Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Charter Schools II: Reprise


Update: A recent article in the Chicago Tribune about a clandestine plan to open some 20 new charter schools per year (after an appointed committee has determined this year’s closings) has been strongly denied by the CPS ex-superintendent Brizard’s replacement, Ms. Barbara Byrd-Bennet.  The Mayor has also disavowed any knowledge of the outline, and the CPS’s CEO has insisted that communities have been directly involved in the recommendations coming from the newly appointed "school utilization process committee."  On the other hand, criticism has also been voiced that the Civic Consulting Alliance, a group with close ties to a pro-charter school organization called New Schools for Chicago, has considerable input and influence over the eventual outcomes.  At least one board member, Andrea Zopp, questioned the possible conflicts in the final selections of schools closed and their charter replacements.  “I need to know more than ‘somewhere in CPS,’” she said. “It is impossible or hard for me to approve them without knowing where they will be located”( http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2012/12/19/20711/cps-board-approves-only-two-new-charter-schools ).  In fact, New Schools for Chicago (www.newschoolsnow.org) does call for “shaking up the public education” by the promotion of charter schools throughout the city, also providing a zip code finder for anyone visiting the website to seek nearby undersubscribed buildings.  Below you will find an earlier Vocabulary for Charter Schools – one of three parts originally posted in Pension Vocabulary last year. 

Charter Schools II (non-certified teachers and questionnable test results and elusive goals, oh my!)


Remember from the vocabulary for Dec. 19th that Charter School’s are considered “public”; unless, that is, you happen to be a Charter School.   Charter Schools often get to describe themselves just as they like in order to meet whatever purpose is necessary.

For example, even though a Charter School like Chicago Math and Science Academy is “public,” its lawyer may decide to label the school a primarily “private” institution that does not have to “follow an Illinois law giving public school workers the right to unionize,” for the purposes of refusing to accept a possible right to collective bargaining as requested by the school’s staff.  This seems at first to fly in the face of logic, for CMSA has received over $23 millions in public money since it opened in 2004, and more than 80% of its annual budget comes from the Chicago Public Schools (Chicago Charter school in union battle. www.stltoday.com. 23 Feb 2011). Additional charter school funding comes from state and federal grants as well as private money. Indeed, according to the CMSA’s lawyer, Seyfarth Shaw, like other charter schools, private citizens established CMSA, and government has no sway over their operations.   It’s that last point of view that allows those CEO’s who run charter school operations to argue the public/private nature of the institution as well as generate self-flattering names for the institutions (The Noble Street Charter Schools – Pritzker College Prep or Chicago Bulls College Prep). 

Even a CEO of a charter operation speaking casually can sound rather ambiguous about the true nature of what a charter school is while answering questions: “’We’re in this business because we want to prove that public schools can work,’ said Juan Rangel, president of the politically connected UNO charter network, which operates nine schools in CPS and plans to open three more next year”

Ironically, like any business, charter schools can close their doors when results become less than expected - or when the product is substandard?  “Addressing the failures at UNO’s lowest performing school, Paz Elementary on the West Side, Rangel said, ‘We’re at a point where it’s do or die.  We’re either going to put Paz on course… or we’ll have to consider whether this is a school we should keep open’”   (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-charter-schools-performance-1130-20111130,0,1660032.story).

In a worst case scenario, charter schools/businesses do not have to operate under the same codes of operations or even closures as public schools, which would require hearings, administrative decisions at the highest levels, and a non-disruptive closing at the end of an academic year.  In Cleveland, Ohio, for example, the Marcus Garvey Charter School closed its doors on February 20th of this year, and its 100 students were left adrift with nearly half a year to go and the state’s standardized tests fast approaching.  The school was opened originally in 2002 by a public relations executive and received millions of dollars in public money, but as a charter school it is not required to assure a year-long program or even a smooth transition for students in academic crisis.  In the meantime, students from Marcus Garvey are being urged to enroll in another nearby charter school/business , the Steve Sanders Academy, named for the professional football player who recently opened his own charter school in an abandoned parochial building (Starzyk, Edith. Marcus garvey academy will close… The Plain Dealer.  3 Feb. 2012).

Likewise, selection of appropriate staff for for charter schools seems to land somewhere between expectations in a business model and the stricter demands in a public school system.  Charter schools may employ non-certificated teachers if they have a bachelor's degree, five years of experience in the area of the degree, a passing score on the state teacher tests and evidence of professional growth.  If you plan to open a charter school in Chicago, like football star Steve Sanders did in Cleveland, you will need at least 50% of your staff to be holding valid teaching certificates.  You'll also need to mentor your non-certificated staff and make sure that each of them has demonstrated some professional growth ( http://mb2.ecs.org/reports/report.aspx?id=93 ).  In the case of CMSA, they supply the same information to prospective parents and students in this fashion: "The Federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that all classroom teachers must be highly qualified.  We attempt in all cases to employ highly qualified teachers who meetthe requirements of the No Chgild Left Behind Act.  However, state law does permit a small percentage of teaching staff to be hired who are not fully certificated, but are otherwise..." (from the Chicago Math and Science Academy FAQ - www.cmsaonline.net).   







The academic results of this public/private experiment in Chicago are erratic to say the least.  According to the Chicago Tribune, “Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city leaders have long heralded charter school’s innovative approach to education, but new research suggests many charters in Chicago are performing no better than traditional neighborhood schools and some are actually doing much worse” (Hood, Joel & Ahmed-Ullah, Norren).  In fact, more than two dozen prominent and largest charter schools in Chicago were scoring below district averages on standardized tests; furthermore, only one school in a large network of older charter run schools (Perspectives and Aspira) surpassed the average on the ISAT or the PSAE

In short, the same problems of poverty and familial dysfunction that has plagued public schools for decades has now hampered the promised outcomes by the business model charter schools in Chicago; in fact, CEO’s and presidents of Charter Networks sound suspiciously like their unappreciated counterparts in the public realm when explaining the situations they face.   “Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, acknowledged that maybe a dozen underperforming charter schools are in need of “substantial actions” that may include closing.  But simply looking at how many students have met state benchmarks is not a fair assessment, he said; a more important indicator is student growth over time” (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-charter-schools-performance-1130-20111130,0,1660032.story ).  Broy, a vocal critic of public school teachers and the CTU, especially last fall, is more restrained regarding charter school performance.  One wonders what a CEO like Broy is paid to make frank and intelligent observations that New Schools for Chicago would consider unacceptable in a public school setting by a public school administrator.  

9 comments:

  1. Jeb Bush and Rick Scott in Florida support charter with contracts which stipulate that test scores are the sole determining factor to remove the charter or close the charter school.
    http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/specials/weirdflorida/blog/2011/09/floriduh_k8_school_by_day_adul.html
    Miami-Dade School District officials were still trying to determine whether the Balere Language Academy — a charter school already facing financial free-fall and increased school district scrutiny — has also been doubling as an after-hours nightclub. District officials learned of R-rated party fliers, featuring bikini-clad women and bottles of booze, promoting a bash at the address of the South Miami Heights charter school. Older ads, Twitter posts, Facebook photos and a string of parent complaints about cigarette smoke odors and empty beer bottles on campus also indicated past parties were held at the school.

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