Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

January 7, 2016

An alarming new study says charter schools are America’s new subprime mortgages

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 9:13 am

Abby Jackson Business Insider 1/6/16

See the full study at: Charters as New Subprime

The charter-school industry — consisting of schools that are funded partly by tax dollars but run independently — may be heading toward a bubble similar to that of the subprime-mortgage crisis, according to a study published by four education researchers.

The study, “Are charter schools the new subprime loans?” warns of several factors that appear to be edging the charter industry toward a bubble premeditated by the same factors that encouraged banks to start offering risky mortgage loans.

With charters, school authorizers play the role of the banks, as they have the power to decide whether to issue a new charter school. There are a multiple types of authorizers, including state education agencies and independent charter school boards. Most authorizers are local education agencies.

“Supporters of charter schools are using their popularity in black, urban communities to push for states to remove their charter cap restrictions and to allow multiple authorizers,” one of the study’s authors, Preston C. Green III, told The Washington Post, where we first read about the study. “At the same time, private investors are lobbying states to change their rules to encourage charter school growth. The result is what we describe as a policy ‘bubble,’ where the combination of multiple authorizers and a lack of oversight can end up creating an abundance of poor-performing schools in particular communities.”

The study’s authors point to a change in business practices as the catalyst of the bubble in the subprime industry and possible bubble in the case of charter schools.

With the mortgage crisis, loan origination changed from an originate-to-hold model to an originate-to-distribute model. The OTD model allowed banks to sell mortgages into the secondary market, where they were bundled up and sold by the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Michael Buckner/Getty ImagesStudents at KIPP Bridge Charter School in San Francisco.

In both the mortgage crisis and the charter industry, these business-model changes essentially transfer the risk to a third party whose incentives don’t necessarily align with those of the originator.

The study also highlights a similarity its authors call the “Principal-Agent Problem.” In the mortgage crisis, mortgage servicers emerged as a result of the OTD model. Servicers handled administrative tasks that originators used to carry out, such as collecting fees from late payments or foreclosures.

Again, the incentives of the servicers and the originators diverged, as the servicers were compensated to foreclose loans rather than to find alternatives.

Charter schools have this same misalignment when it comes to management by third-party organizations, the study says. Many charter-school boards hire private education-management organizations to run the day-to-day administrative tasks of the school.

The study says that while charter-school boards have the responsibility to follow the laws mandated of public schools, the incentive of these outside organizations is to increase revenue or cut expenses. And that misalignment creates an environment that may discriminate against students the organizations see as “too expensive,” such as those with disabilities, according to the study.

The authors of the study acknowledge the necessity of alternatives to failing public schools, but they urge lawmakers to put safeguards in place to ensure a bubble doesn’t develop and affect the very communities they aim to help.

 

December 2, 2015

Walton Foundation Grants for Milwaukee: 2014

Filed under: Charter Schools,Privatization,Vouchers — millerlf @ 9:20 pm

The following schools and organizations received money in 2014 from the right-wing Walton Family Foundation.

See the Walton Family Foundation funding report at: http://2014annualreport.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/grant-reports/
Milwaukee
Educational Enterprises, Inc. $896,658
Hispanics for School Choice Educational Trust Fund $210,000
Milwaukee Charter School Advocates $87,611
Milwaukee College Prep $333,333
School Choice Wisconsin Inc. $400,000
Schools That Can Milwaukee, Inc. $850,000
St. Marcus Lutheran School $429,640
United Community Center, Inc. $89,000
Wisconsin Lutheran College $250,000
Highland Community School $91,790
Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, Inc. $268,500 (This is a right-wing tea party “institute”.)
Nativity Jesuit Middle School $125,000
Tamarack Waldorf School $375,000
Total $4,406,532

December 1, 2015

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service: MPS expected to shift how it approaches new charter schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 3:30 pm

November 20, 2015 by Jabril Faraj Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

The Milwaukee Board of School Directors and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) administrators have signaled that they soon will take a major step toward becoming more proactive and intentional in chartering schools.

The administration is expected to bring an item before the board in January that would create a process to solicit proposals from potential operators for schools that meet specific needs, particularly for at-risk students.

“I’m sick of people coming with their dream ideas that may not benefit this district, overall,” said at-large board member Terry Falk at a retreat held last month to review the district’s charter school program. He noted that these types of charter proposals often compete with existing programs. “I’m done with that … The question is: what does the district need?”

President Michael Bonds said the board had been talking about making changes to its chartering process for the last two or three years. But MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver acknowledged that, given the context statewide, MPS needs to clarify its philosophy and process for chartering schools.

Recent state legislation created the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP), expanded the controversial voucher school program and now allows charter schools to take state money for transporting students. The law, Act 55, also created five new independent charter authorizers, three of which can charter schools in Milwaukee.

According to Chris Thiel, a legislative policy specialist with the MPS Office of Board Governance, “there are not substantial changes, in terms of what we necessarily have to do” as a result of the legislation. Nevertheless, Board Vice President Larry Miller called the legislation “a move against public education,” adding that it calls for “flooding the market with charters” and that the board needed to figure out a way to respond.

“This is not just a friendly adjustment by the state legislature,” he said in an interview.

Driver suggested the need to define a process to allow MPS-chartered schools to petition the district to expand. She said five or six of the district’s charter schools are interested in expansion. MPS charters 20 of the 42 charter schools operating in Milwaukee.

“Expansion is something that we’ve needed to do a better job of articulating,” Driver said. “We have a number of successful charters in our portfolio who wish to expand … and, so, I think this gives us the opportunity to be able to address that need in a way that can yield some positive and clear steps and outcomes for schools and for kids.”

Board members questioned whether expansion for the sake of increasing funding is the best strategy. They raised concerns about students returning to traditional MPS schools — from MPS or other charter schools — after the third Friday in September when per-head funding is determined. While MPS receives the same amount of state funding for all students in the district, it pays a negotiated amount to charter operators for students enrolled in charter schools. If students transfer from a charter to a traditional school after that date, MPS does not recover the amount paid to the charter operator.

MPS’s goal in chartering schools is threefold: to provide “new, high-quality innovative” programs for traditionally underserved or at-risk students; to institute programs that reduce dropouts; and to offer autonomy to schools that improve student achievement.

District 1 Representative Mark Sain questioned whether any of the district’s charters serve at-risk students or address the issue of dropouts.

While Driver initially responded that, “technically, they all do because our district is categorized as serving underserved children,” when pressed she said, “Currently, no,” adding that the schools that serve at-risk students are all partnership (alternative) schools.

Sain said, “It seems like those numbers (of at-risk students) are increasing, not only for our middle and high school kids but even for our elementary school populations.” He indicated that MPS could bring more charter schools under its umbrella that address those needs.

Driver said the administration is already pursuing the idea of a virtual school, which would serve “a number of different categories of students” and is an option “we really, desperately need in MPS.” The administration plans to solicit potential operators through a Request For Proposal (RFP) process.

According to Katie Polace, of the Office of Board Governance, experts have told her, “District authorizers should aim to be as ‘active’ as possible because [they] are in a unique position to be keenly aware of the needs of their community and their district.”

Polace added that it is to MPS’s advantage to use an “active” model of authorizing — which solicits proposals based on need — instead of a “passive” model — which allows operators to submit unsolicited proposals — or trying to “toe the line” between the two approaches.

The first step in an active model would be to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to identify areas in which MPS students need more support. MPS would also need to set up a process and timeline for approving charters that is clear and consistent, according to Driver. MPS currently allows potential operators to submit charter applications on a rolling basis.

The active approach would “give us control over what we want and what we need for the district,” said Bonds.

Miller and Falk noted the solution to meeting student needs may not always be a charter school. “If you look at the history of innovation coming from within the district … historically, it’s come from all sorts of places,” said Miller, claiming that teachers, principals, vice principals and administrators have all contributed “incredibly creative, innovative” ideas.

Board Clerk Jacqueline Mann added, “It may be beneficial to look at a process for replicating and expanding schools within the district, not just charter(s).”

District 2 Representative Wendell Harris said implementing the change would be good for the district. “All too often, MPS has been accused … that we don’t do enough to bring about change, that someone else or some other entity has to come in.”

Carol Voss, who represents District 8, said the decision is about “taking the bull by the horns,” adding, “It allows for predictability for scheduling, it allows for predictability for budgeting, it allows for predictability for board decision-making.”

Calling the new direction, “very healthy,” Voss said it is beneficial to the district, “and most importantly, to our children in the city of Milwaukee.”

November 16, 2015

Role of Charter Schools?

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 8:56 am

Charter Schools as Incubators or Charter Schools Inc.?
Posted: 11/15/2015 Randi Weingarten President of AFT
When you hear the words “charter school,” what comes to mind? High expectations? High student attrition? High achievement? Lack of transparency?

There’s no right or wrong answer, because charter schools, like other public and private schools, vary widely. The top-ranked high school in Louisiana is a unionized charter school. On the flip side, a recent study of students enrolled in online charter schools found that they lost 180 days of learning in math over the 180-day school year. (You read that right.)

Charter schools are publicly funded schools with flexibility in program design and operations. The late AFT President Albert Shanker was one of the first proponents, believing public school teachers could incubate innovative ideas, sharing successes and learning from setbacks. That was our goal in creating University Prep, a charter school in the South Bronx that the United Federation of Teachers co-founded with Green Dot Public Schools when I was UFT president. Now in our eighth year, 98 percent of students graduate, and almost all go on to college. The goal was never to undermine the many extraordinary district public schools–or to close or make it harder for traditional public schools.

Unfortunately, some charter proponents have shifted the intent of charters from incubating ideas and sharing successes to competing for market share and taxpayer dollars. A pro-charter group in New York recently ran deplorable ads suggesting they care more about equity than Mayor de Blasio does. The reality is that some charter school operators want to take public funds yet behave like private entities that can play by different rules.

Charter schools tend to enroll fewer students with disabilities, fewer English language learners, and a less-poor population of students than do nearby public schools. Reuters has reported on practices some charter operators use to “get the students they want.” Some require character references from a religious or community leader, entry exams, or completion of lengthy forms (often only in English). A Philadelphia charter school accepted applications only one day each year–at a suburban country club.

Some charter schools reportedly “counsel out” or expel students just before state testing day. Recent exposés revealed that the Success Academy Charter Schools chain has suspended or expelled children as young as kindergartners–often for minor infractions–at a rate seven times higher than elementary students in New York City’s public schools.

A new report revealed more than $200 million in fraud, waste and mismanagement in the 15 states examined of the 43 states that allow charters. The U.S. Department of Education this fall awarded $71 million for charter schools to Ohio–whose charter schools are notorious for financial and ethical scandals and academic results that lag far behind traditional public schools–prompting an outcry from the state auditor. Federal officials have since placed restrictions on the funds.

Since 1995, the Education Department has awarded more than $3 billion to create and expand charter schools throughout the country, despite warnings by its inspector general that the department has provided inadequate oversight of federal funds sent to charter schools.

These failings hurt the charter school operators who are trying to operate aboveboard with students’ best interests in mind. And rampant charter expansion undermines traditional public schools. A proposal to “charterize” half of the public schools in Los Angeles would not just disrupt the public school system, it would destroy it. Neighborhood public schools would be stripped of essential resources, programs and personnel, and the district would be bankrupted. These schemes, also playing out in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere, aim not to supplement public schools but to supplant them. There must be robust debates about proposals that so radically privatize public education.

“Charter” does not mean “better.” A well-regarded Stanford University study found that 25 percent of charter schools perform significantly better than traditional public schools, while 31 percent produce academic results that are significantly worse.

Hillary Clinton, a longtime supporter of charter schools, was recently lambasted when she called for accountability for all public schools. She noted that some charter schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody, and then they don’t get the resources or the help and support that they need to be able to take care of every child’s education.” She’s right.

The public education landscape is enriched by having many options–neighborhood public schools, magnet schools, community schools, schools that focus on career and technical education, and charter schools. They all must be held to educational, financial and ethical standards, particularly now, given that half the children in public schools are poor. This is a solemn responsibility to both students and the public.

Follow Randi Weingarten on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rweingarten

November 1, 2015

When You Read Alan Borsuk’s Commentary on the MPS Debate About Pulaski and Carmen, You Know the Milwaukee Journal Is Not the New York Times

Filed under: Charter Schools,MPS Buildings — millerlf @ 8:33 am

Whenever the New York Times runs articles on charter schools in that city, they include the following request to the public:

Are you a current or former charter school student in New York City? We would like to hear from your perspective about what it’s like to attend a charter school. Please email cityroom@nytimes.com with your response, which will be kept confidential and will not be published. However, an editor or reporter may contact you for a possible future article.

Why? Because the paper regularly reports on what is happening inside the walls of charter schools. They report the successes. But they also report the failings. They are especially interested in policies followed by some New York charters with the “de-selection” of special education students, ELL students, those with chronic behavior problems or performing low on standardized tests. See, for example, the Times article on a charter school’s “Got to Go” list.

Where is the investigation on this vital issue in the Milwaukee press? Good investigative reporting on the inner-workings of voucher and independent charter schools in Milwaukee would draw the interest of the public.

Reporting on debate that occurred at Thursday’s school board meeting would have been a perfect time, at least to raise questions. Board members who oppose  the proposed “collaboration” between Pulaski, a traditional public school, and Carmen, a privately run program chartered with MPS, advanced arguments based on data and conversations with staff, parents and others with first-hand knowledge.

Rather than present the arguments that came up in the debate, including concerns about Carmen’s discipline and de-selection practices, Borsuk reduced his reporting to a “profile in courage” of one board member. See Borsuk’s commentary at: Borsuk

Director Joseph and I spoke to our alternative approach to reforming Pulaski, but Borsuk again chose not to report on it.

Our approach is centered on the need to serve all students on Milwaukee’s south side. We addressed two key areas. The first would be to grow high performing high school seats by re-designing Pulaski during the present school year, and significantly expanding its numbers (The need for significantly expanding high school space would be addressed with the redesign.) The second way that we saw growing high school seats and giving students increased access to those high performing seats would be to create a grade 6-8 middle school in Pulaski as a feeder school to Pulaski High School. This middle school would help offer a pathway for the many Southside elementary schools that end at 5th grade, including nearby Zablocki and Lincoln Ave elementary schools.

To meet these needs Director Joseph and I were planning to propose the following motion but Roberts Rules of Order prevented it because a substitute motion was adopted.

Our motion states:
I move-
That the administration immediately begin a redesign of the Pulaski High School program with a bilingual component (and possible IB) using a process that-
• Uses the best practices of the Bayview redesign.

• Includes an all inclusive committee of parents, staff, students and community overseen by the administration.

• Develop an RFP for a 6-8th grade middle school to be housed in Pulaski for up 600 students, starting in the fall of 2017. The Pulaski middle school would be a feeder to the high school and create a pathway from nearby Zablocki and Lincoln, along with other South-side elementary schools that only go through 5th grade. The middle school would provide a bilingual program. Its design and RFP development would be part of the discussion of the committee to redesign Pulaski High School.

• That Pulaski will not have 9th grade in the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. 9th graders will be recruited for the school year 2017-2018. They will be the first graduating class of the redesigned Pulaski High School.

• The administration begin the discussion of the redesign in November 2015.

• That the administration work to maintain the Pulaski teaching staff committed to the redesign and the necessary accreditation/certification for the new program. The district commit to working to relieve the cost of necessary recertification.

• And, that the administration immediately find a building to house the 200 students designated for Carmen’s Southside charter expansion.

Charter School “De-selection”, “Counseling Out”, High Behavioral Suspension Rates and Now, “Got to Go” Lists

Filed under: Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 6:33 am

Many independent charter schools across the country have been identified for finding ways to rid their schools of special education students, disruptive students and low-testing students.

At a Success Academy Charter School, Singling Out Pupils Who Have ‘Got to Go’

By Kate Taylor OCT. 29, 2015 NYTimes (See at: http://tinyurl.com/nkrxgpq)

The Success Academy charter school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where the “Got to Go” list was created at the principal’s direction.

From the time Folake Ogundiran’s daughter started kindergarten at a Success Academy charter school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the girl struggled to adjust to its strict rules.

She racked up demerits for not following directions or not keeping her hands folded in her lap. Sometimes, after being chastised, she threw tantrums. She was repeatedly suspended for screaming, throwing pencils, running away from school staff members or refusing to go to another classroom for a timeout.

One day last December, the school’s principal, Candido Brown, called Ms. Ogundiran and said her daughter, then 6, was having a bad day. Mr. Brown warned that if she continued to do things that were defiant and unsafe — including, he said, pushing or kicking, moving chairs or tables, or refusing to go to another classroom — he would have to call 911, Ms. Ogundiran recalled. Already feeling that her daughter was treated unfairly, she went to the school and withdrew her on the spot.

Success Academy, the high-performing charter school network in New York City, has long been dogged by accusations that its remarkable accomplishments are due, in part, to a practice of weeding out weak or difficult students. The network has always denied it. But documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with 10 current and former Success employees at five schools suggest that some administrators in the network have singled out children they would like to see leave.

At Success Academy Fort Greene, the same day that Ms. Ogundiran heard from the principal, her daughter’s name was one of 16 placed on a list drawn up at his direction and shared by school leaders.
The heading on the list was “Got to Go.”
Nine of the students on the list later withdrew from the school. Some of their parents said in interviews that while their children attended Success, their lives were upended by repeated suspensions and frequent demands that they pick up their children early or meet with school or network staff members. Four of the parents said that school or network employees told them explicitly that the school, whose oldest students are now in the third grade, was not right for their children and that they should go elsewhere.

The current and former employees said they had observed similar practices at other Success schools. According to those employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs or their relationships with people still at the network, school leaders and network staff members explicitly talked about suspending students or calling parents into frequent meetings as ways to force parents to fall in line or prompt them to withdraw their children.

Last year, for instance, the principal of Success Academy Harlem 2 Upper, Lavinia Mackall, told teachers not to automatically send annual re-enrollment forms home to certain students, because the school did not want those students to come back, two former members of the school’s staff said. Ms. Mackall said that her comments had been misinterpreted and that she was trying to encourage parents to take the school’s requirements seriously, but that she also did not believe the school was right for all students.

In another example, a current employee said, a network lawyer in a conversation with colleagues described a particularly unruly student’s withdrawal as “a big win” for the school.

In a written response to questions, Success Academy’s spokeswoman, Ann Powell, said that the “Got to Go” list was a mistake and that the network quickly got wind of it and reprimanded Mr. Brown, the principal.

Ms. Powell said that Success schools did not push children out, and that what might look like an effort to nudge students out the door was actually an attempt to help parents find the right environment for their children. Some on the list required special education settings that Success could not offer them, she said.

Mr. Brown said in an email that he thought the disruptive behavior of the students on the list was dragging the whole school down, and “I felt I couldn’t turn the school around if these students remained.”

Once he was reprimanded, though, he and his staff tried to work with those students, he said.

Even so, five left before the end of the school year, and four more departed over the summer.

As to the child’s withdrawal being a “big win,” Ms. Powell said, “if we have a parent whose child really needs to be in a different school, which was a better learning environment for him/her to succeed in and the parent had trouble accepting their child’s needs, might that be characterized as a ‘big win?’ Yes.”
On Thursday, after this article was published online, Eva S. Moskowitz, a former New York City councilwoman who runs Success Academy, was asked by reporters about the “Got to Go” list. Ms. Moskowitz said that given her network’s size, “mistakes are sometimes made.” She declined to answer further questions, saying she would hold a news conference on Friday to discuss “the mistake that was made in that particular case.”

Frequent Suspensions
Success Academy is the city’s largest charter school network. It has 34 schools, and plans to grow to 70 in five or six years.

The network serves mostly black and Hispanic students and is known for exacting behavior rules. Even the youngest pupils are expected to sit with their backs straight, their hands clasped and their eyes on the teacher, a posture that the network believes helps children pay attention. Ms. Moskowitz has said she believes children learn better with structure and consistency in the classroom. Good behavior and effort are rewarded with candy and prizes, while infractions and shoddy work are penalized with reprimands, loss of recess time, extra assignments and, in some cases, suspensions as early as kindergarten.

Charter schools are privately run but publicly funded and admit children by lottery. Similar to a traditional public school, a charter school must provide a seat to a child who has enrolled unless the student withdraws, is expelled, turns 21 or moves out of the state. Charter schools must follow strict guidelines before formally expelling any student, and Success has done so only once since its first school opened in 2006. But Success’s critics accuse it of pushing children out by making their parents’ lives so difficult that they withdraw.

Suspensions at Success, which typically last one or two days, are frequent compared with traditional public schools. In the 2012-13 school year, the most recent one for which state data is available, Success schools suspended between 4 percent and 23 percent of their students at least once, with most suspending more than 10 percent. According to the most recent statistics from the city’s Education Department, from 2013-14, traditional public schools suspended 3 percent of students that academic year.

Ms. Moskowitz has said that suspensions can make parents recognize the seriousness of their children’s misbehavior and that removing students who are acting dangerously from the classroom protects teachers and allows them to do their jobs more effectively.

Principals at Success, many in their 20s and 30s, frequently consult with a team of lawyers before suspending a student or requiring a parent to pick up a child early every day. It was a member of that team who described a student’s withdrawal from the Success Academy in Union Square to colleagues as a “big win,” the current employee said.

James D. Merriman, the chief executive officer of the New York City Charter School Center, a group that advocates and supports charter schools, said it was unrealistic to expect any given school to be a good fit for every child. And Mr. Merriman noted that the city had many traditional public schools that required a test or other screening for admission, schools that by definition did not serve all students.

“I think if you asked most charter leaders they’d say that their goal is to be a fit for as broad an array of children as possible,” he said, “and they’re working very hard to that end.”

Under Pressure
Mr. Brown arrived at Success Academy Fort Greene, which shares a white-brick building with a public school in the shadow of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, in November 2014. He was the school’s third principal since it opened a year earlier, and he said he found the school, with 224 students, out of control. Children behaved violently, he said, and teachers were overwhelmed and starting to feel hopeless.

“If the school had been better managed from the start, then we could have done better by these students and probably could have kept more of them,” he said in an email. “However, it is also the case that for some of them, Success wasn’t the best place. Some of them needed an alternative setting with highly specialized services. And some parents just didn’t agree with our philosophy.”

Some of the parents whose children were on the “Got to Go” list acknowledged that they did not agree with how the school managed behavior. But several also said that both before and after the list was created, they thought school and network employees were trying to push them out.

Folake Wimbish said her son, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was suspended 19 times last year, in first grade, and missed 26 days. Success said her son was intellectually gifted but struggled with behavior, “often hitting, kicking, biting and spitting at other children and adults.”

In early December, while Ms. Wimbish was pushing the school to evaluate her son for special education services, she was called to a meeting in Lower Manhattan with the network’s assistant general counsel and its associate special education manager, Julie Freese. She said Ms. Freese told her that, because of his suspensions, her son was missing out on his education, and she needed to think about his well-being.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you just put him in another school, because he’s suffering,’ ” Ms. Wimbish said.

Ms. Wimbish withdrew her son at the end of the year, because with the suspensions and calls to pick him up, she said, “I started feeling like I was going to have a breakdown.” He now attends Public School 119 in Brooklyn, where Ms. Wimbish said he was very happy and had not been suspended once.

Monique Jeffrey said her son, who was in kindergarten last year, was suspended so many times she “stopped counting.” In the middle of the year, Ms. Jeffrey said, the school’s education manager, Rebecca Fleischman, told her that her son had emotional and behavioral issues the school could not handle and that she should look for another school. Ms. Jeffrey withdrew him at the end of the year.

Nicey Givens, the mother of another student on the list, said her son, also a kindergartner last year, was suspended many times, in some cases, the school told her, for fighting. Ms. Fleischman said in an email that a special education committee of the school district recommended that the boy be placed in a type of special education class the school did not offer in his grade. Ms. Givens recalled that Ms. Fleischman told her the school did not have the resources to serve her son and offered to help find him a placement in a regular public school. Her son now attends P.S. 287.

Ms. Powell, the Success spokeswoman, said the charter network was deeply committed to serving special education students and it was prevented from offering more special education classes because the city had not granted it enough classrooms. “Helping some students find better placements is not wrong,” she added.

Around the time the “Got to Go” list was created, Mr. Brown and the school’s dean spoke with the principal of another Success school in Brooklyn, and the dean shared with her colleagues some notes from that conversation. The notes were part of an email exchange shown to The Times by a former Success employee.

The notes describe several suggestions for dealing with families who are “not on board” and discussed 911 calls.

The notes also appear to allude to the possibility of getting one child on the “Got to Go” list classified as a 12:1:1 special education student. Those students are entitled to classrooms limited to 12 students, with one teacher and one aide, so Success Academy, which offers only five such classes in a network serving 11,000 students, might not be able to meet the needs of every 12:1:1 student.

Ms. Fleischman, the education manager, warned her colleagues in a follow-up email that the goal should not have been put in an email and that, in any case, a 12:1:1 classification “does not guarantee a withdrawal.”

Asked this month about that remark, she said that she was saying only that the parent of a 12:1:1 student would not be required to take the student out, and was not alluding to any effort to ensure the child would leave.

Mixed Messages
Some of the parents whose children were on the list said that while some school employees were advising them to leave, others were sending reassuring messages.

On Feb. 2, a teacher, Hannah Hodari, wrote an email to Ms. Jeffrey about her son’s progress in math. “I can totally tell you have been working with him, he was very enthusiastic today and his work and focus was much improved,” the teacher wrote.

In June, after Ms. Jeffrey had decided to withdraw her son, Ms. Hodari urged her to reconsider, saying in an email that she would be “so excited” to see him return and “watch him be successful” in first grade.

“However,” the teacher added, “I also understand where your concerns and doubts come from.”

Ms. Powell, the spokeswoman, said: “We make tremendous efforts to keep all children. We do this because morally once a child enters our doors, they are ours, and we want them to succeed.”

She also named three mothers of children on the “Got to Go” list who were still at the school, saying they would be able to describe the efforts that Success had made to keep their students there.

One of those mothers, Aisha Cooper, said her son, now in second grade, had struggled with his behavior because he was easily distracted, had difficulty keeping his eyes on the teacher and would sometimes call out in class. She said he was suspended once in kindergarten for throwing a snow globe across the room, and she recalled his kindergarten teacher’s once suggesting that maybe Success was not a good fit for him.

Ms. Cooper said she never felt as if the school wanted him gone. She said she liked the school so much that she was planning to send her daughter there for kindergarten next year.

But when a reporter asked if she knew that her son had been included last year on the “Got to Go” list, Ms. Cooper said she did not.

“I’m a little upset about that,” she said after a minute. “They could have let me know he was on a list that he ‘had to go.’ And I would have asked them why, because he’s not a bad child. He just talks too much sometimes.

“He doesn’t hit kids, he doesn’t knock kids over, he doesn’t scream, he just talks too much. So I don’t understand why he’s on this list.”

Are you a current or former charter school student in New York City? We would like to hear from your perspective about what it’s like to attend a charter school. Please email cityroom@nytimes.com with your response, which will be kept confidential and will not be published. However, an editor or reporter may contact you for a possible future article.

A version of this article appears in print on October 30, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Charter School’s ‘Got to Go’ List Singled Out Difficult Students .

June 28, 2015

National Charter School Conference: “It looked like every other conference. Fall in line, Black people. We know what’s good for you.”

Filed under: Charter Schools,New Orleans,Privatization,Recovery District — millerlf @ 10:00 am


National Charter School Hoopla In New Orleans

Ashana Bigard The Progressive July 2015

Editor’s Note: The National Charter Schools Conference took place this summer at the New Orleans convention center, on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was, in the infamous words of Education Secretary Arne Duncan “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans” because it forced the community to take steps to improve its low-performing public schools. The mass firing of New Orleans teachers, the dismantling of a city’s public school system and the destruction of local control, has been touted as a model for the nation. The Progressive has reported extensively on the questionable results of the New Orleans charter school experiment. Ashana Bigard, a New Orleanian, advocate, and mother of three, attended the national conference and filed the following report.

I attended the National Charter Schools Conference from June 21 to June 24 in New Orleans.

On Sunday, June 21, as I was checking in, I asked about free spaces for the parents in the community who have children in charter schools. To my surprise and dismay there was no slot open.

The conference kicked off with a Mardi Gras style parade. It was a celebration of charter schools and their success in New Orleans, which is a national model for innovation in education—or so they say.

On Monday, I attended a presentation where Paul Pastorek, the ex-superintendent of Louisiana schools, said that charter schools have “improved the quality of life for the New Orleans community.”

The average reader might say, “What is the problem with that statement?” All over the country people think that New Orleans is a model for public education, that we have done it right. We’re respectable! Successful! Disciplined! Obedient! Ready to go to college! Or work in Walmart, or be a best model prisoner! To be all you can be in today’s Army! That’s us!

We’re a growth district. A lot of our schools have a 100 percent graduation rate. We also happen to have 14,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24, who are not in school or working. They are the lost youth. No, excuse me, I meant to say “opportunity youth.” Somebody clearly has the opportunity to make some money off them.

John White, Louisiana state superintendent of education, said that the state has 26,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school or working. More than half of them just happen to reside in our “successful” New Orleans all-charter school district. These are not children in alternative schools. These are the invisible kids. They are the kids who, despite all the wonderful educational choices we supposedly have, don’t fit in anywhere.

I want people to understand how big New Orleans is. You have to drive an hour and a half in any given direction to get out of the city.

In 2007, there were 32,149 children enrolled in Orleans parish. The children charter operators at the conference called “opportunity youth,” who experienced the transition to our all-charter district, were between the ages of 8 and 16 at the time.

By 2011 there was 42,657 children enrolled in Orleans parish. Even with that larger number, one-fourth of the children fall through the cracks of our reformed system.

I don’t know about the average person, but I wouldn’t use an investor who told me that they would lose a quarter of my money. There is a big difference between a dollar and seventy-five cents, we can all agree. It feels very peculiar to call that success. But I’m getting off topic, let’s get back to our wonderful conference.

The audience at the charter school conference was very diverse. The panels, however . . .

I went to a panel called “How can we ensure schools build and maintain model diversity?” Four white men explained the network of charter schools they run, and how diverse they are. One panelist said that most of the schools in the network have a fifty-fifty ratio of white children to minority children. “We want to build schools that we would want to send our own children to,” he declared.

He sounded proud. But I wondered, if the panelists at this conference would only send their own children to a small subset of the schools in their network, what are they saying about the rest of the schools?

John White explained that this year, there is “a push to serve all children.”

Why did it take ten years to start a push to serve all children? That is another question we should be asking in our shiny new school reform system.

The conference in many ways reflected the school district in New Orleans. Many people from New Orleans came as attendees, but very few of them were leading the conference. The leaders and presenters were mainly white men.

In my humble opinion, if a city is 68 percent African American, the leadership of the city’s school district should mirror the city’s demographics.

Imagine a conference on LGBTQ issues where the majority of panelists were straight. Or a conference on women’s issues led by men. We know that the majority of public school children in our city are African American. How did so many people from outside our city and from a different background become experts on our experience and how to educate us?

I’m going to start pushing back.

I’m not saying that we can’t have any white teachers or administrators; I’m not saying that we don’t have white children and families in our public schools, because we do. I’m just saying that there is a stark difference in the demographics when you look at leadership, decision makers, consultants, and stakeholders. And when I say stakeholders, I mean the children and the people from the communities who are in our schools every day.

There was good information, and misleading information, and just downright wrong information being distributed at the national charter school conference.

When I arrived I was hopeful and maybe a little naïve. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that having a national charter school conference in New Orleans might change the way we look at our schools.

When we talk about charter schools for people who have not experienced them the way New Orleans did, you think of innovation, creative ways of teaching and learning. Let me be very clear: that is not happening in the majority of New Orleans charter schools. But just for a minute, I allowed myself to imagine a conference where sessions were interactive and fun. Where people got to engage, not just be lectured to.

I allowed myself to imagine that charter school leaders in my community would go to these innovative and engaging sessions—on different learning styles, early childhood brain development, culturally relevant pedagogy, social development fundamentals, learning through play, restorative justice, conflict resolution, nutrition for brain development, how to help cope with trauma through the arts, music, and drama, managing schools that are “zero-tolerance” when it comes to systemic oppression, how to recognize stereotypes and biases within yourself. I imagined attending these sessions with black people, Native American people, women, and youth, and that the sessions would be lead by these types of people.

Instead, it looked like every other conference. Fall in line, black people. We know what’s good for you.

All of the interesting debate and discussions took place outside the regular sessions.

At the end of the conference, African American charter school advocate Dr. Deborah McGriff spoke, as she was being inducted into the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ Hall of Fame. Here is what she said: “Things happening to us, not with us, for us, not by us, must end!”
– See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2015/06/188196/national-charter-school-hoopla-new-orleans#sthash.89Gd4Nz8.dpuf

May 14, 2015

Milwaukee Alderperson Tony Zielinski Calls for End to City Chartering and for City to Partner More Closely With Milwaukee Public schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 5:04 pm

PROPOSAL WOULD TAKE CITY OUT OF THE CHARTER SCHOOL BUSINESS

Alderman Tony Zielinski has drafted Common Council legislation that would put an end to the City of Milwaukee’s approval of new charter schools.

The proposal would allow existing city-chartered schools to continue operating, but would allow no new applications to be accepted.

“We certainly do not want to inconvenience or dislocate children currently attending city-chartered schools in Milwaukee, and it is appropriate that we honor our contracts with those schools,” Alderman Zielinski said.
“But I also believe the time has come for the City of Milwaukee to move forward in partnership with, and in support of, Milwaukee Public Schools,” the alderman said.

Current law authorizes the City of Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to approve new charter schools in the city.

The draft legislation has not yet been assigned to one of the Council’s standing committees.

May 2, 2015

Report: Millions of dollars in fraud, waste found in charter school sector

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 2:32 am

By Valerie Strauss April 28 Washington Post
A new report released on Tuesday details fraud and waste totaling more than $200 million of uncovered fraud and waste of taxpayer funds in the charter school sector, but says the total is impossible to know because there is not sufficient oversight over these schools. It calls on Congress to include safeguards in legislation being considered to succeed the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The report, titled “The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities To Waste, Fraud, And Abuse,” was released jointly by the nonprofit organizations Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools and the Center for Popular Democracy. It follows a similar report released a year ago by the same groups that detailed $136 million in fraud and waste and mismanagement in 15 of the 42 states that operate charter schools. The 2015 report cites $203 million, including the 2014 total plus $23 million in new cases, and $44 million in earlier cases not included in last year’s report.

It notes that these figures only represent fraud and waste in the charter sector uncovered so far, and that the total that federal, state and local governments “stand to lose” in 2015 is probably more than $1.4 billion. It says, “The vast majority of the fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud.”
[New York City charters leave thousands of seats unfilled despite exploding demand, study finds]

The report makes these policy recommendations:
■ Mandate audits that are specifically designed to detect and prevent fraud, and increase the transparency and accountability of charter school operators and managers.
■ Clear planning-based public investments to ensure that any expansions of charter school investments ensure equity, transparency, and accountability.
■ Increase transparency and accountability to ensure that charter schools provide the information necessary for state agencies to detect and prevent fraud.
It also says:
State and federal lawmakers should act now to put systems in place to prevent fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. While the majority of state legislative sessions are coming to an end, there is an opportunity to address the charter school fraud problem on a federal level by including strong oversight requirements in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is currently being debated in Congress. Unfortunately, some ESEA proposals do very little reduce the vulnerabilities that exist in the current law. If the Act is passed without the inclusion of the reforms outlined in this report, taxpayers stand to lose millions more dollars to charter school fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.

The charter school sector has expanded significantly in the last decade and now educates about 5 percent of the students enrolled in public schools. The Obama administration has supported the spread of charter schools; President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 includes $375 million specifically for charters, a 48 percent increase over last year’s actual budget.

Proponents say charters offer choices for parents and competition for traditional public schools. Critics say that most charters don’t perform any better — and some of them worse — than traditional public schools, take resources away from school districts, and are part of an effort to privatize public education.

The report says that any “effective, comprehensive fraud prevention system” should include:
■ Taking proactive steps to educate all staff and board members about fraud;
■ Ensuring that one executive-level manager coordinates and oversees the fraud risk assessment and reports to the board of directors, oversight bodies, and school community;
■ Implementing reporting procedures that include conflict disclosure, whistleblower protections, and a clear investigation process;
■ Undergoing and posting a fraud risk assessment conducted by a consultant expert in applicable standards, key risk indicators, anti-fraud methodology, control activities, and detection procedures; and
■ Developing and implementing quality assurance, continuous monitoring, and, where necessary, correction action plans, with clear benchmarks and reporting

The report details cases across the country, among them:

The District of Columbia
In February 2015, the DC Public Charter School Board unanimously voted to revoke the charter of the Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School. The DC Attorney General is suing the founder, Kent Amos, for diverting public education funding to a private company for his personal profit. That private management company paid Amos more than $2.5 million over the last 2 years. Over the past 10 years, the school has paid the private entity more than $14 million and, while costs to the private company declined over that time, management fees rose. The charter board’s oversight report showed “no pattern of fiscal mismanagement.” Members of the DC Public Charter School Board have described their limited ability to oversee for-profit management companies, which face no requirement to disclose salaries or other pertinent information.

Michigan
In April 2014, Steven Ingersoll, founder of Grand Traverse Academy, was convicted on federal fraud and tax evasion. He did not report $2 million of taxable income in 2009 and 2010. The school’s audit revealed a $2.3 million prepayment to Ingersoll’s school management company. The school’s later decision to write down $1.6 million of the loan put the school in a deficit position for the first time. Ingersoll then used half of a $.8 million loan for school construction to pay down some of his debt to the school.13 After the founder’s ouster, his daughter-in-law continued to handle the finances of the school.

Ohio
In January 2015, the state auditor released a report of the results of unannounced visits by inspectors to 30 charter schools. In nearly half of the schools, the school-provided headcount was significantly higher than the auditors’ headcount. Schools are funded based on headcount, so these inflated figures amount to taxpayer dollars siphoned away from students. Among the seven schools with the most extreme variances between reported head count and the auditors’ headcount, almost 900 students were missing, at a cost of roughly $5.7 million.16 Auditors identified eight other schools with troubling, but less significant variances. In June 2014, a grand jury indicted the superintendent and 2 board members of Arise! Academy in Dayton of soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for awarding a “lucrative” consulting contract to a North Carolina-based company. The contract was worth $420,919 and the charter personnel received kickbacks in the form of cash, travel, and payments to a separate business.

California
In July 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District performed a forensic audit of Magnolia Public Schools. They found that the charter-school chain used education dollars to pay for six nonemployees’ immigration costs and could not justify $3 million in expenses over four years to outsource curriculum development, professional training, and human resources services that the school itself reported doing.

April 28, 2015

Would Alan Borsuk send his grandchildren to a “No Excuses” school?

Filed under: Borsuk,Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 2:14 pm

In an op-ed last Sunday Alan Borsuk criticized a vote I took at a school board meeting on April 23. It concerned a proposed charter school that he described as a “no excuses” school. Actually in the world of education, these are called “no-nonsense” schools.

What Borsuk does not tell you is that there’s a huge debate around the country, most recently described in extensive articles in the New York Times (See blogs Parent Testimony on Abuse of “No-Nonsense” Charter Schools and “No-Nonsense” Charter School Model Intentionally Causes Students to Feel “Misery” ) and in an Atlantic magazine article from 12/2014 by the former Journal Sentinel reporter Sarah Carr, titled How Strict Is Too Strict.

Borsuk uses an unfortunate journalistic technique of paraphrasing board members critical of the proposal while quoting those in support. I wish he had given me due diligence by quoting my final comment: “We have Montessori, Language Immersion and IB for white and middle-class students, while low-income African American students get a code of conduct.”

Questions for Mr. Borsuk:
• Would you send your grandchildren to one of these schools?
• Is absolute obedience the objective of good education?
• Do you support the high suspension rates at these no nonsense schools?
• Why did you not explain to your readers that these schools often have high attrition rates, where students leaving the program are not replaced, making it appear as if graduation rates are exceptional?
• Why do the absolute obedience schools have such low special education enrollment?
• Are you aware of the high teacher turnover at these schools?
• Which “discipline matrix” do you support?
• Are you aware of the civil rights complaints registered at these absolute obedience schools in New Orleans?
• Eva Moskowitz will operate 43 “no-nonsense” Success Academy charter schools in New York next year. Are you aware of the debate, described in a number of articles in the New York Times in the past month? (Your readers should be informed about this high profile discussion that is being closely watched by education experts throughout the nation.)
• Does the school board not have a responsibility to put in place programs that protect all children and provide a rich curriculum for all children?

Over the six years that I have been on the school board, I have come to the conclusion that I will always ask myself, would I send my grandchildren to a program I am voting to establish?

I’d encourage Mr. Borsuk to ask the same question.

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