good thing?" - and implies it's not, which is a perfectly valid position. But then there's this:

Charter schools have brought many educational innovations to DC and helped many kids. Unfortunately, the current track we're on is not to create high-quality neighborhood schools alongside high-quality charters and magnets, but just to eliminate one system in favor of the other.

and

Charter schools were originally supposed to serve as innovation centers, free to try out new education approaches that, if successful, neighborhood schools could adopt. However, when the number of neighborhood schools is continually shrinking so dramatically, what schools will be left to adopt successful innovations?

Charter schools have brought innovation to DC and helped kids, (certain) DCPS schools haven't kept pace - and the problem is with charters? That's an odd conclusion (albeit one I'm implying - there are no conclusions in the column).

It's an interesting theoretical discussion - whether school choice is beneficial to the system as a whole (not individual kids). In a vaccuum, I agree that it's probably not. But it's 15 or so years too late to have this be anything more than a theoretical discussion in DC. There are charter schools here, and there's enough kids in them that they aren't going away.

by dcd on Dec 14, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

Would our college/unviersity system be better served with less choice and kids assigned to a local college by the government? No? then why should elementary and high school education be any different? I really don't understand what the problem is that you are attempting to articulate.

by Colin on Dec 14, 2012 9:38 am • linkreport

Busing won't remedy that, by the way, because many of those kids will remove themselves from DCPS if busing was in play.

Sorry, I wasn't being very clear. I meant "busing" in the ideal sense of busing across school district lines. Which in the District's case would mean busing wealthy suburban kids into EOTR schools, and poor kids out to FCPS or MCPS.

Obviously that will never happen in a million years, but that's the only busing scheme that would succeed.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

Our neighborhood school is an example of this economic resegregation, being 6% white nonHispanic in a neighborhood that is 50% white nonHispanic. The children of upscale or motivated parents go to charters, or are ferried across Rock Creek Park to west-of-the-Park schools. The children of low-income, immigrant, or simply unmotivated families go to the school in the neighborhood.

The result of this resegregation is low test scores at the neighborhood school, perpetuating its image as a "failing" school, further encouraging upscale parents to send their children elsewhere, and completing the vicious circle of concentrating children from disadvantaged families in our neighborhood school, keeping test scores low.

There's got to be a better way.

by Jack on Dec 14, 2012 10:19 am • linkreport

@dcd,

Also, as you pointed out, as the situation stands now, the majority of poor kids are never going to get a decent education in DC. Charters aren't going to fix that. And there's no DCPS policy that's going to fix it either.

The only fix is to either make poor kids into non-poor kids, or disperse poverty so that they have a chance to go to schools where 60%+ of the student body is not cripplingly poor.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 10:19 am • linkreport

In theory I like school choice and competition. But, after my child was placed 56th on the waiting list for the elementary school 3 blocks from our house I no longer support it. As always, disinterested parties who are not adversely effected will have different opinions.

All this focus on school choice, I believe, misses the real problem as identified in an article in the NYT Sunday edition. According to a former DCPS teacher, more than 50% of the kids in DCPS don't attend school more than 2 days a week. It's no wonder charter schools have better results, they can dis-enroll a non-performing student.

by Ben Stoddert on Dec 14, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport

It's no wonder charter schools have better results, they can dis-enroll a non-performing student.

Good point. Charter schools have better results because they can dis-enroll students for all sorts of reasons. And DCPS is legally required to take those students.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

Busing won't remedy that, by the way, because many of those kids will remove themselves from DCPS if busing was in play.

Sorry, I wasn't being very clear. I meant "busing" in the ideal sense of busing across school district lines. Which in the District's case would mean busing wealthy suburban kids into EOTR schools, and poor kids out to FCPS or MCPS.

I agree, that comment wasn't directed at you, but at MLD. Busing wouldn't work just in DC because of the easy availability of excellent public schools in the close-in suburbs. Inter-jurisdiction busing may work, but as you say, it'll never happen.

Also, as you pointed out, as the situation stands now, the majority of poor kids are never going to get a decent education in DC. Charters aren't going to fix that. And there's no DCPS policy that's going to fix it either.

Some charters can address it - KIPP, in particular, has done a great job. But that's obviously not a systemic solution. It also depends on parents motivated and savvy enough to apply and get their kids there on a regular basis.

by dcd on Dec 14, 2012 11:45 am • linkreport

I must admit that I'm a little disturbed by this post, and especially the way it compares school choice to business choice. You imply that just like banks are only out to serve the richest, that schools of choice are only out to serve the smartest.

Perhaps this was the case earlier, when the only choice parents had was to go to a posh private school or to go to their failing neighborhood school. This is not the case with charters (or with vouchers for that matter!). Most charters are designed specifically to serve students coming out of poor neighborhoods. These schools aren't allowed to cherry pick students and they lose funding when students unenroll - just like a public school loses funding when they have a student unenroll.

And as a former teacher who once worked in a private school that was 2/3rds voucher students, I can assure you that we did *not* cherry pick our students. We accepted students first come first serve and as many as we could fit. In all my years, I never saw the school expel a student. In fact, we worked hard so that our students would make it. I remember one student, C, who I taught for 3 years and every minute with him was a struggle. He was so smart, with all the mischievousness that went along with it, and had a homelife that wasn't teaching him the right way to be. For 3 years we pushed him and made it clear to him that there was no way we were going to allow him to not learn. And then, after three years he passed 8th grade (the highest grade in our school) and enrolled his DC neighborhood's public non-charter high school. The next time I saw him was the following October when I ran into him on the Metro. He had already been expelled from DCPS and was supposedly taking courses online.

What a waste! And who was it that failed and gave up on this student? Was it our school of choice, or was it the public neighborhood school?

by Melissa on Dec 14, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

Most charters are designed specifically to serve students coming out of poor neighborhoods.

I'm not sure this is true, but if it were, what we're interested in is the subset of charters that are successful. So if we look at the dozen or so charter schools that are held up as the success stories, how many of those are "designed specifically to serve students coming out of poor neighborhoods"? There's KIPP. Chavez maybe?

I haven't heard anything about schools like Two Rivers, Haynes, or Yu Ying that would suggest they're "designed specifically" to serve poor students.

These schools aren't allowed to cherry pick students and they lose funding when students unenroll - just like a public school loses funding when they have a student unenroll. These schools aren't allowed to cherry pick students and they lose funding when students unenroll - just like a public school loses funding when they have a student unenroll.

When a student is tossed from a PCS with a waiting list of 100 students, they may lose funding for unenrolling that student, but don't they pick up funding when the next student on the waiting list gets called up? Charter schools don't "cherry pick" students on the front end, but there are institutional factors that lead to similar effects: parents of special ed students tend to stay in DCPS because of more services (including the consent decree).

We've talked before about the other various barriers: the best charters are unlikely to be in your neighborhood, so there's a transport "tax." Folks who don't scour internet mailing lists and fora don't necessarily know about the latest well-performing charter--so they don't enter the lottery. Parent's who are poor are less likely to have a) free time to travel; b) means of transport; or c) time and expertise to research PCS options.

So you expect to see a wealthier set of lottery applicants in the best-performing charters than a random sampling of the potential student population would lead to. Also you'd expect to see a lower percentage of special ed students in the best-performing charters than a random sample of the potential student population would lead to.

And that's exactly what you see.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 3:22 pm • linkreport

So you expect to see a wealthier set of lottery applicants in the best-performing charters than a random sampling of the potential student population would lead to.

It would be nice if you had some data to back that up.

by goldfish on Dec 14, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

Not to cloud things with facts, but according to the Department of Education, the percent of high-poverty schools nationally is 11.2% for traditional public schools and 32.9% for public charter schools (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_ces.pdf). Obviously charter schools are serving a greater proportion poor students.

Also, by looking at the demographic information for DC area charter schools (http://dashboard.publiccharters.org/dashboard/students/page/overview/district/DC-1/year/2012), you can see that DC area charters serve a larger number of minority students. Usually, having a higher number of minority students correlates with serving a larger number of students from impoverished neighborhoods.

by Melissa on Dec 14, 2012 3:55 pm • linkreport

So you expect to see a wealthier set of lottery applicants in the best-performing charters than a random sampling of the potential student population would lead to. Also you'd expect to see a lower percentage of special ed students in the best-performing charters than a random sample of the potential student population would lead to.

These really are two separate (albeit related) issues - barriers to entry and retention issues. Re: barriers to entry, if you're talking about ability to attend the "best-performing charters" v. the "best-performing DCPS," I don't think there's any question that in 2012 and goign forward, the best DCPS elementary schools have a higher barrier of entry. For charters, all of the barriers you've identified are real, though difficult to quantify. As for DCPS, living IB in the "best" districts is a non-starter, given the rental rates. In addition, in many elementary schools there are no OOB slots open. And in other good schools there are just a few OOB slots, and the number is decreasing each year. Plus, if you're poor and want to attend a JKLM school, you have the same travel and transportation issues as you woudldwith a charter school in a different neighborhood. The dynamics may be a little more forgiving with the Hill schools, but not much.

Of course, there's no barrier of entry to your local DCPS elementary - but by the same token, there are a lot of charters schools without waiting lists at all, or which have very small lists. Whether a concerned parent think either of them are viable options is another discussion.

As for charters weeding out special needs kids, I can't speak to all schools policies. But I know at EL Haynes, that's certainly not the policy, and the number of kids with special needs is not insignificant, and there are a host of aides, pull-out assistance, and other help at the elementary level. I'm not sure how the numbers compare to to DCPS numbers, though.

While EL Haynes does not have a Kipp-like program, it does have a year-round program and numerous (and cheap) intersession programs to make life easier for poor families (and middle-class ones, too). The mission of the school is that every kid will go to college (whether that's reasonable or achievable is yet another conversation). Along with that goal, there is a significant focus on getting poor kids college ready. In fact, my chief concern about the school is whether it is so focused on getting kids who don't come from environments where college is a given ready for advanced degrees that they don't pay sufficient attention to the needs of advanced students.

Interesting discussion.

by dcd on Dec 14, 2012 3:55 pm • linkreport

Not to cloud things with facts, but according to the Department of Education, the percent of high-poverty schools nationally is 11.2% for traditional public schools and 32.9% for public charter schools (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_ces.pdf). Obviously charter schools are serving a greater proportion poor students.

Sure, but this statistic is misleading--charters are predominately a phenomenon of urban school districts. And urban school districts are largely where the poverty is.

While charter schools are serving a greater proportion of poor students nationally, you can't just look at the national numbers--you have to compare like populations.

Loundon County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country; how many charter schools are there in Loudon?

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 4:16 pm • linkreport

Of course, there's no barrier of entry to your local DCPS elementary - but by the same token, there are a lot of charters schools without waiting lists at all, or which have very small lists. Whether a concerned parent think either of them are viable options is another discussion.

Sure, the set of charters that parents are trying to get into is pretty small. As you said earlier, charters are actually *more* open than DCPS in that there is no boundary preference, so everyone goes through the lottery. But the number of high-performing charters is comparable to the number of high-performing DCPS schools.

http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/if-youre-keeping-score/

So--to risk a tautology--while there are plenty of charters without waiting lists, those aren't the charters everyone is trying to get into. (And there's little evidence that these less desirable charters are any better than your average neighborhood DCPS school).

As for charters weeding out special needs kids, I can't speak to all schools policies. But I know at EL Haynes, that's certainly not the policy, and the number of kids with special needs is not insignificant, and there are a host of aides, pull-out assistance, and other help at the elementary level. I'm not sure how the numbers compare to to DCPS numbers, though.

There was a story in the Post several weeks back that found the special ed population in charters was significantly lower than in DCPS. (It was something on the order of 15% to 25%, though I can't remember the exact numbers, it was significant). If I had to make an uneducated guess, I'd say it doesn't have anything to do with nefarious policies of charter administrators, but rather with self-selection by parents. But the numbers are what they are.

While EL Haynes does not have a Kipp-like program, it does have a year-round program and numerous (and cheap) intersession programs to make life easier for poor families (and middle-class ones, too). The mission of the school is that every kid will go to college (whether that's reasonable or achievable is yet another conversation). Along with that goal, there is a significant focus on getting poor kids college ready. In fact, my chief concern about the school is whether it is so focused on getting kids who don't come from environments where college is a given ready for advanced degrees that they don't pay sufficient attention to the needs of advanced students.

Haynes is definitely one of the success stories. (Congratulations for winning the lottery!) But the percentage of FARMS students to non-FARMS is about the same as for most every successful DCPS school. When Melissa said, "Most charters are designed specifically to serve students coming out of poor neighborhoods" I took it to mean it was the primary focus of the school. Outside of a few like KIPP, there just aren't that many successful charters designed to specifically serve poor students.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

@goldfish,
So you expect to see a wealthier set of lottery applicants in the best-performing charters than a random sampling of the potential student population would lead to.
It would be nice if you had some data to back that up.

There's no need for a complicated data-driven argument here. What's the demographic profile of all school-aged kids in DC? Two Rivers has 28% FARMS eligible kids. Yu Ying has 24%

Hell, the childhood poverty rate in DC is 30%.

(BTW, I'm not arguing these schools should be abolished or something; I'm just saying we need to be clear-eyed about some of the factors that make them successful.)

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 4:42 pm • linkreport

@Melissa,

Also, by looking at the demographic information for DC area charter schools (http://dashboard.publiccharters.org/dashboard/students/page/overview/district/DC-1/year/2012), you can see that DC area charters serve a larger number of minority students. Usually, having a higher number of minority students correlates with serving a larger number of students from impoverished neighborhoods.

Yes, most DC charters are 100% African American and poor. And they show no better outcomes than for DCPS. Which is why there are only a handful of PCS in DC that are difficult to get into.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 4:52 pm • linkreport

@oboe

That blog has a great argument if you count "low scorers" as below 20%, but if you bump that up to 30% nearly 1/3 of DCPS schools fail while a still small portion of charters are under that mark.

by MLD on Dec 14, 2012 5:09 pm • linkreport

@oboe

I do not think it means what you think it means.

Look, you can't just throw up a graph and claim that it says something it clearly doesn't.
The charts you put up show the following things:
1) DCPS has more extremely high achievers than DCPCS.
2) DCPS seems to do a better job with the very lowest bar than DCPCS (I don't know where these charts came from or what every bar represents. 1/100th?)
3) In all other categories (i.e. the vast majority of students), DCPCS does better.

Although, the bar graphs are hard to compare as they don't appear to have the same number of bars, so it's hard to tell where one passes the other.

Anyway, since you keep insisting that DCPCS aren't serving neighborhoods struggling with poverty, here's the Post's list of DCPCS: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/dcschools/charter/list/

Lots of times the Post will list the statistic for impoverished students. If not, go to the webpage and look at the mission of the school. Often, the missions will use key words and phrases like east of the river, underserved, or urban that clues you into the fact that they were intended for poorer populations. Just so you know, the baseline for average poverty in DC schools is 52%.

Now, you are welcome to continue doubting me all you want. This is just the field that I work in and think about all day. I obviously am just pulling things out of the air and know nothing. However, I do hope you educate yourself on who exactly public charter schools are intended to help (NOT the kids already doing fine.

by Melissa on Dec 14, 2012 5:10 pm • linkreport

"Also, by looking at the demographic information for DC area charter schools (http://dashboard.publiccharters.org/dashboard/students/page/overview/district/DC-1/year/2012), you can see that DC area charters serve a larger number of minority students."

How are you defining minority? From that information, I see that a higher percentage of "non-charter" students are Latino, Asian or "other", while only about 9% more of the charter school population is black as compared to non-charter schools (though in terms of total numbers, non-charters educate 7,000 more black students than charters). It seems that if you use minority in the traditional broad sense (Latinos, Asians, Blacks, "other"), non-charters are educating notably more minority students. In no way do the numbers on that site imply that charters educating a higher number of blakc students than non-charters. Just the fact that non-charters are educating 14,000 more students would undermine that point.

by wylie coyote on Dec 14, 2012 5:38 pm • linkreport

As for DCPS, living IB in the "best" districts is a non-starter, given the rental rates.

I live IB for the top-performing elementary school in DC. A quick check of Craigslist finds apartments in my neighborhood for as little as $850. Are they cramped and inconvenient? Yes. But there are families at my school who make the sacrifice and live in apartments like that, because it's worth it to them. The JKLM schools are a lot more economically diverse than most people realize.

The problem is there are so few good choices that people latch on to whatever they can find.

by contrarian on Dec 14, 2012 6:10 pm • linkreport

@MLD

Yes, I noticed the PCS chart is "flatter" than the DCPS chart, too. Obviously there's a difference there, but I'm not sure how significant that difference is when we're left arguing whether the cutoff for "success" is 30% or 40% proficiency. (Seriously, maybe it is; I don't know)

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 10:35 pm • linkreport

@Melissa

"I don't know where these charts came from or what every bar represents. 1/100th?"

The graphs are from the link I posted previously comparing all DCPS schools versus all PCS schools.

http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/if-youre-keeping-score/

by oboe on Dec 14, 2012 10:44 pm • linkreport

@oboe Also you'd expect to see a lower percentage of special ed students in the best-performing charters than a random sample of the potential student population would lead to.

This is a particularly damaging insinuation, [deleted for violating the comment policy.] In the charter school I sent my kids to had tons of special ed students. In particular they bent over backward to accommodate them. This was not entirely due to altruism, but it was pointed out that special ed students came with more money.

by goldfish on Dec 14, 2012 11:20 pm • linkreport

It would be great to try out in the District the model of Montgomery County, which has successful schools even in lower-income areas: most students at their neighborhood school, and a lower emphasis on testing. (Superintendent Starr suggested a national moratorium on standardized tests recently.)

School choice ends up being a mechanism to get kids with engaged parents to leave neighborhood schools.

by Andrew on Dec 15, 2012 1:07 am • linkreport

@Melissa and @oboe:

I believe each bar on the chart represents a school (fairly amateurish to not identify the axis and describe what it means, btw). So if that is true, what the plots show is an appalling number of DCPS schools that fall off the bottom. By my eyeball count I get 16 and 19 DCPS schools scoring proficient with <20% of the student population, for math and reading respectively. The charters have only one -- consistent with the charter board policy of closing schools that are not working. DCPS keeps the failing schools open.

Otherwise, the plots show nearly the same distribution of achievement. This is reassuring, as the kids are drawn from the same population; they should not really be that much different. This means that small difference are significant.

by goldfish on Dec 15, 2012 2:30 am • linkreport

Sure, and my argument is that that small increase in achievement is attributable to the various biases others have talked about.

by oboe on Dec 15, 2012 8:44 am • linkreport

@Melissa and @oboe

I very much enjoyed your back-and-forth. It does seem to indicate that people on the opposite sides of this argument are pretty entrenched.

@Melissa - do you agree that charter schools serve more of a self-selecting population (indicating higher parental engagement in particular) than DCPS schools do? If so, do you believe that this would skew performance data in their favor? (Note: I don't mean a richer crowd -- just a student population with more engaged parents.)

I happen to believe that school choice allows for a better alignment of parent/student interests and school models. But that too is a bit of a risk for me. I once heard a charter school worker explain student transfers as "the student or the school realizing that this wasn't the school for them." So that begs the question -- what about the kid who isn't suited to any school? Which school will be required to find a way to educate that kid? Right now, it's their neighborhood school. But if that kid and kids like him or her go to the neighborhood schools, I imagine the school's performance will suffer some and the more-involved parents will be more inclined to abandon the neighborhood school.

That leads to the article's point -- that the current school choice model will create a two-tier system. There will be the high-performing DCPS schools and high-performing DCPCS schools. Then there will be the neighborhoods schools and a cycle of low-performing charter schools (with no waiting lists) to serve the rest.

BTW, I think Ben gave a good example of the type of kid I'm talking about(though I haven't read the article he referenced) -- the kid who only shows up two days a week is unlikely to suit any school model.

I think one incomplete solution to this problem would be to not allow charter schools to kick kids out. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

And, as a note, this is also the field I work in and think about all day.

by David on Dec 15, 2012 2:23 pm • linkreport

But the percentage of FARMS students to non-FARMS is about the same as for most every successful DCPS school.

I don’t know where you get that idea - it's completely incorrect. Based in the information in the NCLB Report Cards, the JKLMM elementary schools report the following numbers of economically disadvantages and non-economically disadvantaged students for 2011 and 2010:

Janney – 7/206 (3/3%), 10/188 (5%)
Key – 8/123 (6.1%), 15/115 (11.5%)
Lafayette – 20/279 (6.7%), 9/253 (3.4%)
Mann – 5/116 (4.1%), 4/112 (3.4%)
Murch – 36/167 (17.7%), 30/168 (15.2%)

(The percentages are the % of economically disadvantaged students in the school.)

As you can see, in the past 2 years, in these 5 elementary schools (so 10 years total), the percentage of economically disadvantaged students exceeded 10% three times. It NEVER exceeded 20%.

At EL Haynes, in contrast, the numbers for 2011 and 2010 were 218/98 (69%) and 170/76 (69.1%). That’s more that three times (percentage wise) more economically disadvantaged kids than at the MOST “economically diverse” (ha!) JKLMM school.

And to address the notion that charter schools push out special needs students to boost their stats, here are the percentages of ‘Special Education – Disabled Students at JKLMM in 2011 and 2010:

Janney – 9.4%, 7.6%
Key – 6.9%, 7.7%
Lafayette – 8.7%, 5.7%
Mann – 3.3%, 6.0%
Murch – 6.9%, 12.6%

EL Haynes – 16.5%. 11.4%

I know this is just one charter school, and this little survey is in no way statistically significant. But given all of the ire directed at charter schools, a little reality check, is useful.

You can view the report cards here if you’d like to check the data:

http://www.nclb.osse.dc.gov/aypreports.asp

by dcd on Dec 15, 2012 3:00 pm • linkreport

@dcd,

Choosing JKLMM to represent DCPS elementary schools is like choosing Deal to represent all DCPS middle schools. Those are the five extreme outliers in the whole system.

I'd be interested to know if there's another school in DCPS with similar numbers. (There might be, but I doubt it.)

by oboe on Dec 15, 2012 9:30 pm • linkreport

@oboe: Choosing JKLMM to represent DCPS elementary schools is like choosing Deal to represent all DCPS middle schools. Those are the five extreme outliers in the whole system.

Those schools were not chosen to be representative. The are among the highest performers of DCPS, and in no way are representative of DCPS as a whole.

The data show that their student body is almost exclusively not poor, far more so than the equivalently performing charter schools.

You have often proposed that success in education depends on diluting the poorest student bodies. The proof of that is the performance of DCPS schools, where performance is very closely linked to demographics. I reject that connection as cause-and-effect, but DCPS has not been able to rise above it.

by goldfish on Dec 16, 2012 5:27 pm • linkreport


Those schools were not chosen to be representative. The are among the highest performers of DCPS, and in no way are representative of DCPS as a whole.

No, those schools are certainly not "among the highest performers in DCPS". That group of five is completely different from all other elementary schools in DC--charter or DCPS. There are no others like them in DCPS or DCPCS. So I'm not sure what your point is.

by oboe on Dec 16, 2012 11:08 pm • linkreport

Choosing JKLMM to represent DCPS elementary schools is like choosing Deal to represent all DCPS middle schools. Those are the five extreme outliers in the whole system.

Of course they're outliers, and in no way representative of DCPS as a whole. But you said,

Haynes is definitely one of the success stories. (Congratulations for winning the lottery!) But the percentage of FARMS students to non-FARMS is about the same as for most every successful DCPS school.

I took your comment to mean that the "successful" DCPS schools have the same percentage of economically disadvantaged students as charters. I was demonstrating that the percentage of economically disadvantaged students at JKLMM - unquestionably the most successful DCPS elementary schools - is significantly less than is typical.

I'm getting the feeling that I misunderstood what you intended to say. But if you meant to say that successful DCPS schools achieve that success with the same percentage of economically disadvantaged students as other DCPS and charter schools have, that's just wrong.

Frankly, I consider the JKLMM schools to be pseudo-private schools - only difference is that instead of tuition, you have to pay the mortgage/rent to live in IB (these days, at any rate). Yes, I know there are the odd "cheap" rentals IB (though cheap is a relative term) but those are few and far between.

by dcd on Dec 17, 2012 7:52 am • linkreport

@oboe: There are no others like them in DCPS or DCPCS. So I'm not sure what your point is.

Let me make it plain.
well-to-do demographics = good school

Data to prove this: DCPS, your own plots. Those are the "high-fliers".

This connections is not so sharp with the charters.

by goldfish on Dec 17, 2012 8:02 am • linkreport

I know it's not the topic of this post, and it's certainly been written before, but I think it bears repeating when charters are criticized as having a detrimental effect on the city: In my view, charter schools are the single most significant factor in the gentrification/revitalization/renaissance of DC. Not gentrification as in convincing young 20-somethings to live in an edgy neighborhood, but the next step - and a far more difficult step - convincing them to STAY when they settle down, get married (or not) and have kids.

For years, DCPS, outside of small enclaves, has been a non-starter. Yes, there have been some schools have have always been good, and a few have improved, but the vast majority have not been viewed as viable options to parents with choices. And yes, the OOB lottery provided some relief, but that's been tightening up for years, and now it's officially become not an option for most, if not all, of the "best" schools. But charters have allowed those of us who WANT to stay in the city and raise our kids here, and who don't want (or can't afford) to go the private school route to stay in parts of the city that 15 years ago we'd simply never have considered. Do you think for a second that I'd live in Columbia Heights with a kindergartener if charter schools didn't exist? No chance. Heck, we were looking at houses in Arlington and McLean when we hit the lottery almost three years ago. And we're certainly not alone in this respect.

(This phenomenon is true across the racial spectrum - how many middle and upper-middle class AA families chose to flee to PG County over the past 20 or so years in large part due to the sorry state of DCPS?)

There have, of course, been other factors - traffic, walkability, whatever - in our (and others) decision to stay in the city. But in many cases, if there weren't viable schooling options, we (and many others) would have sighed, grumbled, and moved on, because that's what parents have to do.

Now I recognize that I'm truly fortunate because I have those choices, and that many, many parents don't. And I firmly believe that charters can be of enormous benefit to kids who don't have as many opportunities as mine does. But speaking from a benefit-to-the-city perspective, charters are an integral part of keeping families in the the city.

Sorry for the digression.

by dcd on Dec 17, 2012 8:17 am • linkreport

There are a handful of successful DCPS schools. There are a handful of successful DCPCS schools. The DCPS schools are successful largely because they are able to discriminate by residency, which is a proxy for socioeconomic status. The DCPCS schools are largely successful because of a self-selection bias.

Obviously, the latter is more "fair", but neither model presents an actual solution to the problem of universal public education in DC.

by oboe on Dec 17, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

@dcd:

I'm getting the feeling that I misunderstood what you intended to say. But if you meant to say that successful DCPS schools achieve that success with the same percentage of economically disadvantaged students as other DCPS and charter schools have, that's just wrong.

Sorry, looking back I can see how you'd get that out of what I wrote.

Basically your point about "pseudo private schools" is completely dead on.

by oboe on Dec 17, 2012 9:35 am • linkreport

Let me make it plain.
well-to-do demographics = good school

I think maybe my initial point has gotten bogged down in the weeds. Just to be clear, I completely agree with you on this point. Also, it's obvious that there are five DCPS elementary schools which are essentially as dcd put it, pseudo private schools.

My original point was that "charter schools" is not something that's going to "fix" education in DC so long as DC has its current socioeconomic composition. Charter outcomes are largely on par with what is achieved in DCPS with similar student demographics.

@dcd makes a good point that the key value of charter schools is creating niches where pockets of middle-class kids can find refuge if they live outside a handful of wealthy zones. I'm not sure I see a mechanism where that will propagate upwards to the middle-school grades. (On a personal note, while we're in a great DCPS elementary school now, middle-school is still a question of moving in-bounds for Deal or moving out of the city, so I hope I'm wrong about charters in the upper-grades, or that DCPS creates a test-in track for a "magnet" middle-school--and that my kid happens to be smart enough--and privileged enough--to test in.)

by oboe on Dec 17, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

Also, it's obvious that there are five DCPS elementary schools which are essentially as dcd put it, pseudo private schools.

No. I had kids in one of the five, and I've had kids in private, and it's very different. The privates have selective admissions, the publics have universal admission. The publics may raise a lot of money by DCPS standards, but by private standards it's piddling. I was a big-dog donor at my DCPS school, but I can't come close to running with the big dogs at my private. It's very different.

by contrarian on Dec 17, 2012 11:23 pm • linkreport

+1 Colin. That this article doesn't even mention our university system, which is 100% choice and the best in the workd, is a glaring omission.

by David c on Dec 18, 2012 7:58 pm • linkreport

@David c

I don't think it's a glaring omission at all. Choice gives you great schools. But the question for public schools is whether it gives great schools to all or just to some. Given the graduation rates of some of our colleges it seems clear that not everyone is getting a "best in the world" college experience. Since the challenge, presumably, is to give all k-12 students a great education, it seems our college choice model doesn't seem to fit too nicely.

by David on Dec 19, 2012 12:01 am • linkreport

The college system is certainly a better analogy than banking. Not everyone uses a bank either, I'll note. Banking is nothing like going to school, but going to school is an awful lot like going to school.

But the question for public schools is whether it gives great schools to all or just to some.

Your right. Choice probably won't give great schools to all. But then neither has lack of choice. Ever. So I'm not sure why that is the question. Shouldn't the question be "can choice give better schools per dollar spent than lack of choice does." Choice doesn't have to be great for everyone, it just has to be better on average.

Since the challenge, presumably, is to give all k-12 students a great education, it seems our college choice model doesn't seem to fit too nicely.

Nor does our choice-less K-12 system. But it's certainly easier to imagine a college system that could handle all students (if schooling were mandatory to age 22) then it is to imagine the current K-12 system somehow bucking the last century of mixed results and providing all kids a great education.

by David C on Dec 19, 2012 12:13 am • linkreport

@David c

Your comment on "can choice give better schools per dollar spent than lack of choice does" and "it just has to be better on average" are interesting. I appreciate the first point. I don't know what the cost per charter is -- but it might be providing the equivalent at a lower cost. There are lots of arguments about whether they are providing a better education. But even if they're just equivalent, they might be cheaper.

But "better on average" is tricky. Two students can have an average of 1500 on the SAT between them even if one has a 1200 (the approximate DCPS average) and the other has an 1800. Even if the average increased to 1600, that doesn't mean both students have benefited. The first student could have dropped to a 1000 and the second might have risen to 2200. Since a quality public education is seen as a matter of right, this disparity matters.

The argument is that the incentive structures and institutional models created in some school choice models reduce opportunities for some students. As in the reply to Melissa, what of the student who is not suited to any program? How does a model that allows schools to kick kids out serve him or her? Public schools are supposed to support a kid who is not to blame for the circumstance he or she is born into. They are not supposed to exacerbate that problem.

Given all that, I fully agree that the model that works is not yet identified. So dialogue is appreciated.

by David on Dec 19, 2012 6:48 pm • linkreport

First of all, I'm so old that I didn't know you could have an SAT score above 1600. Sigh...

The first student could have dropped to a 1000 and the second might have risen to 2200. Since a quality public education is seen as a matter of right, this disparity matters.

Well, that's a highly contentious point and let's just say that holding one kid back a lot to allow another kid to do a little better is some sticky ethical territory.

As in the reply to Melissa, what of the student who is not suited to any program?

That problem doesn't go away when that student only has one program to choose from. But the answer is more options and more openings at those options. My dad is very involved in prison reform, and one of the ideas he frequently pushes is that a good system has not 2 or 3 or 5 options, but 20 or 40. There is no best practice, because every prisoner needs something different, and so the best system has many programs and many options. I think there is a parallel with schools (that is I realize makes for a loaded analogy).

How does a model that allows schools to kick kids out serve him or her?

It doesn't. But that's not what I'm supporting. I'm supporting variety and choice - just like at the college level.

by David C on Dec 19, 2012 7:18 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or