Archives for the month of: January, 2015

This is a press release from the Texas Education Agency about the revocation of the charter of Prime Prep Charter School, the school founded by football great Deion Sanders. Nowhere does TEA admit that the original flaw was handing students and public funds to a non-educator with no qualifications to run a school.

TEA News Releases Online Jan. 30, 2015

Statement of Commissioner Michael Williams regarding closure of Prime Prep Academy

AUSTIN – The Board of Managers for Prime Prep Academy today voted to cease operations of its Dallas and Fort Worth campuses effective at the end of the school day today. Commissioner of Education Michael Williams issued the following statement:

“After reviewing the financial information discovered over the past week, I agree with the Prime Prep board of managers’ decision to cease operation immediately. I recognize this was a difficult decision for board members to make. While there was hope this charter could survive through the end of the school year, the financial resources simply aren’t there. It is unfortunate that those who remained committed to learning on these campuses – the students and teachers – are the ones who will be affected most by circumstances out of their control.

“Parents, students and teachers at Prime Prep are now forced to find an education alternative in the middle of the school year. I have directed Texas Education Agency staff to begin providing whatever information we can to help them maneuver through this unexpected transition. In light of what we now know, such upheaval could have been avoided by the previous school leadership had they acknowledged their financial issues and worked with us toward an orderly transition that put students first.”

Commissioner Williams announced his decision to appoint a board of managers and an interim superintendent to oversee the management of Prime Prep Academy (a charter held by Uplift Fort Worth) on Jan. 13, following multiple reports of deteriorating financial conditions at the charter school. The board of managers was sworn into office on Jan. 23.

In addition, an administrative law judge of the State Office of Administrative Hearing granted a default judgment on Jan. 27 regarding revocation of the Uplift Fort Worth CDC charter. A final order from the judge is pending.

Prime Prep Academy was awarded its charter by the State Board of Education in September 2011. The school opened its doors on Aug. 14, 2012.,_parents_and_staff_following_Prime_Prep_Academy_closure/
TEA News Releases Online Jan. 30, 2015
TEA offers transition information to students, parents and staff following Prime Prep Academy closure

AUSTIN – The Texas Education Agency (TEA) will provide transition information to students, parents, teachers and staff of Prime Prep Academy following a vote this afternoon by the charter’s board of managers to cease operations immediately. Due to the charter school’s current financial situation, board members determined that continued operation through the end of the school year was not a viable option.

Information packets will be distributed to students and staff at both the Dallas and Fort Worth campuses at the conclusion of the school day. The packets provide information regarding educational and enrollment opportunities at area schools for the remainder of this school year, as well as the process for acquiring student records necessary to transfer to another school.

In addition, TEA staff will be available at both campuses to answer questions from students, parents and staff. Parents can access much of the information on the TEA website at Prime Prep parents can also contact the Division of Charter School Administration at (512) 463-9575 for assistance and direction to available resources.

TEA staff will also provide Prime Prep staff with transition information regarding applying for unemployment benefits and continued health coverage through COBRA through the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). Staff members needing assistance resolving an issue can contact the TEA Complaints Management Department at (512) 463-3544.

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams announced his decision to appoint a board of managers and an interim superintendent to oversee the management of Prime Prep Academy – a charter held by Uplift Fort Worth – on Jan. 13, following multiple reports of deteriorating financial conditions at the charter school. The board of managers was sworn into office on Jan. 23.

In addition, an administrative law judge of the State Office of Administrative Hearing granted a default judgment on Jan. 27 regarding revocation of the Uplift Fort Worth CDC charter. A final order from the judge is pending.

Prime Prep Academy was awarded its charter by the State Board of Education in September 2011. The school opened its doors on Aug. 14, 2012.

School districts in California are trying to compel the state to pick up the $1 billion cost of Common Core testing. The districts say it is an unfunded mandate. Many districts are strapped for cash, and they can’t find the money to pay for Common Core hardware for testing.

Governor Cuomo wants to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores. Fifty percent of their evaluation would depend on whether the scores went up or not. The other fifty percent would be based on observation, 35% by an independent evaluator and only 15% by the principal of the school.

I received the following tweet I taught in the S. Bronx-students passed exams at 50%, now I am in the suburbs and they pass at 95%. I am the same teacher.”

Thomas Ultican left a good job in Silicon Vally to become a teacher of high school math and physics in a school where half the students are English learners. He discovered that teaching was much harder than anything else he had ever done.


In his reading, he was struck by the long-standing charge that American public education is failing. He remembered hearing about this in the 1950s, the 1960, and so on until “A Nation at Risk” in 1983. Since then, the drumbeat of criticism has been unending, and is still untrue. He never understood how a nation whose schools were always “failing” could rise to become the most powerful nation in the world.


He came to the conclusion that the claims of the reformers are a myth, an illusion. Teachers and schools are facing steep challenges, then blamed for the challenges they are working to overcome. None of this makes any sense.

An article in Huffington Post reports on a study by University of Michigan researchers, led by Professor Sarah Reckhow, who found that the rhetoric of charter schools is very appealing to the public, especially to conservatives. Think of it: charters promise high achievement, better graduation rates, student success, all at a reduced cost to taxpayers. They promise that every child will go to a four-year college; not just any college, but an Ivy League college. Promise them anything but give them Arpege (for those not old enough to remember, that was a perfume ad, but lots of other words are substituted for “Arpege,” like “the shaft,” or “tyranny,” or “nothing.”). Promises, very alluring. Put that rhetoric against the reality of public schools, where some students don’t succeed, some don’t graduate, and some have low achievement. Supporters of public schools need to hone their rhetoric; the public likes the idea of non-union schools, at least in Michigan, and they don’t seem troubled by the idea of privatization. The language used by charter advocates has great appeal, even when it is not true. That must be why snake oil salesmen made a lot of money hawking their wares at state fairs in the 19th century, and why diet books continue to be best-sellers. It is the old P.T. Barnum rule.


Although charters are supported more by conservatives than liberals, they have bipartisan support, most notably from President Obama and Secretary Duncan. Add to that the strong charter advocacy of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, Nathan Deal, and every other conservative governor, as well as ALEC, and it is a winning combination, politically if not educationally.



Groups against the expansion of charter schools typically argue that charter schools serve to privatize public education, thereby exacerbating existing inequalities. Supporters of charter schools, on the other hand, say that they offer parents a choice, and that employing nonunion teachers can help spur innovation.


The researchers found that self-reported conservatives were more likely to express support for charter schools when they learned that these schools employed nonunion teachers, while liberals were more likely to turn against charter schools when presented with information about the role of private companies in their operations — although this made less of an impact. Arguments against unions seemed to resonate more strongly with participants, and made them significantly more likely to support charter schools….


[Professor Sarah] Reckhow also noted that when people were asked if they support the proliferation of charter schools in their communities versus in the state’s lowest-performing districts, they were more likely to favor increasing the number of charter schools in failing areas. She told HuffPost she thought this was because respondents might be satisfied with their local school options, and might be more likely to support charter schools in places where they feel distant from the schools’ impact.


Still, certain aspects about Michigan politics and the state’s charter landscape may have also impacted the results.


“Michigan recently became a ‘right-to-work’ state,” noted Reckhow. This means that in Michigan, it is illegal to require groups of workers to pay union dues as a precondition for employment. In recent years, union membership in Michigan has dropped.


“This is a visible issue in Michigan,” said Reckhow. “Once you bring unions into the equation, it does affect public perception.”


The survey did not measure participants’ reactions to charter schools after learning about their academic results, although Reckhow said she would have been curious to see that data.


“In Michigan, charter schools run the gamut — some schools are high-performing and do better than nearby public schools, and a good number of charter schools are in the bottom 25 percent of schools in the state, they probably should be shut down but they’re not being shut down,” said Reckhow. “The limitation of the study is we really can’t deal with that type of question.”


Interesting that people liked the idea of charters…for other people’s children.

I have never understood the idea that anyone can run a school, even people who have never been educators, even people who are high-school dropouts (think Andre Agassi).


So it comes as no surprise when a school run by a football great runs into trouble. In this case, it is the charter school opened by professional star Deion Sanders. The New York Times wrote about the school last year. Opened in 2012, the school quickly had a world-class basketball team, its games broadcast on ESPN, but its academic quality was far below par. According to the Times, the lower grades were rated F by a respected nonprofit group, and its high school had no rating due to missing data.


Now the school is in deep trouble and might even lose its charter in charter-friendly Texas.


The Dallas school founded in 2012 is in financial straits after years of management disputes that led to a state takeover. Prime Prep could close in the middle of the semester if found insolvent.
Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams earlier this month announced that he would appoint a board of managers to run the school, effectively placing it under state control.
The sports programs of Prime Prep have faced scrutiny for recruiting and eligibility allegations. The school also has fought employee turnover, and last April had to repay more than $45,000 it received for providing subsidized meals in 2013 because the school provided no documentation those meals were served.


You might well wonder how a school founded in 2012 has been in “financial straits after years of management disputes.” I wonder too.


According to Forbes, the school is operating under “crushing debt” with finances that are in “utter chaos.”


Sanders was among those in 2012 who opened the school with the goal of combining a college prepartory curriculum with a high-powered athletic program. The school, with two locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, did develop a big-time basketball program, but most of what it produced was chaos and headlines. Through the course of its two-plus years, Sanders was fired, hired, re-fired and re-hired as school leaders and administrators fought with local media, with the authority that runs Texas public high school sports, and with each other (sometimes physically).


As the chaos mounted, so did the bills, which got harder to pay as enrollment fell by half to about 300 students, and eventually the state of Texas stepped in to oversee things. Sanders claimed a merger with another charter school was imminent (it wasn’t). He also seemed just as concerned with his latest reality show, refusing to grant an interview to a local TV station regarding the school when it refused to allow the show’s cameras to film the interview that was being filmed.





Remember a few months ago when everyone was wringing their hands and agreeing there was too much testing? Remember Arne Duncan said testing was sucking the oxygen out of the classroom?

That was then. This is now. Duncan is upset that Chicago is backing away from Commmon Core PARCC testing.

Mike Klonsky reports that Duncan threatened to cut off $1.2 billion in state aid if Chicago doesn’t give the PARCC.

This is crazy. The Secretary of Education is not supposed to tell states and districts what tests to use. He has overstepped his bounds, as he has done so often in the past. He has no understanding of federalism or of the limits of the federal role in education. The law says that no federal official may try to direct, control, or influence curriculum or instruction. Tests influence curriculum and instruction. By funding two tests and then compelling states to use them, he is flouting the law.

If he cuts any funding, Illinois should sue him.

This article in The Chronicle of Higher Education tells a fascinating story about the fate of higher education. On February 28, 1967, California Governor Ronald Reagan said that the state could no longer afford “intellectual luxuries,” and that taxpayers should not have to subsidize “intellectual curiosity.”

Dan Berrett writes:

“Sometimes, sea changes in attitude start small, gradually establishing assumptions until no one remembers thinking differently. This is how that happened to liberal education. It’s a story of events on campus and beyond: the oil embargo, the canon wars, federal fiscal policies, the fall of the Soviet Union. On that day in 1967, Reagan crystalized what has since become conventional wisdom about college. In the early 1970s, nearly three-quarters of freshmen said it was essential to them to develop a meaningful philosophy of life. About a third felt the same about being very well off financially. Now those fractions have flipped.”

Now students and policymakers alike see higher education as career training, a way to get a better job. Lost is the idea of learning for learning’s sake. That is an intellectual luxury we can no longer afford or even remember.

– See more at:

Immediately after the Arkansas State Board of Education decided to eliminate the elected school board of Little Rock and turn the district over to state control, the Walton Foundation was ready to take charge.

“Notice apparently went out to Little Rock schools today about a focus group meeting with the Walton Family Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation “in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group.”

When BCG arrives, public education is in peril. They are a management consulting group with business experience.

A coalition of liberal groups called on the sponsor of 11 charter schools to drop them because of allegations of racism, sexism, and test cheating, as well as FBI raids on some of them.

The sponsor, Buckeye Community Hope, refused.

“All of the schools belong to the Concept charter school network that operates in the Midwest. Concept, in turn, is one of several charter systems affiliated with the Gulen movement that has attracted scrutiny nationwide.”

The spokesperson for Buckeye said they will renew all. 9–not 11–Gulen schools. She called the allegations unfounded and accused the groups of “nitpicking.”

“Like all of Ohio’s sponsors, it receives a fee from each school, based on the number of students, for its sponsorship work. A recent report by Bellwether Education Partners, a non-profit research and advocacy group based in Boston, called these sponsorship fees a conflict of interest.”