Geoffrey Canada gave a TED talk recently in which he did two reprehensible things:
1. He boasted that his charter school has a 100% graduation rate.
2. He used his talk to knock the public schools.
Gary Rubinstein, the extraordinary detective of miracle-school boasting, checked the New York state website. Canada did not tell the truth.
After reviewing the data, Gary writes: “So the 62 graduates in 2012 had been the 97 6th graders in 2006. This does not represent a 0% dropout rate, as Canada implied to John Legend, but a 36% dropout rate.” The graduation rate is not 100%, as Canada claimed, but 64%.
But there is an even dirtier secret that Gary discovered. Canada has TWICE kicked out an entire class. A few years ago, Paul Tough wrote a book about Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone called “Whatever It Takes.” Tough tells the story of Canada firing the entire entering class–three years after they started sixth grade–because their persistently low test scores embarrassed the bankers and lawyers on his board.
When I debated Geoffrey Canada at Education Nation in 2011, I asked him why he kicked out the class, and he denied it. He said that he had closed the school because its performance was not good enough. That won him a round of applause from the sympathetic audience, but I knew he had not closed the school. Paul Tough’s description of the mass ouster of the entire class was detailed and clear. He fired the eighth graders in May, when it was difficult for them to find high schools that had room for them in New York City’s choice system.
Let me be clear. I admire the work of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The zone offers children and families a broad array of social and medical services. It is a well-funded cradle-to-college-or-career pipeline. HCZ does what all schools should do, if they had the money to do it. I personally like Geoffrey Canada. He is a very likable guy, but he feels compelled to make these outrageous boasts because (I think) it is what the corporate reformers on his board want to believe.
HCZ has the resources to offer amazing facilities and services to those who enroll in its charter schools. Three years go, according to an article in the New York Times, HCZ had $200 million in the bank, and some billionaires on the board, so the school can afford to help children in ways that public schools cannot afford.
“In the tiny high school of the zone’s Promise Academy I, which teaches 66 sophomores and 65 juniors (it grows by one grade per year), the average class size is under 15, generally with two licensed teachers in every room. There are three student advocates to provide guidance and advice, as well as a social worker, a guidance counselor and a college counselor, and one-on-one tutoring after school.” Students also get free health care and dental checkups.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the schools in Harlem offered the same services and small classes? The HCZ high school has classes under 15, with two teachers, but the typical high school class in the NYC public schools is 32-35, with one teacher.
Canada is blessed with the resources that public schools in NYC can only dream about.
Nonetheless, Canada used his time on TED to lambaste the public schools for failing to match his success.
I just wish that Canada would use his celebrity and media access to advocate that all public schools should have the resources he has, instead of castigating them for not being as good as the school he runs, with such munificent provisions.