Archives for category: Ohio

In September, I wrote about Dawn Neely-Randall, a teacher in her 25th year of teaching in Ohio who decided she had to speak out against the testing madness that had swept the nation. I said if there were 1,000 teachers with her gumption in Ohio (and every other state), we could drive the “reformers” out of our schools and back to the smoke-filled rooms and financial institutions where they came from (of I didn’t exactly say that, I meant it).

Dawn has continued to speak out, and she sent me her Facebook page, which has pictures of her in conversation with Governor John Kasich. Governor Kasich looks on approvingly while charter pirates raid the state treasury of about $1 billion a year. He doesn’t worry about their poor performance or about their high profits because they also are generous contributors to his party! He doesn’t worry about wasting the lives of Ohio’s children by putting them in schools run by mercenaries. He doesn’t care about squandering the public’s money intended for education.

Dawn sent this new letter:

“Diane, I just thought I’d share my FB post from today. I’ve now talked with 1 Governor (and 1 Governor Candidate); 3 Senators; 6 State Reps; 1 Congress Woman (and 1 Congress Woman candidate); the Ohio Board of Education (twice); and the Ohio School Board. Here’s a photo of me trying to hold Governor Kasich to task over all this testing (who agreed that 18 hours for my fifth-graders “seems excessive” and who PROMISED I would be heard, but, of course, I have still not received the guaranteed phone call from our State of Ohio School Superintendent. (I’m the one who wrote the Washington Post piece of throwing students to the testing wolves…) In the meantime, parents in Ohio are starting to activate. It is all so overwhelming.

“Here is my FB post. Please see photos with Koch-funded and future Presidential candidate John Ka$ich from last Saturday at LCCC in Elyria, Ohio:

Dawn Neely-Randall

“Stress is really setting in.

“This morning, I awoke feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. I don’t know how one little rant on Facebook last March got me from just being a concerned teacher to being so out there politically and publicly. I have NO political aspirations and I have received NO compensation for anything I’ve done, however, as I’m sure you can imagine, once you enter the public arena, you become a target since there is no way to please everyone. I go to bed writing letters to legislators and stakeholders in my head and awake wondering what I can do next to stop all this testing madness for my students. It has become a heart and moral issue for me. It is all so out of control and if you were already on my FB page prior to March, you heard me forewarning that all this was coming. I have said before that I felt I was building an ark and telling everyone that a flood was coming and trying to get them to save their children and that is really how I feel. (And it is only going to get worse and is already happening in other parts of our country.) If things don’t change soon, my health really can’t continue to tolerate all this stress and I don’t know what I will do differently with my career next year, but I have a feeling that the testing students will have to sit through from February through May will be a deal breaker and will send me out of the classroom for good.

“The other problem is that the more I speak out, the more people want to refuse the tests which does, indeed, hurt a teacher’s evaluation rating (brilliant move by the State of Ohio to give students a zero for refusing a testing and penalizing teachers to keep teachers silent), so, you can imagine, this will not make me popular with my colleagues. However, what about the children? I feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Legislators from both sides are telling me they can’t help and that it will take a massive act of civil disobedience from parents to change things. Teachers have duct tape over their mouths. Many School Board members are starting to catch on (thank God) and I’m putting my hopes in the fact that they will take their roles very seriously as the first line of defense against the state harming the students on their watch. And in the midst of it all, slowly but surely, I have to teach my students to navigate the computer for all the online PARCC (Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers) testing coming their way and just the first introduction I gave them to the online practice test seemed to really freak (and stress) them out; I fear it is literally breaking my heart.

“Here’s a list of Ohio Department of Education testing hours JUST for 3rd through 8th grade (NOT INCLUDING) all the other state mandated testing, which adds ample hours to each school year and not including students’ course work testing as well. Remember, please that this will be the SAME child (your child or your neighbor’s child or your grandchild) testing from grade to grade to grade; add up the hours. Which grade level will suffer the most? The grade level AFTER the grade level that students were testing. In other words, each year that goes by, the more fried students will, of course, become. (Imagine how “happy” students will be about going to school by their middle school years and how dejected they will feel about testing by then.)

“How many drives to Florida could I make from Ohio in the same amount of time that students are testing 3rd through 8th grade? And remember, kindergarteners this year started testing first off this school year. Also, remember, this is just a partial list of hours students are tested. Is it just me, or is this so insanely insane?

“The Ohio Department of Education assessment staff is pleased to report session times for this year’s administration of Ohio’s New State Tests”:

“PARCC TESTNG 3rd Grade: 9.75 hours

4th Grade: 12.5 hours
5th Grade: 12.5 hours
6th Grade: 12.3 hours
7th Grade: 10.8 hours
8th Grade: 13.3 hours”

Thank you, Dawn. Thank you for your courage. This testing is not helping children, and you know it. It is a hoax intended to make public education look bad so the profiteers can move in and “save” more children from public education. They will open fly-by-night schools staffed by uncertified “teachers.” They will profit. Our kids will not. Keep fighting. As the scandals accumulate, and as voices like yours continue to be heard, the public will support you, not the people who seek to profit by destroying what belongs to the public.

I have always hoped that leaders of the charter industry would call out the frauds in their midst. Where to start? It looks like they have finally turned against the profiteering of Imagine charters. This is from politico.com:

“CRONY CAPITALISM IN THE CHARTER SECTOR? Imagine Columbus Primary Academy in Ohio plans to spend $700,000 on rent this school year. That’s more than the charter school will spend on salaries and benefits, The Columbus Dispatch reports [http://bit.ly/1yrG77D ]. The cost of rent will eat up more than half of the school’s annual state revenue. Meanwhile, Imagine Schools Inc. – one of the nation’s largest charter school operators – rakes in hundreds of thousands in public tax dollars. It’s all thanks to a complicated real estate maneuver, the Dispatch said Sunday. A subsidiary of Imagine Schools Inc., named SchoolHouse Finance, buys buildings and resells them for two or three times the purchase price. SchoolHouse Finance then leases the building from the new owner and rents the space back to Imagine. “It’s legal, but that doesn’t mean it should be,” said Greg Harris, Ohio director of StudentsFirst, an advocacy group that supports charter growth. “We don’t want charter-school operators profiting as landlords.”

- “Let’s call this what this is: Crony capitalism,” Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli tweeted [http://bit.ly/1s7ZXzT]. At least three states and Washington, D.C. are investigating Imagine for similar practices, the Dispatch noted. One state even shuttered schools operated by Imagine. After an investigation conducted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Missouri, the state board of education shut down six schools run by Imagine in 2012. The paper uncovered real estate deals similar to the ones happening in Ohio and poor academic performance.”

The Network for Public Education endorses candidates who share its values: supporting strong and better public schools, opposing high-stakes testing and privatization. We don’t know everyone running for office everywhere but endorse candidates who seek our endorsement, after a review of the records of all candidates in the race. We are ptoud to endorse Michael Charney, who is running for the state board of education in Ohio.

“The Network for Public Education endorses Michael Charney

“The Network for Public Education is proud to endorse Michael Charney for District 7 Ohio State Board of Education.

“Michael Charney was a social studies teacher for over 30 years. He has worked for smaller classes and to bring student, parent and teacher voices into decision making on public education. He also created community based literacy campaigns that ensured parents had books at home for their children, creating literacy friendly homes.

“Here’s what Charney has to say on high stakes standardized testing:

“Let’s end all high stakes standardized testing and replace the test with thoughtful teacher developed tests and performance assessments that will help teachers decide how best to make sure their instruction is working with all students.

“Stop hurting students with the overreliance on high stakes standardized testing.”

“Charney supports reducing class size:

“His plan would massively reduce class size so students can have personal attention. “Low-income students who enter kindergarten without a large vocabulary especially need that attention and high school teachers need smaller classes so that they will develop projects and in-depth writing assignments for their students.”

“Charney wants Congress to hold Hearings on Testing

“I support Congressional Hearings on standardized tests. Look at my website for the summaries of my listening sessions with Ohio educators to see more day to day examples of how high stakes standardized testing is hurting children, and driving teachers out of teaching.”

“Here’s what Ohioans say about Michael Charney.

“State Representative John Patterson:
“Michael Charney has been an educator and teacher for over 30 years. He gets it. He understands what needs to be done for public education.”

“Tom Schmida, retired teacher and former President of the Clevelnd Heights Teachers Union for 22 years:

“Charney is “incredibly passionate about public education and students. He will work with communities to provide them the very best instruction as well as resources.”

“He goes on to say, “Charney has always been a community activist, he founded Youth Voices in Cleveland. He is a stellar candidate.”

“Charney’s opponent is Sarah Fowler, a strong supporter of home-schooling.
According to the Education Action Group Foundation, Fowler says,
“Gay rights, Marxist ideals, and other elements of the left’s political agenda have slowly crept into school lesson plans with the help of teachers unions and their allies and it’s important to counter that influence to provide students with a proper education. I would say the union is definitely promoting that agenda.”

“According to the Education Action Group, Sarah Fowler says “American history in most Ohio public schools, for example, starts at the Civil War, omitting lessons on the people and documents that founded the United States of America.”

“This is not accurate according to the Ohio Department of Education, 8th grade students study U.S. History from 1492 to 1877.

“Michael Charney understands schools need to improve. His proposes to:

Stop the over-reliance on high-stakes tests

Protect student privacy and not allow the sharing of your children’s data

Increase parent engagement

Continue to support smaller classes

Two things you can do to support Michael Charney:

Today, donate

http://charney2014.com/Contribute.html

VOTE NOVEMBER 4th for Michael Charney

Ohio State School Board, District 7.

The Network for Public Education joins parents and teachers and community leaders throughout District 7 who know Michael Charney is the best candidate for the job. Please support MIchael on Tuesday, November 4!

This note of alarm comes from Denis Smith, a retired consultant in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office:

 

 
On Tuesday, September 23, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments in the notorious White Hat Management case, where the boards of 10 charter schools operated by White Hat Management have sued the operator to assert their right to control the physical assets of the schools. White Hat says that since it is the operator, all tangible property (student and office furniture, equipment, books and supplies) belongs to the company, while the boards maintain that the assets belong to the individual schools.

 

If White Hat wins, this means that upon the closure of any of these charter schools, the operator can sell or auction off this property and maintain the proceeds rather than returning the funds to the state through the normal liquidation process for public proerty.

 

What is disgraceful is that Ohio’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Mike DeWine, has failed to file an amicus brief on behalf of the Ohio Department of Education, and therefore has decided not to join the argument that the property, bought with state funds, belongs to the public rather than the company.

 

But what is even more disgraceful is that only the Ohio School Boards Association has filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting the schools’ contention that the company has no right to these physical assets purchased with state tax funds.

 

So the questions are:
Where is the Ohio Education Association in this case?
Where is the Ohio Federation of Teachers in this case?
Where is the Buckeye Association of School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of School Business Officials?
Where is Ohio ASCD?
If you belong to any of these organizations, would you consider calling them tomorrow or contacting them TODAY via email to find out why they are AWOL in this case that affects the very future of public education?

 

When I found out about all of these organizations being AWOL after being on the road for two weeks, I was outraged. I hope you might be as well. Needless to say, White Hat has the support of several charter school organizations in this case, but public education organizations, save the Ohio School Boards Association, are absent.

 

This is absolutely shameful.

 

What are professional dues for? What is the reason these organizations exist?

 

If you’re not outraged about this, you haven’t been paying attention. To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of all of us in the education community.

 

http://www.dispatch.com/content/blogs/the-daily-briefing/2014/08/08.25.2014-animus-about-amicus.html

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/09/09/Pepper_on_charter_schools.html

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.

 

 

 

 

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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