Tag Archives: Success Academy Schools

The “Left Behind” Charter Schools: Can You Close Public Schools Without Closing Low Performing Charter Schools?

The Bloomberg-Klein administration created almost 200 charter schools (See list here) and closed over 150 public schools. One class of charter schools are the networks, charter management organizations that manage clusters of schools: Success Academy Charter Schools, Harlem Children’s Zone, Uncommon Charter Schools, KIPP, Democracy Prep and a few others.

The major of charter schools are “mom and pop” charter schools, single entrepreneurships attached to a large church or community-based organization.

The charter networks aggressively raise dollars, oftentimes from hedge fund partners. A recent change in the tax code benefits investors,

“A federal tax break known as the “New Markets” tax credit lets hedge funds that invest in charters double their money in seven years. Charters have become, notes one education analyst, “just another investor playground for easy money passed from taxpayers to the wealthy.”

Students First New York is the political action arm of the charter school networks, the Board includes Joel Klein, Eva Moskowitz, Michelle Rhee and Dan Senior (Campbell Brown’s husband) and they poured over four million dollars into the Cuomo and Republican state senatorial campaigns.

The scores of “mom and pop” charter schools were created to “buy-out” leaders of communities of color across the city. Reverend Barnard (Christian Cultural Center), Johnny Youngblood (East Brooklyn Congregations). Floyd Flake (Greater Allen AME); organization after organization, and they all supported Mayor Bloomberg, Interestingly the teacher union fought back, school by school and neighborhood by neighbor. A spring, 2013 Zogby poll surprisingly reported that the public supported teachers more than the mayor,

When asked to name two groups that should play the largest role in determining education policy, only 16 percent named the mayor’s office, while 28 percent said the schools chancellor. Nearly half (49.1 percent) named teachers. So while the public wants to continue the reform push of recent years, it would prefer that teachers lead it

The de Blasio-Farina administration is making every effort to fix not close schools. The 94 Renewal Schools, about a dozen of which are “out of time” schools will define the new administration. The renewal plan has been “negotiated” with the folks at State Ed for months and in the last week the department assigned a leader and the “fixes” are beginning to move forward, albeit slowly.

At the State Ed level there is a problem, how do you pressure the city to close public schools and ignore charter schools?

At the December Regents Meeting what is usually a pro-forma action was on the agenda, the reauthorization of expiring charters. Charters are actually licenses to operate and must be renewed. There are three charter authorizing agencies, SUNY, the Board of Regents and the NYC Department of Education. As the Regents perused the NYC request a few of the Regents were clearly uncomfortable, the data from a number of charter schools was poor, very poor, below the data of public schools in the district. The Regents deferred action and asked the department to come to Albany and explain the process that they used to assess the charter schools.

At the January meeting a team for the department explained the process, and offered new plans with reduced renewal periods – three of the schools were only given 1.5 years. The Regents members were clearly uncomfortable; the process still seems “soft.” The Regents voted to accept the plans with reduced renewal periods, with the exception of Chancellor Tisch, who asked that her vote be recorded as a “no” vote. Over the next few months many other charter schools will be in the charter renewal pipeline, and many will have poor data. (Read Chalkbeat report here).

The department, finally, released some data on attrition rates of charter schools; however, the reports are skimpy, who are the discharged students? Are they low achievers or discipline force-outs? Were they replaced (“back-fill”)? How did they impact their new schools?

The “mom and pop” charter schools struggle, frequently led by inexperienced principals, new and revolving staffs, and without an external support network. The NYC Charter School Center does provide support, however, it’s primarily role is advocacy and assisting new charter school applicants.

Without deep-pocketed funders to spread around political dollars, without external networks to manage their schools, without knowledgeable, experienced school leaders and staffs the scores of low-achieving charter schools will face closings. If State Ed pushes ahead forcing the city to close public schools it will be difficult to protect charter schools, and, as charter schools close their patina will blemish.

An increasing number of studies are casting doubt on the wisdom of the unabated increase in the number of charter schools,

a recently released Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study showing that Ohio charter school students on average learn less in a year than their district school peers (See details of the Ohio CREDO report here)

It would make sense if New York State took a step backwards, rather than increasing or removing the charter school cap a deep dive into the effectiveness of the charter school model might make more sense.

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: http://jonathanpelto.com/category/steve-perry-capital-preparatory-magnet-school/

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: http://articles.courant.com/2013-11-21/community/hc-hartford-perry-tweet-1122-20131121_1_chairman-matthew-poland-capital-prep-magnet-school-steve-perry) 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.