Many will remember when US Senator John Kyl said “over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s budget was used for abortion services when the real number is 3%. When asked, his press office said that the Senator’s comments were “not meant as a statement of fact.”
In this case, Achievement First, the charter school management company that runs 20 schools in Connecticut and New York claims that where district schools fail, they do better. Or, as they say, “when compared to their peers in traditional public schools in our same communities” they have done much better and deserve more of the money that was meant for the urban district schools.
There is a link to a recent Hartford Courant story at the end of this post – take a look at that after you complete this article.
Charter schools are an important educational model to consider as the education reform debate proceeds – but Achievement First does a great disservice to the charter school effort when it makes claims that something is a FACT when it is not.
Take for example;
Not that long ago, in a special report produced for public television, the host Clarence Page, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, stood in front of Achievement First’s Amistad Academy and said “All of Amistad’s students are chosen through the same lottery system as other public schools in New Haven. That means Amistad cannot skim high achievers. It has the same student mix as any other New Haven school.
Dacia Toll, Achievement First’s Co- CEO and President added “We cannot hand pick our students. We can’t out the ones that are the most challenging…it is important for us to play by the same rules.
And Doug McCurry, the company’s other Co-CEO and President said “we can’t look people in the eye honestly and say “we’ve been really successful. Can you maybe think about doing what we’re going?” Because the first thing they’re going to say is “you don’t have the same kids as we do.” And then the discussion is over. But we can say “yes we do.”
Achievement First’s claim is that it is succeeding where others have failed. It is an impressive and powerful argument, and while many policymakers including Governor Malloy and members of the Connecticut General Assembly have echoed that message as their primary defense of shifting money from district schools to charter schools, the fact is – Achievement First’s claim is simply not true.
Achievement First DOES NOT educate the same range of students that district public schools do. That doesn’t mean their charter schools are bad – far from it – what it does say is that their corporate officers are not telling the truth.
Data from the Connecticut Department of Education: Strategic School Profiles 2009 – 2010
|District/School||% Minority Students||% Free/Reduced Lunch||% Latino||% ELL*||% Homes where English is not the primary language|
|New Haven Schools||87%||81%||37%||12%||28%|
|AF- Amistad Academy||98%||66%||35%||12%||12%|
|AF – Elm City Prep||99%||69%||21%||9%||9%|
*ELL = English Language Learners (students who lack sufficient master of English to “assure equally educational opportunity in the regular school program as mandated by CGS 10-17e)
Achievement First schools are more racially isolated and educate a population of students that is significantly less poor. The charter schools run by Achievement First include far fewer Latino students than are in the surrounding community, have far few students who are not proficient in the English language and far more students who go home to households where English is the primary language spoken.
Each of those variables correlate with lower standardized test scores and in each case Achievement First is pulling in the children who are most likely to do better on standardized tests and then taking the exclusive credit when they do better. That is called skimming off the best students.
Achievement First and the issue of Graduation Rates:
Read through everything Achievement First has published for legislators or the general public and you’ll find no information whatsoever about the graduation rates at their high schools
What you will find is the impressive statistic that in 2010 and 2011, the senior classes at the Amistad Academy and Elm City Preparatory school achieved a 100-percent college acceptance rate. The number is very impressive and they deserve tremendous credit for that accomplishment but those documents fail to inform the reader that according to an Achievement First spokesperson “that acceptance into a four-year college is a requirement to graduate from our high schools,”
So of course they have a 100% acceptance rate because if you don’t get accepted to college you are deemed not to have graduated.
More importantly, Achievement First fails to say that along the way (from 9th grade to 12th grade), 51% of the class of 2010 and 2011 simply left the school.
We recognize how important it is to reflect the population that our districts serve,” Sharpe said. “We will do whatever we can working with the community to encourage more applications from that pool of parents. We’re not going to be passive. We’re going to be active.”
Link to Hartford Courant story: http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-charters-support-malloy-0210-20120209,0,7200798.story