Archives for category: Charter Schools

A message from Donald Cohen of “In the Public Interest,” which follows news about privatization of public services.

“Cashing in on Kids, a joint project of In the Public Interest and the American Federation of Teachers, is working to ensure that parents, teachers, students and taxpayers continue to have a strong voice in how we run our schools and educate our nation’s children. Below is an action that needs your attention.

“The FBI is currently investigating Concept Schools, Inc., a charter management company, which operates nineteen schools in the state of Ohio. The federal investigation is for “white-collar crime,” self-dealing, and misusing federal money meant for the neediest students.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations, it is likely that all nineteen Concept charter schools will be shut down, but too often this puts taxpayers on the hook for the schools’ liabilities and debts.

“Can you sign our petition today and help us protect taxpayers from any more grief and costs created by Concept Schools?

“That’s why we are demanding that the Ohio Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education take the necessary steps to protect taxpayers’ and students’ interests against further wrongdoing on the part of Concept Schools.

“Total enrollment in Concept Schools in Ohio is nearly 6,700 students and is funded by $48.5 million from state taxpayers. Working men and women in Ohio should not be forced to spend a single dime due to the potential closure of Concept Schools as the result of its own misconduct.

“State education officials have the power under Ohio law to take back control of Concept Charters as the schools’ sponsor and require that each of the nineteen Concept Schools post a “bond payable to the state or to file with the state superintendent a guarantee, which shall be used to pay the state any moneys owed by the community school in the event the schools closes.”

“Please add your voice to those of parents, students and taxpayers across the country upset by poor oversight over charter schools and demand that we take back control of our schools. It is time that for-profit charter school operators like Concept Schools be held accountable and pay for their own wrongdoing, instead of taxpayers footing the bill.

“Sign our petition today.”

Sincerely,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director
In the Public Interest

An investigation of Concept Schools charter chain in Ohio was expanded, adding two more schools where allegations of test tampering and misuse of public funds have been made.

Some 400 supporters of the schools rallied for them at the Statehouse.

“COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state said Tuesday its inquiry into alleged misconduct inside an embattled charter school chain has expanded to two additional Ohio cities, even as hundreds of parents and alumni descended on the state capital to share their positive experiences at the schools.

“The Ohio Department of Education was already investigating a Dayton-area Horizon Academy after teachers there shared accounts in July of sex games, test tampering and other potentially criminal misdeeds.

“Spokesman John Charlton told The Associated Press on Tuesday that after that meeting the state received additional complaints about schools in Columbus and Cincinnati run by the same operator, Chicago-based Concept Schools. Both the complaints were against Horizon Science academies, he said. One was unsolicited and the other resulted from a department request that any issues at the schools be brought to the state’s attention.

“Salim Ucan, a Concept Schools vice president in Columbus for a rally of advocates, said the company was unaware until Tuesday that additional complaints had been added to the state’s review…..”

“Democratic state Reps. Mike Foley and Robert Hagan also testified before the state school board, questioning who was paying Blue Ribbon Friends and whether Tuesday’s events involved any public money.

“Ucan said the company has always worked with public relations firms, and gave this particular contract to an Ohio company.

“Our parents are here to let their voice be heard, that there may be a few former teachers complaining and bringing up the allegations and accusations, but there are hundreds more — if not thousands more — who could share the opposite of what’s been presented and portrayed over the last few months,” he said…..”

“The FBI is investigating charter schools in several states, including four Concept Schools locations in Ohio, which critics allege are associated with the influential U.S.-based Muslim cleric and Turkish scholar Fethullah Gulen. Among allegations are sexual misconduct, test tampering and misuse of public funds. Gulen lives a reclusive life in Pennsylvania.

“Concept Schools, which operates 17 public charter schools in Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Lorain, Springfield and Youngstown under the names Horizon Academy and Noble Academy, claims it has no affiliation with Gulen and his religious and social movement, often called Hizmet.

“Ucan objected to Concept Schools being characterized as “Gulen schools.” He said they’re public charter schools.”

Ucan compared Gulen to Horace Mann.

Stephen Dyer has some amazing news in his excellent blog. I recently reposted his analysis of charter school performance in Ohio, which is mostly dismal. Nearly half the charters in the state earned a grade of F on their state report card.

Now he reports the following:

“StudentsFirst Ohio’s Executive Director Greg Harris has made some pretty important statements. Last year, he said in the Akron Beacon Journal that “a lot of times it has to do not with how well your school is performing, but how well your lobbyist is paid.”

“To hear a pro-charter organization say we need to get politics out of the argument and implore the legislature to stop pouring more money into bad charters was unheard of before last year.

“Harris was at it again this morning in the Columbus Dispatch. Here’s what he said:

“But the group will also warn parents against the slick advertising campaigns of bad charter operators.

“We think a lot of them (charters) need to be closed, because they’re not doing a good job,” Harris said. “We think charters have a role in the education base, but we also think most of the charters in Ohio stink…..”

“To hear that Ohio’s charters have serious quality issues is unheard of from Ohio’s charter school advocacy community, until now.

“I know Harris a bit, having worked with him while he was at Knowledge Works and since. He’s a good, sincere person who really does not like bad charters because he really believes in good ones. And while we differ on some major topics, on this we agree: Ohio’s Charters mostly stink, and the bad ones need to be shut down.”

This is good news. Will the Legislature and Governor Kasich listen?

The letter grades for Ohio schools were posted recently, and most charter schools in Summit County were rated F.

Across Ohio, 47% of 251 charters saw a drop in scores. In Summit County, with 9 charters, only two improved. The only charter to receive an A grade is run by the county, not entrepreneurs.

The other 7 charters in Summit County were rated F.

“Charter schools managed by for-profit companies reported the lowest test results.

“The lowest performers included: Imagine Leadership Akron on Romig Road, managed by Virginia-based Imagine Schools; STEAM Academy Akron, run by Mosaica Education, an international company; Main Street Preparatory Academy, managed by Florida-based Cambridge Education Group, which also runs [high-performiing] Colonial Preparatory Academy; and University Academy and the defunct Brown Street Academy, each managed by Akron-based White Hat Management.

Stephen Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, has analyzed the latest state report cards. The state’s Governor, John Kasich, is pro-charter, pro-voucher, and pro-market forces. He is no friend to public education. The legislature is the same. They want more schools that are privately managed. As we saw in a post yesterday, Ohio has a parent trigger law, and (as I posted yesterday) the State Education Department has hired StudentsFirst (founded by Michelle Rhee) to inform parents in Columbus about their right to convert their low-performing public school to a charter or hand it over to a charter management organization. Given the statistics in this post, the odds are that the parents will turn their low-performing public school into an even lower-performing charter school, with no hope of escape.

 

Yet when the state report cards came out, public schools overwhelmingly received higher grades than charter schools. Dyer explains in this post that “The Ohio Report Cards are now all out, and the news is worse for Ohio’s embattled Charter Schools than it was last year. Charter Schools received more Fs than As, Bs and Cs combined. Their percentage of Fs went up from about 41% last year to nearly 44% this year.” Think of it, nearly half the charters in the state earned an F grade, yet the state wants MORE of them.

 

Dyer also found that the public schools in the Big 8–Ohio’s urban districts–face more challenges than charters, yet still outperform the urban charters. He writes:

 

In further analyzing the Ohio Report Card data released today, schools in Ohio’s Big 8 urban centers (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) scored higher on their performance index score (the closest thing Ohio has to an overall performance assessment at this point) than Charter Schools, despite having substantially higher percentages of children who were economically disadvantaged. A staggering 51% of Big 8 urban buildings have more than 95% of their students designated as economically disadvantaged (the Ohio Department of Education only says buildings have “>95.0″ if their economic disadvantaged number is higher than 95%).

 

So, despite having more than half their buildings with, for all intents and purposes, all their kids economically disadvantaged, Ohio’s Big 8 urban buildings actually perform better, on average, than Ohio’s Charter Schools, which were originally intended to “save” children from “failing” urban buildings.

 

Dyer also notes that “Of the top 200 PI [Performance Index] scores, 10 are Charters, 190 are districts. Of the bottom 200 PI scores, 21 are districts and 179 are Charters.”

 

When Dyer looked at Value-Added Measures for districts, the public school districts still outperformed charters, showing more test score growth than charters.

 

The puzzle in these results is why Ohio policymakers–the Governor and the Legislature–want more charters. The answer, as we have observed again and again, is that sponsors and advocates for charters make large political contributions to elected officials. They have become a potent special interest group. This is a case where results don’t matter.

 

The question is, who will save poor children from failing charter schools? Or will Ohio recklessly continue to authorize more charter schools without regard to the performance of the charter sector?

 

I should point out here, as I have in the past, that I think school report cards with a single letter grade, is one of the stupidest public policy ideas in the “reform” bag of tricks. There is no way that a letter grade can accurately reflect the work of a complex institution or the many people in it. Think of a single child coming home from school with a report card that contained only one letter, and it gives some notion of what a simplistic idea it is to grade an entire school in this way. Nonetheless, this is the system now in use in many states (pioneered by the master of ersatz reform, Jeb Bush), so I report what the state reports.

 

 

 

 

In this post, Daniel Katz, director of secondary education and secondary special education teacher preparation at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, interviews Mindy Rosier about what it is like to work in a public school that shares the same building with one of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter schools. Rosier is a teacher at PS 811, the Mickey Mantle School, which serves children with special needs. PS 811 is situated within PS 149 in Harlem, a traditional public school; it serves about 100 children with autism and other special needs. The Success Academy charter school was co-located inside PS 149 in 2006. What is it like to co-exist with SA?

 

Here is a sample:

 

“There is definitely an us vs. them feeling in the air. I’ve been told that they have shiny clean floors, new doors, fancy bathrooms, etc. Meanwhile, we have teachers who have bought mops and even a vacuum cleaner to clean their rooms for they feel what is done is not efficient enough. Near our entrance, we have an adult bathroom. It is for staff and our parents. Success Academy parents as well have used it. For many months that bathroom went out of order. Honestly, I am not even sure it is fixed yet, but after all this time, I really hope so. So we would have to either use the closet of a bathroom in the staff lunch area or use one of the kids’ bathroom when it is not in use. You and I know that had that been an SA bathroom, it would have been fixed by the next day. SA also throws out tons of new or practically new materials often. At first, some of their teachers would sneak us some materials thinking we could benefit from it. They stopped out of fear. With all the great stuff that they have thrown out, they got angry when they found out that teachers from P.S.149 and I believe some of our teachers too would go through the piles and take what we could use. Well, now they only throw out their garbage shortly before pick up so that no one could get at it. Nice, right?”

The New York City Parents Blog compiled the many complaints of parents and teachers about Daniel Bergner’s article about Eva Moskowitz. Bergner interviewed many critics, but he quoted only two: me and Michael Mulgrew of the UFT.

Unlike the magazine article, the post explains that the main reason Mayor de Blasio rejected Moskowitz’s efforts to expand within PS 149 was that it would cause the displacement of children with special needs, some of whom are severely disabled. It was ironic that the $5-6 million TV ad campaign that Eva’s Wall Street backers ran on her behalf last spring claimed that the Mayor was forcing SA children out of their schools by denying them space, when the reverse was true: Moskowitz wanted to increase the size of her school at the expense of children with disabilities.

The ad campaign paid off for Moskowitz. Many of the same Wall Street tycoons who backed Eva also funded Cuomo’s campaign, so of course Cuomo supported Eva and cut the ground out from under the Mayor’s feet, with the help of the legislature. Eva got free rent, the right to expand in public space, and other privileges. But this was not what you saw in the New York Times article.

For further information contact:

Clovis Gallon, 717-487-2530, clo95@hotmail.com
Lauri Rakoff, 717-577-8327, lrakoff@psea.org
YORK CITIZENS TO SCHOOL BOARD: STOP THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF OUR SCHOOLS
Community members will march outside School Board, Community Education Council meetings
York, Pa. (Sept. 12, 2014) – Parents, educators, and members of the York community are calling on York City School Board members to reject the bids of two out-of-state charter corporations competing to take over the city’s public schools.
The School Board is reviewing proposals from Charter Schools USA and Mosaica Education, Inc. to take over every one of the city’s public schools. This would be a first-of-its-kind experiment in Pennsylvania public education, allowing a private corporation to profit from the education of York schoolchildren.
“No other school district in Pennsylvania has handed over every one of its public schools to a for-profit charter corporation,” said Clovis Gallon, a teacher and member of the York City Education Association. “York students should not be treated like guinea pigs in some grand experiment.”
Parents, educators, and members of the York community will march outside of the York City School Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 17 and a Charter School Presentation for the Community Education Council on Wednesday, Sept. 24.
The details of both events are below. Media coverage is encouraged.
What: York City School Board Meeting

Where: York City Schools Administration Building

When: Wed., Sept. 17, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (School Board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.)

Details: The march will occur outside the Administration Building. Participants will then attend the School Board meeting.

What: Community Charter School Presentation

Where: Hannah Penn K-8 School

When: Wed., Sept. 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (Community Education Council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.)

Details: The march will occur outside the school cafeteria. Participants will then attend the Community Education Council meeting and Charter School Presentation.

The corporate takeover experiment is being pushed by the York City School District’s chief recovery officer, an appointee of Gov. Tom Corbett, who falsely claims this is the district’s only hope in the face of financial challenges.

“Gov. Corbett has starved York’s public schools of needed resources, and now his appointed chief recovery officer is blaming the city’s schools for not providing children with a rich enough educational diet,” said Gallon. “What York schools really need is for state lawmakers to reverse the Corbett funding cuts.”

York community members look forward to sending a message to school officials that they support their community schools and strongly oppose a corporate takeover by an out-of-state charter operator.

“Local taxpayers and elected officials should be making decisions about the education of York’s children – not an out-of-state corporation with its eye on the bottom line,” said Gallon.

Bill Phillis founded the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition, which advocates for public schools and exposes for-profit scams.

He writes here:

Imagine Schools, Inc.: For-profit, out- of- state business operation took $44.9 million of Ohio school districts’ funds last school year

Imagine Schools, Inc., based in Arlington, VA, has 18 Ohio business centers, authorized by eight different charter school sponsors. During the 2013-2014 school year, this for-profit company enrolled 6,235 students at a cost of $45 million to Ohio school districts.

Each of these 18 charter schools has a sponsor and a board of directors. The Ohio Department of Education and Ohio charter school sponsors typically provide limited monitoring and oversight. The boards of the Imagine Schools, Inc. appear to be mere rubber stamps of company decisions. (A company internal memo surfaced in which charter school principals were admonished to keep boards in line with company decisions because the schools belonged to the company.)

Since the financial operation of this school district-funded enterprise is hidden from public view, the amount of tax money that is converted to profits is a secret.

My resident school district had a deduction of $3,702,897.67 for Imagine Schools, Inc. last school year. As a taxpayer and supporter of my school district, board of education, administration and district employees, I object to a portion of the school district tax money being taken from my school district and handed to entities that have little or no transparency or accountability. I, along with other school district residents, have no access to the unaccountable financial operation of Imagine Schools, Inc. School districts’ finances, on the other hand, are available to citizens.

The Ohio Department of Education deducted $15,570,134.09 from my resident school district for students going to charter schools. These funds went to 66 charter schools, most of which had a lower state report card rating than the district.

State officials should eliminate the for-profit companies from the Ohio charter school industry.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A
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Tom Ratliff, a member of the Texas state Board of Education, wrote this article for the Longview News-Journal. It is a warning to parents not to assume that charter schools are better than public schools. On average, he says, the opposite is true.

 

Public schools ranked higher for financial accountability:

 

During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year of the rating), Texas’ traditional public schools far outperformed charter schools in both academic and financial measurements. Don’t take my word for it, look at the information straight from the Texas Education Agency:
Financial accountability: bit.ly/1rIFYsm
Academic accountability: bit.ly/1pXZ3RZ
To summarize these reports, I offer the following:
The FIRST rating is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas and, according to the education agency, is designed to “encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.” I think we all agree, that’s a good thing to measure.
According to the agency, the FIRST rating uses 20 “established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.” How did the schools do? Glad you asked.
Traditional ISDs: 89 percent ranked “superior” and 1.2 percent ranked “substandard.”
Charter schools: 37 percent ranked “superior” and 20 percent ranked “substandard.”
Yes, one out of five charter schools ranked “substandard” on how they spend the tax dollars supporting them, while almost 9 out of 10 ISDs ranked “superior”.

 

And public schools outperform charter schools academically too:

 

Let’s shift our attention to academic performance. If the academic performance is good, the taxpaying public might be more understanding of a low rating on a financial measure. Unfortunately, the charters do not compare well there, either, under the 2014 TEA Accountability System.
Traditional ISDs: 92.6 percent met standard, while 7.4 percent did not.
Charter schools 77.7 percent met standard, while 17.3 percent did not.
Again, almost one out of five charter schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.

 

And then Tom Ratliff asks the best question of all:

 

“Where is the outrage from groups like the Texas Association of Business or the Austin Chamber of Commerce?” Those groups rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the shortcomings of traditional ISDs. Why not express concerns when numbers like these relate to charter schools? If these numbers were attributable to ISDs, you can bet those groups would be flying planes around the Capitol and holding press conferences like they have in the past. A little consistency would be nice when asking for taxpayer-funded schools to perform as expected.”

 

Ratliff points out that his father wrote the original charter law. It is refreshing to see a policymaker looking at the data and seeing that competition does not translate into better education or more accountability. By the way, Tom’s father Bill Ratliff –former Lieutenant Governor of Texas–is already a member of the blog’s honor roll for his willingness to speak up and think for himself. A good Texas family.

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