Archives for category: Charter Schools

Anthony Cody <a href=”http://www.livingindialogue.com/pillars-reform-collapsing-reformers-contemplate-defeat that the so-called “reform movement” is collapsing. None of its strategies work.

1. TFA is having recruitment problems. Applications are down 25%. Criticism is coming from ex-corps members who realize they were ill-prepared.

2. Charter schools are no panacea, and many are struggling, even failing.

“But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform “No Child Left Behind,” that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.”

3. The new and improved tests the reformers promised are not working well and are creating massive parental resistance.

4. VAM is not working anywhere.

5. Constant disruption may not be such a good strategy after all.

Cody sagely writes:

“It is perhaps a basic truth that it is easier to tear something down than to build something new. This may explain some of the trouble reformers are facing. Our schools are flawed in many ways, and do not deliver the sorts of opportunities we want all children to have access to. Racial and economic segregation, inequitable funding, and the replication of privilege are endemic — though truly addressing these issues will require change that goes far beyond the walls of our classrooms.

“Corporate-sponsored reformers have blamed the very institution of public education for these problems, and have set forth a set of alternatives and strategies to overcome social inequities. Here we are a decade into this project, and the alternative structures are collapsing, one by one.”

In response to two recent studies of Ohio charter schools, Governor John Kasich said that he would recommend stronger oversight of the state’s charters. This is noteworthy because charter operators have generously funded the campaigns of the governors and Republican legislators.

Critics of Ohio’s charter sector are skeptical. They note (off the record, of course) that the wealthiest charter operators have already made their campaign contributions for this election cycle. We will see if Governor Kasich proves them wrong.

 

The Columbus Dispatch wrote:

 

Gov. John Kasich pledged yesterday to crack down on shady Ohio charter-school operators in his upcoming budget proposal.

 

In a year-end speech to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the governor also threw out broad hints of possible tax changes, called for greater regulation on fracking wellheads and defended religious involvement in a new state-funded program with public schools.

 

“We are going to fix the lack of regulation on charter schools,” he said. “There is no excuse for people coming in here and taking advantage of anything. So we will be putting some tough rules into our budget.”

 

Two studies released this month blasted state laws and regulations that allow poor-performing Ohio charter schools to flourish and management companies to profit off the tax-funded privately operated schools. The studies showed that charter-school students receive fewer days of learning than youngsters at traditional public schools. Both reports were commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a pro-charter-school organization urging more accountability of charter schools.

 

Richard A. Ross, state schools superintendent, said court actions and “persuasiveness” have failed to fix problems with some charter-school operators.

 

The changes will seek to exert more state control over charter-school sponsors — “operationally, financially and educationally” — to ensure high-quality educations for charter students, Ross said.

 

 

In a shockingly rare move, Néw York’s Board of Regents refused to approve a batch of charters recommended for renewal by Néw York City.

Regents’ chair Merryl Tisch has expressed her desire to expand the charter sector. But each of the schools delayed or denied had serious problems, either with low test scores or an unusually harsh disciplinary policy.

The flap last month over an Albany charter proposal may have made the Regents willing to exercise oversight.

On his blog, Julian Vasquez Heilig reports that the California Charter Schools Association is shocked! shocked! to learn that some charters require parents to volunteer time or pay not to volunteer their time. He discusses a survey conducted by a civil rights group called Public Advocates, which reached this conclusion.

 

 

Apparently the California Charter School Association hasn’t heard of such a thing happening in practice or charter school policy, even though Public Advocates delivered the evidence to the public via parent whistleblowers and publicly available policy documents. Public Advocates’ report documented its year-long investigation into an inequitable and illegal practice by some of California’s charter schools, and calls for charter schools to end requiring payment in lieu of volunteer hours. Public Advocates is demanding that the state take immediate action to stop the practice and increase its oversight of charter schools more generally.

 

Heilig quotes the story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

 

At least 170 California charter schools are violating the state Constitution by requiring parents to volunteer up to 100 hours a year if they want their kids to participate in field trips and other activities or remain enrolled in the school, according to civil rights lawyers in a report released Thursday.

 

A survey of 555 California charter schools — about half of all charters in the state — found that nearly a third impose family volunteer time, with some allowing parents to pay $5 to $25 per hour to buy their way out of the commitment.

 

“One of the reasons it’s so alarming to us is it’s punishing a kid for something that’s not the kid’s fault,” said Hilary Hammel, attorney at the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates and lead author on the report.

 

Hammel cited an Oakland parent who found on the first day of seventh grade that her son was not enrolled at his charter school because she had not completed the required volunteer hours the previous year. She was told she could either pay $300 on the spot or go buy three large boxes of paper.

 

She went and bought $80 worth of paper and returned to enroll her son.

 

Does that happen in public schools too?

 

 

 

 

Marian Wang of ProPublica writes that Néw York’s First Deputy Comptroller, Pete Grannis, can’t understand why charter school regulators in the state are uninterested in charter school accountability for public funds.

Grannis has contacted state and city officials about his concerns and received no response.

“Pete Grannis, New York State’s First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.

“Such setups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there’s a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.

“Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified,” he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. “Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities.”

“It’s a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state’s major charter-school regulators – New York City’s Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York.

“He never heard back from any of them. “No response whatsoever,” Grannis said. Not even, he added, a “‘Thank you for your letter, we’ll look into it.’ That would have been the normal bureaucratic response….”

“To Grannis, though, his efforts aren’t about politics. His office is “agnostic on charters,” as he put it. His office also audits the finances of traditional public-school districts, he pointed out.

“We’re the fiscal monitors. We watch over the use or misuse of public funds,” Grannis said. “This isn’t meant to be anti-charter. Our job is not to be pro or anti.”

His job is to monitor the use of public funds, wherever it goes. Apparently no one else cares.

Marian Wang of ProPublica reports on a curious phenomenon in the charter sector: “nonprofit” charters that are run by for-profit corporations.

“A couple of years ago, auditors looked at the books of a charter school in Buffalo, New York, and were taken aback by what they found. Like all charter schools, Buffalo United Charter School is funded with taxpayer dollars.

“The school is also a nonprofit. But as the New York State auditors wrote, Buffalo United was sending ” virtually all of the School’s revenues” directly to a for-profit company hired to handle its day-to-day operations.

“Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances.

“In the case of Buffalo United, the auditors found that the school board had little idea about exactly how the company – a large management firm called National Heritage Academies – was spending the school’s money. The school’s board still had to approve overall budgets, but it appeared to accept the company’s numbers with few questions. The signoff was “essentially meaningless,” the auditors wrote.

“In the charter-school sector, this arrangement is known as a “sweeps” contract because nearly all of a school’s public dollars – anywhere from 95 to 100 percent – is “swept” into a charter-management company.

“The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm like National Heritage Academies, it’s also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits.

“It’s really just a pass-through for for-profit entities,” said Eric Hall, an attorney in Colorado Springs who specializes in work with charter schools and has come across many sweeps contracts. “In what sense is that a nonprofit endeavor? It’s not….”

“In Michigan, where NHA is the largest charter-school operator, state education regulators have voiced similar frustrations about the degree to which these private firms are shielded from having to answer to the public about how money is spent.

“I can’t FOIA National Heritage Academies,” said Casandra Ulbrich, Vice President of the Michigan State Board of Education, referring to the right to request public documents from public agencies. “I don’t know who they’re subcontracting with, I don’t know if they’re bid out. I don’t know if there are any conflicts of interest. This is information we as taxpayers don’t have a right to.”

“Last year, Ulbrich and the State Board of Education had called for more transparency to be brought to the financial dealings of charter-management firms. They specifically asked the legislature to outlaw sweeps contracts. “Unfortunately,” Ulbrich said, “it fell on deaf ears.”

Do taxpayers know that they are funding for-profit corporations that are not subject to public audit?

“If you have information about charter schools and their profits or oversight — or any other tips — email us at charters@propublica.org.”

Troy LaRaviere, head of the Chicago Principals’ Association, writes that school officials adjusted the scores of Chicago charter schools to make it appear that they made bigger gains than originally reported.

The original data showed that students in public schools were. Performing better than their peers in charter school.

(Read Peter Greene here on this shenanigan.)

This is a small part of Laraviere’s findings:

“Our findings were published in a Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed. In addition, the Sun-Times published its own independent analysis, which affirmed our findings. Our analysis was based on a file containing the school level results of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. This file was released by the CPS Office of Accountability in early August. That original file is no longer available on the Office of Accountability website. At some point between the publication of our findings and the release of school ratings, CPS removed the original file containing school growth data and replaced it with a different version. There are no indications or acknowledgements on the site that the data in the file has been changed.

“Fortunately, we saved the original version.

“An analysis of both versions indicates massive changes were made to the student growth data for charter schools at some point during the last few months as CPS delayed the release of school quality ratings.

“Findings

“We found these changes led to certain schools appearing to have greater academic growth by lowering the average pretest scores while leaving the posttest scores as they were. For other schools, the changes raised the pretest scores and once again left the posttest scores as they were, giving the impression of less student growth.

“The changes were made to the data for nearly every charter school while affecting less than 20 public schools. Charter school scores were changed by more than 50 percentile points in some cases while most of the public school changes were 2 points or less.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the story. LaRaviere said to the Sun-Times:

““In a system based on ‘choice,’ parents and other stakeholders must be provided with accurate indicators of school quality. [CPS’ ratings system] cannot serve this purpose if there are clouds of suspicion about tampering with the data used to determine these ratings,” LaRaviere said in an email.”

In a historic first, the Dr. King charter school in the New Orleans Recovery School District asked to return to the Orleans Parish Board.

“Friends of King Schools made history Tuesday by becoming the first Recovery School District charter school board to seek to return a campus to the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board.

“The charter school board opted to leave a system built on choice, the all-charter RSD, by exercising its right to choose its authorizer. The vote to return Dr. King Charter School to the School Board was unanimous, said Orleans Parish School Board member Ira Thomas, who was in attendance. Thomas represents the district that includes King.

“The transfer must still be approved by the state school board and parish school board.”

For years, charter advocates have insisted that charters enroll exactly the same kids as public schools and get better results.

Daniel S. Katz writes that Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute broke the golden rule of education “reform”: he told the truth about charters, he talked about the rules of the club.

Here is the video in which Margaret Raymond of CREDO explains to the Cleveland City Club how charters are doing in Ohio. At the 50-minute mark, she explains why the market model doesn’t work for public schools.

Read the key quote here.

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