Reforms > Charter Schools

Charter schools association continues push to weed out low-scoring schools



Upping its campaign to root out what it views as its lowest performing schools, the California Charter Schools Association last week criticized a San Jose school district for allowing a charter school to open two more campuses next year.

“We cannot have an honest discussion about education reform and increasing accountability and then continue to allow chronically low-performing charters to replicate,” Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), said in a statement. CCSA is a membership organization representing many of the state’s 1,300 charter schools.

CCSA singled out Latino College Prep Academy, a 12-year-old high school charter with low scores on state standardized tests. The school serves about 380 primarily low-income English learners in East San Jose and has ties to National Hispanic University. Last month, the East Side Union High School District gave Latino College Prep conditional approval to expand after no one, including CCSA, testified against it.

CCSA has taken the lead nationally in trying to cull its own ranks. It, like other charter advocates, has been stung by national studies concluding that charter schools on average perform no better than district schools they compete with. However, CCSA’s analyses found that California charters take the shape of a “U” on a graph, with disproportionate numbers of very high ranking and very low ranking schools – “the Achilles’ heel of the charter movement,” Wallace calls them –  when compared to API scores for district schools. As a result, CCSA has been outspoken in urging districts and county offices of education, as authorizers of charters, not to renew, and even to revoke, the charters of those schools that don’t meet minimal thresholds on the Academic Performance Index or API.

The increased attention on low performance is working, Wallace said. Of 17 charter schools that closed last year with enough data to analyze, eight were in the bottom 10 percent of performance on state tests, and 15 were in the bottom quarter, he said.

Leadership College Prep “has missed the minimum performance benchmarks that (Association) members created to identify persistently under-performing charter schools. As a result, replicating a failing model is not in the best interest of the students and the communities they wish to serve,” Wallace said.

In December, the Association called for revoking the charters of six schools, four whose charters were up for renewal and two schools that two years earlier it had recommended for non-renewal: Leadership High School, one of the state’s older charters, in San Francisco, and West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School, a grade 6-12 school affiliated with the UC Davis School of Education. Both serve low-income minority students.

About 40 percent of the graduates of Latino College Prep Academy attend University of California or California State University campuses, according to school figures. Credit: Latino College Prep Academy

About 40 percent of the graduates of Latino College Prep Academy were accepted to University of California or California State University schools, according to school figures. Credit: Latino College Prep Academy

In each case, the schools’ administrators defended their school’s work and dismissed the criteria that the Association used as narrow and arbitrary. Test scores failed to account for the progress that the schools had made with difficult-to-educate students, they said.

“This is about equity for students who are not otherwise receiving the opportunity we offer,” Ed Alvarez, Latino College Prep’s CEO, wrote in an email to the Association.

CCSA created its minimum criteria for renewal, which it has now applied to replication, in 2009 and updated it last year. To meet the criteria, a school has to meet at least one of three standards; Latino College Prep failed to do so, according to CCSA’s scorecard:

  • At least a 744 API score last year, which is above the bottom 25th percentile for all California public schools; Latino College Prep’s score in 2012-13 was 679.
  • A three-year API growth of at least 50 points; Latino College Prep averaged only 3 points.
  • Fall at least within the average range of comparable schools under a metric that CCSA developed, called the Similar Schools Measure. It’s a tool that compares each school’s performance on the API to a prediction based on how schools with similar demographic characteristics perform. Latino College Prep performed at below or far below the prediction for each of three years.

East Side Union’s approval

CCSA’s minimum academic standards are higher than state law requires for a charter renewal, which customarily occurs every five years. Besides minimum academic requirements, the law allows a district to renew a charter if it can show that students perform at least as well as those in district schools that they’d otherwise attend. It was on this basis, said East Side Union Superintendent Chris Funk, that the district recommended conditional approval of the expansion. In order to open, the two new schools must have a minimum enrollment and receive approval from the University of California for all 15 courses students must pass for admission to a UC or CSU campus; four courses currently aren’t UC-certified – another fault that CCSA criticized.

CCSA's comparison of API scores showed Latino College Prep was below the statewide average for Hispanic and low-income students as well as three high-performing charter schools – two in San Jose and one in East Palo Alto. Source: CCSA performance data comparison, 2013.

CCSA’s comparison of API scores showed Latino College Prep was below the statewide average for Hispanic and low-income students as well as three high-performing charter schools – two in San Jose and one in East Palo Alto. Latino College Prep responds that it serves a larger concentration of English learners from low-income families in East San Jose.  Source: CCSA performance data comparison, 2013.

“I am not a huge fan of using API, especially for high schools, but the law is clear and we followed the guidelines,” Funk said. “Latino College Prep is serving kids of color and English learners. They fell in between our (the district’s) lowest and middle performers. If I point a finger at them, I will point a finger at what we do.”

As a practical matter, the Santa Clara County school board approves most charters on appeal, and so East Side also factored that likelihood into consideration, Funk said; this way, the new schools will remain under East Side’s jurisdiction.

Alvarez says that 86 percent of students arriving in 9th grade at Latino College Prep are English learners, a ratio that drops to 63 percent in upper grades because students test out and no longer are classified as English learners. Yet more than 90 percent of students graduate from the school. Forty percent were accepted last year into a University of California or California State University school, he said. (The latter is a self-reported statistic.)

Alvarez said that using the API score is misleading because many of 9th graders arrive behind grade level and aren’t performing well until they’re juniors. And as seniors, they don’t take tests that count toward the API.

“We don’t fit within the metrics of CCSA,” Alvarez said. “We had a long discourse with them but they never visited our school. They don’t understand what is happening in our classroom and the resources we applied for English learners to be successful.”

“Beating a dead horse”?

Harold Levine, dean of the UC Davis School of Education and president of the board of West Sacramento Early College Prep (West Sac Prep), makes a similar argument with regard to West Sac Prep. Two years ago, CCSA recommended it and nine other schools not be granted a charter extension. After its charter was renewed and the school didn’t improve, CCSA recommended in December that West Sac Prep’s charter be revoked.

Jointly administered by Washington Unified in West Sacramento, UC Davis School of Education and Sacramento City College, West Sac Prep is a small school serving students in grades 6-12 in an area ­“where there is a lot of dysfunctionality in students’ lives: family issues, drugs, gangs. There is real poverty here,” Levine said.

The school employs a mental health counselor. It has multi-age groupings and focuses on project-based learning and critical thinking in line with the new Common Core standards. It has a concurrent enrollment arrangement with its community college partner and “forces these kids to take responsibility for their own learning,” Levine said.

He can’t understand why CCSA is demanding his school’s charter revocation, he says, when the state is implementing a new school funding and accountability system that’s moving away from determining a school’s worth by test scores alone. West Sac Prep will soon begin designing a new accountability system, consistent with the new priorities listed in the new state accountability tool, the Local Control and Accountability Plan, that focuses on the goals of career and college readiness, Levine said this week.

“The state is looking at broader measures with new (Common Core) tests,” Levine said, “so our reaction is, ‘Why is CCSA still beating a dead horse?’”

Wallace said that CCSA supports the state’s new broader range of indicators of student performance, but they’re not in place yet. “And while we look forward to Smarter Balanced (the new Common Core tests), we must use whatever system is in place now until the new system comes on line.”

Referring to Latino College Prep, CCSA Senior Vice President Elizabeth Robitaille said that the best predictor for replication of a charter is its past track record of performance. “We have no confidence that the school will excel.”

Filed under: Charter Schools, High-Needs Students, State Education Policy, Testing and Accountability

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25 Responses to “Charter schools association continues push to weed out low-scoring schools”

  1. Fred Jones said

    on February 12, 2014 at 11:27 am

    So will the only Charters deemed acceptable for CCSA be schools heavily populated with Asians/Caucasians? While that may increase their scores, will that serve the general and diverse population of our state through the competition and choice that Charters bring to communities?

    Perhaps CCSA ought to be more engaged in the efforts of many to recognize other means of measuring a school’s genuine success in inspiring and educating their students, rather than continue to buy into the tunnel-vision of our current, high-stakes metrics.

    While all schools should be held accountable, and while CCSA is trying to police their own “industry”, shouldn’t everyone be asking what we’re holding schools accountable for and whether its a reliable indicator of valued performance?

    As just one example, look how schools have abandoned CTE programs in recent years (picking up steam this last year with 20% of CTE instructors let go and over a 100,000 students disenrolled in CTE courses … in just a single year!). The narrowing of curricular options has been a direct outgrowth of our tunnel-vision vis-a-vis accountability measurements.

    • Jerry Heverly replied

      on February 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Could you point me to your source for the CTE stats?

    • Bruce William Smith replied

      on February 12, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Exactly right, Fred. The charter school movement started with a promise of diversity, but has hardened in recent years into its own, alternative establishment, which is too devoted to the mantra of test score accountability that the families of the chartered school I once led were fleeing, surely not with the hope of being chased down by CCSA. Those operating or attempting to open chartered schools face enough obstacles without being betrayed by an association to whom they may have been paying dues. If CCSA were in the business of authorizing charters (a good idea), its accountability criteria would be relevant and probably helpful; as it is, it appears to be serving its own interests, which is not especially harmful except when those interests conflict with those of families who do not concur with its definition of academic performance — and, thank goodness, there are quite a few such families still left.

  2. Manuel said

    on February 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    It is laudable that CCSA is now asking for “accountability” from charter schools and is willing to push for low performing schools to be shutdown.

    It is worth noting, though, that once these schools are shutdown, where are the students going to go? Back to the public schools that many believe “failed” them? To another charter whose scores are higher?

    These pattern assumes that it is all the “fault” of the schools. But what if it is the socioeconomic condition of the students that is preventing them from advancing at the rate the reformers believe they should be performing? Why do we keep insisting that poverty is not an impediment when it is clear that these students do not have the resources others have? And why are the assessments they are forced to take not examined for “cultural” biases produced by socioeconomic conditions?

    This is a very complicated issue and I don’t see that closing schools because of low scores is going to solve it. Besides, the scores themselves are problematic because the way they are generated always produces a population that has students below and above the chosen “optimal” score. Why can’t we admit that not all children can be above average?

    • TheMorrigan replied

      on February 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      Good point. I have often wondered what happens when a TPS is closed, a charter takes it place, and then the charter is closed. Where do those kids go? No matter what world we live in, that is not even remotely good for the kids, parents, or employees of such institutions. I do not know if it has happened in CA yet, but it has in Florida and Illinois.

  3. Floyd Thursby said

    on February 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Manuel, the biggest advantage of charters is they can fire bad teachers and give merit bonuses. The charters said to underperform generally take more challenged kids. The answer is, we need to A. convince members of all groups to study long hours and B. make it so all schools can easily fire bad teachers and end Seniority, tenure and burdensome due process requirements for all teachers. All children deserve that protection. No lemons teach at private schools for the rich. Children are more important than adult job security. The overall number of teachers will be as high, but the quality will improve.

    There’s a reason we have a great economy but mediocre schools. It’s lemons. The systems with seniority/tenure/LIFO have the worse schools, even in States which should and used to have great schools such as California and New York. There’s no way we should get lower test scores than Idaho and Nevada, but we do. We just have to stop protecting bad teachers. I’ve seen bad teachers protected by union leaders and other teachers, good teachers, at meetings like they were the most noble cause in the world.

    • Don replied

      on February 12, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      I don’t deny that who you call “bad teachers” cause some amount of drag on achievement, but you overstate the case for dismissal reform. And it goes without saying the characterization of some teachers as “bad” is a disservice to the proper use of a generalization. We need dismissal reform for sure, and by the way Vergara does not change due process rights as someone else alluded to, but getting rid of ineffective teachers does not guarantee that their replacements will be any better. Unlike the private sector pink slip that is a two week notice, teacher protections result in too weak notice – the end result of which is lifelong employment by hook or by crook.

      Floyd, you’re looking for an easy answer, a scapegoat, for the achievement gap and ineffective teachers are only one of many causes. But why muck up the picture with a lot of other pesky factors for failed achievement? You like to beat kids over the head for not doing their homework so which is it – bad teaching or bad students? Make up your damn mind.

    • C.M. Berger replied

      on March 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Teaching is a complex profession and teachers tend to get better with time. I think it would be best if new teachers taught with experienced teachers for the first three years, rather than turning the profession into a little-valued, minimum wage, high turnover, low respect job as corpo charter schools are doing. You don’t always know, nor do the teachers themselves know, whether someone will shape up into a good teacher right away. It takes time to develop. Bonuses to experienced teachers and none to new, hard-trying ones? That destroys community and divided, community is destroyed. Bias enters into awarding of bonuses because they are awarded by imperfect humans and assessment systems.

      If paired with a proven teacher, a new teacher will have much less propensity to leave unprepared students in their “wake”. Simply firing young promising teachers who aren’t quite there yet is just stupid for the future. The USA has the 3rd biggest population in the world. therefore you have to adjust your expectations for all teachers to be grrreat! right off the bat. It wouldn’t hurt for the US to look at other countries and at states that have good public education records -but due to states’ rights, it ain’t gonna happen that we have federal rules to regulate teaching quality. Pairing new teachers with experienced ones for a part of each day may require reconfiguring traditional class times, but it may be worth it. I see both sides because I also see the anti-intellectual bent of lots of public school administrators, who think that very advanced children are an annoyance to be ignored, rather than another type of student that is “special needs”. The only kind of special needs and special education is for people who need extra help to be at the average level. There is zero focus on students who have a special need because they are five grades ahead intellectually, but not emotionally – and public schools are stubbornly unwilling to address their needs.

      The other thing that is really bad for our huge population is that there is HUGE lack of Career Technical Edcuation. Leaving out millions of kids who could be transformed into non-outsource-able trade workers.

  4. el said

    on February 12, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Though I’m glad to see the charter school association looking at school performance and abandoning the idea that charter === better always, I think it is irresponsible and unnecessary to advocate that a particular school be closed if you can’t even be bothered to visit it.

    “We don’t fit within the metrics of CCSA,” Alvarez said. “We had a long discourse with them but they never visited our school. They don’t understand what is happening in our classroom and the resources we applied for English learners to be successful.”

  5. Mike MeCey said

    on February 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    It’s like Groundhog Day over at CCSA. Every year, CCSA targets charter schools based upon their own antiquated standards — criteria higher than any other public or private school in California — and closure recommendations regardless if that school is deemed successful under the state’s current accountability law. CCSA’s methodology unfairly targets charter schools serving challenged, transient, small, ethnic and non-traditional populations. CCSA’s policy is absurd and goes against the purpose of the charter school law.

    While this year’s “target list” does not threaten a public virtual or blended-learning school, California Parents for Public Virtual Education (www.calvirtualed.org) remains deeply opposed to CCSA’s methodology and process as unsound, out-of-step with state law, and unfairly targeting schools that serve some of California’s most needy student populations.

    For the past three years, California Parents for Public Virtual Education has criticized Jed Wallace’s flawed “accountability” theory of displacing kids out of their needs-serving schools. Since our collective effort is to support parent choice and education reforms, you’d think that Mr. Wallace would want to hear our concerns. While we may simply be a bunch of parent volunteers, we do have many insights to what is working in today’s education system.

  6. CarolineSF said

    on February 12, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    This whole area is just surreal. CCSA and its precursor, CANEC, previously had a policy of fighting back with full firepower against a school district that attempted to revoke a charter for any reason ever.

    We saw that in San Francisco with Urban Pioneer, a charter high school, back in 2003. UP had these problems when SFUSD moved to close it:

    – Two students had died falling into a ravine on an unsupervised wilderness trip.
    – The school was in financial shambles, bouncing teachers’ paychecks.
    – The school was “graduating” students who not just hadn’t met the requirements but fell FAR short of meeting the requirements. Some barely had any.
    – Its test scores were rock-bottom, a 1-1 API.

    Yet: CANEC led a fierce battle against SFUSD when it moved to close the school, including hiring a high-powered and expensive political PR firm, Solem & Associates, to lead the charge. Ultimately, SFUSD did close the school, but it was an ugly, divisive and expensive process, thanks to CANEC.

    Before that, in 2001, CANEC helped lead an all-out attack, including a full-blown national/international media assault, against SFUSD when it moved to begin the process of revoking the charter for a school run by now-failed for-profit Edison Schools. (To this day I am utterly flummoxed by many of my own newsroom colleagues’ willingness to join in that media attack without asking any of the obvious questions that might have raised some doubts.)

    It seems likely that CCSA would still be willing to mount attacks just as forceful when it so chose. If SFUSD chose to really make an issue of the elaborate enrollment process at Gateway, a highly thought of charter high school that clearly weeds out the untogether and unmotivated; or the pre-enrollment tests given by the SFUSD’s two KIPP schools — who thinks CCSA wouldn’t launch its full firepower? What about the extremely exclusive and highly touted Pacific Collegiate in Santa Cruz, which employs a number of mechanisms that keep out the non-privileged and struggling?

    SF’s struggling Leadership Charter HS used to be hyped as a wild success — which was never the case. Now that it has become clear that was all hype, is Leadership really the failure that CCSA has now declared, in throwing it under the bus? If you were in the know as an SFUSD parent all along, you could see that it was limping along all that time and did not actually plummet from superstar to loser — just from hypefest beneficiary to disfavored unwanted child.

    SFUSD does have a charter high school that would be a flamboyant fiasco if anyone were paying attention, Flex Academy, founded by Mark Kushner, the founder of — yes — Leadership High. (Flex was wildly hyped until it actually got underway, at which point all the people who were hyping it — ahem, you know who you are — “forgot” that they’d ever heard of it.) Why isn’t CCSA throwing THAT one under the bus?

    Can someone explain this all to us, please?

    Disclosure that this post contains discussion of a number of topics on which I recuse myself professionally because of my past history of advocacy.

    • Don replied

      on February 12, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      I can explain it to you, Caroline.

      It’s all there in your comment – “It seems likely that CCSA would still be willing to mount attacks just as forceful when it so chose.”

      Here we have CCSA doing the right thing by taking steps to police it own member charter schools by recommending charter closures, which by the way, is very much unlike United Educators of SF (who you unfailingly support) in failing to police its own members, (but that’s another story). Yet you blame CCSA anyways because you think they MIGHT do what CANED did in the past – support failing charters – which is not what they’re doing. Now that IS surreal!

      You can parade out your list of egregious charter school failings and use them, once again, to negatively characterize the entire disparate charter movement, but since you’ve recused yourself I assume you know that this old trick won’t work any more.

      And though I agree with you about Gateway’s sleazy attempt to limit applicants, let’s not forget that your own two children graduated from School of the Arts, the only school that employees an audition process that highly favors the resourced.

      Now that one of my own children attends Gateway Middle, I have come to moderate some of my hardline pro-charter views in favor of something more realistic. You might try it sometime because as long as you espouse the complete shutdown of the charter school movement, your particular views on any given charter application is of little consequence. Thankfully, CCSA got a sense of propriety and moderation before you did.

      • Don replied

        on February 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

        Well, I shouldn’t have said, “before you did”. Over all the years of commenting you NEVER got a sense of propriety and moderation when it comes to charters, even successful ones. We know what you’re against – charters and union reform. What are you for?

      • navigio replied

        on February 13, 2014 at 8:08 am

        the decision to attend a charter should have no bearing on whether one believes the existence of the charter sector will destroy public education.

        • Paul replied

          on February 13, 2014 at 9:28 am

          This is a thorny issue. Diane Ravitch, for example, refutes conservatives’ arguments against class size reduction with the simple question, “What would you want for you own children?”

          Arguments for sapping resources from district schools wouldn’t be credible, coming from
          charter school parents (let alone from people with a financial stake in the charter movement), nor would arguments for sapping resources from public schools in general, coming from private school parents.

          Which specific school is the best fit for each of one’s children is a different matter. That is an individual and situational decision. It involves a fusion of the child’s character and aptitudes, any special needs,* the family’s geographic location, and sadly, the family’s financial means. It’s also a decision with big personal consequences.

          I believe that one could send a child to a charter school and still be an advocate for district schools, and that one could send a child to a private school and still be committed to funding and improving public schools.

          Having compared math instruction in numerous Central Coast and East Bay district schools, and a few charters, too, with math instruction at the private Nueva School on the Peninsula, I know that I would move heaven and earth to raise the money to send my own child to Nueva, if I ever had a child, and if this person were interested in math. That would NEVER stop me from working to bring about smaller class sizes and more effective forms of math instruction in public schools.

          * Special-needs students, including English Learners and students with disabilities, get more comprehensive services in district-run public schools. Most charters rely on their sponsoring districts or county offices for special education. Private schools, in general, are not set up to serve large and varied populations of English Learners or special education students.

          • navigio replied

            on February 13, 2014 at 5:32 pm

            re ravitch, rich folk doing something doesnt make it inherently right. i dont think her goal with that statement is to provide a justification for the policy rather to coerce meaningful discussion about the role of class sizes (at least that’s how i use the same statement).

            even then, having a public policy goal is independent of how one personally adheres to the policy ideal (if i believe in higher taxes, my alone paying extra taxes doesnt solve the problem that a broader policy of higher taxes would.

            in addition, there are macro and micro arguments to most policy issues, that are even often contradictory. education policy in general, and charter policy in particular, are probably extremely good examples of that.

  7. CarolineSF said

    on February 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Sorry, I misstated — Flex Academy is not an SFUSD high school; it’s in San Francisco but chartered by the state BOE after SFUSD declined its application. For which SFUSD got plenty beat up, by the way. (Pacific Collegiate is also SBOE-chartered.}

    Does the SBOE ever try to revoke a problem school’s charter, or for that matter take a look at the schools it charters at all?

    • C.M. Berger replied

      on March 5, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      Pacific Collegiate is chartered by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. The County, not the State.

  8. Paul said

    on February 12, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Floyd, you assert that California used to have good schools, and you blame bad schools on due process dismissal rights for teachers.

    If California’s schools have declined (more on that in a moment), then due process dismissal cannot possibly be the culprit. This is because due process rights have been SCALED BACK. Today, young teachers and teachers who change school districts are subject to dismissal without cause. Up until 1983-1984, those groups enjoyed due process process protections: they could only be dismissed with cause. (See Section 44929.21 of the Education Code.)

    Here are a few questions to help you decide whether California’s school system has declined in the ways you think it has:

    1. What were the statewide proficiency levels in the first year of STAR/CST testing? What were they in the last year of full STAR/CST testing?

    2. How have high school graduation rates changed over the decades?

    3. What services were available to students of color and students with disabilities in the public schools, years ago?

    4. What fraction of California eighth-graders studied algebra years ago?

    If you examine these and other facts, you will find it’s quite surprising that our schools have accomplished so much, even as their funding has been drained away progressively since the late 1970s. Teachers — the same ones you accuse of being incompetent, of skipping work, and of being generously-paid — have kept the system going, and done the hard work of adjusting to new fiscal, demographic and social realities.

  9. CarolineSF said

    on February 12, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Don/”Floyd”/whatever other names you may be using, SOTA openly requires an audition — that’s part of the design of the school.

    Gateway has long employed a lengthy application requiring several essays — a process that has changed in various ways over the years but continues to require a significant effort by the applicant — while claiming there’s no screening whatsoever. To any reasonable person, that’s a significant difference.

    I don’t espouse the shutdown of the charter sector.

    To me, CANEC/CCSA’s history, and the fact that in its new stance (the view that problem charters should be closed, a direct about-face from its previous stance) it chooses a few charters to single out and attack, is relevant to the discussion.

  10. Don said

    on February 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    My problem with Gateway HS is the sneaky effort to advance the enrollment deadline forward by 5 months without informing the SF community in any meaningful way, particularly after Gateway agreed to have open enrollment. This was simply a bald-faced attempt to curtail the quantity of applications, except those in their middle school =all of whom no doubt were well-apprised of the deadline change. Nor did it matter to Gateway leadership, or SFUSD for that matter, that the charter document requires trustee approval of admission policies. No approval was given but changes were made nevertheless.

    My problem with the schools do not end there. The Gateway Middle School charter makes several consequential promises to parent applicants that it fails to abide by and since it is a school receiving public funding I consider those contractual breaches a violation of the public trust.

    I also found that GMS, like its sister GHS, operates like a private school – making decisions under cloak of darkness and disengaged from the community. For this reason, I filed a formal complaint with SFUSD, the charter authorizer, to due its due diligence with oversight and require that both schools constitute school site councils and develop a Single Plan in conjunction with their respective communities.

    Regarding SOTA, you seem to believe that advance notice provides cover for inequitable policy. If that’s the case, so would Gateway High Schools long standing and lengthy admission policy, by extension. I don’t think it does.

    Lastly, the ranter who goes by the name of Floyd Thurby is someone else whose style, substance, attitudes and beliefs are quite different from my own though I will admit to knowing him (he turned me onto this commentary site). You’re an intelligent person – I’m sure you can find a better way to refute me than to assign to me a mistaken identity.

  11. CarolineSF said

    on February 13, 2014 at 9:05 am

    My basic point is that because CCSA/CANEC has demonstrated that it can wage a furious and damaging battle if a school district tries to hold a charter school accountable — and that it can readily get the political powers and the press on its side — that makes it almost impossible for a district to do its oversight.

    The public may not know what charters CCSA would defend in the manner it defended Edison Charter Academy and Urban Pioneer in the past, though school districts may have been warned and thus may be well aware.

    CCSA is now making a show of choosing certain charters to throw under the bus, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to back off if school districts target other charters for accountability.

  12. Don said

    on February 13, 2014 at 9:52 am

    I agree that if history is an indication, CCSA is not likely to do a complete 180 degree turnaround and support the closure of every last underperforming charter school. (Of course, the upending of the entire accountability scheme doesn’t make a determination of failure any easier.) But in the context of public education at large, neither does SFUSD as concerns failing tradition public schools. The CCSA policy change is something to be viewed optimistically, unless you believe it is nothing more than a craven attempt to score a few political points through raising a perceived but false sense of balance. In any case, that’s possible, though I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. It is conceivable and eminently logical that they believe a strong charter movement is one that hold failure up for review. They may have learned the lesson the unions didn’t and for which they are now paying the price.

    I’m not sure I agree or understand your point – “and that it can readily get the political powers and the press on its side — that makes it almost impossible for a district to do its oversight.”

    I’ve had trouble with SFUSD’s oversight of charter schools for which it receives 1% in administrative fees. The District doesn’t do a particularly good job of overseeing charters, if my experience with them is any indication. However, it isn’t the press that’s stopping that from happening. There’s no interest from the District as charter authorizer in spending time on oversight and that leaves the schools to their own devices. Until people like me come along and push an issue with their own child’s charter, the District is pretty much in an “out of sight out of mind” mode.

    I appreciate your point of view and the depth of knowledge you bring to the discussion even if I don’t believe that charters should be judged more harshly than TPSs.

  13. Don said

    on February 13, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Since there are a few people here who have an interest in charters pro or con, I would like to ask for feedback on the charter situation that affects my own family.

    I sent my son to Gateway Middle School here in San Francisco after winning the lottery. I chose to apply for three main reasons.

    1. I though he would benefit from smaller than average class sizes and a small school.
    2. I believed that the school would be able to provide the special ed services in a way that was better than a TPS.
    3. And the charter and literature said the school provided after school tutoring for any students upon request.

    As it turned out they refused to give him any extra help after school and ignored the charter promises they made to parents about tutoring, though they finally relented and provided a small amount. And they failed entirely to provide services for my son’s IEP goals.

    In the course of dealing with these issues I also realized that they did little to engage their community and were violating the law by not having a school site council. So I pushed the district to force them to comply with the law.

    I come away from this realizing how charters are really on their own, that district oversight is minimal and that parents are stuck without much recourse when a charter doesn’t live up to its promises. Once your kids is enrolled and making friends it is hard to change schools. And on the positive side they do a lot of things very well, so the cup is more than half full.

    What do others think if you would be so kind as to provide feedback?

  14. Gina said

    on March 4, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    They need to start testing the kids at the beginning of the school year or when they transfer and then again at the end of the year. This will allow you to have a baseline at the beginning of the year and will give you a true reading of what the child had learned. I don’t think grading the school on the end of the year tests is a true reading of how a school is doing. If a child is a few years behind and transfers into a non standard public school they are going to bring down the schools rating. All these things need to be taken into consideration when making judgment calls on the schools. I know it is not happening that way now but it should.

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