Charter Schools and the systematic discrimination of special education students

Most charter schools are failing to take their fair share of students who require special education services

You can always count on Connecticut resident, fellow blogger and public education advocate, Jonathan Kantrowitz, to explore the important issues with a sophisticated, fact-based approach.

In a new blog post entitled, “Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” Jonathan Kantrowitz examines data coming out of New York City about the failure of charter schools to take and keep students who need special education services.

Kantrowitz writes;

This studyfrom the Center on Reinventing Public Education, uses NYC data to analyze the factors driving the gap in special education enrollment between charter and traditional public schools. Among the findings:

  • Students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten than are regular enrollment students. This is the primary driver of the gap in special education enrollments.
  • The gap grows as students progress through elementary grades, largely because charter schools are less likely than district schools to place students in special education—and less likely to keep them there.
  •  The gap also grows as students transfer between charter and district schools. Between kindergarten and third grade, greater proportions of regular education students enter charter schools, compared to students with special needs.
  • There is great mobility among special education students, whether they attend a charter or traditional public school. Close to a third of students in special education leave their school by the fourth year of attendance, whether they are enrolled in charters or traditional public schools.

Given the complex factors revealed by the study, the report cautions against simplistic policy solutions like quotas and enrollment targets. Instead, policy attention might be more usefully spent identifying and replicating effective academic or behavioral interventions that allow schools to declassify students with mild disabilities, and investigating why parents of students with special needs are not choosing charters early on.

You can read his full blog post here: http://educationresearchreport.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-gap-special-education-and-new-york.html

What is clear is that many charter schools want to claim the mantle of being public schools, but the majority fail to take their fair share of students who need special education services, just as they fail to take their fair share of students who need extra help when it comes to learning the English language.

There are undoubtedly charter schools that understand the fundamental role of public schools and do make a real effort to provide educational opportunities to the full range of students, but those charter schools are outliers compared to the vast majority of  their colleagues.

As another New York City study found;

“…[NYC] charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of special education students than do district schools. But more importantly, charter schools do not enroll the same kind of special ed students as the district schools. While special education enrollment in charters grew over the last year, the special ed students who attend charters have much lower levels of disability than their special ed counterparts at neighboring district schools.

Practically none of the 57 charters we reviewed enroll “self-contained” students, the highest category of need, who must be taught in separate classrooms with one teacher for every 6 or 12 students. Very few enroll “collaborative team teaching” students, who are educated in mixed classrooms with two teachers, one a specialist. These two higher-need categories of special education students by and large attend district schools. Students who require the less-intensive “related services,” such as speech or physical therapy, are by far the most prevalent special education type in the charters. ”

Similar observations have been made in Connecticut.

Even at the most basic level, most Connecticut Charter Schools consistently fail to educate their fair share of students who need special education services

Here is the latest available data on students needing special education services in selected district schools in Connecticut versus selected charter schools in Connecticut

District/School 2010-2011 % Special Education 
Hartford Public Schools 12.5%
AF – Hartford Academy 7.7%
Jumoke Academy* 2.3%
New Haven Public Schools 10.8%
AF – Amistad 5.4%
AF – Elm City* 4.0%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.1%
AF-Bridgeport 7.3%
Park City Prep 8.4%
Bridge Academy 12.2%

(*) 2010-2011 report not on file, data is 2009-2010

While charter school funding is the fastest growing area of Governor Malloy’s education budget, the evidence is clear that Connecticut’s charter schools are consistently failing to provide educational opportunities to special education students and students who need extra help with the English language.

  • jrp1900

    I once pointed out to the master of the universe, Steven Adamowski, that private charter schools had no more reason to take on special education students than private insurance companies had for enrolling people with “pre-existing conditions.” In both cases, the undesirable cohort has a negative effect on the bottom line. For insurance companies this is a simple matter of profits. A person with a condition is a “risk” and “the science” does not justify the risks. Insurance companies have to make money, for they have CEO’s and wealthy shareholders to take care of! Similarly, charter schools do not want special education children because such children threaten the schools’ bottom line which is test scores. For charter schools, special ed kids are a liability and a poor investment. They do not give hope of a maximum rate of return on one’s expenditures of energy and resources, and thus it makes sense to disavow and reject them, to keep them from entering the “normal” student body. Just as insurance companies leave the uninsured to their fate, so charter schools abandon special education students to the public schools. This is particularly ironic and obnoxious because the charter school types are always going on about helping the needy and the deserving and how terrible it is that poor children have to put up with hellish public schools. But those same “hellish” schools are good enough for special ed children, who very often are the neediest of the needy.
    The cynicism with which charter schools treat special education shows all too clearly that these institutions have no real commitment to the welfare of children–all children, no matter who they are, or what disability they experience. In their callous disregard of children with special needs, the charter schools make evident a eugenicist/Social Darwinist logic, a brutalist market ethos, where only the “fit” (the “normal” students) deserve the opportunity to thrive.

    Shame on charter schools for their disgusting discrimination against young children!

  • visuallearner

    As a retired teacher of the deaf, I get concerned when reading articles that are upset with charter schools for not taking their share of special needs students. I assume this connects to charter schools boasting (if they can) that their students perform better than students in public schools, when they are not educating the same needy population as the public schools. I am not in any way in favor of charters, particularly for-profit charter chains, but I really do not want to see larger numbers of special needs students going to charter schools. Why not? I spent 2 years in a Master’s program to become certified to teach deaf students. Charters employ TFAs and other weakly trained people to teach their students. How much more damage will these ill-prepared people do to special needs students than to general education students? The charters do not want to be bothered with the whole panoply of support staff that special ed students need–speech and language therapists, school psychologists, counselors, transition specialists, etc. Keep public money in public schools and adequately resource the public schools that take responsibility for meeting the individual needs of all of their students.

    • jonpelto

      That is a very interesting point. As long as charter schools fail to hire teachers who have insufficient educational backgrounds and professional development the individual students are better off in environments that can provide them with the range of support they need and deserve.

    • Castles Burning

      visual learner, I agree with jonpelto that you have made a very interesting point. You have turned the conversation “on its head”–at least for me. Thank you.

    • Mary Gallucci

      No child should be taught by weakly trained TFAs. Children deserve fully trained, certified, and licensed teachers. That’s what school is for! It’s not some pseudo-philanthropic resume builder for “elite college graduates” during a recession.

      • Linda174

        SFA, scabs for America:

        • Matt Poland

          Now that’s the way to position your concern, Linda. With this graphic, you have lost your credibility with me. I thought you were above this stuff — clearly it drives the rest of these folks, but you too?

        • Linda174

          3,000 teachers were laid off in Chicago and 500 TFA temps were hired. Sorry you’re so misinformed. Catch up Matt…but we are patient. We call this wait time. And you pretend to respect the profession. Ha!

        • Matt Poland

          I know you are patient. You watched and participated in the decline of public education for decades. I suppose you can continue to wait, build a pension, and let another generation of watchers take over. Your choice.

        • Linda174

          Your true colors shine through and your deep disdain for the profession is crystal clear. All teachers are only there year after year for their pension, not the children. I will be sure to share your ignorant comment with the many teachers in Hartford who unfortunately are led by a fool like you.

        • Matt Poland

          I hope that you are not a teacher any longer. If you are your tone suggests behavior that is disturbing, even dangerous. Keep fighting against the scabs, that’s your real motivation not the success of our children.

        • Linda174

          A weak attempt at intimidation and deflection. I’m not afraid of you, Matt.

          Your contempt for public school teachers is here for all to see. Hard to back-peddle now.

          You focus on one area and blow it out of proportion. Now you try to bully and demean anyone who challenges you. Talk about disturbing…look in the mirror.

          Hopefully you are less of a bully when it comes to family members who disagree.

          http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/letters/hcrs-16823–20131001,0,7498592.story

        • Matt Poland

          I have been bullied by you for over a year with incessant e-mails and rants. That’s over. I am the one who should be afraid.

        • Linda174

          Actually that’s not accurate and you know it. I have many exchanges where you were thankful for the information and positive comments from you to me. I saved them, so don’t try to paint it otherwise because of your contemptuous comments are now here for all to see. Another attempt to bully and intimidate hoping others won’t know the truth. Sad, Matt 🙁

        • Matt Poland

          Give it a rest.

        • Linda174

          Have a good week!

        • Linda174

          Linda,

          As always, thank you for your food for thought. Matt

          Sent from my iPhone,

        • Linda174

          I’m not intimidated by your deflection and bullying. What’s disturbing is your contempt for teachers while serving as the BOE chair. Pity the schools, parents, teachers, and students under your reign. You ARE the bully here jumping leaps and bounds with your own ignorant assumptions.

        • Bill Morrison

          Please prove the so-called decline of public education without resorting to standardized test scores. Use of such scores is statistically fraudulent because they only take one measure of one student; there is no baseline data from which to extrapolate any meaningful data. You cannot measure growth or failure of any school, student, or teacher by contrasting one student’s scores with those of another, in spite of how Adamowski hoodwinked our BoE. There simply is NO correlation between the scores of one group of students and those of another; there are far too many independent variables.
          The true measure of success or failure of our schools should be based on the success or lack thereof of our graduates. Again, we teachers in Hartford are struggling mightily in the face of horrible school policies that promote any student regardless of their true merits.
          One of my colleagues and I have been conducting an informal study of our students over the past three years, polling them about whether or not they have personally known any student who has been held back for failing his/her classes. To date, no students have reported even one such acquaintance. We then have interviewed former elementary and middle school teachers, who have equally uniformly reported to us that they did, indeed, attempt to fail poor students but the students in question were passed anyway. We then looked at selected student transcripts that showed that, in the lower grades, they did in fact fail courses but were advanced. In other words, if you want true reform, look at bad policies that do not hold students accountable for their performance. Charter Schools clearly are not the answer; better policy-making is.

        • Bill Morrison

          Caveat: When I refer to the success of our graduates, I am not referring to those who graduate by attending only one quarter per year, receive a 65 for a one-semester course for that quarter or a 75 for that quarter and never attend school again. Under Adamowski, far too many students fit that profile. By inflating failing grades to 55 and abolishing attendance requirements, Adamowski fraudulently enabled graduation rates to rise.

        • Matt Poland

          Less than one-third of our students were graduating high school 6 years ago. I call that a nadir of decline, wouldn’t you? I hope so. Very poor performance. The system was failing more than two-thirds and the likelihood that the graduates were all ready furor college or career without remediation was slim.

          I will present your survey results to the superintendent tomorrow morning. If that’s happening we need to stop it. But it will take more than innuendo to ferret out the practice. We need some courage, Mr. Morrison.

        • Mary Gallucci

          The method of calculating the graduation rate was changed when Steven Adamowski arrived in Hartford. Here is some information, with my comment following: http://articles.courant.com/2011-07-28/community/hc-hartford-graduation-rate-0729-20110728_1_graduation-rate-school-in-four-years-opportunity-high-school
          One major consideration regarding any calculation of graduation rates is that suburban districts have very low rates of student “mobility”–poorer people move more frequently, change schools and districts–and this feature alone would always lower the graduation rate of an urban school. In addition, foster children, homeless children, and wards of the state have their own issues which impact urban schools more than in the suburbs. Students in poverty are also more likely to drop out for economic reasons–trying to get jobs or join the military. Immigrants also have high levels of dropping out which are related to their immigration status.
          Adamowski discovered a “calculus” that would foreground all of the economic and social issues involved in graduation rates, and he used that to instantly drop the rate that Hartford had been posting. In addition to the above factors, Adamowski started saying that graduation rates were based on who finished in 4 years, a difficult measure if students must make up credits but who do eventually graduate, and he calculated rates based on the numbers in the freshman class–again, this will adversely affect urban areas where students move more frequently, may leave in hopes of finding a job, or other issues. (The fact that charter schools in CT have had attrition rates of 40-50% between freshmen and senior year, as published in a link I included in another comment that Mr. Poland has ignored, does not seem to affect them negatively).
          Once Adamowski recalibrated graduation rates for the years preceding his reign, he then changed graduation requirements with his “nothing lower than 55 grade”, credit recovery that allows a truant student to make up a year’s course work in 2 weeks at a computer, and other such tricks.

        • Mary Gallucci

          Because many Hartford public schools and, of course, charter schools, are more segregated than ever, this will have an impact on graduation: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/opinion/sunday/integration-worked-why-have-we-rejected-it.html?_r=0
          Ignore the research at your peril.

        • Bill Morrison

          Mr. Poland,
          Thank you for your interest in this issue. Believe me, this is not innuendo. We High School teachers are exhausted by having to provide elementary education to students who are supposedly ready for high school, and we are very tired by being criticized for having such students. These results are readily apparent by NWEA (MAP) tests of incoming 9th grade students.
          Concerning the fact that, six years ago, our system was graduating only one-third of our students is indeed indicative of a troubled district. But, what were the causes of those failures? Adamowski’s “fix” had nothing to do with researching and correcting whatever problems contributed to these dismal numbers; instead, they focused on a chimera . . . the infamous and dishonest “55” policy and by abolishing any attendance policies. Students were able to pass a full year of coursework by attending only one quarter of the year. This is not innuendo; it is fact. As a result, the entire reform effort lost credibility with we teachers.
          Again, I would love the opportunity to discuss these issues with you. I have emailed you asking about your availability. Believe me, I am no enemy of the Hartford BoE; I am trying to raise awareness of the severe problems we face and am seeking realistic ways with which to fix them without blaming teachers.

        • Bill Morrison

          Mr. Poland,
          I have other concerns about the statement that, six years ago, Hartford was only graduating one-third of its students. Although I do not doubt the statistic, it is but one number for which there can be many interpretations.
          For example, did the teachers force out or deliberately fail the unsuccessful two-thirds? Your premise seems to be one of ascribing blame here. But, of that two-thirds, how many simply made bad life decisions and failed to attend school regularly or at all? Where were the parents or guardians when the schools tried to contact them about their miscreant children? Of the two-thirds, how many ended up in jail, or simply refused to attend by their own choice? How many were students from other nations who had never before attended schools in their own country? How many simply moved to other districts, states, or nations? There are many such possibilities given the socioeconomic conditions in which our students find themselves. Teachers cannot be held responsible or accountable for issues over which they have no control. Nor do we have control over a given student’s bad decisions. To hold us so accountable is extremely unreasonable.
          Of the successful one-third, what percentage attended school regularly? What percentage faithfully did their work? I would bet that nearly one hundred percent of the one third did so and graduated.
          Perhaps I will do a qualitative research study of this issue for publication. Quantitative studies are so narrow.

        • Mary Gallucci

          Even if this were some egregious and vulgar placard, I wouldn’t dismiss the numerous informative comments and researched replies that Linda174 has posted over the months and years of school reform trial and error.
          It is typical of the person who has no response to the substantive claims of a caring and intelligent–yet humorous–poster like Linda174 that Matt Poland would look for some minute “breach” of decorum in order to avoid responding.
          How can you defend turning your schools into laboratories for reform, Mr. Poland? How can you justify exacerbating teacher turnover by using TFA? More and more actual research is showing just how devastating is the impact of TFA–not because of any individual TFA corps member, but because of the cumulative effect of churn on districts. There is peer-reviewed research (as opposed to propaganda) out there, which you, as a librarian, should be able to find.
          How can you justify authorizing another Achievement First school before AF has shown a true effort to avoid brutalizing young children through their shaming rituals and other disciplinary practices that no ethical public school teacher would attempt?
          What kind of credibility do you lay claim to after such a vote? Your actions and your votes are having a negative impact on the entire district of Hartford, yet a small bit of humor (which, like all good satire, strikes at a true social ill) blots the credibility of a veteran educator? Spare us your outrage, Mr. Poland, and save it for the students whose education you are supposed to be a steward of.

        • Matt Poland

          Mary, the graphic simply was a manifestation of what is really behind the opposition to charter schools. And Linda’s “articulate” approach is a studied manifesto that I could read in the advocacy pages of AFT and HFT.

          The second AF school was authorized because they are a high performing school, one that is sought after 5-1. No other schools in the district have such achievement. These blogs decry change. But if we return to the practices that this generation used prior to the reform era, you and your colleagues maybe enjoying your pensions at the expense of the nation. Accusing me of ranting is a joke, Mary. Anyone who opposes the so-called educators is always the aggressor in your world. Step out into the big world more often and you may be willing to really work for change.

        • Mary Gallucci

          Even if what you claim about charter schools, in particular Achievement First in Hartford, were true, it would not justify the “no excuses”-suspend-kindergartners-shame-students regimen. But the schools are not successful. Achievement First has not been in operation long enough, serving enough children (without the filters of lotteries, skimming, attrition, etc) to make a viable comparison to the starved public schools of Hartford (and Mr. Poland, it is not because of teachers that the schools are starved and neglected; while there are complex issues at work in American society as a whole–poverty, racism, corporate greed, regressive taxation policies–even given all these dire factors, how can you sit there and blame teachers and unions?). Using one measure to determine success, standardized test scores (and this whole-district, relentless program of annual tests is only as old as the intellectually-challenged former president, George Bush’s NCLB legislation) is antithetical to what education should be about. The intensive test prep and drilling utilized at charter schools is academically vacuous and, by many measures, a form of cheating itself. They don’t like to publicize it, but many graduates of charter schools do not succeed in college, even community college–because they have only learned how to take these tests. And, as charters increase, they are not even succeeding in graduating students from High School: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/amistad_signing_ceremony/
          I am sure someone will come up with a way to game the numbers, just as Steven Adamowski gamed the graduation rates in Hartford and is trying to do in Windham, where my children go to school and are suffering from Adamowski’s harmful corporate reform initiatives. What is your opinion of the automatic 55 grade, which allows students in high school to do the minimum for a few weeks and still collect a diploma? (Most students, by the way, don’t like this system but, when schools are stripped of resources and veteran teachers driven out, there is nothing else–oh, except the bogus credit recovery and online course options for which the answers are plentifully available, one click away).
          How dare you begrudge a pension to hardworking, underpaid teachers when your district paid Adamowski and now pays Kishimoto and a cadre of chiefs and managers six-figure and quarter-million dollar salaries and bonuses? and then people like Adamowski want “in” on the pension plan that countless teachers have contributed to over a lifetime of teaching students. Your views of what goes on in the classroom are disturbing, but, like most prejudices and “articles of faith”, they say much more about you than about the people you unjustly slur.

        • Matt Poland

          Mary, you have the same capacity for distortion as your colleague Linda. But that’s what you are about. I hope you aren’t a teacher either. I would be worried about you in a classroom–the assaultive behavior that you display is not what our children need to learn.

          What I say about AF is true. What your unions are saying now us not.

        • Linda174

          God help HPS because it won’t be the appointed chair. May all parents, students and teachers read these comments.

        • jonpelto

          Matt, enough… You of all people know that AF schools discriminate against non-English speaking families, they refuse to take their fair share of students who need special education services, they out-migrate any students with behavioral issues, they engage in discipline policies that most would consider child abuse, they refuse to hire or certify their teachers in appropriate numbers…

          They are not public schools.

          You would never allow a public library do what AF and Jumoke are doing to Hartford students.

          As the chairman of the Hartford Board of Education you have a sworn duty to uphold the public interest.

          AF schools are nothing short of a voucher system that promotes segregation
          and discrimination.

          Lay off insulting teachers, it is not only mean-spirited but your time would be better spent trying to convince Achievement First and Jumoke to get their act together and start fulfilling their obligation to provide access to all of Hartford’s students.

        • Matt Poland

          Jonathan, enough? Do you know that your lieutenant Linda174 sent dozens of snarky e-mails to me? She and others who hide in these threads use name calling as a tool. You must be reading in your blog how she and her cohorts bait and berate me and others. Attacking Dacia Toll’s husband, for example. And I should stop insulting whom?

          I have the public’s interest in mind. I, unlike many in this page, am not paid to serve that interest and I do so willingly and with a deep sense of commitment and urgency. That’s what disturbs your followers. I am very supportive of teachers and appreciative of other points of view. But what happens on these pages is bitter.

          I have asked you many times to tell me what you stand for, Jonathan. You have never responded. But today you respond because your lieutenants are unhappy. The angry follow you, people who are fearful of a change long overdue.

        • Linda174

          Actually I saved many insulting comments left here by Klaus and many emails sent to you were new articles, studies, blog posts..nothing more.

          It appears you don’t appreciate other points of view after all. Odd you’re mostly concerned with defending a banker and a charter CEO much more so than children, teachers and learning.
          Keep going…the hole is getting deeper and deeper.

          Jeff Klaus comment:

          Have you no responsibility for the education of children other than showing up in the morning at some building?

        • R.L.

          If you had the public’s interest in mind you would step down from your position on the Hartford Board of Education immediately!

        • Bill Morrison

          Mr. Poland,
          I am a proud teacher in Hartford who would welcome a meaningful, respectful, and courteous dialogue with you. I am no one’s “lieutenant”, and I have never spoken ill of any serving member of Hartford’s Board of Education. That said, I deplore what Adamowski did to our district. He harmed us to a point that is nearly irrecoverable.
          I enjoy a solid reputation as a dedicated teacher who has devoted himself to Hartford’s students. I have a strong record of success with all of my students, even in the statistically meaningless CAPT.
          I would like to respectfully extend a personal invitation to you to meet with me sometime over coffee.

        • Matt Poland

          Absolutely, Mr. Morrison.

        • Linda174

          Bill, please pursue the comment left below by this man about how we “watched and
          participated in the decline of education for decades while waiting and building a pension”. Maybe you can set him straight since he really doesn’t
          understand what teachers do everyday.

          Thank you.

        • Matt Poland

          Linda, if that’s your name, rest yourself. Mr. Morrison presents himself far better than you do. I am sure that he can manage a conversation without your guidance.

        • Linda174

          Wrong assumption once again which is how this all started. You’re not as swift as you think. We guide each other all the time…teachers that is. You skip the text of the post to deflect again. Seems to be a common tactic to avoid your own ignorant commentary. He who does not like to be challenged must be getting weary. Take a break and rest.

        • Bill Morrison

          Mr. Poland,
          Outstanding! Let’s make it happen!

        • Bill Morrison

          Mr. Poland, when is good for you?

        • Matt Poland

          Please email me at [email protected]‎. Not comfortable arranging anything on this site. Thanks.

        • Bill Morrison

          Mr. Poland,
          I will do so. Thanks again.

        • Mary Gallucci

          Mr. Poland, don’t delete your unjust ad-feminam attacks and screeds on my account, although the thread is becoming monotonous, and I will refrain from further postings after this.
          Anything you want to know about me you can find out from Steven Adamowski or through other channels, not that my personal or professional life is of interest or relevance to my argument. For the record, I am not a public school teacher (just a public school parent), although I am an educator. I have never demeaned a student nor held prejudicial viewpoints about any student or family; nor have I cast aspersions on anyone because of their profession. I don’t engage in political debate in the classroom, either, as that is not the place for it.
          You are the elected–oh, wait–perhaps you are an appointed member of the Hartford Board of Education (I am opposed to appointed boards because of how they disenfranchise voters and parents); indeed, I believe you are the chair; your personal views as expressed here may not guide your policies and your voting, but they do seem consistent with your letters to the Courant and your statements at the BoE meetings. Even if I am distorting (and the research I cite is distorting) some aspect of this debate, I am not leading a school district; you are. Your policies, votes, and, unfortunately preconceived ideas all have an impact on the school district of Hartford, Ct–mine have little to no impact, especially because those in office have no interest in the truth.

        • Linda174

          Teachers are no superheroes (for world teacher day)
          I was asked to write something for World Teacher Day, I did in Dutch, this is my attempt to translate my piece in English.

          Teachers are no superheroes

          They won’t save the world.

          But they will save their children in case of emergency.

          They are authors who write new works every single day.

          They are directors of their own plays.

          They are actors who will interact with their audience every time the class begins.

          They need to be child prodigies in administration, keeping track of their own and their pupils evolution.

          They are no parents.

          But they will support their pupils.

          They are no Google, they don’t know everything.

          But they sure look better than a search engine,

          and their suggestions will beat any search engine anytime.

          They make you think.

          They are no tablet, but were born in 3D.

          They inspire to aspire.

          They are forever young, because being young is contagious.

          They make a difference, as Taylor Mali shouted.

          They’re needed, more than ever as the OECD argues.

          They make our children learn, smile and they console.

          They are the ones who help discover the miracle of a first sentence being read.

          They are the one who pick up the children in their world to open up the universe.

          Teachers are no superheroes, they are always there for their pupils.

          They won’t save the world.

          They help to build the world, day by day.

        • Bill Morrison

          Here’s some more interesting information about Achievement First:

          Achievement First’s Hartford Academy Elementary School has the highest suspension rate in the state, with 116 students under the age of six in the 2012-13 school year.

          The Hartford Academy enrolls by a lottery that often excludes children who need special education, have behavioral disorders, and are English Language Learners.

          Achievement First has already received more than $400,000.00 from our district, including the building and vital school support workers such as nurse and cleaners.

          According to a recent national study, two-thirds of charters are performing worse or the same as traditional neighborhood schools.

          Closing neighborhood schools in order to expand or open another charter is disruptive for students and their families and an unwise investment for our district.

          With this data being no secret, why is Hartford still doing business with these frauds? There can only be one answer; the founder is Stefan Pryor. Someone must be doing closed-door business with him.

        • Linda174

          Bingo, Mr. Morrison…as well appointed BOE members who trail behind the privatizers like lost puppies. Who should we worship now?

    • jrp1900

      Visual learner: Your suspicion that charter schools, if they admitted special education students, would try to do special ed on the cheap is undoubtedly correct. Even with the general population of students, charter schools are often about cutting every single corner they can find. There is no reason to suppose that they would genuinely commit to special education when it is often much more expensive to deliver than the mainstream curriculum. A pox on charter schools! You are right to say: “Keep public money in public schools” and make sure that those schools have all the resources they need. That’s the bottom line…

      • Charlie Puffers

        Visual Learner: You make a good point. Unfortunately it isn’t just the charters who are cutting sped and ELL programs. Any system undergoing “reform” has seen money shifted away from programs that help those populations to any programs that “reformers” believe will provide a return on test score investment.

  • R.L.

    Hartford may have an average of 12.5% SPED students but in my classes, which is in one of the academies left behind by Adamowski, there is a 24% SPED population. My classes also have a 31% ELL student population. The classes are pretty much maxed out as well. We still have a lot of fluctuation as new students are being added and some students are being removed. Beware New London and Willimantic. This is what you have to look forward to as your “Special Master” appears to be using the same recipe to cook your districts.

    • jrp1900

      RL: Your point is well-taken. In fact, at Windham High School, recently redesigned at the behest of Steven Adamowski into two vertical “academies,” the inequities you speak of are already evident. One academy has a much larger special ed populace than the other, and this plays out as a significant difference in academic culture and test scores. Ah, the wonders and beauties of “school choice”! One academy takes the cream of the crop, the other is fast becoming a despised option, a typical “ghetto school,” where disaffected students are warehoused for the duration. The students at Windham High want one comprehensive high school. They do not like the bogus and divisive “academies.” But what do they know? The Special Master Adamowski is fond of “academies” and so the students must suffer with the “academies” in order for Adamowski to feel that he has successfully carried off “reform.”

      I tell everyone I know in Windham that Adamowski is determined to make us another “Hartford.” I try to get them to see that Hartford’s dire state is conclusive evidence that Adamowski’s initiatives cannot work in Windham or anywhere else.

      • Charlie Puffers

        Hartford is a beautiful example of a two tiered system of haves and have-nots. The inequities are apparent to every teacher who has spent time in a school of have-nots. Some in the magnets believe the higher test scores are due to their superior teaching ability but their lack of experience in non magnet schools contributes to their ignorance. The superintendent will tell teachers in the non-magnets they need to compete as if they are losing when in fact the system is designed to be unfair.

    • Bill Morrison

      R.L.
      As you know, my classes are populated with a heavy load of low-functioning SPED students. Your reference to Adamowski is very poignant. After cutting special education programs and firing many Special Ed teachers, as well as ELL teachers, and practicing full inclusion in mainstream classes in which the teachers have no SPEC ED or ELL support, it seems to me that we are setting up our public schools for failure. The plan seems to be to overwhelm the public school teachers with student mixes that cannot truly work, give them no specialized help with those low-ability students who need it the most and who require most of the teacher’s time, we are actively being prevented from helping those students of higher ability who need to be able to fly higher. Then, we call in the Charter Schools created by a company founded by none other than Stefan Pryor, State Commissioner of Education, (no kick-backs there!), and give them a student population that excludes the very population of students with whom we are overwhelming properly certified professional teachers. Yet, the Charter Schools fail by every measure the corporate reformers are using to measure us!
      Then, using Adamowski’s fraudulent models of “small learning academies,” we force 8th grade students to choose a career path and we narrow their education into what amounts to glorified trade schools. I sincerely doubt that the Charter Schools are so restricted!

      • Bill Morrison

        I forgot to mention that, with the assembly line reform model created by the corporate reformers, notably Adamowski, we pass students along from the elementary grades to the middle grades, to high school without their ever having had to pass any class or even attend school. Then, we wonder why incoming freshmen cannot read or write or compute simple arithmetic problems beyond the third grade. Our system is failing. The teachers are not failing; indeed, we are struggling mightily. It is failing educational policies that are crippling us!
        To quote Biblical Scripture, “There are none so blind as they who will not see.”

  • Achievement First

    Achievement First is committed to serving all students—especially those with special needs—who come to us through our blind lottery, and we are now enrolling a greater percentage of incoming students with special needs than in the past. In some of our New York schools, we now serve a greater special education percentage than our host districts.Since students enter our schools via a blind lottery, we cannot reserve a certain number of seats for students with special needs. We are committed to serving students from the most underserved populations, and we have targeted our outreach initiatives to increase our special education enrollment, regularly emphasizing to prospective parents the high-quality special education services
    our schools provide. Additionally, our individual attention to student needs and our differentiated support for all students means that some students who enter our schools bearing special education labels become successful in our classrooms without the need for additional services.

    • Guest

      The facts are irrefutable and you simply cannot spin them away. You have not even come close to the % of special needs and ELL students of this state and in the communities the TRUE public schools serve. Stop slinging the BS. Pony Up and find some integrity. Maybe you’re organization will be more credible if you were more honest about your practices.

      1. You are not a public school but a private organization managing a quasi-public/private school.

      2. You do not serve an equal percentage of ELL and special education students as REAL public schools.

    • Mary Gallucci

      Why have a lottery? That in itself determines so much. The fact that Achievement First (call it non profit, it is a private corporate-reform model of “school”–test prep factory Is more like it) does not accept any and every child who walks through the doors is already a form of “creaming” and narrowed access.
      There is so much to add in terms of critiques of Achievement First and Jumoke/FUSE. Go ply your wares in Greenwich, CT.

    • Linda174

      So why the white shirts? Why the high suspensions of baby scholars? Why the need for a reorientation room, where they get the “culture they need”? Why the need for slanting, chanting and finger snapping? Why don’t you tell the truth?

    • jrp1900

      Achievement First: Let’s be straight here: you can say that your company is “committed to serving all children,” but the fact is you are not so committed, and it is not in your interest to be so committed. Your company will not commit to work with children who have chronic behavioral problems, for whatever reason. The facts show that your company policy is to force such children out of your schools and to return them to the traditional public schools. This is the context for the high rate of suspensions that has been a notable feature of Achievement First Schools. It’s one thing to accept a child from a blind lottery; it’s quite another thing to persist with that child, if he or she is difficult, for the duration. The evidence is overwhelming that charter schools force or encourage such children to leave, whereas traditional public schools have no choice but to educate that child. It’s right for the public school to stand by troubled children and to provide for their needs in a way that makes sense for everyone. It’s wrong for charter schools to pick and choose the kind of kids they are prepared to work with.
      Forgive me for being cynical, but Achievement First is only now interested in Special Education children because their prior disinterest has proven indefensible and embarrassing. In other words, your company is seeking to “increase [the] special education enrollment” as a deliberate political strategy to head off critics. Another way of putting this, is that the policy is all about public relations. A traditional public school accepts all children, but charters do no such thing. A blind lottery may well be blind, but it is not representative of the particular local community, as it always involves a self-selected cohort. I’m sure you recognize that those who step forward to embrace “school choice” are not always a cross-section of their school district.
      Sir/Madam: The onus is on you to refute the critics of charter schools, because there is a preponderance of evidence that such schools operate exactly as Mr. Pelto describes. Please don’t trot out the tired platitudes–the charter school boilerplate–about “serving all students” as if this were an actual argument. Why don’t you actually engage the specific charges that have been made against you? Could it be that you don’t engage because you don’t have a leg to stand on?

    • Bronx

      Hmmmm….so if you had a “blind” lottery from the start, why suddenly are you “now enrolling a greater percentage of incoming students with special needs than in the past.” Could it be parental backlash and fact finding by education stalwarts like Jon Pelto? Or is it the statistics which clearly show your lower percentages of ESL, Special Needs, and children below the poverty line??? I wonder what the corporate term for “damage control” is….because we are seeing it with you presently…

    • Bill Morrison

      Dr. Josef Goebbels was also a master at propaganda. Keep telling us your lies and you might eventually believe them to be true. They remain, however, your fantasy. Compare your ELL and Special Education numbers with ours in Hartford. You do not come close.