The act of "creaming" is when you remove the very top of the milk and set it aside to be used for making ice cream or baking or what-have-you (for you scientists, the technical definition).
To describe how this term is used in public education, I offer the following parable.
I recently challenged a friend of mine who runs a service business which has about 1000 customers. I bet him a dollar (and pride) that I could run his business better than he could. To prove this I would take half of his customers and after a year's time we'd see who would have happier customers and higher profits.
On the face of it, I made an offer to my friend he couldn't refuse: obviously he knows that I know nothing about his business, so he can't lose, right?
He took the bet and we got down to the details on how we'd actually arrange things (which he agreed I would dictate).
My arrangement was this: that I take his 500 best customers who have the most money and the fewest customer support issues. Also, if I find that over the course of time any of his customers become problematic or unprofitable, he will be obligated to take them back.
Needless to say, I won the bet. How could I lose?You see, I engaged in the "creaming" of my friend's customers.
So when you hear critics of Charter Schools accuse them of "creaming" the best students, this is what they mean.
Charter schools engage in "creaming" in several ways:
- There is natural selection at work with Charters (which admittedly is not as big a factor in our area as others). Charter schools advertise a "better" product than the surrounding schools, and as a tendency, only the most education-oriented parents will apply--which are exactly the kids who tend to do a lot better in school.
- Second, there's selective marketing. Charter schools get to market their product any way they want, and they can target whomever they want. Needless to say they tend to target students who will maximize their test scores, profits, and so on. Bullis Charter School, in our case, is generally marketed in the richest part of our community, Los Altos Hills (where they also have a lottery preference).
- Third, in the case of our Charter experiment here in Los Altos, there's the issue of "suggested donations". At the information night, the pitch you here is along the lines of the following: "We need $5000 per student per year to maintain our school. If you don't pay this, one of your fellow parents will need to pay to make up the difference--or else our school will cease to exist". Obviously this will, as a tendency, heavily discourage parents who cannot afford $5000/year per child.
- Rejection of kids who are not "cream". Charter schools are free to expel any child they want, whenever they want--just like any private school could.
"If charter schools are so incredible, you should be able to name one that performs better than public schools without additional money, being selective about admissions, or expelling kids who do not perform academically.
I have never heard of one and have repeatedly asked proponents to tell me one so that I can read up on it. However, nobody seems able to do so. Can you please help me out? You are so certain of their success, you must have heard of one, yes?"So far, no takers.
Creaming is an important concept to understand as it underscores how Charter Schools do not solve any real-world problems, they simply move them around. They take the easiest, cheapest-to-educate, highest-performing children and concentrate them in a single school, leaving public schools with the rest, making the Charter school look great, the public school look terrible, and reducing diversity for everybody.