Tag Archives: NYSED

Do the Success Academy Charter Schools Routinely Ignore the Rights of Students with Disabilities? The NYS Commissioner Will Decide

Advocates for Children, the decades old advocacy organization has filed a formal complaint with the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) alleging scores of examples of Success Academy (SA) schools violating the rights of students in regard to special education services

Complaint Filed Against Success Academy Charter Schools and NYC DOE for Failure to Uphold Rights of Students with Disabilities

11.29.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York along with co-counsel Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP filed a complaint with the New York State Education Department against Success Academy Charter Schools and the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) for failing to comply with civil rights laws protecting students with disabilities who attend Success Academy schools.  The complaint alleges that Success Academy has changed the placements of students with disabilities without following procedures required to protect the rights of students with disabilities and their parents and has refused to comply with administrative hearing orders in special education cases.

Read the news release [PDF]

Read the complaint [PDF]

The complaint is the beginning of a major legal review of the rights of students with disabilities and the obligations of charter schools.

The charter school law clearly spells out the obligation of charter schools,

A charter school shall meet the same health and safety, civil rights, and student assessment requirements applicable to other public schools, 

Success argues that the same law exempts a charter schools from regulations that apply to public schools.  

A  charter  school  shall  be  exempt  from all other state and local laws,  rules, regulations or policies  governing  public  or  private  schools,  boards  of  education,  school  districts  and  political  subdivisions including those relating to school personnel  and  students,  

Does the failure to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state regulations governing Student with Disabilities a violation of a student civil rights, or, does the law shield charter schools from the regulations? The complaint encapsulates the argument cogently,

By refusing to comply with these mandates, Success Academy and its schools have effectively declared that they are not subject to the due process provisions of the IDEA and New York Education Law, and that students with disabilities at Success Academy schools do not have the same legal protections as students with disabilities at other public schools.

Complaints to the commissioner are the first step, and, not uncommon, the NYSED attorneys review the complaint; the process can take months, and issues a ruling. The ruling can be challenged in the courts.

Education Law §310 provides that persons considering themselves aggrieved by an action taken at a school district meeting or by school authorities may appeal to the Commissioner of Education for a review of such action.  In addition, Education Law §306 allows the Commissioner of Education to remove a trustee, member of a board of education and certain other school officers for willful misconduct or neglect of duty.

Procedures for the presentation and defense of such appeals and for the conduct of proceedings for the removal of school officials are contained in regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

To further complicate the issue there are two chartering entities in New York State, the Charter School Institute, part of the SUNY Board of Trustees and the State Department of Education operating under the auspices of the Board of Regents The two organizations have different regulations governing the granting and renewal of charters. You may remember the Charter School Institute issued draft regulations claiming that the Institute had the power to certify charter school teachers. The Regents sued and the courts sustained the suit.

Does the chartering agency, the SUNY Charter Institute, agree with Success Academy’s interpretation of the law in regard to special education services?  If it does not agree, why did it continue to renew charters for the SA schools?

The Regents and the SUNY Charter Institute have different standards for the granting of charters, SUNY is far more lenient, and, a number of schools that have turned down by the Regents have been granted charters by the SUNY Charter Institute.

The former board chair of the SUNY Charter School Institute, Daniel Loeb, is a financier, not an educator.

In my view the original decision to grant charter authorizing authority to two organizations was a mistake. A number of years ago, Merryl Tisch, at that time the Chancellor of the Board of Regents, tried to merge the charter granting organizations, without success. Ironically, Tisch is now the deputy chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees.

The threshold issue is whether charter schools must comply with the regulations in regard to special education student placements and decisions of hearing officers

Success Academy and the SA Schools … take… the position that pendency orders do not apply to their schools. When the parents obtained pendency orders for the last agreed upon placements, the SA Schools—represented by a Success Academy attorney—took the position that they did not need to comply with the pendency orders because they disagreed with the order and the hearing officer’s authority to issue the order, forcing parents to litigate further to obtain the ordered relief, and resulting in further delays in the students receiving ordered instruction.

 If NYSED rules that failing to comply with orders of hearing officers, pendency orders, the next step is a remedy. The complaint outlines a series of remedial actions including a compliance plan. The commissioner can also assign a monitor to oversee the application of the remedies.

SA can ask that the implementation of the order is tolled until all legal remedies are exhausted; the commissioner could deny the request indicating that the children impacted would suffer irreparable damage.

If SA refuses to comply the commissioner does have the power to remove the “school officials” who are failing to implement the remedy.

There is no question that SA will appeal any adverse decisions into the courts.

Across the street, (Washington Avenue actually separates the State Education Department headquarters from the legislative and executive offices) the legislature can amend the charter school law to remove any ambiguity.

Appeals to the commissioner decisions typically take many months before a decision is rendered, a speedy decision, namely, while the legislation is in session, is important; especially if the law has to be amended.

The commissioner can ask the SUNY Charter Institute if they were aware of the actions of SA in refusing to implement the decisions of impartial hearing officers, if they were: why weren’t they taking actions to force SA to comply with the orders? If they were not aware; why not? As the renewer of charters wouldn’t they have the obligation of monitoring the performance of schools prior to renewing charters?

While appeals to the commissioner are based upon precedent it is unusual for an appeal is so loaded with political implications. In the corridors of the marble floored ornate legislature someone will whisper to someone else: what does Andrew think? He may be holding his finger in the air; he may have no interest.

The Advocates for Children complaint may result in a consent agreement, resolving the complaint, or, a major legal decision defining the obligations of charter schools and the supervisory authority of the commissioner.

Next week’s Albany Regent Meeting should be  interesting.

E. D. Hirsch: “American Teachers Are Being Blamed for Intellectual Failings That Permeate the System Within Which They Must Work.”

Its hard to believe that its been thirty years since the publication of E. D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. The book proposes,

…that all public schoolchildren should be provided with instruction aimed at familiarizing them with a wide variety of topics, including literature, geography, history, math, science, art and music, in order to have the background knowledge that would make them successful readers and learners.

The book became famous, or, depending your place on the ed reform spectrum, infamous, for the 63-page index of 5,000 essential subjects and concepts that Hirsch believed teachers should impart to students.

Hirsch, a self-described, “almost Socialist” was painted as a neo-conservative and few school districts adopted his ideas.

The current apostasy are Common Core standards.

In many schools an unintended consequence of the emphasis on Common Core-based testing has been purging classrooms of all but what is tested.

Since the 1987 publication innumerable “innovations” or “reforms” have come and gone: from Ebonics to the Common Core; the Core Knowledge Foundation (Explore Core Knowledge Sequences here), continues to support parents and schools that advocate the cultural literacy philosophy.  The foundation, a not-for-profit provides a K – 8 curriculum; a grade-by-grade sequence of lessons, of “knowledge” that Hirsch believes are essential for any American to master.

During the Bloomberg/Klein years, New York City was divided into ten Regions, one of the Regions, implemented the Core Knowledge curriculum in twenty schools, with considerable success; sadly, Klein and his deputy, current chancellor Carmen Farina, who is wedded to Lucy Calkins methodology,  allowed the grant to expire.

Hirsch, at age 88, has a new book, Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children form Failed Educational Theories (2016) and the current issue (Winter, 2016-17) of the American Educator contains an article by Hirsch, “In Defense of Educators: The Problem of Idea Quality, Not ‘Teacher Quality’.”

Hirsch writes,

… in the last few years the teacher quality issue has risen to the top. I think it may be reform fatigue, possibly desperation. We are blaming teachers because of our disappointments with the results of our reforms.

Hirsch summarizes the reforms of the last few decades, from No Child Left Behind through the Common Core and concludes,

Educational success is defined by what students learn—the received curriculum. Not to focus on the particulars of the very thing itself has been an evasion that is not of the teachers’ doing. The underlying theory of the reforms (reflected in state reading standards) has been that schools are teaching skills that can be developed by any suitable content. That mistaken theory has allowed the problem of grade-by-grade content to be evaded. It was that fundamental mistake about skills that has allowed teachers to be blamed for fundamental failures—the failures of guiding ideas, not of teachers.

Once upon a time, in the halcyon days of yore, teachers were trusted to determine classroom practice. The New York City Board of Education supported a curriculum-writing section that churned out materials written by teachers for teachers. In the era of data, curriculum has been replaced by standards and competent teaching is defined by Charlotte Danielson and obscure mathematical algorithms. It is not surprising that teachers see the union contract as salvation.

When the classroom, which should be a daily reward, becomes a purgatory, one turns to contract stipulations. … We have a system that, according to teachers themselves, does not prepare them adequately for classroom management or the substance of what they must teach. Therefore, my counterthesis to the blame-the-teachers theme is blame the ideas—and improve them.

Hirsch, as you would expect, does not shy away from the reform mantras of the day. He challenges the trope that teacher quality should be at the top of any list, as well as the concept that you can accurately measure teacher quality; he especially challenges the emphasis on value-added measurements of teacher effectiveness, i. e., VAM.

Scores on reading tests reflect knowledge and vocabulary gained from all sources. Advantaged students are constantly building up academic knowledge from both inside and outside the school. Disadvantaged students gain their academic knowledge mainly inside school, so they are gaining less academic knowledge overall during the year, even when the teacher is conveying the curriculum effectively. This lack of gain outside the school reduces the chance of low-socioeconomic-status (SES) students showing a match between the knowledge they gained in school during the year and the knowledge required to understand the individual test passages.

The fifty states are in the midst of complying with the new Every Student Succeeds Act that requires states to author an accountability plan. The law continues the requirement of grades 3-8 tests publicly reported; however. states have wide discretion in what they measure. The PARCC and Smarter Balance tests measure Common Core standards acquisition, skills not curriculum-based content. State use tests to measure proficiency not growth.

The results have been disastrous.

High poverty, poorly funded schools have lower test scores than high wealth schools: what a revelation.

Applicants to schools of education have nose-dived, down 20, 30 and 40% around the nation. Teacher attrition continues at disturbing levels, almost 40%of teachers in New York City leave in their initial five years and approaching 70% in high needs middle schools.

While we want to select and prepare students to teach in New York State we require four separate exams (costing over $1,000) to receive certification, with no assurance that the tests produce more effective teachers. Strangely, there is no set period of weeks required for student teaching, the range in teacher training programs is enormous.

Hirsch makes a simple recommendation,

If I were a principal in a primary school, I’d spend my money on teachers, on their ongoing development, and on creating conditions in which the work of teachers in one grade supports the work of teachers in the next, and in which teachers would have time to consult and collaboratively plan.

Can the state support a school district that implements the Hirsch Core Knowledge curriculum?  (The state Engage NY site does support K-2 Core Knowledge sequences) By support, I mean creating assessments of pupil progress that reflect content?    Interestingly one member of the current Board of Regents, Dr. Cashin, was the Regional Superintendent in New York City who supported a cluster of Core Knowledge schools.

The union and the Local Education Authority (LEA) in New York City have created a cohort of schools who have created innovative practices that require changes in contract language and LEA regulations  (See description here).

Can the state create a cluster of school districts with similar arrangements: local unions and school districts creating “innovative” approaches to instruction, curriculum and assessment?

After thirty years the education community may be ready to listen to Hirsch.