Remembering Rick Piercy; A Backstage Pass to Doing No Damage; A “Bombshell” Bombs

Good day, CharterFolk.

Let’s get straight to today’s post.

Remembering Rick Piercy

I start today sharing the sad news that we’ve lost a great one this week.

I wrote about Rick and the Lewis Center a couple years back.

Rick was the crazy kindergarten teacher who dreamed of teaching science more creatively. So he built an observatory that became part of a charter school he founded, the Academy for Academic Excellence.

The moxie caught the attention of the local congressman who brokered intros to JPL and NASA.

A couple years later, the school had its own radio telescope which it began operating for NASA.

It ended up helping AAE teach tens of thousands of kids across the country about space.

Edutopia wrote a great piece about it fourteen years ago.

Along the way, the Lewis Center evolved into an organization operating multiple schools serving thousands of students in California’s Inland Empire.

Rick was a guy who shot for the stars and got there in more ways than one.

He was also our board chair during my first years at CCSA.

And he was my friend.

A person who everyone recognized to be an incredibly kind soul.

Here is the last message I got from Rick in response to a CharterFolk Contributor Column written by Debbie Beyer about being “Unapologetically Charter.”

Hey Jed,

Wow!  Really enjoyed Debbie’s contribution today.  It is so important that Charters aren’t pulled back into the cookie cutter mentality of the traditional school system nor let go of our entrepreneurial roots.  Thank you for all you are doing and continuing to provide us with greatly motivational words of wisdom on which to start our day.

Keep up the great work my friend!


Leave it to Rick Piercy to have his last words to me be an endorsement of remaining unapologetically charter.

Rest assured, my friend.

Touched by your words, and by your example, I absolutely will.

A Backstage Pass to Doing No Damage

CharterFolk continues to be an experiment. We will see whether it evolves into an asset of lasting value to the movement.

I’m probably the last person who should opine on whether CharterFolk is turning out to be such an asset. But my sense is that it’s probably helping at least some. The growing readership and the high open rates and the kind comments I get from many of you, as well as the subscriptions you offer, are all encouraging indicators.

And it seems to me there’s little risk we’re doing damage in the aggregate. So we forge on with ambitions to make CharterFolk even bigger, even faster. More on those plans soon.

But from time to time a situation arises where there’s risk we could do damage in the specific. I could write something that hurts a school or an advocacy effort or a relationship with a key policy maker if it is written in the wrong way, or at the wrong time.

I mitigate that risk by trying to keep as many relationships as I can with Folk across the country. If something comes up almost anywhere in charterland, I can usually call someone and get a backstage pass allowing me to write about the situation coherently, which can be a challenge to do in real-time from a distance.

And Folk can help me assess whether my writing might do damage to something we care about.

Sometimes I hear that, in fact, damage could be done, or at least it could be done if it’s published right now, so why not wait to post until the risk has passed?

This week I heard such a message.

Sometimes I hear it after I’ve done considerable work and think a piece is just about ready. Which I admit smarts. CharterFolk posts tend to require a fair share of midnight oil to complete, and it’s no fun to have work go for naught. It also leaves me in a position sometimes where I don’t have a full post to offer.

As is the case today.

But we have to hold off until Folk closer to the situation give the all-clear.

Which I hope comes because it’s a development that I know many CharterFolk across the country could learn from.

Such are the responsibilities working on something like CharterFolk. I try to write about things that are important and current in a fresh and interesting way, while always remembering the higher priority, which is to do no damage.

I share this with so you have a deeper understanding of some of the things we balance behind the scenes.

Like a backstage pass to CharterFolk itself.

A backstage pass to the backstage pass.

A “Bombshell” Bombs

I’ll wrap things up today making another observation about how we should, and should not, do things here at CharterFolk.

To wit:

CharterFolk, if any of you ever find me here self-declaring my own writing to be “a bombshell report,” would you please have the courtesy to reach out and tell me that it’s time to hang things up?

The thought came to mind after seeing this one.

Diane Ravitch declaring NPE’s attack against the latest CREDO study a “bombshell report.”

Ravitch, recall, is the founder of NPE and still serves as the president of its board.

So when she compliments NPE she is literally complimenting herself.

I think all CharterFolk readers are sophisticated enough to harbor skepticism when they see people profess themselves to be the bomb.

But the duplicity is, actually, more extensive than just that.

Over the years, when CREDO’s findings were not so favorable to charter schools, Ravitch used to cite them as gospel …

Is any charter school better than any public school? As we learned from the Stanford CREDO study of charters a few months ago, only 17 percent of charter schools are superior to comparable public schools; the rest were either no better or worse. Yet the Obama administration wants to open up the nation’s public schools—especially in urban districts—to massive privatization.

… over and over again …

The CREDO national study, conducted by Stanford economist Margaret Raymond, compared nearly half the nation’s charter schools to similar traditional public schools and concluded that only 17 percent of the charters got higher math scores than the public schools. The remaining 83 percent of charters were either no different or worse than neighboring public schools.

… ad nauseum …

Some fact-checking is in order, and the place to start is with the film’s quiet acknowledgment that only one in five charter schools is able to get the “amazing results” that it celebrates. Nothing more is said about this astonishing statistic. It is drawn from a national study of charter schools by Stanford economist Margaret Raymond (the wife of Hanushek). Known as the CREDO study, it evaluated student progress on math tests in half the nation’s five thousand charter schools and concluded that 17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school; 37 percent were worse than the public school; and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from that of a similar public school. The proportion of charters that get amazing results is far smaller than 17 percent.

Some “myth of charter schools.”

Ravitch didn’t have any objections to the design and methodology of the CREDO study back when its findings were less positive about charter schools.

Now, all of a sudden, when charter school results look very positive, the whole thing is flawed.

The myth, of course, is that there is anything of a bombshell in the NPE report at all.

The fact is that CREDO is compelling research because its methodology has remained essentially the same over decades. When things looked bad, Macke didn’t shirk away from saying so. Just like she’s not shirking away today from pointing out how much better our results have become.

We end up with a highly credible tool by which we can chart, and everyone can chart. the charter school movement’s progress over time.

And to pick and choose when you like and don’t like the study’s design and methodology based upon whether you like or don’t like its latest findings makes it clear that you lack any credibility on this topic whatsoever.

Again, CharterFolk, let’s be plain here. I’m a supporter of charter schools. I write things and support advocacy efforts that aim to advance the cause. We all know that.

But should any of you see me so inconsistent over time as to shower praise on something when it happens to fit my world view and to heap criticism on it when it doesn’t, again, will you please approach me and tell me it’s time to hang things up?

In the meantime, we forge on aware that this latest salvo against charter schools, like almost all salvos coming against charter schools from Diane Ravitch and NPE, has completely and utterly bombed.