Archives for category: Special Education

In this post, Mercedes Schneider interviews Annie Tan, who joined Teach for America in 2011, and, with inadequate training, was assigned be a teacher of special education in Chicago. Her experience was, she says, a disaster.

One of Tan’s responses:

Tan: I will never forget the first day when we had our celebration, and the CEO of Chicago Public Schools came and made a speech to us. It felt very strange for him to be there for some reason. Yes, we were going to be 250 new teachers in Chicago, so logically it may have made sense to introduce us and do a welcome, but I also couldn’t imagine him doing that at a regular university that had education majors graduating. I couldn’t imagine him going to one of those graduations and making a speech.

There were a few moments that I still remember that were odd, as well. I remember the first day of professional development through Teach for America, when we got no talk around how segregated Chicago was, just people alluding to it, like Teach for America was not even going to approach that schools were unequal because of race and income, especially in Chicago, which really stands out since I worked in Chicago Public Schools for five years and taught there for four.

And then, the speech from some Teach for America staff members, that we might be the first teachers in some of these kids’ lives that had high expectations for them. I first thought to myself, “How can I have high expectations for my students when I don’t even know them yet? All I’ve done was graduate from a fancy college, so how am I better than someone else?” That really rubbed me the wrong way.

Schneider called this attitude “the savior complex.”

Who thought it was good to place an unprepared young teacher in a classroom of children with special needs?

It is a revealing interview.

The advocacy group called Public Funds a Public Schools gathered a useful archive of research studies of vouchers.

The studies were conducted by nonpartisan academic and federal researchers.

The findings are broadly congruent.

Voucher schools are academically inferior to public schools.

Voucher schools divert funding from public schools, which enroll most children.

Voucher programs lack accountability.

The absence of oversight promotes fraud and corruption.

Voucher programs do not help students with disabilities.

Voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against certain groups of students and families.

Voucher programs exacerbate segregation.

Voucher programs don’t work, don’t improve education, and have multiple negative effects.

Stephen Dyer, who served in the Ohio legislature and is an expert in school finance, writes here that vouchers hurt poor kids and explains why. It is important to bear in mind that no state offers vouchers large enough to pay for a high-quality private school. Most voucher students attend low-quality religious schools. When anyone claims that vouchers enable poor kids to have the same choices as rich kids, they are lying.

He begins:

As has been recently reported in the Columbus Dispatch and other places, a group of public education advocates is looking to sue the state over the EdChoice voucher system — an argument I’ve been making for years.

But in the article, pro-voucher forces make a curious argument — that those seeking to undo the harm voucher do to primarily poor and special need kids are actually trying to hurt those kids.

“It’s an all-time low for government school activists to try to rip low-income and special-needs students out of their schools right now,” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values.

“It’s clear that this special-interest group cares less about what’s best for kids, and more about their own narrow social agenda. Ohio’s EdChoice program is a lifeline to tens of thousands of families. It allows underprivileged and underserved children the opportunity to find an education that best meets their needs.”

First of all, it’s not “government school”; it’s “public school”, which means our school. None other than Thomas Jefferson described it this way in the Land Ordiannce of 1785. “Public school” were Jefferson’s words.

But I digress.

Here’s the problem. Yes. It’s true that poor and special needs students get vouchers and attend private schools using them. However, in order for that to happen, poor and special needs students in the public schools who don’t take the voucher are left with fewer resources for their educations because the vouchers exist.

This is why, for example, as a state legislator I always voted against the special needs voucher that eventually became the Jon Peterson Voucher program. Because it set aside 1/3 of the money the state spent on special needs students to serve 3 percent of the special needs kids. So the voucher program would leave 97 percent of special needs students with only 2/3 of the money they needed.

Let’s look at Parma with its 47% economically disadvanatged and nearly 2/3 minority populations.

Prior to losing voucher money and students, kids in Parma were slated to receive $13,663 per pupil in state and local funding for their educations. However, once all the vouchers were removed from the district, along with the students, kids in Parma only got $13,426. That’s a $236 per pupil loss in total aid, which means there wasn’t enough locally raised revenue to make up for the revenue these kids lost to the state’s voucher programs.

So while some poor and special needs students certainly got vouchers, far more poor and special needs students in Parma got $236 less than they needed because of the vouchers.

In fact, in nearly 3 of 4 Ohio school districts, every poor and special needs student got less overall funding because of the voucher…

So vouchers either directly harm poor and special needs students by cutting their overall education fudning, or force poorer communities to tax themselves at higher rates to make up for the loss of state aid from the state’s voucher programs — in clear violation of the Ohio Supreme Court’s four rulings.

Oh yeah, and in 8 of 10 Ohio school districts where private voucher providers reside, the school district outperforms the private option by an average of 27 percentage points. When privates outperform districts, it’s in 2 of 10 cases and by only 9 percentage points.

Here is a surprising combination. State officials today announced that Eva Moskowitz and her charter chain were guilty of violating the state privacy law regarding a student with special needs.

Tomorrow, Eva will participate in a panel about meeting the social and emotional needs of students.


On Thu, May 14, 2020, 10:41 AM Leonie Haimson wrote:
For immediate release: May 14, 2020
More information: Fatima Geidi, (646) 281-0449
Leonie Haimson,; 917-435-9329

Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy found guilty of violating NY State student privacy Law

The Chief Privacy Officer of the NY State Education Department issued a ruling on Tuesday May 12 that Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy had violated Education Law 2d, the state student privacy law, that prohibits the disclosure of personal student information without parental consent except under specific conditions required to provide a student’s education.

In 2015 and thereafter, Success Academy officials published exaggerated details from the education records of Fatima Geidi’s son when he was attending Upper West Success Academy, and shared them with reporters nationwide. They did this under Eva Moskowitz’ direction to retaliate against Ms. Geidi and her son, when they were interviewed on the PBS News Hour in 2015, about his repeated suspensions and the abusive treatment he suffered at the hands of school staff from first through third grade.

Ms. Geidi filed a student privacy complaint to the State Education Department in June of last year. In response to her complaint, Success Academy attorneys made a number of claims, including that the statute of limitations had lapsed, that charter schools were not subject to Education Law 2D, and that school officials have a First Amendment right to speak out about her child’s behavior. All those claims were dismissed in the decision released yesterday by the NYSED Chief Privacy Officer, Temitope Akinyemi.

The State Education Department has now ordered Success Academy to take a number of affirmative steps, including that administrators, staff and teachers must receive annual training in data privacy, security and the federal and state laws on student privacy, that they must develop a data privacy and security policy to be submitted to the State Education Department no later than July 1, 2020, and that after that policy is approved, it must be posted on the charter school’s website and notice be provided to all officers and employees.

As Fatima Geidi said, “I am happy that my son’s rights to privacy and hopefully all students at Success Academy from now on will be protected, and that Eva Moskowitz will be forced to stop using threats of disclosure as a weapon against any parent who dares speak out about the ways in which their children have been abused by her schools. However, I am disappointed that the Chief Privacy Officer did not order Ms. Moskowitz to take out the section of her memoirs, The Education of Eva Moskowitz, that allegedly describes the behavior of my son. I plan to ask my attorney to send a letter to Harper Collins, the book’s publishers, demanding that they delete that section of the book both because it contains lies and has now been found to violate both state and federal privacy law. If they refuse, we will then go to the Attorney General’s office for relief.”

Last year, the US Department of Education also found Ms. Moskowitz and Success Academy guilty of violating FERPA, the federal student privacy law. The official FERPA findings letter to Ms. Moskowitz is here. Yet Ms. Moskowitz launched an appeal of that ruling on similar First Amendment grounds, with the help of Jay Lefkowitz of Kirkland and Ellis to represent her in the appeal. Lefkowitz is the same attorney who negotiated a reduced sentence for Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious child sex abuser, in a controversial plea deal in Palm Beach County in 2007. Though Ms. Geidi has repeatedly asked the U.S. Department of Education about the outcome of this appeal, she has heard nothing in response.

As Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, pointed out: “Fatima’s son is not the only child whose privacy has been violated by Success Academy. Last year, Success shared details from the private education files of Lisa Vasquez’ daughter with reporters from Chalkbeat without her consent, after Ms. Vasquez spoke about how her daughter had been unfairly treated at Success Academy Prospect Heights. The SUNY Charter Institute also noted unspecified violations of FERPA by SAC Cobble Hill, SAC Crown Heights, SAC Fort Greene, SAC Harlem 2, and SAC Harlem 5 during site visits, noted in their Renewal reports. The time for Eva Moskowitz to comply with the law and stop violating the privacy of innocent children whose parents dare to reveal her schools’ cruel policies has long passed.”


As for tomorrow’s panel, here it is:

WEBINAR Tomorrow! Social & emotional supports for students during Covid19


With the coronavirus outbreak disrupting nearly every aspect of our work and learning, educators nationwide have been scrambling to provide remote instruction to their students. But what are they and their schools doing to provide children with social and emotional supports during this tough time? And how do their strategies compare across the private, charter, and traditional public school sectors?

In partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), we will hold a moderated conversation with three outstanding school leaders, all of whom are working hard to attend to their pupils’ (and staff’s) social and emotional needs, while keeping academics moving forward.

Featured Speakers

Michael J. Petrilli, President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute (moderator)

Juan Cabrera, Superintendent, El Paso ISD, Texas

Eva Moskowitz, CEO, Success Academy Schools

Kathleen Porter-Magee, Superintendent, Partnership for Inner-City Education


1:00 p.m.: Introduction to CASEL CARES

1:05 p.m.: Introductory remarks by Michael Petrilli

1:10 p.m.: Moderator Q & A (45 minutes)*

1:55 p.m.: Closing remarks Michael Petrilli and sign off by CASEL

The IDEA act is on jeopardy. This is the act that protects students with disabilities and guarantees their right to a free and appropriate education.

The pandemic crisis is a time when the Trump administration is taking radical steps to eliminate and cut back on programs they don’t like.

It’s time to save IDEA.

Signs this petition and make your voice heard on behalf of the children who need you!

I recently wrote an article that referred to charter schools that succeed by excluding students with disabilities, English learners, and others unlikely to get high scores. The editor questioned if this claim was accurate. I turned to several expert researchers to ask their view, and they all agreed with my assertion. David Berliner of Arizona State University—one of the nation’s pre-eminent researchers and statisticians—had data to back it up, and I invited him to write an essay addressing this issue.

He wrote:

Culling, Creaming, Skimming, Thinning: Things We Do to Herds and School Children

To cull is to select things you intend to reject, often in reference to a group of animals. An outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease can cause authorities to order a cull of farm pigs. An outbreak of low-test scores or a meeting with undesirable parents can promote the culling of charter students. To cream is to remove something choice from an aggregate, such as selecting the best and the brightest appearing students and families for acceptance to a charter or private school.

Diane Ravitch was recently criticized for writing that charter schools, supported by public tax money, engage in skimming and creaming students and families. Ravitch, however is right! Public charter schools, and private schools that accept public monies through vouchers, admit only certain students, often those predicted most likely to succeed and whose parents are “acceptable.” And, if these schools choose “wrong,” they cull the herd later. Between selective admissions and culling the student body, the data ordinarily used to describe a school’s accomplishments will make charter and voucher schools look quite good.

Let me illustrate with data collected by my wife, Dr. Ursula Casanova, by a former student (Assistant Professor Amanda Potterton, of the University of Kentucky), and from the ACLU of Arizona.

Dr. Casanova wrote in the Washington Post about the Basis (charter) school in Scottsdale, Arizona, enrolling students in grades 5-12. Based on its test scores that year, it was named the top high school in Arizona. But the year it was so honored, Casanova found enrollments from 5th to 8th grade to be 152, 138, 110, and 94. Then, the high school enrollments, in grades 9-11, were 42, 30, and 23. Finally, the 12th grade graduating class had 8 students! With no shame whatsoever the Basis school was able to claim they graduated 100% of their seniors and that all were accepted at college!

The Basis school of Tucson, part of the same chain of about a dozen charter schools, mostly in Arizona, presented data with a similar pattern. In the year for which Casanova reported, the school started out with 127 students in the fifth grade. But they had only 100 students in eighth grade, 69 in the 9th grade, 45 in 10th grade, and 27 in 11th grade. At the end of 12th grade they had only 24 seniors left at graduation. The graduating class was only 35% of the ninth-grade cohort, and they were less than 20% of that fifth -grade cohort. Culling the herd seems to describe school policy.

Potterton wrote in Teachers College Record about four highly rated charter schools in Arizona, the two Basis schools reported on above, and two other schools from the Great Hearts Academy chain, which run more than 20 schools in the Phoenix area.

In the year of her study she found that the average rate for free and reduced lunch in Arizona schools was 35%. The average for free and reduced lunch in these the four charter schools? 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%. Highly selective admissions and culling work quite well. That same year the state average for English language learners in our schools was 7.5%. The English language learners in these four schools? 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%. The percent of students with IEPs in the state was about 12%. But the percent of such students in these four schools was between, .6% and 3.5%.

Arizona is not unique. In a recent year the federal government reported in the Common Core of data that in 2014 the Boston public schools graduated 85% of its grade 9 students. But the “City on A Hill” Charter school graduated 46% of its grade 9 class; while the “Boston Preparatory Academy,” “Boston Collegiate Charter,” and “Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter” each graduated about 60% of its 9th grade class. Culling in charters seems to be widespread.

Another example comes from Philadelphia’s Boys Latin Charter, as analyzed by Jersey Jazzman in his column of July 28th, 2017. Boys Latin proudly boasted that 98% of its students were accepted into college. But in the years 2011-2015 the school graduated about 60% of its 9th grade class, culling approximately 40% of its student body, and thus allowing the school to make a claim that 98% of its students are accepted to college.

Charter schools cull families with special needs too. Arizona’s ACLU in 2017 noted that state law forbade charter schools from limiting the number of special education students they accept. But “The Rising School” in Tucson advertised blatantly that the school’s special education and resources department “is currently full.… Thus, any student with an IEP will be put on our waiting list.” Also in apparent defiance of the law, “AmeriSchools Academy” (in Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma) blatantly noted that “Special Education placements are limited to a capacity of ten (10) students for each school site. Students in excess of this number are to be wait listed with provisional registration.”

Further, by state law, Arizona’s charter schools may not require students or their parents to complete pre-enrollment activities, such as essays, interviews or school tours. Nor can charter schools use students’ performance on interviews or essays, or the student’s decision not to complete requested pre-enrollment activities, to determine which students to accept. But the ACLU found that at the “Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy” students must write a one-page essay as part of their enrollment application. As part of the enrollment process at the “Satori Charter School” in Tucson, parents and students must meet with a school administrator. These are all excellent, though illegal ways to cull potentially undesirable families.

State law also directs charter schools not to require parental involvement as a condition of admission. And furthermore, charter schools must not pressure parents into donating money. As in many states, the Arizona Constitution guarantees students the right to a free public education, and charter schools are supposed to be public schools. Yet the same Great Hearts Academy charter schools reported on above asked each family to contribute $1,500 per student per year. Parents were also encouraged to donate anywhere from $200 to $2,000 to the school. The “Mission Montessori Academy” of Scottsdale asked parents to volunteer 15 hours every year per child enrolled, or make a contribution of $150 to the school in lieu of volunteer hours. The “Montessori Day Public School” chain noted that “All parents are expected to contribute 40 hours of volunteer time per family, per year.” The “Freedom Academy” in Phoenix and Scottsdale required a non-refundable $300 “Extracurricular Arts Fee,” due at enrollment. The “San Tan Charter School (in Gilbert, AZ)” required parents to provide a credit card the school can keep on file to pay several fees, including a $250 technology rental fee for grades 9-12. These are all great ways to cull families, illegality be damned!!

In many states, private schools receive public monies through vouchers, and still discriminate against certain children and families, culling them as needed! One of the most blatant examples I know of is the Fayetteville Christian School in North Carolina, a recipient, in a recent school year, of $495,966 of public money. But it is not open to the public! It says, up front, that it doesn’t want Jews, Muslims, Hindu’s and many others. At this school a student, and at least one parent, have to have taken Jesus Christ as their personal savior, or they cannot be admitted. They also cannot engage in sexual promiscuity, illicit drug use and homosexuality—or anything else that scripture defines as deviate or perverted. Any report of such activities by parents or the students is grounds for expulsion. This is culling of the student body by religion and life style, in a school receiving about a half million dollars of public funds per year!

Many of the schools I mentioned above, are considered great public and/or great private schools. Creaming and culling really do pay off in terms of a school’s reputation, as long as the schools’ policies are not examined too closely. But Dr. Casanova asked an excellent question of our citizenry when she reported on the graduation rates of various charters and private schools, and compared them to the reports from San Luis High School, in San Luis, AZ, on the Mexican border, part of the Yuma, Arizona school system. Data from different sources informs us that in recent years this public high school serves almost 3,000 students a year, almost 100% of whom are Hispanic, half of whom are limited English proficient, and most are classified as economically disadvantaged. But this public high school manages to graduate over 80 percent of their freshman class, and almost 90 percent of its senior class. They also do this with a teacher/pupil ratio well in excess of the U.S. average, and working with Arizona’s per pupil school funding formula, which is among the lowest in the nation. Why isn’t San Luis High School, and others like it, compared to the culling and creaming charters and voucher schools, considered among our great American high schools?

So many of our public schools deserve our gratitude for doing such a good job educating all our citizenry, many under difficult conditions. The Darwinian approach, to push the weakest students out of school, to cull the herd, should not be tolerated in a democracy, and therefore is absolutely inappropriate behavior for a school receiving public money. But Darwinism really is the philosophy guiding some of the highest rated charters. A respondent to a blog by my colleague Gene Glass, where he too criticized the culling and creaming practices of charters, stated the following: “Basis schools does not engage in any form of thinning across any grade. Students do drop out because they are not fit to thrive in the difficult curriculum ….”

Let’s think about what “not fit to thrive” might look like as a guiding philosophy for our public schools. We could do away with special education, bilingual education, counseling and guidance, transportation, free and reduced breakfasts and lunches, school nurses, etc. The Darwinian approach to schooling is not merely undemocratic,….. it is evil! If it were me, I wouldn’t give another public dollar to any charter or voucher school that culls, skims, or creams. They are all patently undemocratic.

David C. Berliner
Regents’ Professor Emeritus
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University

Concerned parents and educators have created an online petition to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

They are afraid that she will use this period of national crisis to reduce the rights of students with disabilities.

Please read their petition, and if you agree with them, please add your name.

Letter to the Department of Education

Listening to educators and the state school board, Governor Gary Herbert vetoed a voucher program for students with special needs.

Critics pointed out that the state has had a. Oh her program for students with special needs for 15 years and doesn’t need another one. They also noted that Utah had a state referendum in 2007, and the public voted overwhelmingly against vouchers.

The voucher advocates always begin their campaign by seeking vouchers for children with special needs, even though private schools receiving vouchers are exempt from the federal protections for these students. In this case, Utah has long had such a program. But in other states, such as Florida and Arizona, ouches for students with disabilities is the prelude to many more requests, each targeted to a new group. The ultimate goal is universal vouchers, with no limitations. The size of the voucher is always far less than the tuition at high-quality private schools, but a much-welcome subsidy for those already enrolled in religious schools.

I received this notice from two trusted allies.

From: Maggie Hart
Date: Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 3:23 PM
Subject: Threat to ALL Special Education by COVID-19

Hi Everyone: I’m sorry to be bothering you with something work related but Senator Alexander has attached an amendment to the next proposed relief package that includes a full and complete waiver of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for the rest of the school year! The National Disability Rights Network has a really simple way to write to your congress people to tell them not to let the amendment pass.

Here is the link:

The amendment would mean that school districts across the country would not have to provide any more special education services- all year- and they would never have to make up the missed sessions. Not even consultations over the phone or computer for parents to talk to therapists. No special education schools, no speech therapy, no physical therapy, no occupational therapy. No therapy or education (no special schools!!!) for kids with significant disabilities like autism and Down Syndrome.

If you have time, please follow the link and email your reps. It takes about two minutes to do. If you’re inclined, please pass along the link to others who might fill it out too.



Michael Mulgrew is president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, the largest local in the nation and in the American Federation of Teachers.

He published this article in the New York Daily News, which is strongly pro-charter and often writes about the “success” of the city’s charter schools compared to its public schools. Mulgrew explains here the secrets of charter “success.”

The research behind his article is here. 

Careful selection, exclusion, and attrition are keys to charter success.

Mulgrew writes:

Cheerleaders for New York City’s charter school sector typically trumpet the academic achievements of charter school students.

But there is an inconvenient truth about these schools that charter supporters rarely discuss, or even admit. The schools’ “success” is due not to any superior instructional strategy but rather to segregation — segregation based on students’ academic and social needs.

Though charters are open to all by lottery, as a group they enroll a significantly smaller percentage than public schools of our neediest children, such as English language learners, special education students or those from the poorest families. Children like these typically have the largest learning challenges.

For the 2018-19 school year, for example, the latest for which data is available, charters as a group enrolled half the citywide average of ELLs (6.9% vs. a citywide average of 14.6%) and a third of the special education students with the highest level of need (1.7% vs. a citywide average of 5.4%).

But the charter sector average turns out to be only half the story. An analysis of individual charter schools clearly shows that the schools most successful at excluding these kinds of students turn out to be — no surprise — the charters with the highest test scores.

As measured by the most recent state English language exam, the most academically successful charters (those with a pass rate of 67% or higher) had even fewer English Language Learners and special ed students.

That’s not a bug in the charter world; it’s a feature. Throughout the charter sector, as the number of children with academic and other needs grows, the average proficiency rate on the state test declines, to the point that the nearly 50 charters with the highest percentages of needy children don’t even reach the citywide average on the state reading exam.

How do many charters — particularly those most successful on standardized tests — find ways to minimize the number of pupils unlikely to contribute to that success?

They start with highly committed families, those with a knowledge of the system and the motivation to enter their children in the charter lottery.

Robert Pondiscio, who has many sympathies for charters, wrote most recently that the idea that essentially the same kinds of students attend both public schools and charters, while “deeply satisfying to charter school advocates…is also misleading and even false” because of the critical nature of this parental motivation.

The next step in the charter success strategy is to find ways to ease out kids less likely to be successful. A key tactic is using suspensions to persuade students who do not fit well to find other schools.

Our analysis shows that less academically successful charters actually gained students over time. However, the most academically successful charters also showed significant attrition — a loss of more than one-quarter of the pupils who started in the cohort that began in 2010.

Were all those pupils who left the top charters academic stars? Or, as is much more likely, are the top charters consciously shedding weaker students and reaping the benefits in terms of higher test scores?

State data shows that charters as a group suspended students far more frequently than public schools did, and that the top charters — with a suspension rate of more than 8% — led the way.

Public school students in more than 100 schools have given up labs, libraries, music rooms and other facilities to charters that have been co-located in their buildings.

The bill for charters continues to grow. Some $2.4 billion in city Department of Education funds will be diverted in the coming fiscal year to charter operations, and current charters, even with no further regulatory or legislative action, are scheduled to expand their grades in future years.

Enormous public investments are going to too many schools that fail to educate the neediest students, and then rely on such exclusion to fuel their claims of success.