Charter scandals continue

COLORADO – In the past two years,  Stargate Charter School for gifted and talented children has been slapped with eight civil rights complaints. The complaints were related to sexual discrimination and disability discrimination. Complaints include the school’s mishandling of allegations that a former coach groped students and the school’s treatment of students with disabilities. According to Attorney Jacque Phillips, “Many of the problems faced by Stargate are because it does not take seriously its responsibility as a public school to educate all its gifted-and-talented students, including those with disabilities”(Denver Post).

In response to the most recent charges, administrators say they have “learned their lesson and are making changes to better address allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against disabled students” (Denver Post).

CONNECTICUT – Path Academy in Windham is in fear of losing its license for defrauding taxpayers of $1.6 million dollars. According to papers filed in court, the school could not provide documentation for 128 students enrolled at Path. This represents a potential overpayment of $1,573,000 over a two year period. “The failure to maintain records establishing that students who were reported as enrolled in the data used to determine the per pupil grant payment were actually enrolled and attending school constitutes, at a minimum, failure to manage state funds in a prudent or legal manner” (EdVotes.org).

FLORIDA – Fearing a failing grade from the state, Palm Harbor Academy charter school transferred low-performing students to a recently opened private school on the same campus just before the charter students were to begin their state assessments.  Those transferred included 13 third graders, and 5 fifth graders. According to the Palm Coast Observer, “Many of the children were multiple grades behind grade level. Another five students in other grades, all at least two grades behind grade level, were also transferred out of Palm Harbor and into the private school at around the same time.”

Palm Harbor Academy governing board chairman the Rev. Gillard Glover said, “First and foremost, we did not move the students,” Glover said, noting that the parents had requested the move. School Board member Andy Dance said Glover was blaming the parents.

“I’m not blaming the parents. We did not talk to the parents at all about moving their children. … We did not in any fashion conduct any kind of campaign, solicit, try to induce parents to take their kids out of Palm Harbor(Palm Coast Observer).

Dance responded, “But you accepted them(Palm Coast Observer).

Additionally, students with disabilities who were moved into the private school no longer had access to  state-mandated speech and language services. “I’m going to tell you right now there is nothing that can be produced to us to show that those third-grade students’ rights were not violated by moving them,” School Board Attorney Kristin Gavin (Palm Coast Observer).

NORTH CAROLINA – School board members along with local clergy in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are standing together in opposition of HB 514, a recently proposed bill that would contribute to re-segregation of schools because a town-run charter would allow admission preference for children who live in the four towns. Opponents of HB 514 compared it to Southern education policies of the 1950s – implemented to keep schools segregated. In the 1950s these schools were called segregationist academies, created to have a school for white families who refused to allow their children to attend school with black children.

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 8.48.11 AM.png

HB 514 was introduced last year by Republican Bill Brawley. He has criticized the Charlotte Meckeinburg board for not providing students with a quality education—one reason he says township parents want their own charter (WFAE).

“Roslyn Mickelson, a professor of sociology at UNC Charlotte says studies have not shown that charter schools are better academically. A report she co-authored this year on state and local charter schools did find that charters are becoming less diverse(WFAE).

Additionally, Mickelson said of HB 514, “If this bill passes it will be a driver of segregation in public education. It’s not even subtle… The freedom of choice plans were drawn in such ways that they replicated the segregated schools. What we have today is not freedom of choice but charter school choice and the way it is being designed will have the same effect” (WFAE).

PENNSYLVANIA – A Philadelphia attorney, David Schulick, has been convicted  of embezzling $800,000 from the Philadelphia School District using a charter school he ran intended to help at-risk students. Instead, Shulick and Chaka Fattah Jr. falsified documents and faked student enrollments to inflate the school budget. “Federal prosecutors said Shulick faked business expenses to cheat on taxes and listed nannies and housekeepers as employees of the school, while using the profits to renovate his vacation home on the Shore and installing a $9,000 set of speakers in his Gladwyne home” (Metro). Shulick may face a prison term at sentencing. At the very least he is expected to be ordered to pay significant restitution to the School District (Metro).

COLORADO – At least four administrators at Wyatt Academy in Denver were recently put on administrative leave after a video captured the school’s justice coordinator encouraged students to throw punches. The elementary school principal, assistant principal, school psychologist along with the justice coordinator were suspended. One source reported Wyatt Academy administrators learned of the fight the same day yet no action was taken until the group released the video. The school board has hired an outside investigator (Seattle Times).

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 8.46.22 AM.png

TENNESSEE – New Vision Academy charter school in Nashville is under investigation by the school district for financial irregularities and failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  According to a report filed by teachers, English language-learning students and students with learning disabilities were not receiving required instructional time. The report also noted students were charged for textbooks even though the school earmarked thousands of dollars for classroom supplies (Tennesseean.com).. The top two executives at New Vision, who are married, make a combined $562,000. Executive director Tim Malone made $312,971 in the 2017,  and his wife, LaKesha Malone is New Vision’s second highest ranking executive. earning $250,000 during that same period,(Tennesseean.com).

There were so many scandals in the news from the past few weeks, I found it difficult to choose for the blog. The bottom line is as the charter movement grows, scandals continue to grow exponentially as well. There are patterns, repeats, and new offenses. The underlying theme is misappropriation of funds and faculty and administrators behaving inappropriately and/or illegally.

It’s important to know about the scandals plaguing charter schools, and to be aware of the current administration’s drive to create more.

Deplorable.

These are my reflections for today.

6/8/18

Follow me on Facebook

Advertisements

DeVos shows ‘astounding ignorance’

Last week Betsy DeVos came under fire for comments she made to Congress regarding US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Her statement suggested “schools should decide whether or not to report undocumented students and their families to federal immigration authorities” (ABC News).

DeVos shifted the responsibility of reporting undocumented students from ICS officials to principals and teachers, saying “It’s a local community decision and again I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate and I urge this body to do its job and address and clarify where there is confusion around this” (ABC News).

The confusion was clearly DeVos’.  Rep. Adriano Espaillat, (D-NY)  rebuked the secretary’s statement, “Let me just remind Madam Chair that immigration law is federal law. It’s not a local law. It’s not governed by a municipality. You cannot have immigration law for one state be different for another state and it applies to everybody across the country” (ABC News).

Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union said, “Let’s be clear: Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status. Secretary DeVos is once again wrong” (Washington Post).

The Supreme Court made clear in Plyler v. Doe that public schools have a constitutional obligation to provide schooling for children, regardless of immigration status. That means schools also cannot enforce measures that would deter undocumented children from registering. They cannot ask about immigration status. And according to the American Civil Liberties Union, they cannot report students or their families to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Washington Post).

Thomas Saenez, president and general counsel of The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said, “The Court determined in 1982 that the Constitution requires all public schools to provide a free public education, from Kindergarten to 12th grade, to every child, regardless of immigration status. Her testimony today about reporting students to ICE stems either from an astounding ignorance of the law or from an insupportable unwillingness to accurately advise local school districts. Any public school or school district that denies an education to any undocumented child — whether by refusing to enroll, by limiting access to the programs and benefits provided to other students, or by reporting a child to ICE — has violated the United States Constitution” (Washington Post).

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 12.48.53 PM.png

After the Parkland FL shooting, DeVos was appointed by Trump to be the chair of the school safety commission. Upon her appointment to the commission, DeVos said, “There are best practices that are working today in communities across this country, and our commission will spotlight them and disseminate them to every school,” she wrote. “This will not be another 18-month Washington commission that yields an unreadable and unactionable report” (CNN).

There have been 10 school shootings since Parkland, including the most recent in Texas where 8 students and 2 teachers were killed (Huffington Post).

Last Thursday the commission was  to have only the second meeting. According to one source, invitations were sent out Wednesday evening- with such short notice, very few participants attended. Education organization representatives were among those who could attend, but “they were not asked to participate, and the commission only heard from experts, survivors, and parents (The Daily Beast).  Those in attendance were only passive listeners, and much to their frustration, not invited to speak.

Since her appointment as Secretary (remember Mike Pence voted the tie-breaker) DeVos has made contentious and incorrect statements about many things, including school safety, HBCUs, public schools, teachers, guns.

In her highly contentious confirmation hearing, DeVos stirred up vehement objections to her nomination after conceding that guns might be needed in schools in states like Wyoming to defend against “potential grizzlies.”

DeVos said HBCUs “started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education.”  She said HBCUs are “living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality” (Washington Post).

Last year DeVos touted Excel Academy in Washington DC as a “shining example” of the success of charter schools. Excel is preparing to close this June. Excel is an example of the failure of yet another charter school to turn students around academically as it showed little evidence of improvement. Since 2012, DC has shuttered nearly two dozen charters because of poor performance.

In March, she said arming teachers “should be an option for states and communities to consider” during an interview after a visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

In a conversation about charters in her home state of Michigan, she admitted on 60 minutes, “I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.” In fact, when Lesley Stahl asked if schools in Michigan have gotten better thanks to the charter-school experiment, DeVos responded, “I don’t know. Overall, I—I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.”

In May, she visited New York, the home of the nation’s largest public school district, without visiting a single public school.

She has one of the most expensive security details of anyone in Washington- costing taxpayers almost $6.5 million a year.

She has dissolved the office of civil rights, a body tasked with investigating claims of civil rights abuses in schools.

She has effectively eliminated a team within the Department of Education charged with investigating for-profit college fraud and malfeasance. (The New York Times).

Now she is supporting principals and teachers to serve as ICE agents.

This is the Secretary of Education.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 8.38.31 AM

As Moira Balingit of the Washington Post said, DeVos has “Astounding ignorance of the law” (Washington Post).

She is uninformed and incompetent.  She goes to work every day to ensure our public schools have armed teachers and staff, immigration officers, unlicensed teachers, white children or are converted to charter schools.

And we continue to pay her salary.

These are my reflections for today.

6/1/18

Follow me on Facebook

Santa Fe – More than words

I highly recommend reading this powerful article published in the New York Times by James Poniewozik in response to the school shooting in Texas. This Is School in America Now

Today I want to share responses to another act of violence against children in America. Reading anything about school shootings makes us sick, or feel helpless, or worse- throw our hands up as if there is nothing we can do about it. We cannot ignore it because it’s hard, or uncomfortable. This problem will not just go away.

In 2018 more children have been killed at school than service members. This is not usually the case. According to the Washington Post, there have been, to date, 29 deaths in 16 shooting incidents in US schools. Over the same period there have been 13 US service member deaths in seven incidents around the world (Sputnik News).

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a statement Friday condemning the deadly school shooting at a Texas high school. DeVos said that her “heart is heavy” after watching coverage of the shooting, which has reportedly left ten people dead and several others injured. “Our schools must be safe and nurturing environments for learning,” she said. “No student should have to experience the trauma suffered by so many today and in similar events prior. We simply cannot allow this trend to continue” (Yahoo.com).

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 7.48.33 AM.png

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo wrote on Facebook, “I know some have strong feelings about gun rights, but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue,” he said, adding he would “de-friend” anyone who posted anything about “guns aren’t the problem” and “there’s little we can do” Acevedo closed the post saying, “This isn’t a time for prayers, and study and inaction, it’s a time for prayers, action and the asking of God’s forgiveness for our inaction (especially the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing) (CNN.com).

Donald Trump addressed the shooting,”Unfortunately, I have to begin by expressing our sadness and heartbreak over the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas,” Trump said. “This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years. Too many decades now. We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack”  (CNN.com).

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 8.25.31 PM

Speaking at a vigil in Santa Fe, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “Tonight all of Texas is grieving…Our entire state, and all across the country, millions are lifting this community up in prayer, are lifting the students up in prayer who went through hell this morning” NBC News.

Both Trump and Cruz are staunch supporters of the National Rifle Association and have resisted attempts to tighten gun control.

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) tweeted,

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 7.36.37 AM

Texas Governor Greg Abbott: “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families. It’s time in Texas that we take action” (NPR).

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote an open letter to Trump and Congress (News12).

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 8.13.14 AM

NBC News reported, “While the drama was unfolding, a flag-toting man wearing a Make America Great Again cap and a pistol by his side suddenly appeared outside the school. He was immediately stopped by police.”

David Hogg, a student at Parkland High School who has led the charge for stricter gun laws tweeted –

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 7.14.42 AM.png

Parkland student Jaclyn Corin said in a tweet directed at Trump,

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 7.20.31 AM.png

Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt has offered to pay for the funerals of the victims. On Friday, Watt tweeted, “Absolutely horrific” (Washington Post).

Houston Rockets star guard Chris Paul wrote, “We need to do better by our children” Paul  told reporters that the NBA playoff series against the Golden State Warriors “is minor compared to what is taking place down in Santa Fe”  (Washington Post).

Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who has been outspoken in his calls for gun control, tweeted Friday that “gun owners have a responsibility to store their firearms securely.”  Sources say the two guns used in the shooting belong to the gunman’s father (Washington Post).

Houston Astros Manager A.J. Hinch told reporters he “doesn’t want to offer any more condolences.  “Lives are being lost for no real, good reason,” Hinch said Friday.  My anger is because I have kids and I can appreciate how terrible everyone has to feel … There’s no reason for our schools to be combat zones. And it’s turning that way” (Houston Chronicle).

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 8.17.48 PM

At a press conference, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas attributed the Santa Fe massacre to the high school having “too many entrances and too many exits.” He suggested it might be time for officials to “look at the design” of schools” moving forward. “There are not enough people to put a guard in every entrance or exit,” he argued (Salon). Patrick appeared on national TV, where he blamed mass shootings on just about everything but the weapons being used to carry them out. Patrick’s comments indicated that Republicans want to consider solutions to gun violence—as long as they don’t actually involve guns (Salon).

California Representative Eric Swalwell (D-) tweeted “Blame the doors? Anything but the weapon. Got it. Enough Is Enough.” Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D-) who is a staunch gun control advocate and a candidate for governor—tweeted: “Updated @GOP talking point: guns don’t kill people, doors kill people.”

NRA president Oliver North said in a statement he thought the problem was Ritalin. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, North said “We’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease.” He said that American youth are “steeped in a culture of violence,” and ADHD medication exacerbates that violent culture. “They’ve been drugged in most cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male … and they’ve come through a culture where violence is commonplace (Fox News).

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in a statement, “Republicans have made it very clear 100 people could die in a mass shooting and they wouldn’t take up (gun) legislation… I’m interested on working on mental health and working on school safety, but those are all efforts by Republicans to distract from the real problem which is gun laws (CNN).

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 5.41.08 AM.png

Actions speak louder than words.

These are my reflections for today.

5/25/18

Follow me on Facebook

Congress rebukes DeVos’ education agenda

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 7.25.26 AM

The education budget approved by Congress and signed by Trump was a far cry from what was proposed, weakening DeVos’ agenda to privatize public education. Trump’s budget plan called for slashing the education budget, cutting discretionary spending by $9.2 billion. That did not happen.

Here are some highlights of the budget:

Title I funding  for disadvantaged students will increase to $300 million up from $15.8 million in 2017.

DeVos and Trump asked for a $1 billion program designed to support open enrollment (school choice) in districts. This is not included in the budget.  The bill also leaves out a $250 million private school choice initiative.

Title II funding which provides professional development to educators got $2.1 million. The Trump budget wanted to eliminate Title II.

Title IV grants slated for districts to use for a variety of needs from technology to school safety will receive $1.1 billion. Trump wanted to eliminate Title IV.

21st Century Community Learning Centers gets a $20 million bump, another program Trump wanted to ax.

DeVos wants to reduce the Department of Education, but the bill bars funds from being used for “a reorganization that decentralizes, reduces the staffing level, or alters the responsibilities, structure, authority, or functionality of the Budget Service of the Department of Education”(Ed Week).

DeVos wanted to shrink the office for civil rights’ budget by $1 million. Instead the funding increased from $109 to $117 million.

The budget includes a $2.37 billion increase in funding to the Child Care Development Block Grant, increases Head Start funding $610 million, and kept spending level for the Preschool Development Program – another program this administration sought to eliminate.

The bill requests $120 million for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR). This program seeks innovative practices in schools.

The spending bill would raise the maximum Pell Grant award to low-income students by $175 to $6,095; DeVos had proposed freezing the maximum at $5,920. She had also proposed cutting federal work-study programs in half, but the spending bill would add $140 million, for a total of $1.1 billion (CNN).

The budget increases funding for student mental health, increasing funding by $700 million for a wide-ranging grant program schools can use for violence prevention, counseling and crisis management. An additional $22 million is slated for programs to reduce school violence and support mental-health services in schools (Washington Post).

Significant changes come to the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. This program is currently housed in the Department of Justice and uses funds for research and development of safety programs  for bulling and school safety. Now the funds will be redirected to the STOP School Violence Act, allowing funding for metal detectors and other safety measures. Funding can also be used for evidence-based programs for school safety, violence prevention efforts, and anonymous reporting systems (Ed Week).

One item that did not get cut from the budget is the increase in funding for charter schools, up $58 million to a total of $400 million. But with the cuts in other areas including vouchers and school choice, this is a small concession.

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 7.20.16 AM

After a tumultuous year of trying to prove herself worthy of a cabinet position she is not qualified to hold, a year of pushing an agenda not aligned with an already volatile congress, and an abysmal interview on national television, by all appearances this is a vote of no confidence. The Secretary should consider embracing this budget and work to support every aspect of it or step aside. She may surround herself with marshals, and protect herself from grizzlies, but she can no longer push her agenda on a country and congress that does not support it.

These are my reflections for today.

3/30/18

Follow me on Facebook

DeVos on 60 Minutes

In case you missed it, the Secretary was interviewed by Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes. You can watch it here. It runs about 13 minutes.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 3.44.36 PM

Stahl asks, “Have you seen the really bad schools?” Her response, “I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.” Stahl fires back, “Well maybe you should.”

This was only the beginning of the unraveling of DeVos on camera. If she ever wants to look back at where her credibility tanked, she needs only to watch this video.

DeVos said, “We have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars [in public education] from the federal level, and we have seen zero results.”

Stahl quickly responded, “But that really isn’t true. Test scores have gone up over the last 25 years. So why do you keep saying nothing’s been accomplished? Why is a reporter telling the Secretary of Education that schools have gotten better? Shouldn’t she know that?

What many pundits believe to be the turning point of the interview came when Stahl asked DeVos a question regarding the outcome of Michigan’s charter-school-expansion. Alia Wong of The Atlantic, summarized, “Pushing back against the contention that charter schools and voucher programs deprive traditional public schools of funding, DeVos insisted that achievement at traditional public schools actually increases when a large percentage of children opt to enroll in privately run schools. Stahl asked whether Michigan’s schools have gotten better thanks to the charter-school experiment.

DeVos responded, “I don’t know. Overall, I—I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.”

The reality, as Stahl was quick to point out, is contrary to what DeVos suggested.  Michigan ranks toward the bottom on national reading and math assessments despite nearly 20 years of DeVos family funded and supported charter school growth (The Atlantic).

Later in the interview, Stahl asked, “Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary? DeVos responded, “I think I’m more misunderstood than anything.”  This is where I disagree. DeVos is not misunderstood, most people completely understand all too well who she is and what she’s doing.

Here is a short list of reasons she is so grossly unpopular:

  • lacks experience in education – especially public education (she did not attend nor did any of her children attend public schools)
  • does not connect with educators – rather she demeans them on a regular basis,
  • decisions are driven by her privileged lifestyle which puts her out of touch with many – if not most – families whose children attend public schools
  • supports privatizing public education, supports charters and vouchers despite an absence of research to support their success
  • her response to school violence is to arm teachers
  • she is the only Cabinet member protected by Federal Marshals, costing taxpayers nearly $1 million a month
  • she has already rolled back protections of minority, and trans students

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 4.07.37 PM.png

The day after the interview aired, DeVos was speaking to the National PTA, when she claimed 60 Minutes producers edited her remarks. Yet, she did not provide one example of a misquote.

“So, now that I have the opportunity to speak unedited, I’m not afraid to call out folks who defend stagnation for what it really is: failure,” she said, criticizing those who are against school choice given that U.S. students are ranked 40th in math, 23rd in reading and 25th in science compared to other countries. What she doesn’t say is the United States  has a far higher child-poverty rate than other high-income countries, and can explain in part the test scores.

Responses to her interview from educators are on point.

“I found [the interview] to be somewhere between disappointing and disturbing,” said Claire Smrekar, an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University whose research focuses include school choice. “It just demonstrates—again—an appalling lack of understanding of some public fundamental principles and practices related to public education” (The Atlantic).

Smreakar was not alone in her criticism. Joshua Starr, CEO of Pi Delta Kappa International suggested DeVos’ debacle on 60 Minutes was characterized as either “a matter of total incompetence or willful ignorance.” But a few concluded her to be categorically disingenuous.

Luis Huerta, an associate professor of education and public policy at Columbia University’s Teachers College, argued that DeVos’s non-answers and evasions and seeming refusal to support her claims with data were deliberate (The Atlantic).

The backlash since her interview has been strong. Some portray her as incompetent,  others see her as blind to the needs of black children. She’s been satirized on Saturday Night Live, and by Steven Colbert.

According to USA Today’s Cunningham and Whitmire, DeVos has failed to demonstrate three basic needs of the job.  “First, she has no demonstrated interest in the public schools that educate 90% of our students. Second, she fails to grasp even the basics of what’s not working in K-12 education. Third, she can’t seem to defend what she professes to support, charter schools, which is possibly the most indefensible of her failures — and where she’s doing the most long-term damage.” (USA Today).

Will DeVos be the next one through the revolving door of this cabinet?

These are my reflections for today.

3/23/18

Follow me on Facebook

 

 

 

Charter Corruption Continues…

As much as it disgusts me to write about the constant stream of charter scandals, failures, and closures- it’s more important than ever to stay informed about what’s really happening.

Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 2.16.21 PM

Goodyear, AZ  Daniel Hughes, the owner of the now shuttered Bradley Creemos Academy Charter School wrote to parents back in January to say there wasn’t enough funding to keep the school open. This after receiving $2 million from the state in taxpayer money.  Teachers and staff have accused Hughes of using state funds for his own personal gain.“There were things that were purchased on personal credit cards that school funds were used to pay off, the janitorial staff for the school was used to clean his personal residence, and the cooks from the school were used to cater and sponsor parties at his house, including his daughter’s first birthday party” (CBS).

In a 2014 IRS tax form, the school indicated Hughes’ salary as $60,736. In 2015 Hughes’ salary had increased to $100,000. Additionally, payments in 2015  of $949,000 were made to Hughes and to Creemos Association, which is a separate organization owned by Hughes.

The filing also showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements to Hughes for “Purchases on behalf of the school,” “Reimbursements of amount due,” and “Purchases and payments on revolving agreement” (CBS).

The closure leaves more than 100 students searching for new schools, and teachers, janitors, teaching assistants and administrators looking for new jobs (ABC15).

New York City, NY Families for Excellent Schools, a once well-funded charter school in New York City announced last week it too is shutting the doors and firing Executive Director Jeremiah Kittredge after allegations of inappropriate behavior with a non-school employee. Politico reported that a woman who attended a conference with Mr. Kittredge in November had accused him of sexual harassment. Kitteridge was fired from another pro-charter school group, Democracy Builders, in 2011, according to multiple sources. The reasons are unclear. Kittredge is best known in New York for helping to arrange enormous pro-charter rallies in Albany.

Atlanta, GA  Chris Clemons, former principal of Latin Academy was ordered by an Atlanta judge to pay $810,000 in restitution, serve 10 years in prison and 10 years on probation. Clemons spent more than $500,000 on strip clubs and made numerous unaccounted cash withdrawals from the school account. “As part of his sentencing, Clemons cannot work with children, cannot work for any nonprofit or school district or have any direct or indirect contact with Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton County Schools, school boards, students and parents of the three schools affected (Fox5).

Eureka Township, MI  James Mata, a teacher at Flat River Academy was back in the classroom despite having been placed on administrative leave. Mata was formally charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and third-degree child abuse. This stems from an incident first reported in May 2017 and involved a 13 year old boy. Mata was placed on unpaid administrative leave and, according to the school, would remain on unpaid leave until the case was resolved in court The Daily News.

However, The Daily News  learned Mata was teaching again at the school.  A phone call to Interim Principal Joel Hilgendorf was not returned, nor has he responded to questions as to why Mata was allowed back in the classroom.

New Orleans, LA  Gregory Phillips, CEO of the James M. Singleton Charter School in New Orleans is stepping down after the state voided dozens of standardized tests at the school for suspected cheating and other testing irregularities. According to The Advocate, “The testing investigation was launched after the state Department of Education received a tip last summer that students had gotten copies of LEAP tests beforehand, that test administrators were coaching students, and teachers and staff were taking the tests themselves”

State officials discovered many students had gotten help on LEAP tests, even though the assistance wasn’t authorized by their IEP’s. Officials found a suspicious number of answers had been changed to correct answers for 21 students (The Advocate).  The state voided tests for 155 students due to testing irregularities.

Moriarty, NM  Estancia Valley Classical Academy in Moriarty, New Mexico, hosts  fundraisers every year to raise money with hopes of a new school building. Since 2015 the school has been raffling off handguns and rifles.  Local residents didn’t want to comment on the fundraiser, but residents of Albuquerque don’t see the harm in doing so. One resident spoke on record, “I think it’s good for the kids to build familiarity with the firearms and know what they’re doing”(Daily Mail).

According to the Department of Education, it is up to individual districts or schools to decide how they wish to raise money and the state has no control.  The state is only able to enforce that the money be used for proper ventures (Daily Mail).

Napa, CA The El Centro Elementary School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to deny Imagine School Imperial Valley’s petition to renew its charter, citing the charter school’s failure to meet academic requirements. A 21-page report cited a number of deficiencies with Imagine’s governance, academic progress, corporate structure and teachers’ credentialing. According to the ECESD report,  in 2017 roughly 75% of ISIV students didn’t meet English Language Arts standards and 88% didn’t meet mathematics standards.  In comparison, 40% met or exceeded ELA standards and 31% met or exceeded mathematics standards in the El Centro Elementary School District.Board members remarked how often they reportedly hear from community members and educators that Imagine students who transfer to another district are a grade level or two behind. (Diane Ravitch).

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 7.15.41 AM

One final note today- the proposed education budget includes an allocation of $1 billion for vouchers (Washington Post).

These are my reflections for today.

2/16/18

Follow me on Facebook.

The Texas Miracle

While campaigning for the presidency, George Bush touted his educational success as Governor of Texas, claiming what he called The Texas Miracle. According to 60 Minutes reporter Rebecca Leung, “It was an approach to education that was showing amazing results, particularly in Houston, where dropout rates plunged and test scores soared.”

Governor Bush was convinced by his education advisor that low test scores and high drop out rates were stifling the public schools. He believed the solution was to make every school give the same test, and depending on the results, direct resources to schools with the most need, and eventually Black and Hispanic students would catch up to the white students. Initially scores rose, and this was considered The Texas Miracle. Bush used this as his platform to be the “education president”.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 3.33.49 PM

The Texas School Superintendent at the time was  Rod Paige. He said credit for the schools’ success, came by making principals and administrators accountable for how well their students did on standardized exams. Principals who met the goals of increasing test scores, and decreasing drop out rates were awarded cash bonuses of up to $5,000 along with other perks. Those who fell short were transferred, demoted or forced out. Education researchers had concerns about making test scores the single indicator of success.

But in Houston there were even bigger problems.  Houston won national acclaim for raising the average scores on a statewide achievement test given to all 10th graders, and principals were evaluated on how well their students performed on the test. But inside many Houston schools there was something about the good news that bothered many people.

An investigation by 60 Minutes found principals were doing some math of their own-perhaps motivated by the $5,000 incentive  They raised average test scores by keeping low-performing kids from taking the test. And in some cases, kept students from entering the 10th grade. Here’s more evidence of Texas cooking the books:

  • Sharpstown High School was one of the “outstanding” schools. The Houston school district reported a citywide dropout rate of 1.5 percent. But educators and experts 60 Minutes checked with put Houston’s true dropout rate somewhere between 25 and 50 percent.
  • Texas started to lose 70,000 kids a year, most dropping out before they had to take the 10th-grade tests that would count against the school. Almost a third of kids in Texas who started high school never finished.
  • Scores on the Texas test rose, but SAT scores for prospective college students dropped. Researchers discovered that the Texas tests primarily measured test-taking ability.  Overall Texas lost ground to the rest of the country, according to Julian V. Heilig, an education researcher at the University of Texas (MSNBC).

Once he was elected president, Mr. Bush named Paige Education Secretary, and Houston became the model for the president’s “No Child Left Behind” education reform act. At the national level NCLB set out to punish schools not showing ‘adequate yearly progress’ and reward schools that did – just like in Texas. But there was no miracle in Texas.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 4.48.34 PM

 

This January marked the 18th anniversary of NCLB – George Bush’s signature piece of legislation. Diane Ravitch called it “punitive, harsh, stupid, ignorant about pedagogy and motivation, and ultimately a dismal failure.” She concluded, “Those who still admire NCLB either helped write it, or were paid to like it, or were profiting from it.”

Though NCLB and its platform of testing and punishing ended in 2015, many of the ramifications of the legislation still exist.  Part of the law stated schools not meeting adequate yearly progress on annual testing were either closed or privatized.  This is when the privatization of public schools gained momentum.

Why do we keep replicating failed education policies, and failed models for privatizing public schools? After Rod Paige came Margaret Spellings, Arne Duncan (and John King for a bit), and now Betsy DeVos. Each of them stood behind failed policies-with DeVos still pushing failed policies.

I’m torn between quoting Einstein’s definition of insanity, or George Santayana “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

These are my reflections for today.

1/19/18

Follow me on Facebook