Archives for category: Charter Schools

Texas Republican leaders in the state senate unveiled their ambitious plan to enact the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) agenda for privatization of public education.

With the help of Texans for Education Reform and a battalion of highly paid lobbyists, the Republicans will promote charters, school choice, and accountability measures to stigmatize public schools.

Texas schools have high numbers of students who are poor and who are Enflish language learners. The senate has no new funding measures, despite the fact that $5 billion was cut from school funding a few years ago.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a voucher advocate. “On Tuesday, he said “148,000 students, approximately, today, are trapped in 297 school campuses across our state that have been failing for more than two years.”

His agenda includes school choice and other items, including:

“Giving letter grades (A-F) to individual public school school campuses each year based on their performance — something already done for districts;

A stronger “parent empowerment” law, often called “the parent trigger,” that would allow parents to petition for new management schools that have been failing for two years rather than five;

Removing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses;

Making sure high school students can take more courses that count for college credit;

Creating a “college and career readiness” course for Texas middle schoolers.”

The spokesman for teachers was critical:

““None of the proposals offered by Sen. Taylor and the lieutenant governor would give teachers and students the time and resources they need to improve teaching and learning,” said Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria. “The Taylor-Patrick agenda fails to meet the needs of five million public school students whose schools have been inadequately funded by the very legislators who are eager to declare schools a failure based on standardized test scores.”

The Taylor-Patrick agenda is a grab-bag of failed ideas cribbed from the ALEC play book. None of them has been beneficial to students or successful anywhere.

Two organizations–In the Public Interest and the Center for Popular Democracy–have proposed reforms for charter school accountability that would remove the most frequent criticisms of charter schools.

 

They recommend an 11-point agenda that would strengthen oversight, transparency, and accountability. There are a few missing points that I would add, such as, capping the salary of charter school executives to be no higher than that of the local superintendent; prohibiting for-profit management of charter schools; and barring the use of taxpayer funds for political lobbying or campaign contributions.

 

 

The Charter School Accountability Agenda An 11-Point Program for Reform

Accountability

  • Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to open board meetings to parents and the public, similar to public school board meetings.
  • Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to release to parents and the public how they spend taxpayer money, including their annual budgets and contracts.
  • Require state officials to conduct regular audits of charter schools’ finances to detect fraud, waste or abuse of public funds.

Protect Neighborhood Schools

Protect Taxpayer Funds

       • Before any new charter school is approved, conduct an analysis of the impact the school will have on neighborhood public schools.

      • Ensure that neighborhood public schools do not lose funding when new charter schools open in their area.

  • Require charter schools to return taxpayer money to the school district for any student that leaves the charter school to return to a neighborhood public school during the school year.
  • Prohibit charter school board members and their immediate families from financially benefiting from their schools.
  • Prohibit charter schools from spending taxpayer dollars on advertising or marketing.
  • Stop the creation of new charter schools if state officials have not shown the ability to prevent fraud and mismanagement.
  • Require all teachers who work in taxpayer funded schools, including neighborhood public schools and charter schools, to meet the same training and qualification requirements.
  • Require charter schools to serve high-need students such as special education

 

 

David Hornbeck was superintendent of schools in Philadelphia from 1994 to 2000. During that time, he approved 30 charter schools, hoping they would improve education for the city’s students. Twenty years later, he admits he was wrong.

Now he realizes that charters are not education reform. They are a change of governance. They get mixed results.
“In some evaluations, charter schools overall actually underperform regular public schools.”

Charter funding has a negative effect on public schools. Funding and unequal opportunity: Charter funding is also negatively affecting regular public schools. “Costs in schools sending students to charters cannot shift as fast as students and revenue leave. The costs for the principal, heating, lights, building debt and many other things remain; thus, the remaining children face the prospect of larger class sizes and cuts to core academic programming, music, art and other inequities.” As charters increase, the resources for public schools decrease, “without a commensurate performance improvement by charter school students.”

Charters don’t choose to serve students with severe disabilities, “leaving traditional schools to disproportionately bear this cost at the expense of all students.”

“Advocates say we need a “stronger” charter law [in Maryland], noting that Maryland ranks near the bottom. Pennsylvania’s law is ranked much higher, yet its charter growth is contributing significantly to a funding crisis that includes draconian cuts to teachers, nurses, arts, music and counselors in Philadelphia.”

The charter law proposed in Maryland “undermines collective bargaining that protects teachers from politics and favoritism and has been crucial to improvement in compensation and benefits. It would create a two-tiered system in which charter teachers would have to organize and bargain separately with each charter opting out of the larger system’s contract. Unionization is not the problem. There are no unions in many of the nation’s worst educational performing states. All schools, charter or traditional, must pay competitive salaries and benefits to attract experienced, skilled teachers who can succeed with all children.”

Hornbeck writes:

“Charters are not substitutes for broader proven reforms. We know from research and experience what works to build schools with thriving students:

•High standards;

•Quality teachers;

•Prekindergarten for 3 year olds;

•Lower class sizes through the third grade;

•Attacking concentrated poverty through community schools; after school programs; more instruction time for students who struggle; home visitation programs; and high quality child care.

“Let’s do what we know works.”

Hornbeck says what seems obvious: do what we know works. Will anyone listen? Are will they continue to demand “reforms” that have been proven not to work?

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio helped to create an excellent website that allows anyone to review and compare data about charter schools and public schools in Ohio. All the data comes from public sources. Know Your Charter is a product of Innovation Ohio and the. Ohio Education Association.

 

“When we started http://www.KnowYourCharter.com, some criticized us for only posting district and charter school data. They said the only “fair” comparison (even though it is districts that lose money from the charter school funding system, not schools) was to look at building-to-building data. We chose to look at district-level data first because it is districts, not individual schools in them, that lose money to charters.

 

“Well, today we posted the building data as well. So now it is possible to compare every Ohio school building — district or charter — with each other, as well as districts. This adds to the comparative data available at Know Your Charter. Including the building level data increases by 17 the number of data points now available for the public to compare. Adding those 17 points to the 26 from the original site and there are now 43 data points for comparing districts, schools and charters.

 

“Can we finally stop claiming Know Your Charter isn’t fair? Everything is there for all to see. And what you’ll see is that urban buildings more than hold their own with charter schools overall — outperforming them on proficiency tests while having higher levels of poverty. You’ll also see that less than 10% of charter school children are in buildings that outperform urban districts. Overall, urban buildings do better than charters, with a few exceptions in Cleveland and other places.

 

“The time has come to stop debating whether the Ohio charter school program is working. It clearly isn’t in the vast majority of cases. It’s up to the state to figure out how to make it work better for the kids in the charters without unduly hampering the educational opportunities for the 90% of Ohio children in local public schools.”

T.C. Weber, blogger known as Dad Gone Wild, says it is time to end the Achievement School District experiment in Tennessee.

Then-State Commissioner Kevin Huffman persuaded his friend Chris Barbic to launch the ASD as an all-charter district made up of the state’s lowest performing schools. Barbic had created the YES prep charter chain in Houston. He promised that the ASD schools would all be in the Starr’s top 25% in five years.

The ASD has been embroiled in community protests and financial mismanagement from the start, writes Weber. It is nowhere near its goal.

He writes:

“I will show you more of what we’ve come to expect from the Tennessee’s ASD, which is more sloppy work and inattention to detail. Since inception, its been nothing but one issue after another for the ASD. In the past they’ve failed to report their per pupil spending, even though all other districts were able to. Back in September, reporter Ezra Howard analyzed the state data and showed that local efforts in Memphis were performing better than the ASD. October came and Bluff City, an education blog out of Memphis, reported the city in near revolt against the ASD. To close out the year, they engineered a hostile takeover of a Nashville school. Perhaps a few more Happy Hours are needed.

“When looking at this audit it becomes clear once again that the Achievement School District’s forte is not in the details. Details like, failure to have contracts overseen and ensuring that they are in compliance with regulations, allowing Charter Management Operators to get paid before they paid their vendors, and billing salaries to the wrong programs. The amounts of money are albeit small and therefore for many not that concerning, but I would argue that, when coupled with the entire body of evidence, it shows a pattern of behavior. A pattern that is not beneficial to the students or the tax payers of the state of Tennessee.”

Weber concludes:

“Governor Haslam has made a welcome change at the top of the Department of Education, but like with any illness, the body can only heal when all of the infection is removed. Chris Barbic and the Achievement School District were brought here by Kevin Huffman through their shared experience as Teach For America members. Time proved that Kevin Huffman was not a good fit for Tennessee. Time has also shown that TFA is not a great fit for Tennessee. They are a part of the past and Tennessee needs to look forward. It’s time to add the Achievement School District to that list of failed experiments and embrace policies that will take us into the future, before the damage is irreversible.”

The following post was written by a parent in Tennessee. The state’s Achievement School District was created by former Commissioner Krvin Huffman with the intent of taking control of the state’s lowest-performing public schools and handing them over to charter operators. The goal, promised ASD leader Chris Barbic was that the lowest 5% would be in the top 25% within five years. The clock is ticking.

The parent writes:

Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD) Superintendent Chris Barbic, like other reformers, often talks about creating opportunities for students “trapped in failing schools.” But this week Barbic is pushing legislation that would allow Barbic to recruit students from high-performing schools INTO schools the state has identified as “failing.” Barbic told Tennessee legislators on Wednesday that parents are beating down his door to get into ASD charter schools that are some of the worst performing schools in the state, according to the state’s highly touted accountability measures.

However, Barbic failed to mention that parents have submitted a petition with 78 pages of signatures to the Memphis school board asking them to remove their school from Barbic’s expanding charter school empire. Parents aren’t “voting with their feet” to attend charter schools after all.

Parents are smart to avoid ASD-operated charter schools. ASD schools are underperforming district-run schools in Memphis (http://www.bluffcityed.com/2014/09/just-facts-asd-vs-izone-performance/). Even the ASD’s most touted school in Nashville, Brick Church Middle, is underperforming its district-run counterpart, and it’s clear from an independent report that the ASD takeover of Brick Church created a terrible environment for the students and staff alike. (http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/12/22/asd-riles-parents-community-school-takeover/20648199/) Furthermore, a recent audit shows that the ASD has been mismanaging public funds, including federal money. (https://norinrad10.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/time-to-end-the-asd-fiasco/) But the ASD continues to expand over parent protest, most recently by cherry-picking the highest performing priority school in Nashville to help boost its own miserable test scores.

The ASD was supposed to be a boon for national charter school operators like Rocketship. Barbic and Kevin Huffman recruited Rocketship and others to Tennessee with the promise of dozens of schools that they would take over. Tennessee has rigged its accountability system to place over 80 schools on a “priority school” list that charters can target for takeover. So far they’ve taken over 22 schools in Memphis. But students zoned for those schools taken over by Barbic’s charter school cronies have stayed away in droves, most opting to stay with schools run by the local school board. This has upset private operators who were promised full schools if they came to Memphis.

In order to fill up the empty seats, Barbic wants to take kids out of schools that are performing well and put them in the state’s worst performing schools, all to protect the bottom lines of charter school operators. Students abandoning ASD schools are also impacting Barbic’s own bottom line. He can’t afford to hire enough teachers to comply with the state class size requirement, but he has found a way to solve this problem by increasing class sizes at ASD schools. He was recently was granted a class size waiver by the newly appointed Commissioner of Education, Candice McQueen. This week, he testified at the legislature that the ASD class sizes are 14-15 students, but the waiver allows him to expand his class sizes far beyond this number.

In Tennessee schools must be held accountable to some of the highest standards in the country – unless there is a profit motive involved – and then the powers-that-be not only look the other way, they actually work to create more opportunities for students to attend schools that the state has labeled “failing”!

If Barbic is working to place students enrolled in high achieving schools into “failing” ASD schools, he is obviously not concerned about the best interests of Tennessee’s students. He is concerned about the best interests of his charter operator buddies and his own bottom line.”

Gene V. Glass, distinguished professor of research at Arizona State University, forwarded this story to me. He posted it on his blog in 2014. I am just getting around to posting it now. The story is as current now as it was then. It is terrifying, in fact.

 

Some charter schools are pressure cookers. Some take the “no excuses” idea to an extreme. The mother in this post tells what happened to her son at the BASIS school in San Antonio. He couldn’t live up to their expectations. They were trying to mold him, pummel him, compel him to measure up. He cracked. No excuses.

 

Start with the education:

 

The Education

 
Our son is a 6th grade student. His education at BASIS included Chemistry, Physics, Algebra, Art History, World History, Biology, Physical Education. Every night starting the first day of school, he was assigned between 3-5 hours worth of homework. Throughout the school year, he gave up all extracurricular activities in order to complete the homework requirements. By the end of the school year, he would come home at 4 pm, open his books and go to bed at 9 pm only stopping to eat dinner. If he did not have his homework completed 100% by the next school day, he would receive a zero on the homework assignment. The homework assignments and projects were also required on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Read the story. It is gripping and very sad. Also frightening.

According to news reports, Governor Tom Wolf will replace Bill Green, chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, with fellow member of the commission, Marjorie Neff.

 

Governor Wolf had asked the Commission not to approve any new charter schools because of the city’s dire financial situation, but it approved five new charters. Neff was the only commissioner to oppose all five charters. She is a former principal of a district high school.

 

Green says he will challenge his removal in court.

Edward Johnson, a Deming adherent who believes in system reform, challenges the policymakers in Atlanta: stop blaming the parents, stop tinkering, stop the disruption: instead, fix the system.

Johnson writes:

Georgia administered its standardized tests, the Criterion-referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), from spring, 1999, though spring, 2014, to elementary and middle school children. At just about every year along the way, APS leadership could have taken CRCT results as an assessment of the district as a system. Had they done that, then maybe APS leadership would have realized long ago that entering first graders were always ready for APS but APS was always not ready for the entering first graders, with respect to the district having the capability to sustain, let alone the capability to advance, the first graders’ learning competencies.

CRCT results showed time and again that APS lacks the capability to sustain students’ learning competencies beyond first grade, relative to the state. APS first grade as a system generally performed better than the state. (Note: systems perform, children learn.) Absent interpreting CRCT results as systemic assessment, APS leadership and many others make the leap to “supposing” the problem is “out there” with the parents of the children that lack early childhood education. Consequently, APS leadership continues to harry certain parents of young children to step up to the plate when those very parents are already at the plate. APS just can’t see that they are, in spite of their data-driven decision making. CRCT results held the opportunity for APS leadership to see, and to use, the results as assessment of the district as a system and not of the children and not of their parents and not of the teachers. CRCT results showed year after year that first graders were ready for APS but APS was not ready for first graders. And in that situation was a higher leverage point from which to move toward improving APS as a system.

But having missed that opportunity, we now have APS leadership that thinks turning the district into a Charter System will do the trick. It will not. It will not simply because turning APS into a Charter System epitomizes the very meaning of failure to understand what a system is. Worse, the whole school-reform and charter school garb clocking efforts to privatize public education epitomizes the “blame game” institutionalized especially in so-called urban districts, where ultimately great social harm will emerge because of it. Turning APS into a Charter System is a lower leverage point that can only aim for change — disruptive change, at that — but not improvement. Change inherently is nonaligned, but improvement inherently is aligned.

The kind of reductive, failure to understand what a system is thinking that has decided to turn APS into a Charter System is the very same kind of reductive thinking that has decided that Georgia needs a statewide “Opportunity School District” (OSD) like that of New Orleans’ post-Katrina Recovery School District (RSD).

And it is the kind of reductive thinking that, on the one hand, sees no contradiction in striving to “offer better opportunities for ‘historically underserved’ children” and, on the other hand, subjecting those children to a computer-adaptive assessment system that “allows students and teachers to better predict performance on high stakes tests.” Why would APS leadership want to do that, but for mistakenly believing doing so embodies normal ethics and mores? “One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole” (Mahatma Gandhi).

APS leadership has yet to realize, let alone to understand, that the problem is “in here, with us” and not “out there,” with the parents. So, please APS, enough with the harrying of parents of children supposedly lacking early childhood education. It’s the children’s job to harry their parents, not yours.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
(404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

“There is no difference in culture between the things that actually count.”
–W. Edwards Deming

Los Angeles school board member Steve Zimmer supports fellow board member Bennett Kayser, who has been the target of vicious attacks by the charter industry. Kayser has also been endorsed by Board chairman Dr. Richard Vladovic.

Here is Bennett’s website:

http://www.bennett2015.com/about.html

Here is how to volunteer to help:

http://www.bennett2015.com/events.html

By Steve Zimmer

Exactly two years ago, The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) sent out a series of campaign hit pieces blaming me for the budget cuts that hit LAUSD during the great recession. They attacked me on every front they could with over three million dollars raised from the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and Eli Broad. It was the ugliest, most expensive school board campaign in the history of the nation. We thought it couldn’t get any worse.

Then, last summer CCSA came after Dr. George McKenna with a vengeance. With lies, filth and distortion they tried to mar the career of one of the most beloved educators ever to teach and lead schools in South Los Angeles. The effort failed and McKenna won handily. We thought we had seen the worst.

We were wrong.

In the current School Board election campaign the Charter Schools Association has turned their sights on my colleague Bennett Kayser. In an onslaught of mail, radio and TV commercials, CCSA has gone completely off the rails in their effort to vilify Bennett Kayser. The first mailer attacks Kayser as a racist (http://bit.ly/racistattack) despite the fact that he has a 100% voting record on every major district transformation supported by civil rights groups. They claim he protected child molesters (http://bit.ly/distortingrecordsondismissals) when the entire Board has voted to dismiss every single teacher accused of crimes against children . The most disgusting TV advertisement (http://bit.ly/MockingDisability) directly mocks and mimics his public fight against Parkinson’s.

We have never, ever seen attacks like these in political campaigns.

Bennett Kayser is a good man. His entire adult life has been devoted to public service. And he is an outstanding policy maker. He has been a leading advocate on the Board in support of Early Childhood Education, Adult Education, Arts Education and Immigrant Rights. His courage in his fight against Parkinson’s has been a ray of hope to families fighting neurological diseases.

So why is the Charter Schools Association so hell bent on destroying this man?

One reason and one reason only: he votes against charter schools. Not all charter schools. But most. He has many explanations for this including that charter schools do not serve an equitable number of special education students.

It is fair to disagree with Kayser. In a tough campaign it is fair to attack him for voting against charters. But this is not what the Charter Schools Association is doing.

CCSA seeks to take over the Board of Education by any means necessary. The Association believes in a private sector, corporate model for privatizing our public schools. If CCSA’s candidate, Ref Rodriguez, wins on March 3rd, CCSA will gain control of the LAUSD Board. This will mean an even greater expansion of charter schools and a much greater number of colocations on district campuses, without concern for the financial stability of our district or its impact on district students.

But that’s not the most important reason we should stand against what CCSA is doing.

We should stand against this because it is morally and ethically wrong. By equating voting against a charter school to racism, CCSA cheapens the deep struggles that still face our city and our nation. The crimes against children in school districts are both heinous acts and moral outrages. But to use the suffering of children and families as a campaign issue is the lowest form of political exploitation I have ever seen.

The most shocking attack is the attack on Mr. Kayser’s disability. I have seen very closely how difficult Bennett’s struggle against Parkinson’s is. It is a disease that affects his mobility, physical stability and his speech. But Parkinson’s does not affect Bennett Kayser cognitively nor does it impair his conscience. Bennett Kayser is absolutely fit to serve a second term on the school board. Bennett talks openly about Parkinson’s and uses his profile to raise awareness and allay fears about his disease. His courage to face down illness and to battle publicly should be celebrated not derided.

Do not let the Charter School Association get away with this. They are not only destroying a man; they are degrading our entire electoral process. This is one of those moments when if you do not directly stand against this, you are complicit.

This is especially true for every charter school that is a member of CCSA. If you think it is wrong to dehumanize a person, call upon the leadership of the organization that represents your schools to take these ads down.

Do not let Ref Rodriguez get away with this.

The candidate will tell you he has nothing to do with this. But when a candidate directly or indirectly accepts the dehumanization of his or her opponent it raises serious questions about their character. The willingness to view those who disagree with you as less than human is what actually raises questions about one’s fitness to serve. I have grave concerns that the ethical recklessness that has driven this campaign will become the operational norm of the Board of Education if CCSA is successful in taking control.

Finally, it is a time to lead. We cannot let Bennett Kayser stand alone.

I call on all of our elected leadership and community leadership to stand against the moral low bar of this campaign. If we allow the public tar and feathering of those who follow their conscience to become an acceptable norm, we are endangering the very republic itself; we are rupturing the fibers of our social contract. Stand up and call on CCSA to take down its commercials and apologize for its mailers (jed@calcharters.org). Stand next to the courageous charters to withdraw their membership from CCSA.

And most importantly, let us all commit to re-focusing our attention on children, their families and their school communities. While we argue and hurt one another their dreams languish. It is these dreams, after all, to which we are all accountable.

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