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 following was reported at politico.com:

“AMERICANS CALL FOR STEPPING UP THE TEACHING PROFESSION: Americans want better prepared teachers in the classroom – and a vast majority think educators should be required to pass board certification and submit to licensure standards like doctors and lawyers. Those views come from a PDK/Gallup poll, released today. Seventy percent of respondents said new teachers should spend at least a year teaching under the guidance of a certified colleague. And 60 percent said the entrance requirements for teacher training programs need to be more rigorous. The results come as the Obama administration plans to resurrect an effort to regulate teacher prep programs. They also reflect public attitudes about whether the standardized testing regime ushered in by No Child Left Behind has improved education, said William Bushaw, who until recently served as executive director of PDK. Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality at the National Education Association, says it’s clear all that testing hasn’t boosted student learning. So naturally, the focus is now swinging to improving the teaching profession. I have the story: http://politico.pro/1uEZjLi

- In another intriguing finding, 61 percent percent of the 1,001 adults surveyed opposed using student test scores in teacher evaluations. On a related note, researchers at The Brookings Institution are out with a study today that argues improving teacher observations is the key to upgrading evaluations. Observations are often biased by student ability and background, the authors say; they urge districts to adjust their observation scores accordingly. The study, published in Education Next: http://bit.ly/1wxBpUV

When Kristen Buras read that the leaders of York City, Pennsylvania, were considering turning their schools into an all-charter district, she didn’t think it was a good idea. When she read that all the students in Muskegon Heights, Michigan, had been turned over to for-profit charter operator Mosaica, she thought it was necessary to issue a warning.

 

This is the comment she left on the blog:

 

Hmm . . . Mosaica? I’ve been studying the corporate takeover of New Orleans public schools for the past decade. Let me share a story that community members in York City will find relevant to their battle. It comes from the Times-Picayune newspaper and reveals how the board of Lafayette Academy charter school in New Orleans terminated its contract with Mosaica, which was paid $773,000 for the first year of its five-year agreement. Nonetheless, Mosaica failed to arrange appropriate transportation for students; did not organize a repeatedly requested after-school program for students below grade level; and kept the school filthy. The school also lacked copy machines and insurance when the school year began. Through a legal arbitration process, a judgment of $350,000 was issued against Mosaica. Find the story here:

 

http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/09/charter_school_wins_lawsuit_ag.html

 

For more on what York City can expect if for-profit operators take over the schools, check out my book Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance, which chronicles the past ten years of “reform” in New Orleans.

 

I hope this helps.

Anthony Cody notes a rift among allies. Mark NAISON wrote critically about PAR–Peer Assistance and Review.

Writing from his experience, Cody explains how PAR works.

The bottom line is this: If choosing how to be evaluated as a teacher, would you rather be evaluated by the rise or fall of test scores (VAM); by the principal, acting alone; or by a committee of peers and administrators whose first obligation is to help you?

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.

 

 

 

 

Amy Prime Moore taught second grade in Iowa. Now she teaches fifth grade. She believes too much testing hurts her students. Then a friend asked, How do you know? And she wrote this article for the Des Moines Register.

She writes:

“But then I began to get resentful of the idea that I should even need to offer this proof. Why should I have to do this? Why is it that we can’t take the word of our educators as expert? Why can’t we listen to parents who advocate for their children? Since when do we allow our federal government to dictate what should be local district decisions? We know that the policymakers have their own children in private schools that would never dream of using the harsh testing policies that they force on the children of the public schools.

“Imagine a teacher standing in front of her room full of students shouting at them. “You are stupid! You’re too slow! I don’t care if you haven’t learned this yet, you should just KNOW it by now! I don’t even care what you’re interested in learning. You’ll learn what I say you will learn! Why can’t you figure it out? All of the other kids in your grade are figuring it out! You’ll never be ready for college. You’ll never even move on to the next grade! Who cares if you told me the right answer when you didn’t get to it the way I wanted you to? I don’t care if you’re tired, just sit still and be quiet! I don’t care if you won’t need to know this later in life, just do it! The questions aren’t confusing, you are just dumb! You’re letting your whole school down! No one will help you here so just do it yourself! You are a failure!”

“Would we ask for proof that those emotionally abusive comments would be harmful to a child? It’s doubtful we would, and, hopefully, that teacher would be out of a job. But if we could hear inside the heads of our children, those are exactly the damaging words that those tests are whispering to them every time they are forced to take one.

“So the proof is in the tears of frustration falling from the eyes of kids with heads down on desks. The proof is in the Facebook posts from parents saying that their children hate school when it’s a testing day. The proof is with the kids who ask to get up and go to the restroom just to get away from the relentless questions for even a minute. The proof is with the students who no longer think creatively but simply look for the one “right” answer. The proof is in the need for local and national organizations that support parents who want to find a way to get their children out of assessments.”

She asked her friend: where is the evidence that all this testing doesn’t harm children? She’s waiting.

A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives Louisiana high marks on providing choice but low marks for academics. It should be noted that Louisiana has higher levels of child poverty than other states, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not go into that.

“A new U.S. Chamber of Commerce report gives Louisiana’s public education system very low marks on academic achievement, international competitiveness, workforce preparation and bang for the buck. It flunked Louisiana in five of 11 categories, with a D+ in the sixth.

“The state’s low academic standing has been widely documented. However, the chamber says its report has a particular focus on the 21st century workforce.

“Louisiana did see some gains. Scores went up on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2013, especially for low-income and minority students. But compared to other states, Louisiana was still at the bottom. The state’s 2013 Advanced Placement pass rate was worse than any state except Mississippi.

“Pass rates were even lower in subjects that the chamber considers important for the 21st century economy: only 30 in 10,000 students passed a foreign language AP test, and 4 in 10,000 passed the AP computer science test.

“When measured against an international exam, the Programme for International Student Assessment, fewer than 20 percent of Louisiana students met the global standard in reading and mathematics.

“The chamber gave Louisiana a failing grade on “return on investment.” After controlling for the cost of living, the chamber’s report says, “student achievement in Louisiana is very low relative to state spending,” which is about at the national median.

“The chamber released the report card Thursday. The research was conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

“Given Louisiana’s poor national and international standing, the chamber found the state’s internal testing results dubious and lacking in credibility. In 2011, pass rates for Louisiana’s LEAP and iLEAP tests were much higher than the national rates. That gave an inaccurately rosy picture of student performance, said the chamber, which awarded a D-plus for “truth in advertising.”

The state got an A for parental choice. As we have seen in numerous earlier reports, many children use state vouchers to attend schools with no curriculum and uncertified teachers. Maybe all that choice is dragging down academic outcomes. But “even some of the better grades were lower than in the chamber’s previous report. In 2007, chamber researchers gave Louisiana an A for teaching, a C for the credibility of its own test pass rates and an A for data collection. It gave the state a B for the rigor of its academic standards, praising its English benchmarks and graduation exit exam.” Under John White, the state is losing ground.

Hmm, I seem to recall that Louisiana was the state that was #1 on StudentsFirst report card, probably because of vouchers and charters.

State superintendent John White thinks that Common Core and its hard tests is the cure-all for low performance. Rigor. Harder tests. That’ll raise performance. Kind of like an athlete who can’t jump a 4-ft bar. Raise it to 6 feet. That’ll do it.

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