Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

March 10, 2016

 Why Has Charter School Violence Spiked at Double the Rate of Public Schools?

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 7:58 pm

Meanwhile, charter advocates continue to criticize the safety of traditional public schools.
By George Joseph The Nation (March 8)

A few weeks after The New York Times released a controversial video of a Success Academy Charter School teacher lashing out at a student, New York City’s deep-pocketed charter school advocates are looking to shift the public narrative on who is committing violence in city schools.

Over the last few weeks, Families for Excellent Schools, a charter school lobbying and advocacy group with close ties to Success Academy, has placed TV ads, held a press conference, and taken to social media, claiming New York City public schools are in a violent “state of emergency.” The charter school campaign appears to be a response to the public backlash that Success Academy has received for its controversial disciplinary approach.

Taking state data, which includes “violent” incidents not involving the police, Families for Excellent Schools asserts that between 2014 and 2015 schools suffered a 23 percent uptick in violence. The public action was meant to undermine New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently claimed school violence has gone down, thanks to his administration’s softer disciplinary approach.

A Nation analysis of the charter school group’s data, however, suggests the move may backfire, since the numbers also show that charter schools themselves reported a far higher spike in incidents of school violence, 54 percent, more than double that of the public school average between the 2014 and 2015 school years.

Breaking the data down further, The Nation also found that while NYC public schools, perhaps responding to the district’s disciplinary reforms, actually dropped in nonviolent offenses like “criminal mischief” and “other disruptive incidents” at -6 percent and -23 percent, respectively, charter schools had a 65 percent surge in reported incidents of “criminal mischief” and a 33 percent surge in “other disruptive incidents.” Notably, charter schools also had far higher reported surges in drug and weapons possession incidents, at 53 percent and 27 percent respectively, whereas public schools only had 5 percent and 9 percent jumps for the same categories.

New York City charter school students represent a relatively small amount of the city’s overall population, and therefore make up only 4 percent of total violent incidents in New York City schools, but these drastic disparities raise questions about how charter schools’ controversial disciplinary cultures relate to the dramatic increase in reported school violence.

Brenda Shufelt, a recently retired librarian who served public school and Success Academy Charter School students at a colocated school library in Harlem, said that as charter schools rapidly expand, they may be taking in more high-needs kids, many of whom cannot conform to one-size-fits-all disciplinary approaches.

“In my experience, what would often happen is that charter school students would be so rigidly controlled that the kids would periodically blow up,” says Shufelt. “At PS 30, some of our kids would have meltdowns, usually because of problems at home, but I never saw kids melt down in the way they did in charter schools. They were just so despairing, feeling like they could not do this. I was told by two custodians, they had never had so much vomit to clean up from kindergarten and elementary classes.”

Examining the 10 charter schools with the highest reported incidents of violence in 2014 and 2015, The Nation also found that reported incidents escalated 485 percent last year over the previous year, more than four times faster than the growth of violent incidents for public schools of the same category.

Of the top six charter school sites with the most reported incidents of violence from 2014 to 2015, four were KIPP charter schools, part of a nationally heralded charter chain that has 11 locations in New York. In recent years, KIPP has drawn headlines for its disciplinary regimen, which often includes precise control of students’ physical movements, intricate behavioral systems of reward and punishment, and enforced silence throughout school hallways. In 2013, a KIPP school in Manhattan made news, after a kindergartner and first grader had anxiety attacks, triggered by the school’s practice of repeatedly locking students in custom-designed time-out closets. KIPP refused to end the practice after the controversy and did not respond to Nation inquiries about the spike in reported incidents.

Some experts, however, caution that charter school spike in “violent” incidents could be more a reflection of these schools’ “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies than students’ actual behavior. “The stricter the behavior regimens are, the more likely students are to be reported as violent when they don’t conform,” says Leonie Haimson of the advocacy group Class Size Matters.

“These policies could not just be responding to violent behavior but actually be coming to define and shape what counts as criminal, thus building into the school to prison pipeline,” says Celina Su, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College. “There’s also a real racial component to this. Look at where these draconian policies are being implemented and who do they have in mind. Who is allowed to play and who is allowed to make mistakes and learn from them?”

Zakiyah Ansari, a parent advocate with the Alliance for Quality Education, which receives partial funding from labor, is skeptical of both Families for Excellent Schools’ numbers and its intentions.

“State Education Department officials have conceded that the data system does not accurately measure safety and school climate and are undergoing an overhaul of the system because there it has little credibility,” says Ansari. “FES is clearly aware that these numbers can’t be trusted, but they are using them to paint black and brown children that go to public schools as dangerous. The harsh policies at KIPP, Success Academy, and other charter chains are abusive towards students, and the FES campaign is a deceptive attack on restorative justice approaches which actually make schools safer.”

FES did not respond to a request for comment.

March 2, 2016

“No-Nonsense” Charter Once Again Embarrassed

Filed under: Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 4:55 pm

Mother of Girl Berated in Video Assails Success Academy’s Response
By KATE TAYLOR FEB. 25, 2016 NYTimes
Nadya Miranda, 23, is the mother of a student whose treatment by an angry teacher at Success Academy in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, was surreptitiously videotaped. Ms. Miranda has withdrawn her daughter from the school. the video.

A safe haven for her daughter: a Success Academy charter school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, where she hoped her daughter would get a good education and be put on a path to college.

Then she saw the video.

The video, which was recorded surreptitiously by an assistant teacher in the fall of 2014, captured a first-grade teacher at the school scolding Ms. Miranda’s daughter for being unable to explain to the class how she solved a math problem. The teacher ripped the girl’s paper in half, ordered her to leave the circle to sit in what she called “the calm-down chair,” and said that she was angry and disappointed.

When the video was published by The New York Times this month, Success Academy held a defiant news conference. The network’s founder, Eva S. Moskowitz, defended the teacher, Charlotte Dial, saying that she had apologized “in real time” to her students, and accused The Times of bias. A teacher suggested that the newspaper did not believe that black and Hispanic children could be academically successful. Two parents stood up to say that they did not need .

A Momentary Lapse or Abusive Teaching?

In 2014, an assistant teacher at Success Academy Cobble Hill secretly filmed her colleague, Charlotte Dial, scolding one of her students after the young girl failed to answer a question correctly. The children’s faces have been blurred and their names obscured to protect their privacy.
Ms. Miranda, however, tells a different story.

In two lengthy interviews, she said that she did not know what was happening in her daughter’s classroom before she saw the video. She said that she was so upset by what she saw — and by the network’s rush to rally around Ms. Dial, while showing little concern for her daughter or other students — that she took the girl out of the school in late January.

Ms. Miranda said that while Ms. Dial had apologized to her, the teacher had never apologized to her daughter. She said that a public relations specialist for Success drafted an email for her, asking The Times not to publish the video, and that at a meeting Ms. Moskowitz held at the school on Jan. 20, Ms. Moskowitz asked the parents to support Ms. Dial and to defend the school to the paper. Ms. Miranda said that when she stood up, identified herself and objected that Ms. Moskowitz was asking parents to support the teacher without even showing them the video, Ms. Moskowitz cut her off.

“She’s like, ‘You had enough to say, you had enough to say,’ and she tried to talk over me,” Ms. Miranda said. “So I just really got frustrated, and I just walked out, and the parents that were concerned followed me, and the parents who were against me and for the teacher” stayed in the auditorium.

Ms. Miranda took her daughter home that morning and did not bring her back to the school. The next week, after confirming that there was a seat in the regular public school where her younger son is in prekindergarten, she withdrew her daughter and placed her in that school.

Success Academy declined to comment on the specifics of Ms. Miranda’s account, though in an emailed statement, Stefan Friedman, a spokesman, said the network was “sorry Ms. Miranda chose to withdraw her daughter.”

Ms. Dial did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Miranda, 23, said she sent her daughter to Success Academy because she wanted her to get a better education than she had and to aspire to college. Ms. Miranda was raised mostly by her mother, who spoke only Spanish and was disabled by diabetes and heart disease by the time Ms. Miranda was 13. She became pregnant in ninth grade and dropped out of school, later earning her high school equivalency diploma. She has worked as a home health aide and earns money now by babysitting for friends’ children. She and her children are currently living in a family shelter.

Her daughter attended Public School 10, the Magnet School of Math, Science and Design Technology in Brooklyn, for kindergarten, but Ms. Miranda was unimpressed with the work.

“I felt that she was doing more drawing than actually learning,” she said.

She entered the lottery for Success Academy, drawn by the network’s reputation for academic rigor, and won a seat. But when the school gave her daughter a placement test, administrators said she had to repeat kindergarten.

Her daughter was placed in Ms. Dial’s class for kindergarten and then stayed with the teacher for first grade. Ms. Miranda said her daughter had done well in math, but struggled with reading and writing and, over time, became discouraged.

“She used to tell me: ‘I’m never going to get it. I just don’t know. I’m not as smart as the other kids,’” Ms. Miranda said. “I would hear that from her, and I’d be like, ‘Where are you getting this from?’”

When she saw the video, Ms. Miranda said, she understood her daughter’s dejection.

“It makes me feel bad as a parent — like, what am I going to do to build her confidence all over again?” she said.

In an interview and at the news conference, Ms. Moskowitz dismissed the video as an anomaly, but Ms. Miranda’s daughter, now 8, said that Ms. Dial frequently yelled at students for infractions like not folding their hands. She said that she did not remember the specific incident captured on the video, but that she was afraid to ask questions in Ms. Dial’s class, because asking Ms. Dial to explain something a second time would lead to a punishment. She said Ms. Dial had on other occasions ripped up children’s papers when she thought they were copying others’ work.

She said she did not complain to her mother, because “I was scared of Ms. Dial.”

Ms. Miranda said she learned about the video when she arrived to pick her daughter up from school on Jan. 13 and was told to get her from the principal’s office. The principal, Kerri Nicholls, told Ms. Miranda that The Times was asking about a video of an incident between her daughter and Ms. Dial, but that she did not know what it showed. The next day, at a meeting with Ms. Nicholls, Ms. Dial and Ann Powell, the network’s executive vice president for public affairs, Ms. Miranda watched the video. She said that Ms. Dial cried and apologized to her, saying that she had had a bad day.

Upset after viewing the video, Ms. Miranda said she did not want it published, to protect her daughter’s privacy. Ms. Powell suggested she send an email to The Times. When Ms. Miranda said she did not know what to write, Ms. Powell drafted the email for her and told her to send it from her email address because it would be more powerful coming from her.

On Jan. 20, after the schoolwide meeting with the parents, Ms. Miranda sent another email to The Times saying that she was not happy with how the school was handling the incident and asking to be contacted. She did not speak with a reporter until last week.

Ms. Miranda said Ms. Moskowitz did not try to contact her until after the meeting on the 20th, and at that point, she felt it was too late. What most distressed her, Ms. Miranda said, was that the network and even many of the parents united behind Ms. Dial and did not seem to care about how her behavior affected children.

After the video became public, Ms. Moskowitz sent an email to parents at the network’s schools asking “for your compassion and understanding in judging this video and Ms. Dial.”
Despite having publicly described the incident captured on video as an isolated one, Ms. Moskowitz said in her email to parents that the network was “taking steps to ensure this does not happen again.” Ms. Moskowitz said those steps included retraining “teachers on our approach and the importance of setting high expectations and demanding that scholars give their best effort, but always in the context of deeply respecting children,” and “refining our introductory training to include more sessions on self-awareness, stress management, and the ability to manage up and ask for the help.” She said that from now on Success would provide training on those issues three times a year.

Seeking to hold someone accountable for what happened to her daughter, Ms. Miranda went into a Department of Education building in Brooklyn to ask about filing a complaint, but was told that Success was independent from the school district. She said that Ms. Nicholls, the principal, had given her information about how to reach Success’s board of trustees, and that she had sent a letter, but she was not optimistic that she would get a response.

Ms. Miranda said she felt betrayed by the school that she had hoped would give her daughter a better life.

“I trust you guys with my daughter, and now I feel like I can’t trust you,” she said.

Two City Charter Schools Will End their Contracts at the End of the Academic Year

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 4:38 pm

Struggling schools face accountability
By Lisa Kaiser Feb. 23, 2016

Two of the City of Milwaukee’s 10 charter schools will relinquish their contracts at the end of the academic year, and two additional struggling schools have faced enhanced scrutiny, signs that the city is making its charter schools more accountable after years of taking a hands-off approach to the schools it charters.

In January, leaders of the North Point Lighthouse Charter School—a member of the national Lighthouse Academies network getting financial help from the Andre Agassi-led, for-profit Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund—voted to relinquish its charter with the city and close its doors at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

The city’s Charter School Review Committee, comprised of appointees, placed North Point Lighthouse Charter School, 4200 W. Douglas Ave., on probation in October 2015. According to its Jan. 15 letter to the committee, the school’s board anticipated that the city committee would terminate its five-year contract so it decided to announce its closure in January. The early heads up allows students to participate in public and voucher school enrollment fairs in January and February.

Although the school had hired a new principal last fall and said it was focusing on improving student achievement, among the problems cited in Board Chair Adam Peck’s letter are declining enrollment, staffing turnover during probation and below-target daily attendance.

According to the city’s school score cards, North Point Lighthouse Charter School received 46.8% or F in the 2012-2013 academic year, 58.1% or F in 2013-2014 and 63.6% or D in 2014-2015.

Finances were problematic as well.

“The school’s financial position in is jeopardy due to lease agreements that require the dedication of financial resources that ideally are needed to hire and retain highly effective urban educators,” Peck’s letter states.

North Point Lighthouse launched with great fanfare in 2012, when retired tennis pro Agassi visited the city to promote his new school. The Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund—a partnership between Agassi Ventures and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors—buys and develops properties, which it leases to charter school operators. The school operators can buy the school after they reach full occupancy. In 2013, Agassi returned to open Rocketship Southside Community Prep on the South Side, which also utilized the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund to open its doors.

Also struggling academically and relinquishing its city charter is King’s Academy on North 60th Street, which will “return to our roots and once again become a private school,” Board Chair John W. McVicker Sr. wrote to city leaders in a July 2015.

By “private school,” McVicker means returning to the school’s roots as a publicly funded, church-based voucher school. The school was chartered by the city in 2010, but it had been a religious voucher school affiliated with Christ the King Baptist Church for the previous 11 years.

“We believe that we can better serve our students by making sure they are immersed in a school that stresses the power of Jesus Christ in their lives with a Christ-centered curriculum,” McVicker’s letter reads:

King’s Academy received D+ grades for each academic year since 2012-2013, scoring either 68.8% or 67% on the city’s report cards.

Two Schools Face Scrutiny

Two additional schools have faced pressure from accountability measures as well.

Milwaukee Math and Science Academy had been placed on probation in January 2015. In October 2015, the Charter School Review Committee asked for a mid-year review by Feb. 5. The school wanted its probation lifted. But accountability advocates Women Committed to an Informed Community and Schools and Communities United argued that it’s too soon to make a decision on the school’s status, since the test scores for 2015-2016 haven’t been completed yet.

The city’s score card gave Milwaukee Math and Science Academy 64.4% or D in the 2012-2013 academic year, 66.4% or D in 2013-2014, and 72.6% or C- in 2014-2015. The standard for probation is 70%.

The Charter School Review Committee voted to lift the school’s probationary status.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, run by former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent turned voucher advocate Howard Fuller, is also struggling. The school received 71.3% or C- in the 2012-2013 school year, 68.2% or D+ in 2013-2014, and 78.2% or C+ in 2014-2015.

The Charter School Review Committee voted to review the school annually and to extend its contract for an additional five years.

All of the committee’s votes need to be approved by the Milwaukee Common Council.

February 14, 2016

“Model” teacher at “no-nonsense” school in New York is abusive to children

Filed under: Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 2:49 pm

Watch an abusive teacher at Success Academy in New York. This is part of the Eva Moskowitz network of “no-nonsense” charter schools. This particular teacher has been honored as a “model” teacher.

Go to:
http://tinyurl.com/gnflq4c

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 .

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