The Regents Have a Charter School Problem: Why Did They Grant Charters to Grossly Inadequate Applicants? Fumbling or Politics? The Public Deserves Answers

A couple of years ago I received a phone call, would I lead a team to write an application for a charter school, for a substantial fee? (I declined)

No, it’s not cheating, it’s standard practice. My school district was very successful in acquiring competitive grant dollars; they sought out the best grant writer who specialized in the topic of the grant. Potential charter school operators, I would suppose, also seek out the best writers; the content of the charter application may not reflect the capacity of the applicant.

The State Education Department (SED) website has impressive requirements for applying for a charter as well as monitoring the entire process.

The application is detailed and the State Department of Education (SED) in their guidance document sets a high standard.

The Board of Regents will only approve applications that clearly demonstrate a strong capacity for establishing and operating a high quality charter school. This standard requires a strong educational program, organizational plan, and financial plan, as well as clear evidence of the capacity of the founding group to implement the proposal and operate the school effectively.

Once approved the SED retains the right to monitor the performance of charter school,

… the New York State Education Department, is authorized to oversee and monitor each charter school authorized by the Regents in all respects, including the right to visit, examine and inspect the charter school and its records.

Additionally the SED requires specific actions in an opening procedures document, a monitoring plan, a performance framework and a closing procedures checklist

Unfortunately the SED will tell you there is no way they can monitor charter schools in the detail that the regulations allow; they simply do not have the staff. Once a charter school opens there is virtually no supervision for the initial five years.

What is disturbing is that the SED does not adequately vet the applicants, the members of the charter board.

Why did the SED not appropriately investigate the application for the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School? The application is filled with blatant inaccuracies or outright lies.

Read through the falsehoods:

Steven Perry, the lead applicant, is a talk show host, an employee of a Connecticut charter school, the members of the board are also employees of the Connecticut school, and, the Hartford school has been a disaster.

The Hartford Courant reports (Read article: that Perry, on his Twitter account physically threatened his critics after the State Board of Education refused to turn a low achieving elementary school over to him to run

From Perry’s Twitter account: The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.

Either SED failed to vet the applicants, or, the approval was politically influenced, I have no idea; however, there is no way that Perry should have been granted a charter.

The Rochester charter school, the Greater Works Charter School has a lead applicant who is 22 years old with a fraudulent resume – how did the SED not check out the creds of the lead applicant? The other members of the board have absolutely no experience in running a school and the apparent principal in waiting has no supervisory experience and is awaiting grades from her School Leadership exam. (Read applications here)

Single entrepreneur charter schools, schools that are not part of larger networks struggle, not only struggle, if you compare charter school general education kids to public school general education kids, (subtract students with disabilities and English language learners) schools in the district do as well as or better than the charter schools. On the state Common Core grade 3-8 tests, with the exception of the Success Schools, results were indistinguishable.

Success Academy schools; however, outperformed charter and public schools by a wide margin. A colleague who has studied the Success (Eva Moskowitz) Schools muses,

The secret sauce, if there is one: longer school days, incredibly hard-driven teachers and enough money to surround the classrooms with support services of many kinds (not counseling so much but administrative and paperwork support, parent outreach, materials, attendance follow up, etc.) And yes, test prep up the wazoo, and the attrition and backfill issue. They seem to think its fine to start with 72 kids and end up with 32, and that their results as a grade or class are as legit as a school that is taking a constantly churning population of students.

In the spring of 2013 a number of regent members asked the commissioner for a report on attrition: were the charter schools dumping low achieving and discipline problems especially before the state tests – a year and half later – no report.

I hope that the fumbling of the charter school application problem is simply poor management, not political interference, and, sadly, there is no evidence that charter schools have discovered a magic sauce, longer school days and longer school years do not make for more effective schools; it’s what happens in classrooms that matters. Schools with inexperienced school leaders and the churning of school staffs do not make for exemplary schools. Success Academy schools have shown that that more dollars, spent wisely, with the careful sifting out of lower achievers can lead to higher test scores. However, what do higher test scores mean?

Sherryl Cashin, a Georgetown Law School professor, and the author of “Place Not Race,” asks for the de-emphasis of standardized tests,

“We should de-emphasize standardized test scores… and compare the achievement of the students to the resources that they have available,” she said. “The valedictorian of Ferguson, Missouri deserves a leg-up. The person who has had to overcome these enduring structural disadvantages—I don’t care what color they are—needs and deserves a leg-up in admissions.”

Cashin reminds us the SAT scores only reflect the income of the parents of the test taker and that high school class standing (GPA) and resilience, defined as substituting academics for recreation are far better indicators of college success than SAT scores.

Until we understand that there are no magic bullets, charter schools are a delusion, a dead end, the answer, as it always has been is the ability of the school leader, the staff, and support from the larger school community.


7 responses to “The Regents Have a Charter School Problem: Why Did They Grant Charters to Grossly Inadequate Applicants? Fumbling or Politics? The Public Deserves Answers

  1. Eric Nadelstetn

    Charter schools are not the answer, but they will be part of the solution. All schools would benefit from increased autonomy in return for heightened accountability, and charter networks point to the future of large urban school districts.

    The alternative vision to retain the status quo fails to many of our children, particularly poor students of color. We should be outraged at attempts to defend these outcomes.


  2. rachel de aragon

    As so eloquently stated by mr. goodman, charter schools have no accountability: that is the problem. Every one of the gross errors made by SED as per a charter school is another tradgic loss of opportunity for our children and another loss of hope for their parents. blindly repeating that charter schools point to the future does not answer the very important issues raised by this article.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Peter Goodman: Néw York Regents Have a Charter Problem | Diane Ravitch's blog

  4. The overwhelming majority of our public schools are doing very well despite years of being neglected, underfunded and undermined. Teachers bear the blunt of it all by having to subsidize our students because of lack of instructional materials in the schools. Teachers for years have spent billions of dollars of their own money to make sure at the beginning of the school year and throughout our students have the necessary resources to learn. Teachers spend countless hours planning lessons, designing curriculum, participating in professional development to enrich the learning needs of our students. Teachers have been the backbone of educational achievement of our students despite all the odds and obstacles placed before them. Teachers have had to deal with inconsiderate, megalomaniac and autocratic administrators just to do their jobs well. This is the real status quo that needs to change. Teachers are the angels of our culture, education and civilization. Those today who marvel at attacking public school teachers have reached the epitome of hypocrisy and ingratitude. The billionaires of America, corporate magnates, hedge fund managers and their minion politicians whose only mission is the destruction and privatization of our public school system through establishment of charter schools are destroying America and democracy. They are perpetuating the status quo with their Machiavellian and antiquated ideas about education. They are losers. The people of the United States will wake up one day and only the just shall be saved.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom, can I share what you wrote? Your comment is so right on.


  6. Meant Tony. Sorry about that.


  7. Pingback: Links 12/10/14 | Mike the Mad Biologist

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