Alliance Districts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Morgan Barth, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Alliance Districts, Charter Schools, Commissioner Network, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Morgan Barth, Stefan Pryor
When in doubt, purchase a new data management system, give it a name that has nothing to do with education, hire more consultants and then hold as many meetings and “training sessions” as possible.
All paid for, or course, by the generous taxpayers of Connecticut (while school districts across the state go without adequate funding).
Here in Connecticut, the corporate education reform industry has become a caricature of itself.
This very afternoon, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Morgan Barth, his uncertified “Division Director of the Turnaround Office,” will be hosting the first “NetStat” meeting of the year with representatives of Pryor’s 11 Commissioner’s Network Schools.
The State Department of Education’s delegation will include the cadre of out-of-state consultants that arrived with the $1 million contract with the politically connected Mass Insight Company.
At last word, even Governor Malloy is planning to make an appearance at today’s meeting.
At today’s NetStat meeting, Pryor and Barth’s goal is to spotlight “the schools with ‘best-in-class’ results” which is more than a bit odd considering that half the schools have only been members of the Commissioner’s Network for one year and the other half just became Commissioner’s Network schools this past month.
But as Morgan Barth, the former teacher who couldn’t bother to become certified wrote in a recent memo, “We’ll hear many stories at NetStat including one from a dynamic duo – Karen Lott and Marilyn Taylor – respectively the principals of Milner and Dunbar. In visiting both schools I was impressed with the positivity and structure of the school culture/climate.”
Impressed with the positivity and structure of the school culture/climate?
Apparently Barth remains a big fan of the no excuses, no talking, march in a single line, hands at your sides, detention for wearing the wrong colored belt or not keeping your eyes on the teacher school climate approach.
And what a surprise that the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc. (Stefan Pryor) and the former principal of an Achievement First, Inc. school (Morgan Barth) are bringing together schools from around the state so that they can “learn” about best practices from two privatized, “no excuses” schools that have been taken over by the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school chain.
It must be especially convenient since the COO of FUSE/Jumoke is a member of the State Board of Education, thanks to Governor Malloy, and she will probably be in attendance thanks to her role as that company’s leading voice in their expansion efforts.
Why not just be a bit more transparent and entitle the workshop; The Malloy Administration’s dedication to privatizing public education in Connecticut.
According to a copy of today’s agenda that was posted on the web, “Attendees will receive data packets for their schools, containing current and historic data for a universal set of leading and lagging indicators used to measure school turnaround.”
They’ll then spend that day analyzing the data using a “3-step data protocol” while “The Turnaround Office will present an 8-step change management process used to drive organizational effectiveness and improvement.”
The Bottom Line?
“School teams will learn more about the vision for and expansion of the Commissioner’s Network during the upcoming school year.”
Meanwhile, we are one hundred days into the school year and the same “Turnaround Office” has still failed to process all of the Year Two Alliance District Grants leaving at least a dozen school districts without the money they were promised by Governor Malloy and the General Assembly to help “turnaround” their schools this year.
And one of the towns left twisting in the wind?
The very community that reported this week that it might have to close its schools due to a lack of funds.
But no worries…
With the first NetStat meeting of the year being held, solving Connecticut’s school funding problem can’t be far behind.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Jonathan Kantrowitz, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Special Education Achievement First, Charter Schools, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Special Education
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.
This study, from 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
||% Special Education
|Hartford Public Schools
|AF – Hartford Academy
|New Haven Public Schools
|AF – Amistad
|AF – Elm City*
|Bridgeport Public Schools
|Park City Prep
(*) 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.
Blogger Gary Rubenstein, Diane Ravitch, Jared Polis Charter Schools, Congressman Jared Polis, Diane Ravitch
Last week, Colorado Congressman Jared Polis tweeted that public education advocate Diane Ravitch was “an evil woman” and that he couldn’t “think of anybody else who has caused more harm to public schools, except maybe Koch brothers.”
Those bizarre and incredible statements generated a flurry of coverage across the country, including here on Wait, What?
One of the key discoveries was not only has Congressman Polis, the seventh wealthiest Member of Congress, sponsored his own charter schools but he has been a key foot soldier for the corporate education reform organization, Democrats for Education Reform, as well as a loyal follower of corporate education reformer Michelle Rhee.
Perhaps the most telling information on Congressman Polis’ involvement in the corporate education reform industry came from fellow blogger Gary Rubinstein, who rolled up his sleeves and took the time to track down the information about how well Congressman Polis’ charter schools actually do.
Gary Rubenstein wrote,
“Polis is a charter school supporter and has opened a few of his own charter schools, three in Colorado. Of those three schools, called the New America Schools, two are located in counties just outside of Denver and one is near Vail. Colorado is one of the states that has been most aggressive about tying standardized test scores to teacher evaluations and to school rankings. They have developed something called The Colorado Growth Model, which is a way of comparing how schools with similar achievement levels have progressed from one year to the next. So a school can have high test scores, but low growth and, conversely, there can be a school with low test scores but high growth. The Growth model, as the idea goes, is the great equalizer.
Now I don’t put much stake in these growth models. Like the New York City ‘progress’ score, a ‘growth’ number like 60 means that the students at that school generally scored better than 60% of the students in the state who had similar scores the previous year. Though they are not supposed to be biased, I think they are biased against low performing schools, and the graphs below support this belief. But people who fancy themselves ‘reformers’ like Polis do take these measures very seriously. So I thought I’d look at the excellent Colorado public data system called SchoolVIEW to see where The New America Schools stand.
From the data I was able to find on the two schools near Denver, they had some of the least ‘growth’ in their districts.
…according to the ‘growth’ models are doing a very poor job getting their students to progress. One day these low growth numbers could cause these schools to get shut down. I wonder if Polis will still consider Ravitch ‘evil’ when he has to quote her arguments against these sorts of metrics to save his own schools.”
The information Gary Rubenstein dug up reveals that Congressman Polis isn’t only a bully and a thug, but has no idea of what he is talking about when he attacks Diane Ravitch and blurts out the education reform talking points he has memorized.
You can read more about the data Rubenstein reviewed on his blog: http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/09/23/polis-joke/
Alliance Districts, Charter Schools, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Alliance Districts, Charter Schools, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
In a shocking display of his lack of appreciation for the importance of local governance and local control, an internal memo written by a top staff person at the Department of Education reveals that Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, is preparing a legislative agenda that includes proposals to “strengthen legislation impacting the Commissioner’s Network, Alliance Districts, Priority School Districts, and Charter Schools.”
While the Malloy administration remains unwilling or unable to get Connecticut’s Alliance Districts the 2013-2104 funds they were promised, Pryor and his top staff remain fixated on promoting an agenda aimed at increasing his power and expanding charter schools.
Stefan Pryor is co-founder of Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company, and served on their board of directors until he resigned to become Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education.
Since taking office, a string of Achievement First employees have joined Pryor’s operation. The latest Achievement First staffer to become a state employee is the new director of Pryor’s “Turnaround Office.” Morgan Barth, who served as a principal at Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy and is married to another Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy principal.
According to documents recently acquired from Commissioner Pryor’s office, despite scarce resources and the historic underfunding of Connecticut’s public schools, Pryor is preparing to;
(1) Launch a fall 2013 charter school RFP
(2) Develop a funding model for New Haven’s Elm City Montessori Local Charter School and create a special “staffing flexibility agreement” for the Montessori Charter School
(3) Work with “interested districts” to explore the creation of local charter schools
(4) Revise and release the charter school renewal application and
(5) Identify the availability of funds for local charter school start-up grants and develop an application
This news comes as the vast majority of Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts continue to be put through the ringer as they wait for the extra funding that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly promised would be available before the start of the school.
Now, with the school year nearly a month old, most districts remain in the dark about when these critical funds will become available. While Derby, New Haven, Norwich and a handful of other Alliance District towns have been approved for their Year 2 grants, Pryor’s office has demanded that at least 26 districts re-do and resubmit their Year 2 plans.
Meanwhile, these districts are supposed to be implementing new programs to improve academic performance….without the promised funds.
Charter Schools Charter Schools
South Bronx Charter School:
Enrollment of students with IEPs: 5.4 % compared to District average of 18.3 %
Enrollment of English Language Learners: 7.7% compared to District average of 19%.
South Bronx Charter School loses nearly 50 percent of the students from kindergarten to fifth-grade year
Sounds familiar to Wait, What? readers…
Diane Ravitch posted the following post on her blog today.
But let’s face it. The way some Connecticut’s charter schools refuse to provide an education to non-English speaking students, refuse to take on their fair share of students who need special education services, “out-migrate” students who won’t abide by their “culture” and abuse the children who manage to stay in their program, we can safely assume that we’ll be hear some of these same charges surfacing here in Connecticut.
Diane Ravitch writes:
“John Marzulli of the New York Daily News reports that the ex-project manager of the South Bronx Classical Charter School is suing the school for $1 million for firing her for reporting financial and academic wrong-doing.
She allegedly told supervisors that the school was billing the city for special education students who were not enrolled and that some exams were plagiarized.
She also complained that children were punished by withholding food from them.
Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters reports that the school was awarded an A by the city on its latest report card:
South Bronx Classical Charter allegedly defrauded public funds by charging DOE for special ed kids no longer attending, cheated on the state tests and withheld food from kids as punishment; yet got an A on NYC progress reports.
The school claims to develop “citizens of impeccable character.”
Lester Long, the ED and principal, who was allegedly informed of the fraud and shrugged his shoulders, is a former investment banker according to Wikipedia.
The charter school was allowed to expand into the middle grades and to replicate and open a second school, S. Bronx Classical Charter II by SED and the Regents, despite the fact that it was reported in 2012 that between 20 and 40 percent of students originally enrolled in the school left before they were tested, and no new students replaced them.
Moreover, in its site visit dated June 2012, the DOE charter office noted that the “school should continue its efforts to reach compliance with the amended 2010 NYS charter law requirements related to the enrollment and retention of at -risk student populations… …its enrollment of students with IEPs is below CSD 12 averages with a special education population of 5.4 % compared to CSD 12’s average of 18.3 %, as is the school’s population of ELLs (7.7% compared to 19% in the district.)”
The visitors also mentioned the high level of turnover of teachers and excessive reliance on inexperienced TFAers.
In another case reported in the DN in 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights was investigating the suspension of Christian Charriez, 6, a special-needs student, who was suspended four times – the last time his parents told that he had to receive a psychiatric diagnosis.
“Principal Lester Long said the school invited Christian back to school and contacted his mother multiple times, but a letter from the family’s lawyer shows the school was contacted multiple times without response.”
And meanwhile, since we here in Connecticut know the type of people charter school management companies put on their boards, looking at the names on the South Bronx Classical School Board of Trustees begs the question…who is minding the store?
C. Stephen Baldwin, Esq., Chair (Served as counsel with the United Nations, executive director of the Learning Disabilities Association of NY)
James Maher, Trustee (Vice President of Real Estate Acquisitions at BlackRock Kelso Capital Corporation)
Kathryn Moore Heleniak, Vice Chair (Author and a professor of Art History at Fordham University)
Kevin Murphy, Secretary (Technology teacher at P.S. 96 in East Harlem. Previously, he was an agent with Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and a vice president at Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York)
Melissa Brown, Treasurer (Vice President in the Leveraged Finance investment banking group at Barclays Capital)
William F. Higgins, Trustee (Founder and CEO of Higgins Group LLC, a real estate investment company)
Larry Hirsch, Trustee (Senior CPD representative with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)
Kristi Jacques, Esq., Trustee (Associate attorney at King & Spalding LLP, specializing in international arbitration)
Louisa Childs, Esq., Trustee (General Counsel of The Dwight School. Prior to joining Dwight, Ms. Childs was an associate at King & Spalding). The Dwight School being the one located at 291 Central Park West with a Teacher to Student ratio of 1:5 and a tuition rate of about $35,000 a year)
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Hartford, Matt Poland, Teach for America Achievement First, Charter Schools, Hartford, Matt Poland
Blogger and policy advocate, Kerri Provost, writes a powerful, insightful and extremely interesting blog which can be found at: http://www.realhartford.org/.
Today’s post, which is entitled Hartford Board of Ed: Out of Order is a must read for anyone interested in how education reform policy, charter schools and Hartford politics are all intertwined.
Kerri Provost writes,
The abuse of power by some on the Hartford Board of Education was called into question after politicking and bullying behaviors ruled and dissenting voices were silenced at last week’s regular public meeting.
Upon arriving, it was evident this would be another dog-and-pony show, as a bus had been chartered to bring dozens of Achievement First supporters to the meeting. Gathering supporters and having them pack meetings is nothing new in Hartford.
Letting children see and participate in decision-making can be educational, but the nature of this particular action raises questions about who funded the bus and t-shirts, along with whether or not it is age-appropriate for elementary school children to be expected to sit still and quiet for hours on end.
Yet, the Board — at least on paper — claims that decorum is needed for its meetings.
Anyone who knows children can attest that unless their spirits have been utterly broken, they are going to be antsy in about twenty minutes, especially when the environment is freezing cold and the chairs are hard plastic.
No effort was made by the Board to remind the children that this was a solemn, public meeting, but then, it is unclear if the Board understood that either.
All night, cell phones rang in the audience without reminders from the Board to silence them. As the public spoke during the comment period, there was loud cheering and applause, booing, continuous snapping of fingers, and derisive remarks made by the audience toward members of the Board; those remarks were primarily dismissive of Board member Brad Noel, who several audience members referred to as “the white woman.” When Board member Robert Cotto spoke, there were audience members dismissing him for not being a parent; no such criticism was levied against other Board members — most of whom do not have children currently attending Hartford Public Schools — who happened to be in favor of approving plans for a new charter school. For minutes on end, audience members stood, blocking the view of those behind them.
Two individuals attending the meeting told Real Hartford that since the Board was doing nothing to quiet the audience; they took the responsibility to ask that those around them lower their voices, as it quickly became difficult to hear comments by both the public and the Board. In both of those cases, instead of being apologetic and speaking more softly, the intervening residents were met with verbal hostility.
Currently, there is no clear mechanism in place that would enable members of the audience to inform the Chair that a call to order is desired. Security guards stand between the audience and the Board of Education. Alerting via text message would require the Board have their cell phones out; it would also require that schools open their Wi-Fi so that everyone with the technology to do so can have equal access. Neither of these tactics is especially practical, but there must be some way to communicate needs for order without creating more disruption.
Until such a mechanism is in place, the Chair would need to be in touch with the vibes of the room so that he could run a meeting according to the Board of Education’s own guidelines.
The only call for order given between 5:30 and 8:30 was following the spectacle created when Board Chair Matt Poland had the mic cut for Councilman Larry Deutsch, who had signed up for public comment, waited his turn, and had only spoken for a few moments before being shut down. While others’ commentary exceeded five minutes, it was Councilman Deutsch’s desire to stand at an angle to address both the Board and the public, that allegedly made Poland declare the Working Families Party member to be out of order. Deutsch, who was attempting to share the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., said he felt it was rude to have his back to the public and wanted to speak in a way that was inclusive to the children in the audience. There is video of this incident circulating online; however, the video does not show the entirety of the incident nor does its producer provide any context needed so that the public who were not at the meeting have an accurate sense of what ensued. Councilman Deutsch did not rush the podium, did not speak out of line, did not exceed his three minutes, did not use any language that would be inappropriate for children to hear. He began by saying “We need to have the public involved. This is inspiring,” and was promptly cut off.
“You don’t need a weatherman”
Deutsch, who was to speak against Achievement First was escorted away from the mic by security, all the while Poland repeatedly used the Councilman’s first name instead of his title.
John Motley – who is the Chair of the Hartford School Building Committee, a financial supporter of Teach for America, and on the Board of Directors for Achievement First Hartford — gave a maudlin “not in front of the children, Larry!” cry. On Facebook, locals asked what was behind the Chair’s actions. One individual suggested that the Chair be removed from his position for his inability to properly conduct a public meeting.
When Councilman Deutsch moved from the center of the room to the doorway as supporters gathered, I asked if he had cursed on mic. I had not heard anything inappropriate, but I wanted to confirm. He said no.
Following this incident, Deutsch said on Facebook, “It honestly was a surprise to me that the Board of Ed chair thought it was a big deal that I stood to face the public/audience as well as the Board. Seems like common democracy and avoiding rudeness, don’t you think?”
Deutsch also said that he “thought it better as example for kids and parents, more than the Board, to continue to speak to them as well, rather than meekly sit down.”
You can read the rest of this amazing blog post at: http://www.realhartford.org/2013/09/03/hartford-board-of-ed-out-of-order/
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Sarah Darer Littman Achievement First Inc., Charter Schools, Sarah Darer Littman
Connecticut is quickly getting the message.
As far as the education reform industry is concerned, there are two standards of Accountability. There is one standard for teachers and a very different, much lower standard of accountability for the professional education reformers and their corporate entities.
Call it yet another example of the Great American Corporate Accountability System, otherwise known as laws and rules are only for the rank and file, not for the elite.
Sarah Darer Littman has yet another “must read” piece that appeared in this past weekend’s CT Newsjunkie entitled, Is Accountability Only For Teachers?
In it she observes;
“Accountability. It’s the No. 1 buzzword of corporate education reform. Teachers must be held can countable based on their students’ performance on standardized tests, even though the method is deeply flawed.
Students must also be held accountable. Poverty is no excuse. Who cares if you’ve experienced early childhood trauma, if your parents aren’t native English speakers, or if you have a learning disability. No excuses, no compassion. Toe the line, Bucko.
As Achievement First Hartford Academy stated in its 2007 charter application: “Excuses will not be tolerated. Mediocrity will not be good enough.”
Yet when it comes to the education reformers themselves there is little or no accountability and there are plenty of excuses — even to measures they have set for themselves. Take the aforementioned Achievement First Academy Hartford, which just had its charter renewed for three years in a shameful act of cronyism by the state Board of Education.
Here are some of the goals Achievement First Hartford set in its 2007 charter application:
-p.12 - “The AF Hartford approach to student behavior will be overwhelmingly positive. While there will be clear, strict consequences for poor behavior at AF Hartford, research finds that positive recognition of good behavior is more likely to fundamentally improve student behavior.”
-p.41 - Special Needs Populations: “All students with disabilities attending AF Hartford will be accorded a free, appropriate and public education. Disability will not be used as a criterion for non-eligibility for admissions or enrollment . . . AF will comply with all regulatory special education requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Likewise, AF Hartford will fully comply with additional regulations and policies of the State of Connecticut.”
Under “Charter Self-Evaluation and Accountability,” Achievement First Hartford listed the following:
-p.65 - Suspensions: “We will have an average of 5 or fewer suspensions for the months of January to June (or a total of 30 or fewer suspensions during this six month period).
-p.66 - Student Retention: “Student attrition will be less than 5 percent (other than students moving out of the district) during our first year and less than 3 percent in each successive year.
-p.68 - Staff Turnover: “There will be low rates of administrative and teacher turnover. Our targets for annual teacher turnover will be less than 25% in the first two years and less than 15 percent after that.”
Yet how did Achievement First Hartford measure up? We know their “positive recognition of good behavior” methods resulted inthe highest number of suspensions of any school in the state, with 32.5 percent of elementary school students and 49.4 percent of middle school students having at least one in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, or expulsion.
Clearly their model — and their leadership across the board — is flawed, because in the elementary school category, the top four slots in the suspension leaderboard were held by Achievement First schools: Hartford Academy, 32.5 percent; Elm City College Prep, 26 percent; Bridgeport Achievement First, 20 percent; and Amistad Academy, 13.8 percent.
In the middle school category, Achievement First dominates again, with three of the top four slots: AF Hartford Academy, 49.4 percent; Bridgeport Achievement First, 43.7 percent; and Amistad Academy, 41.9 percent.
High school? Achievement First had two schools in the top six, with Elm City Prep ranked second at 40 percent and Bridgeport Achievement First sixth at 35.9 percent.
The recent voluntary resolution agreement of a civil rights complaint filed on the behalf of six AF Hartford students by Greater Hartford Legal Aid is proof-positive that AF failed their special needs students.”
Everyone tracking the education reform corporate movement should take the time to read this informative and disturbing piece.
By understanding the real “achievements” of organizations like Achievement First, Inc. readers will have a much better understanding of the notion that the best way to describe these education reforms is to start by saying…”don’t look at the man behind the curtain.”
You can find Sarah Darer Littman’s full commentary piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/sboe_is_accountability_is_only_for_teachers/
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Wendy Lecker Achievement First, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Wendy Lecker
Listening to the charter school advocates, you’d think the data clearly indicate that children attending charter schools do better than children attending public schools.
As Wait, What? readers know the truth is far from that.
Most importantly, here in Connecticut and around the nation, charter schools refuse to provide equal educational opportunities. Charter schools, such as those associated with Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school management company, consistently fail to provide educational programing to their fair share of non-English speaking students and those who students who need special education services.
Even in the African –American community, charter schools take students that are less poor, speak only English, have little to no special education needs and meet the strict dogmatic discipline measures that many reasonable people would consider abuse.
Last Friday, as the Vallas court case was being announced, Wendy Lecker, the Connecticut public education advocate and columnist published a new, “must read” commentary piece at Stamford Advocates, Connecticut Post and other Hearst media outlets.
Wendy Lecker’s piece has been getting national attention for its direct and honest assessment of what is really going on with charter schools in the country.
Lecker’s complete piece can be found via the following link and is re-posted, in part, below.
Wendy Lecker wrote, “The verdict is in, and it is the same as four years ago. In updating its 2009 national study on charter schools, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) reaches the same conclusion it did in its previous study: The vast majority of charter schools in the United States are no better than public schools.
In 2009, 83 percent of charters were the same or worse than public schools, and now about 71-75 percent are. Even more telling, CREDO concludes that “the charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is largely driven by the closure of bad schools.” In addition, students at new charter schools have lower reading and math gains than at public schools.
In the study, learning refers only to test scores in elementary and middle schools. Researchers often measure learning improvement in terms of grade levels or years. Because the gains in charters are so small, the authors here attempt to translate test scores into months of learning. Converting test scores into uniform monthly intervals of learning relies on faulty assumptions and is viewed as unreliable.
Nonetheless, the study finds that the average charter school student gains eight days of reading learning over a public school student and nothing in math. Experts agree that math learning depends more on instruction in school, whereas reading advancement often hinges on skills and vocabulary gained outside the classroom.
Even for groups where the claimed learning is the greatest, the most those students gain is about one month of additional learning. Many charters boast longer school days, Saturday school and an extended school year. Therefore, it appears that public schools are more efficient at squeezing learning into a shortened time period.
What do these eight additional days on average of reading learning cost? It is difficult to compare charter school and public school spending. Charter school spending and revenue vary widely and are not transparent. Charters’ grade levels, programs and demographics are often different than public schools’. One study that controlled for these factors found that the charters touted as successful — KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools – spend between 20-30 percent more than comparable public schools in their host districts.
The human cost of this charter sector improvement is also not addressed in the study. Officials who authorize charters gamble with students’ fates. When the experiment fails, i.e. the charter school is bad, it closes. The study did not count the educational loss these displaced charter students suffer.”
For the rest of the piece go to: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-hidden-costs-of-charter-schools-4635437.php
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Doug McCurry and Dacia Toll, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Achievement First Inc., Charter Schools, Doug McCurry and Dacia Toll, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
The two CEOs of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, published a commentary piece in yesterday’s Hartford Courant entitled, “Charter Schools Changing Suspension Focus.”
In the piece, Co-CEO’s Doug McCurry and Dacia Toll wrote that, “Achievement First had an important wake-up call last week when a state report included several of our public charter schools because of their high suspension rates — posing a direct challenge to our promise to provide an excellent education to all our students. The last few days have been tough as we work to reconcile our values and our practices. We recognize that our suspension numbers are simply too high, and we are committed to significantly reducing the numbers.”
Tough week as we reconcile our values and our practices?
The media reports astronomical suspension rates at Achievement First schools, including the fact that it suspends kindergarteners at rates up to 15 times higher than in neighboring public schools, and the co-CEOs say the news was a “wake up call” and “created a tough week” for their management team?
Achievement First, Inc. is a “non-profit” corporation with income of over $103 million, 82% of which comes from taxpayer funds. Their central office operation cost exceeds more than $12 million.
And they want the public to believe that they didn’t know their outrageous and medieval discipline policies included suspension rates that regular people would label child abuse?
In addition to Co-CEOs Doug McCurry and Dacia Toll, the Achievement First management team includes a Vice President for Information Technology, a Chief of Staff, a Senior Director of Talent Development, seven (7) Regional Superintendents, a Senior Director of Facilities, a Chief Academic Officer, a Chief Information Officer, a Senior Adviser, a Vice President for Recruitment, a Vice President for, Leadership Development, a Vice President for Business Information Systems, a Chief External Officer, a Senior Director for Data Strategy, a Senior Director for Strategic Partnerships, a Senior Director for Marketing & Communications, a Vice President for Development, a Chief Financial and Operating Officer, a Vice President for School Operations, a Vice President for External Relations and a Senior Director for Human Capital.
And despite all that talent, no one knew about the impact of the school suspension policies on the children attending Achievement First, Inc. schools.
It occurred to no one that the rate of suspensions was excessive and the impact was nothing short of child abuse?
Instead of owning this outrageous record of failure, Achievement First uses their commentary piece to rationalize their abusive behaviors writing, “Although we have an unacceptably high number of suspensions at many Achievement First schools, the technical definition of suspension (which we hold to) is a removal from class or other activity for more than 90 minutes. Many of the in-school suspensions last year (for example, 88 percent of them at Achievement First Hartford Academy Elementary) were less than three hours long.”
And the two CEOs go on to explain, “For minor misbehavior, however, we need to flip this paradigm — instead of receiving less class time, these students need more class time. If a student is seriously disrupting the learning environment and making it so that others cannot learn, then we should provide that student with extra support after school or on Saturday.”
Wait, What? Connecticut taxpayers are paying Achievement First, Inc. millions of dollars and it is only now that they realize that students who are having problems need more, not less, class time?
And perhaps most telling of all is that after their gratuitous claim that, “We welcome this statewide conversation about suspension practices. Going forward, our principals and regional superintendents will set clear goals around suspension data, make plans for their schools as a whole and for individual students, and regularly review progress. Our deans of students will receive additional training this summer and throughout the year on appropriate suspension practices and what’s working across and outside our network.” The Achievement First propaganda machine returns to their old talking point stating, “Our primary goal remains the long-term success of our students. Achievement First’s urban public schools continue to post gap-closing student results, and, for the fourth year in a row, 100 percent of our high school graduates are headed to college…”
It is telling that Achievement First, Inc. would return to one of their biggest lies, claiming they have a 100% graduation rate, without explaining how they toy with children and families’ lives in order to “get” that number.
Wait, What? readers know the truth. Achievement First’s 100% college acceptance rate is based on polices that “lose” over 50% of the students who begin at Achievement First four years earlier and perhaps even more shocking, leave dozens of students with four years of high school and no diploma to show for it.
For anyone who believes the sincerity of Achievement First’s latest piece, I have, as the saying goes, a bridge in New York City to sell them.
For the full effect of Achievement First’s rhetoric, I urge readers to examine the full Achievement First Op-ed. which can be found at: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-mccurry-achievement-first-suspensions-target-20130616,0,2041591.story
Charter Schools, Malloy, Our Piece of the Pie, State Budget, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham Charter Schools, OPP, Our Piece of the Piece, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
On Wednesday, June 5, 2013 the Connecticut’s State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on a proposed new charter school for Windham, Connecticut called The Path Academy.
The Path Academy is a project of Our Piece of the Pie, a Hartford-based “youth development agency” that seeks to “help young people access and attain a mix of the educational, employment, and personal skills that contribute to their success.”
One of their goals is to help “over-age, under-credit (OU) students” get a high school diploma. The term is a bit misleading because it doesn’t mean that the student is over 21 or even 18. In many cases it just means the student has had academic problems and isn’t at the standard grade level for that age.
A few years ago OPP partnered with the Hartford Public School System to open Opportunity High School. Students remain in the Hartford school system, Hartford teachers provide the academic training and OPP provides counseling and support services.
With a student population of nearly 5,400 Hartford students in the high school grades, OPP’s Opportunity High School serves approximately 120 students or about 2 percent of the student body. According to their website they’ve graduated 81 students since 2009.
Now, despite their fundamental lack of genuine, longer-term experience running a full-fledged school, OPP is looking to get in on the action as the Malloy Administration opens the taxpayer spigot and dramatically increases funding for the charter school industry.
Using the name Path Academy, Our Piece of the Pie has submitted a 604 page proposal to open a school in Windham for “over-age, under-credit (OU) students.” The primary difference is that OPP is claiming that it is capable of running the entire school on its own, with no participation by the Windham School System or Windham educators and administrators.
Starting with 120 students, OPPs plan is to expand to 200 students in the second year. They also claim that 75% of the slots will be reserved for Windham students, while the rest will come from neighboring towns.
With less than 650 total high school students in Windham, OPP would need to increase their “catchment” from the 2% they get as part of the Hartford School System to more like 23% of Windham’s students…a task that is hardly achievable.
Despite having trouble in school, some students don’t need or want to leave the traditional school setting, while others are already taking advantage of alternative programs for students who are facing academic problems.
To suggest that OPP could fill 75% of its seats with Windham students is simply not possible.
Furthermore, OPP claims that it will fill the remainder of its seats with students from neighboring towns, but of course, nearly all the towns in the region, including Windham, already have programs to support “under-credit” students.
However, instead of having a reasonable discussion about augmenting existing public school programs, the State Board of Education seems poised to provide OPP with a sweetheart deal that would cost taxpayers over $12 million over the first five years alone, and that is using OPP’s own figures.
In addition, while no site for this new school has been announced, OPP has said that it has been negotiating with the out-of-state owners of a boarded up old movie theater in town. Experts had previously determined the cost to renovate the old Jillson Square Movie Theater would be in the millions, Our Piece of the Pie told local officials that their architects disagreed and that costs would be manageable.
More to the point, state and local taxpayers have already invested millions into specialized programs to help academically challenged students including existing programs at EastConn, the regional’s education service center, as well as programs in the regions community colleges, high schools and adult education programs.
Another troubling aspect of this proposal is that Path Academy’s plan notes that the largest cohort of “over-age, under-credit (OU) students” are bi-lingual and English Language Learners, but the plan put forward by the Path Academy/Our Piece of the Pie®, Inc. is particularly vague on how it would successfully address the particular demographics of Willimantic.
Finally, the OPP proposal plans to, “use a number of computer and web-based tools to enhance student learning. Students will engage in content acquisition on computer-based education programs, and will practice applying these skills using web-based tools, such as Glogster or Padlet. Path Academy will use Edgenuity™ as the primary computer-based education program to support classroom learning. Student learning will be supported by a number of supplementary computer-based education programs, most prevalently, Khan Academy and Wilson Reading Trainer. ” (While it is true that some schools are turning to the use of computer-based learning, considering these are, by definition, some of the most difficult students to engage, putting these young people in front of a computer, even “when blended” with face-to-face instruction, doesn’t seem like the most appropriate solution for the Windham region).
In the end, the question, though, is not whether OPP has or has not had limited success with at-risk youth, but whether scarce resources would be better spent infusing more effective programing into existing public schools rather than create yet another charter school in the state.
With a new state budget on the horizon that fails to adequately fund existing services and appears to be in deficit the day it takes effect, now is hardly the time to throw even more funds at the charter school industry.
Few if any of the new charter school applications seem to have much merit, but the OPP plan for Windham is among the least impressive.
That said, we’ll know soon enough just where the State Board of Education’s priorities lie when it comes to the needs of Windham and eastern Connecticut.