What is really going on at Achievement First – Hartford?
One of the most serious criticisms of the charter school industry is that they “cherry-pick” their students. In a world in which poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services are the three greatest factors limiting educational outcomes, charter schools have a lower percentage of poor students, fail to accept and keep their fair share of students who aren’t fluent in English and take far fewer students who need special education services.
Charter schools brag that their students get higher scores on standardized tests, but of course they do, when they fail to take the students who are most likely to need extra help.
The fact is simple and stark; despite a so-called “open enrollment process,” charter schools fail to educate their fair share of students who are not fluent in English, students who go home to households that don’t speak English and students who need special education services.
In addition, a recent review of the public high schools in New Haven versus the two New Haven based charter high schools, both run by Achievement First, revealed that Achievement First HAS AN EVEN WORSE RECORD than the public schools when it came to keeping high school students enrolled.
Now Achievement First is trying to expand in Hartford.
In Hartford, nearly 25 percent of Hartford school students aren’t fluent in English, but when it comes to the students served by Achievement First – Hartford, less than 5 percent face an English fluency problem.
Furthermore, while almost 45 percent of Hartford school students go home to households in which English is not the primary language, less than 5 percent of Achievement First – Hartford’s students go home to non-English speaking households.
And while about 13 percent of Hartford’s students require some sort of special education services, Achievement First – Hartford’s special education population is about half that number, with only 7.5 percent of students requiring special education services.
So how does Achievement First – Hartford manage to duck their responsibility to serve the entire Hartford community?
Part of it is a lottery system that serves to self-select who applies.
What is even more incredible is that Achievement First has an uncanny ability to move out, throw out or drop out significant numbers of students – perhaps it is the students who don’t fit their desired type of student.
According to the most recent report filed with the State Department of Education, as students moved from the 5th grade to the 6th grade to the 7th grade in Hartford, the total number of students increased by 8.9%. However, during that very same period, the number of students who stayed with Achievement First – Hartford dropped by 10 percent, meaning one out of every ten students left Achievement First – Hartford between the 5th and 7th grades.
Even more disturbing was the drop off at Achievement First from the 2nd to 3rd grade.
Over the past two years, more than 11 percent of the Achievement First –Hartford students left or were pushed out after they began the 2nd grade and before they were able to begin the 3rd grade.
The State Board of Education, the State Department of Education and the Hartford Board of Education should place a moratorium on any charter school expansion in Hartford until an independent analysis of Achievement First – Hartford’s policies and practices can be examined.
Achievement First – Hartford should not be able to use taxpayer dollars, and certainly shouldn’t be able to expand, as long as they appear to have policies in place that serve to discriminate against students and families who speak Spanish or face language barriers or discriminate against students who have special education needs.
The data could not be any clearer, Achievement First – Hartford and Hartford’s other charter schools are not serving a major segment of portion of Hartford’s population.
Their actions violate the ethics and morality of public education.
It’s time for politicians and policymakers to determine what is truly happening with Hartford’s charter schools.
If you are a parent or family member who has seen Achievement First’s selectivity at work, please send me your story. The information will be kept completely confidential. Information can be sent to [email protected]. Thank you.