Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 21, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Arizona Education Report Card: Charter Schools


  • We wrap up our education series with a look at charter schools.
Guests:
  • Bob Robb - Columnist, The Arizona Republic
  • Lisa Keegan - former Superintendent of Public Instruction


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," the frontrunner among Republicans possibly running for Governor next year says he will not be running. And we wrap up our education series with a look at charter schools. That's next.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon". I'm Michael Grant. Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley was widely considered to be the man Republicans would turn to in the gubernatorial race next year. But this morning, Romley announced he would not be running for Governor. Romley said that although there are many pressing issues facing Arizona, he is not going to run to be able to spend more time with his family, volunteering and reaching out to veterans. Here now to talk about Romley's decision and who's left to challenge Democrat Janet Napolitano is Bob Robb, a columnist for "The Arizona Republic". Bob, welcome back.

>> Bob Robb:
Good to be here.

>> Michael Grant:
What do you think about that explanation? A cover story or genuine?

>> Bob Robb:
You presume there is a degree of sincerity to it. Certainly, Romley, given his name ID in Maricopa County, would have been the presumptive front runner in the race, but he is pro-choice, although he does support restrictions. He opposed juvenile justice initiative in the 1990s, and it was clear that the social right was going to have difficulty with him as a candidate, and so to the extent political calculations entered into it, his front runner status was a little bit ephemeral, and he wasn't exciting the base of the party, which is necessary to really mount one of these campaigns effectively.

>> Michael Grant:
How much of a drag is it also that obviously he's well known in Maricopa County, but county attorneys don't tend to be well known throughout the state. The statewide name ID factor?

>> Bob Robb:
Well, Maricopa County is 60\% of the political marketplace. 60\% of the votes come out of this county. And county attorney is a fairly high profile position. You get your name in the news and you're on television quite frequently. My guess is, he was probably as strong of a contender absent one of our two U.S. senators, neither of whom I think is going to step down to run for Governor, but the Republicans could mount. So I think actually that was an advantage of him compared to the potential rest of the Republican field. Certainly anyone is going to begin well behind Janet Napolitano in a challenge in the category of statewide name identification.

>> Michael Grant:
Marilyn Quayle's name has popped up recently. Is this just dreaming? What do you think?

>> Bob Robb:
Well, the only candidate that really has stepped forward and says that he is going to run is Keith Degreen who was the Republican nominee against Dennis Deconcini for U.S. senate in 1988. Fife Symington has said that he would run or would consider running if neither Hayworth or Rick Romley were running, neither of which are running. Beyond that, I think you have a list of candidates whom others wish would consider it. Marilyn Quayle is one of those, Richard Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General from Tucson is another. A lot of people for a long time have wished that Tucson automobile dealer Jim Click would toss his hat in the race.

>> Michael Grant:
In fact, by my count, he has been speculated on the last 14 gubernatorial cycles.

>> Bob Robb:
I don't doubt it. He'll be speculated on again. But, right now, there is simply sort of a sorting out period. And given Clean Elections, that period can last for much longer time than it used to. There simply isn't the need to jockey quite so early for fundraisers and precinct committees supporting you and that sort of thing. The race can get and will get a much later start. I think Republicans understand that this is a long shot. Janet Napolitano has a very high degree of public support, but out of the 2004 election, I don't think they any longer believe that it's an impossible quest. I think a lot of second tier Republicans will begin looking at this, Ken Bennett senate president had stepped down. Now he is jumping back in. I think a lot of second tier Republican politicians or those with political aspirations will look at this and say, you know, it may be a long shot, but it's a possibility, and boy, the rewards are great.

>> Michael Grant:
Has to make, though, Janet Napolitano feel very good that it is in the long shot category, and it clearly is scaring off what would be some of the most viable candidates against her.

>> Bob Robb:
Well, I agree with the first part. She's a formidable candidate. It is a long shot. I believe the result of the 2004 election in which Democrats did so much more poorly than was anticipated has caused Republicans no longer to step out of the race because of fear of the challenge. The two that have stepped out, I think had reasons other than that for doing so. JD Hayworth is firmly ensconced in congress. It would be a substantial reduction in pay, not only for him, but probably also for his wife, and I think Romley looked better on paper than he was in reality, given his problems with the social right. So there simply isn't an all-star cast out there waiting to go at this, but I believe second tier Republicans will be looking at it seriously as an opportunity that's tough, but potentially do-able and with a marvelous reward.

>> Michael Grant:
In the sports field, there is not a lot of bench strength there but we'll see if someone emerges. Bob Robb, thank you very much.

>> Bob Robb:
Glad to be here.

>> Michael Grant:
As we wrap up our four-part series, "Arizona's education report card," tonight, we take a look at charter schools. For more than a decade now, charter schools have been an option for Arizona students. They are public schools that can be run by private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and even school districts. They are exempt from many regulations faced by traditional public schools, like teacher certification. According to the center for education reform, only California and Texas have more students in charter schools than Arizona. The schools were designed to compete with traditional public schools, and to produce improved pupil performance. We'll talk to one of the creators of charters in Arizona, and a member of the Arizona Education Association, but first, Mike Sauceda tells us about one of the original charter schools, and charter schools in general.

>>Mike Sauceda:
Sophomore Ramon Rojas plays a recital in the classroom of ----- at the Arizona school for the arts. The school has been in existence since 1995. It's one of the 70 original charter schools in Arizona created when the fledgling movement was called an experiment.
>> Mark Francis: Are you playing that right here?

>> Mike Sauceda:
Mark Francis is the founder and president of the Arizona School for the Arts, located in central Phoenix. He mortgaged his house to get the school started.

>> Mark Francis:
When I first heard about charters in 1993, that's when the discussion started, I was actually working in arts administration. I had been in higher education for the better part of my life. And the opportunity to run a high quality performing arts school with a high quality academic program was just something that I couldn't resist, and amazingly enough, it was passed in 94 and got the application, and we were approved in 1995.

>> Teacher:
That's a good observation, because it breaks that stem rule, doesn't it? Very good. Okay. All right, so let's start from the beginning, please.

>>Mike Sauceda:
The school's focus is a classical arts education.

>> Mark Francis:
We have three areas of arts in which we focus. We have a partnership with Ballet Arizona where the students actually study at the student of Ballet Arizona and receive their instruction from the school of Ballet Arizona staff. We have a partnership where our high school students work with Phoenix Theater at the studios of Phoenix theater across the street from us and work with professional staff of the Phoenix theater, and then we developed our own in-house music conservatory. It's pretty much a classically oriented program. In other words, it's ballet. The students in music are trying to access the classical concert music literature, and the theater is a very process rather than just plain performance approach.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Francis says his school has a graduation rate of 100\%.

>> Mark Francis:
We have a college prep curriculum that has been very, very successful. It's been successful in that the teachers really work together. This truly is a professional learning community. And the teachers have -- in fact, in many ways, the teachers are really driving this, and it's our staff that has brought the success that we've had.

>> Mike Sauceda:
The school has produced results Francis says 90\% of his students go on to four-year colleges.

>> Mark Francis:
In fact, the first sentence of the purpose of charter schools is to improve pupil achievement. And we have taken that very seriously. It's been at the forefront of our existence.

>>Mike Sauceda:
The school's success is borne out in aims test results. For the school year 2003-2004, 65\% of the Arizona School for the Arts' 8th graders exceeded or met aims standards in math compared to 26\% statewide. In the reading portions of aims, 92\% of Arizona School for the Arts students met or exceeded the test. That compared to 50\% of all schools statewide. At the beginning of their formation, charter schools were thought to have an advantage attracting the brightest students.

>> Mark Francis:
One of the things that I'm very pleased with, a lot of people will say, you know, well, you know, the school is doing so great because you are cherry-picking your students. You get art students and you are getting these very bright children. But interestingly enough, many of our students come in and they are actually very difficult to educate children. Many of them were students that were not doing well in their previous schools, and they have come into our environment and the vast majority of them have done what we've asked them to do, and mostly the way we've been able to break through that is that the culture here is actually, you know, one of achievement.

>>Mike Sauceda:
Although Arizona school for the arts students far exceeded statewide overall performance, that is not true of charter schools in general, at least according to the latest aims test results from the Arizona Department of Education. For spring of 2004 grade 12 charter school students, 6\% met or exceed the math portion, compared to 14\% of traditional public school students. In reading 25\% met or exceeded standards compared to 27\% of district school students, and in the writing portion, 35\% of grade 12 charter school students met or exceeded the aims test, while 39\% of district school students did the same. District school students outperformed charter school students in the aims test at the 8th and 3rd grade levels for spring of 2004 as well.

>> Teacher:
Actually you could use a mixture --

>> Student:
Just to get it darker?

>> Teacher:
Okay.

>> Mike Sauceda:
There are now 500 charter schools in operation in our state at the end of the 2004 school year there were nearly 44,000 charter school students compared with 454,000 in traditional public schools in Arizona. The racial mix at charter and traditional public schools are similar.

>> Teacher:
What are bugs? I mean insects?

>> Student:
Insects, okay.

>> Mike Sauceda:
When charters schools were first started it was said in law that they would provide a learning environment that would improve student achievement. The Goldwater institute, a research organization that favors charter schools examined traditional public schools versus charter schools on SAT 9 reading achievement and achievement growth. They concluded that the study could not prove whether charter schools were superior to traditional public schools. However it found that charter school students who generally started with lower achievement growth showed more growth and achievement than traditional public school students. The left-leaning economic policy institute has produced a book that concludes that charter schools produce students with lower test scores that cannot be explained by the students' background. Opinions in charter schools are split along ideological lines, but not for Arizona School for the Arts founder Mark Francis.

>> Mark Francis
: It's a funny thing about charter schools in Arizona. I'm -- you know, an old-fashioned liberal Democrat from Minnesota, probably about as blue as you can get, yet I find that most of my -- I still even contribute to the Democratic Party. Put that down, but most of my allies are conservative Republicans, so it's a really funny ally or alliance that we have together, and frankly the legislature takes a lot of hits, and you know, deservedly so for a number of things from my standpoint, but boy, in terms of charter schools, they really got it right.

>> Michael Grant:
Here now to talk about charter schools is Lisa Keegan, who was key in the passage of charter school legislation when she was a lawmaker. She is also the former superintendent of public instruction. Also joining me is Andrew Morrill, vice president of the Arizona Education Association.

>> Michael Grant:
Let me quickly get this off the table. Lisa, are you running for Governor tonight?

>> Lisa Keegan:
No, because I heard Bob say that only second tier and below Republicans are interested. And I had the balloons ready, but I'm very offended, and I will be dealing with Mr. Robb later.

>> Michael Grant:
We'll do the balloon drop when we get off the air. Arizona one of the very first states to go to charter schools, correct?

>> Lisa Keegan:
We were. We were the first state to create what was a statewide board for charter schools, which is the reason that Arizona had so many more opportunities for charter schools. We did get that right, as Mark said.

>> Michael Grant:
My feel is this is backed by no data whatsoever.

>> Lisa Keegan:
The best kind of opinion.

>> Michael Grant:
My feel is, is that over the past decade, charter schools have moved more to niches, such as the one we just saw, necessarily than broad offerings. I don't know if I'm correct or not. Is that something of a trend or not?

>> Lisa Keegan:
In the following way, I think, Michael Grant, there are specialization schools for sure, and so, yes, niches, but not niches in the sense that they are serving small groups of students. Students actually come in niches. What charter schools is a reflection of our movement as a public school system to serve individual students at their level and to be accountable for individual students. I think that's a great evolution in public education. The district system is doing the same thing. The district system is evolving the same way.

>> Michael Grant:
To the extent that, for example, the charter schools can focus on at-risk kids, drop-out kids, the fame sort of model with the arts, prep, is that a valuable niche to be served that perhaps a general public school system doesn't completely and adequately fill?

>> Andrew Morrill:
Well, I don't know. It seems to be a pretty fluid niche. You get a lot of rotation back and forth in some cases. I think what you see are parents that are realizing the mistakes in the education of their children, looking for the best service they can find. A lot of folks have decided that in shopping their options, so to speak, some of them will look at charter schools. The reality is, though, a lot of those students come back to the traditional public schools, the district schools, so, I see really the kind of a very flexible fluid movement right now, between the traditional school and the charter school and, you know, as much as we might want to pigeon hole the population going into charter schools, it really tends to be a bit more dynamic once you begin to dig down.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the original thoughts behind charters was competition works in a whole lot of areas --

>> Andrew Morrill:
Right --

>> Michael Grant:
In the American economy. And charters will bring competition to education. Is that hope being fulfilled or not?

>> Andrew Morrill:
That depends. If you look at the statewide studies, nationwide studies, the best you can do is an absolute definite inconclusive. That flies a bit in the face historically with what we heard charter schools might be able to do. The point, really, in Arizona is not to say which system are we going to endorse, which school system are we really putting our stock behind, charter schools or traditional schools. In Arizona, we have to blow that conversation up with what we want for all schools. What do we want all students to face when we walk into their education experience? The conclusions at best are right on the border. You see Arizona studies come out that say that charter school students are falling behind. Their traditional school counterparts, that their gap widens a bit as they go up in the upper grade levels. That's more or less consistent with what we find true in national studies, but let me just emphasize, that's not to paint with a broad brush the quality of every charter school nor every traditional district school.

>> Michael Grant:
Yeah, and I want to get to the numbers in just a second, but what's your take on the competition goal? Have they made some public schools at least leaner, meaner?

>> Lisa Keegan:
Absolutely. It's pretty precise around the country. Carolyn Hocksby (phonetic) studied this. You have 6\% of the kids in a district area going to a charter school, and making a choice. There seems to be a more radical improvement for everybody. Now, and I agree with Andrew, you can't pit one system against the other. What it really is, again, is the evolution of public education generally, that there is going to be a new definition of public education, and it's going to be the ability of students to access those schools that work for them, and I do think those schools proximate competition you can prove over time there better.

>> Michael Grant:
You can fashion some numbers, Lisa that say charters are not doing very well. Several charter schools on the failing list?

>> Lisa Keegan:
Of course, of course. Several traditional districts schools on that list.

>> Michael Grant:
True, but proportionately, I think there are a number of troubled charter schools. Does that condemn this?

>> Lisa Keegan:
Not at all. First of all, public charter schools as a class will start out lower than traditional district schools. They are attracting in kids who have not been doing well elsewhere; otherwise they would not be looking for schools. Parents don't move their kids for no reason. They really don't. So they are shopping. They are coming from out of district schools into charter schools. They start lower and you have to look at gain. Unless I could see what you were looking at over time and how long those schools had been around, I am not in defense of schools that are not doing a good job. I don't care what their governance is.

>> Michael Grant:
Snapshot on AIMS results, 5th, 8th and 12th grades, in general, charters were not performing as well, as a class, against the public schools.

>> Lisa Keegan
Right, but if you take a gain model that flips. What you get in gain models is how do students do over time and what's their performance. They start lower, they come up to par and a little bit above, the charter schools do. The traditional system in reading and math in high school that flips. In high school, the traditional system does better than charter system. I don't think the charter system has acquitted itself in high school yet. I think it's about to.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the explanations that I have heard on that is that while charters take on some of the tougher kids.

>> Andrew Morrill:
Right, we've got to be careful about that, though. I hear a lot of times the idea that charter schools are taking the special needs students, and that's one of those sort of generic definition. What are special needs students? What is the prototypical special needs student? Is that any way aligned with special ed.? Because the most severe needs we could argue of our students fall into the special ed. populations. There, I think you find that the results from looking at charter schools, where they report their own progress with special ed. students, they own their own design of their programs. Their ability to keep up with what district schools can offer, they end up falling short by most studies. One of the problems is that they are across the board with the way they even present that information. They may be occupying a niche. I don't know that we've defined that niche for any population of students in charter schools. Don't misunderstand the traditional school that is really snowballing its effort to come up with innovative programs, engagement programs, falling resiliency study years to see what students really need. If we're talking about discipline cases, we have traditional schools that are anything but traditional in their approaches with discipline needs that need to be cleared out of the way so that students can meet the maximum achievement. That's what discipline comes down to. It's an impediment to achievement.

>> Michael Grant:
What about the innovation point?

>> Lisa Keegan:
It's the most powerful thing about charter schools. You know in this industry, in this market, traditionally we did not allow our best teachers, our best educators to bring those skills to the market. New schools got started by school boards when there was a need because there were more kids, whatever, and you have these fabulous teachers all over the place saying I've got a great way to teach like Mark Francis, who we were just watching who could not offer what he thought was fantastic. And when he does that and when the Montessori schools come on and when other models come on, the traditional district repeats that, then. And not only because of charter schools, but that has been a great force in Arizona education, and I think Andrew makes a point, that the traditional district schools are making those changes as well. That is not refutable. That is absolutely true, and thank God people are now scrambling, all of us, because we're under the gun for accountability reasons which is fabulous, and we're also under the gun to serve kids with where they are and what they need.

>> Michael Grant:
Andrew one of AEA's consistent points is hold it, they don't have to follow the same teacher certificationstandards that we do.

>> Andrew Morrill:
That's right. It's a big issue, we feel. I think anybody that's been through a certification process and more importantly, the qualifications that come with that, because we're talking about far more than a certificate. We're talking about a level of experience that every teacher holding certification has been through, including -- and it varies a little bit -- but a very meaningful field experience prior to becoming certificated. If you talk to any teacher, they will generally tell you in a moment of honesty that that experience taught them more in the first three or four days anything they could have imagined about teaching.

>> Michael Grant:
I always thought this was one of the best responses that, though. What sense does it make that Barry Goldwater couldn't teach political science?

>> Andrew Morrill:
I think Barry Goldwater and a lot of other people like Barry, would have an absolute unfathomable amount of information. If teaching were just a matter of somehow handing off that amount of information gained in one's lifetime, that would be great and you'd have a lot more folks in the classroom. What we absolutely know is that content is very important, but the ability to transfer that.

>> Michael Grant:
Techniques?

>> Andrew Morrill:
The techniques, the methodology. How to design a test that's going to measure what you want your students to know and what you have been teaching them. How to look at a classroom of 35 students and tell which ones are visual learners and which are verbal learners. Understand a curriculum and how it breaks down in the world of the student. Most teachers will tell you when they struggle in the classroom it's not over content it's over the science of teaching.

>> Lisa Keegan:
I don't know about that. We've got content issues 5th grade and above, and people who are prepared to deliver content, but Andrew is right. Instruction is everything. I think we have been very loathe to make huge changes. It's coming, and we'll deliver content through technology means. We'll deliver it through alternate governance systems and we'll have great teachers who can supplement that. We'll break through here.

>> Michael Grant:
Lisa Keegan, thank you for joining us. Andrew Morrill, thank you for joining us.

>> Lisa Keegan:
Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
If you want more information about charter schools, you can find links at our website. That's www.azpbs.org. Once you get to the homepage, click on the word "Horizon" to see transcripts and information about upcoming shows.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley decides he won't run for government against Janet Napolitano and the City of Phoenix is ready to commit more than $230 million to bring Arizona state students downtown, but voters may make the ultimate decision. Join us for the Journalists' Roundtable Friday at 7:00 on "Horizon".

>> Michael Grant:
Thank you very much for joining us on this Thursday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one, good night.

Republican Gubernatorial Candidates


  • Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley was widely considered to be the man Republicans would turn to in the gubernatorial race next year. But this morning, Romley announced he would not be running for Governor. Romley said that although there are many pressing issues facing Arizona, he is not going to run to be able to spend more time with his family, volunteering and reaching out to veterans.
Guests:
  • Bob Robb - Columnist, The Arizona Republic
  • Lisa Keegan - former Superintendent of Public Instruction


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," the frontrunner among Republicans possibly running for Governor next year says he will not be running. And we wrap up our education series with a look at charter schools. That's next.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon". I'm Michael Grant. Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley was widely considered to be the man Republicans would turn to in the gubernatorial race next year. But this morning, Romley announced he would not be running for Governor. Romley said that although there are many pressing issues facing Arizona, he is not going to run to be able to spend more time with his family, volunteering and reaching out to veterans. Here now to talk about Romley's decision and who's left to challenge Democrat Janet Napolitano is Bob Robb, a columnist for "The Arizona Republic". Bob, welcome back.

>> Bob Robb:
Good to be here.

>> Michael Grant:
What do you think about that explanation? A cover story or genuine?

>> Bob Robb:
You presume there is a degree of sincerity to it. Certainly, Romley, given his name ID in Maricopa County, would have been the presumptive front runner in the race, but he is pro-choice, although he does support restrictions. He opposed juvenile justice initiative in the 1990s, and it was clear that the social right was going to have difficulty with him as a candidate, and so to the extent political calculations entered into it, his front runner status was a little bit ephemeral, and he wasn't exciting the base of the party, which is necessary to really mount one of these campaigns effectively.

>> Michael Grant:
How much of a drag is it also that obviously he's well known in Maricopa County, but county attorneys don't tend to be well known throughout the state. The statewide name ID factor?

>> Bob Robb:
Well, Maricopa County is 60\% of the political marketplace. 60\% of the votes come out of this county. And county attorney is a fairly high profile position. You get your name in the news and you're on television quite frequently. My guess is, he was probably as strong of a contender absent one of our two U.S. senators, neither of whom I think is going to step down to run for Governor, but the Republicans could mount. So I think actually that was an advantage of him compared to the potential rest of the Republican field. Certainly anyone is going to begin well behind Janet Napolitano in a challenge in the category of statewide name identification.

>> Michael Grant:
Marilyn Quayle's name has popped up recently. Is this just dreaming? What do you think?

>> Bob Robb:
Well, the only candidate that really has stepped forward and says that he is going to run is Keith Degreen who was the Republican nominee against Dennis Deconcini for U.S. senate in 1988. Fife Symington has said that he would run or would consider running if neither Hayworth or Rick Romley were running, neither of which are running. Beyond that, I think you have a list of candidates whom others wish would consider it. Marilyn Quayle is one of those, Richard Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General from Tucson is another. A lot of people for a long time have wished that Tucson automobile dealer Jim Click would toss his hat in the race.

>> Michael Grant:
In fact, by my count, he has been speculated on the last 14 gubernatorial cycles.

>> Bob Robb:
I don't doubt it. He'll be speculated on again. But, right now, there is simply sort of a sorting out period. And given Clean Elections, that period can last for much longer time than it used to. There simply isn't the need to jockey quite so early for fundraisers and precinct committees supporting you and that sort of thing. The race can get and will get a much later start. I think Republicans understand that this is a long shot. Janet Napolitano has a very high degree of public support, but out of the 2004 election, I don't think they any longer believe that it's an impossible quest. I think a lot of second tier Republicans will begin looking at this, Ken Bennett senate president had stepped down. Now he is jumping back in. I think a lot of second tier Republican politicians or those with political aspirations will look at this and say, you know, it may be a long shot, but it's a possibility, and boy, the rewards are great.

>> Michael Grant:
Has to make, though, Janet Napolitano feel very good that it is in the long shot category, and it clearly is scaring off what would be some of the most viable candidates against her.

>> Bob Robb:
Well, I agree with the first part. She's a formidable candidate. It is a long shot. I believe the result of the 2004 election in which Democrats did so much more poorly than was anticipated has caused Republicans no longer to step out of the race because of fear of the challenge. The two that have stepped out, I think had reasons other than that for doing so. JD Hayworth is firmly ensconced in congress. It would be a substantial reduction in pay, not only for him, but probably also for his wife, and I think Romley looked better on paper than he was in reality, given his problems with the social right. So there simply isn't an all-star cast out there waiting to go at this, but I believe second tier Republicans will be looking at it seriously as an opportunity that's tough, but potentially do-able and with a marvelous reward.

>> Michael Grant:
In the sports field, there is not a lot of bench strength there but we'll see if someone emerges. Bob Robb, thank you very much.

>> Bob Robb:
Glad to be here.

>> Michael Grant:
As we wrap up our four-part series, "Arizona's education report card," tonight, we take a look at charter schools. For more than a decade now, charter schools have been an option for Arizona students. They are public schools that can be run by private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and even school districts. They are exempt from many regulations faced by traditional public schools, like teacher certification. According to the center for education reform, only California and Texas have more students in charter schools than Arizona. The schools were designed to compete with traditional public schools, and to produce improved pupil performance. We'll talk to one of the creators of charters in Arizona, and a member of the Arizona Education Association, but first, Mike Sauceda tells us about one of the original charter schools, and charter schools in general.

>>Mike Sauceda:
Sophomore Ramon Rojas plays a recital in the classroom of ----- at the Arizona school for the arts. The school has been in existence since 1995. It's one of the 70 original charter schools in Arizona created when the fledgling movement was called an experiment.
>> Mark Francis: Are you playing that right here?

>> Mike Sauceda:
Mark Francis is the founder and president of the Arizona School for the Arts, located in central Phoenix. He mortgaged his house to get the school started.

>> Mark Francis:
When I first heard about charters in 1993, that's when the discussion started, I was actually working in arts administration. I had been in higher education for the better part of my life. And the opportunity to run a high quality performing arts school with a high quality academic program was just something that I couldn't resist, and amazingly enough, it was passed in 94 and got the application, and we were approved in 1995.

>> Teacher:
That's a good observation, because it breaks that stem rule, doesn't it? Very good. Okay. All right, so let's start from the beginning, please.

>>Mike Sauceda:
The school's focus is a classical arts education.

>> Mark Francis:
We have three areas of arts in which we focus. We have a partnership with Ballet Arizona where the students actually study at the student of Ballet Arizona and receive their instruction from the school of Ballet Arizona staff. We have a partnership where our high school students work with Phoenix Theater at the studios of Phoenix theater across the street from us and work with professional staff of the Phoenix theater, and then we developed our own in-house music conservatory. It's pretty much a classically oriented program. In other words, it's ballet. The students in music are trying to access the classical concert music literature, and the theater is a very process rather than just plain performance approach.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Francis says his school has a graduation rate of 100\%.

>> Mark Francis:
We have a college prep curriculum that has been very, very successful. It's been successful in that the teachers really work together. This truly is a professional learning community. And the teachers have -- in fact, in many ways, the teachers are really driving this, and it's our staff that has brought the success that we've had.

>> Mike Sauceda:
The school has produced results Francis says 90\% of his students go on to four-year colleges.

>> Mark Francis:
In fact, the first sentence of the purpose of charter schools is to improve pupil achievement. And we have taken that very seriously. It's been at the forefront of our existence.

>>Mike Sauceda:
The school's success is borne out in aims test results. For the school year 2003-2004, 65\% of the Arizona School for the Arts' 8th graders exceeded or met aims standards in math compared to 26\% statewide. In the reading portions of aims, 92\% of Arizona School for the Arts students met or exceeded the test. That compared to 50\% of all schools statewide. At the beginning of their formation, charter schools were thought to have an advantage attracting the brightest students.

>> Mark Francis:
One of the things that I'm very pleased with, a lot of people will say, you know, well, you know, the school is doing so great because you are cherry-picking your students. You get art students and you are getting these very bright children. But interestingly enough, many of our students come in and they are actually very difficult to educate children. Many of them were students that were not doing well in their previous schools, and they have come into our environment and the vast majority of them have done what we've asked them to do, and mostly the way we've been able to break through that is that the culture here is actually, you know, one of achievement.

>>Mike Sauceda:
Although Arizona school for the arts students far exceeded statewide overall performance, that is not true of charter schools in general, at least according to the latest aims test results from the Arizona Department of Education. For spring of 2004 grade 12 charter school students, 6\% met or exceed the math portion, compared to 14\% of traditional public school students. In reading 25\% met or exceeded standards compared to 27\% of district school students, and in the writing portion, 35\% of grade 12 charter school students met or exceeded the aims test, while 39\% of district school students did the same. District school students outperformed charter school students in the aims test at the 8th and 3rd grade levels for spring of 2004 as well.

>> Teacher:
Actually you could use a mixture --

>> Student:
Just to get it darker?

>> Teacher:
Okay.

>> Mike Sauceda:
There are now 500 charter schools in operation in our state at the end of the 2004 school year there were nearly 44,000 charter school students compared with 454,000 in traditional public schools in Arizona. The racial mix at charter and traditional public schools are similar.

>> Teacher:
What are bugs? I mean insects?

>> Student:
Insects, okay.

>> Mike Sauceda:
When charters schools were first started it was said in law that they would provide a learning environment that would improve student achievement. The Goldwater institute, a research organization that favors charter schools examined traditional public schools versus charter schools on SAT 9 reading achievement and achievement growth. They concluded that the study could not prove whether charter schools were superior to traditional public schools. However it found that charter school students who generally started with lower achievement growth showed more growth and achievement than traditional public school students. The left-leaning economic policy institute has produced a book that concludes that charter schools produce students with lower test scores that cannot be explained by the students' background. Opinions in charter schools are split along ideological lines, but not for Arizona School for the Arts founder Mark Francis.

>> Mark Francis
: It's a funny thing about charter schools in Arizona. I'm -- you know, an old-fashioned liberal Democrat from Minnesota, probably about as blue as you can get, yet I find that most of my -- I still even contribute to the Democratic Party. Put that down, but most of my allies are conservative Republicans, so it's a really funny ally or alliance that we have together, and frankly the legislature takes a lot of hits, and you know, deservedly so for a number of things from my standpoint, but boy, in terms of charter schools, they really got it right.

>> Michael Grant:
Here now to talk about charter schools is Lisa Keegan, who was key in the passage of charter school legislation when she was a lawmaker. She is also the former superintendent of public instruction. Also joining me is Andrew Morrill, vice president of the Arizona Education Association.

>> Michael Grant:
Let me quickly get this off the table. Lisa, are you running for Governor tonight?

>> Lisa Keegan:
No, because I heard Bob say that only second tier and below Republicans are interested. And I had the balloons ready, but I'm very offended, and I will be dealing with Mr. Robb later.

>> Michael Grant:
We'll do the balloon drop when we get off the air. Arizona one of the very first states to go to charter schools, correct?

>> Lisa Keegan:
We were. We were the first state to create what was a statewide board for charter schools, which is the reason that Arizona had so many more opportunities for charter schools. We did get that right, as Mark said.

>> Michael Grant:
My feel is this is backed by no data whatsoever.

>> Lisa Keegan:
The best kind of opinion.

>> Michael Grant:
My feel is, is that over the past decade, charter schools have moved more to niches, such as the one we just saw, necessarily than broad offerings. I don't know if I'm correct or not. Is that something of a trend or not?

>> Lisa Keegan:
In the following way, I think, Michael Grant, there are specialization schools for sure, and so, yes, niches, but not niches in the sense that they are serving small groups of students. Students actually come in niches. What charter schools is a reflection of our movement as a public school system to serve individual students at their level and to be accountable for individual students. I think that's a great evolution in public education. The district system is doing the same thing. The district system is evolving the same way.

>> Michael Grant:
To the extent that, for example, the charter schools can focus on at-risk kids, drop-out kids, the fame sort of model with the arts, prep, is that a valuable niche to be served that perhaps a general public school system doesn't completely and adequately fill?

>> Andrew Morrill:
Well, I don't know. It seems to be a pretty fluid niche. You get a lot of rotation back and forth in some cases. I think what you see are parents that are realizing the mistakes in the education of their children, looking for the best service they can find. A lot of folks have decided that in shopping their options, so to speak, some of them will look at charter schools. The reality is, though, a lot of those students come back to the traditional public schools, the district schools, so, I see really the kind of a very flexible fluid movement right now, between the traditional school and the charter school and, you know, as much as we might want to pigeon hole the population going into charter schools, it really tends to be a bit more dynamic once you begin to dig down.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the original thoughts behind charters was competition works in a whole lot of areas --

>> Andrew Morrill:
Right --

>> Michael Grant:
In the American economy. And charters will bring competition to education. Is that hope being fulfilled or not?

>> Andrew Morrill:
That depends. If you look at the statewide studies, nationwide studies, the best you can do is an absolute definite inconclusive. That flies a bit in the face historically with what we heard charter schools might be able to do. The point, really, in Arizona is not to say which system are we going to endorse, which school system are we really putting our stock behind, charter schools or traditional schools. In Arizona, we have to blow that conversation up with what we want for all schools. What do we want all students to face when we walk into their education experience? The conclusions at best are right on the border. You see Arizona studies come out that say that charter school students are falling behind. Their traditional school counterparts, that their gap widens a bit as they go up in the upper grade levels. That's more or less consistent with what we find true in national studies, but let me just emphasize, that's not to paint with a broad brush the quality of every charter school nor every traditional district school.

>> Michael Grant:
Yeah, and I want to get to the numbers in just a second, but what's your take on the competition goal? Have they made some public schools at least leaner, meaner?

>> Lisa Keegan:
Absolutely. It's pretty precise around the country. Carolyn Hocksby (phonetic) studied this. You have 6\% of the kids in a district area going to a charter school, and making a choice. There seems to be a more radical improvement for everybody. Now, and I agree with Andrew, you can't pit one system against the other. What it really is, again, is the evolution of public education generally, that there is going to be a new definition of public education, and it's going to be the ability of students to access those schools that work for them, and I do think those schools proximate competition you can prove over time there better.

>> Michael Grant:
You can fashion some numbers, Lisa that say charters are not doing very well. Several charter schools on the failing list?

>> Lisa Keegan:
Of course, of course. Several traditional districts schools on that list.

>> Michael Grant:
True, but proportionately, I think there are a number of troubled charter schools. Does that condemn this?

>> Lisa Keegan:
Not at all. First of all, public charter schools as a class will start out lower than traditional district schools. They are attracting in kids who have not been doing well elsewhere; otherwise they would not be looking for schools. Parents don't move their kids for no reason. They really don't. So they are shopping. They are coming from out of district schools into charter schools. They start lower and you have to look at gain. Unless I could see what you were looking at over time and how long those schools had been around, I am not in defense of schools that are not doing a good job. I don't care what their governance is.

>> Michael Grant:
Snapshot on AIMS results, 5th, 8th and 12th grades, in general, charters were not performing as well, as a class, against the public schools.

>> Lisa Keegan
Right, but if you take a gain model that flips. What you get in gain models is how do students do over time and what's their performance. They start lower, they come up to par and a little bit above, the charter schools do. The traditional system in reading and math in high school that flips. In high school, the traditional system does better than charter system. I don't think the charter system has acquitted itself in high school yet. I think it's about to.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the explanations that I have heard on that is that while charters take on some of the tougher kids.

>> Andrew Morrill:
Right, we've got to be careful about that, though. I hear a lot of times the idea that charter schools are taking the special needs students, and that's one of those sort of generic definition. What are special needs students? What is the prototypical special needs student? Is that any way aligned with special ed.? Because the most severe needs we could argue of our students fall into the special ed. populations. There, I think you find that the results from looking at charter schools, where they report their own progress with special ed. students, they own their own design of their programs. Their ability to keep up with what district schools can offer, they end up falling short by most studies. One of the problems is that they are across the board with the way they even present that information. They may be occupying a niche. I don't know that we've defined that niche for any population of students in charter schools. Don't misunderstand the traditional school that is really snowballing its effort to come up with innovative programs, engagement programs, falling resiliency study years to see what students really need. If we're talking about discipline cases, we have traditional schools that are anything but traditional in their approaches with discipline needs that need to be cleared out of the way so that students can meet the maximum achievement. That's what discipline comes down to. It's an impediment to achievement.

>> Michael Grant:
What about the innovation point?

>> Lisa Keegan:
It's the most powerful thing about charter schools. You know in this industry, in this market, traditionally we did not allow our best teachers, our best educators to bring those skills to the market. New schools got started by school boards when there was a need because there were more kids, whatever, and you have these fabulous teachers all over the place saying I've got a great way to teach like Mark Francis, who we were just watching who could not offer what he thought was fantastic. And when he does that and when the Montessori schools come on and when other models come on, the traditional district repeats that, then. And not only because of charter schools, but that has been a great force in Arizona education, and I think Andrew makes a point, that the traditional district schools are making those changes as well. That is not refutable. That is absolutely true, and thank God people are now scrambling, all of us, because we're under the gun for accountability reasons which is fabulous, and we're also under the gun to serve kids with where they are and what they need.

>> Michael Grant:
Andrew one of AEA's consistent points is hold it, they don't have to follow the same teacher certificationstandards that we do.

>> Andrew Morrill:
That's right. It's a big issue, we feel. I think anybody that's been through a certification process and more importantly, the qualifications that come with that, because we're talking about far more than a certificate. We're talking about a level of experience that every teacher holding certification has been through, including -- and it varies a little bit -- but a very meaningful field experience prior to becoming certificated. If you talk to any teacher, they will generally tell you in a moment of honesty that that experience taught them more in the first three or four days anything they could have imagined about teaching.

>> Michael Grant:
I always thought this was one of the best responses that, though. What sense does it make that Barry Goldwater couldn't teach political science?

>> Andrew Morrill:
I think Barry Goldwater and a lot of other people like Barry, would have an absolute unfathomable amount of information. If teaching were just a matter of somehow handing off that amount of information gained in one's lifetime, that would be great and you'd have a lot more folks in the classroom. What we absolutely know is that content is very important, but the ability to transfer that.

>> Michael Grant:
Techniques?

>> Andrew Morrill:
The techniques, the methodology. How to design a test that's going to measure what you want your students to know and what you have been teaching them. How to look at a classroom of 35 students and tell which ones are visual learners and which are verbal learners. Understand a curriculum and how it breaks down in the world of the student. Most teachers will tell you when they struggle in the classroom it's not over content it's over the science of teaching.

>> Lisa Keegan:
I don't know about that. We've got content issues 5th grade and above, and people who are prepared to deliver content, but Andrew is right. Instruction is everything. I think we have been very loathe to make huge changes. It's coming, and we'll deliver content through technology means. We'll deliver it through alternate governance systems and we'll have great teachers who can supplement that. We'll break through here.

>> Michael Grant:
Lisa Keegan, thank you for joining us. Andrew Morrill, thank you for joining us.

>> Lisa Keegan:
Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
If you want more information about charter schools, you can find links at our website. That's www.azpbs.org. Once you get to the homepage, click on the word "Horizon" to see transcripts and information about upcoming shows.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley decides he won't run for government against Janet Napolitano and the City of Phoenix is ready to commit more than $230 million to bring Arizona state students downtown, but voters may make the ultimate decision. Join us for the Journalists' Roundtable Friday at 7:00 on "Horizon".

>> Michael Grant:
Thank you very much for joining us on this Thursday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one, good night.

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