The Education Train HB 7029: Car by Car

 

locomotive-60539_1280The final version of SB 7029, the charter school bill, took awhile to locate.  Here it is!  There is along list of provisions, some minor and some major.  The highlights follow.  They are easy to scan.  Most do little damage.  Some good things happened.  Considering what could have been, we can put our energies toward making good things happen next year.

 

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High Suspension Rates in Charter Schools

whistle-149678_1280Lake Wales charter school in Florida had one of the highest suspension rates (45.3%) in the nation.  A U.C.L.A. Civil Rights Project study gathered out of school suspension rates for all 5,250 charter schools from 2011-12.  They compared them to traditional public schools.

 

 

 

Charter schools had a somewhat higher rate on average.  What was startling was how variable the suspension rates were among charter schools.  Some were extraordinarily high.  This is not just about suspension rates, however.  Half of all black students attending charter high schools were enrolled in 270 schools that were hyper segregated (over 80% black).  Their suspension rate was 25%.  Other disturbing findings were:

  • Over 500, about 10%, of the charters had higher suspension rates than traditional public schools.
  • 235 charters suspended half of their students with disabilities.
  • Over 1,000 charters had suspension rates for students with disabilities that were at least ten percent higher than traditional public schools.

As one might expect, suspensions were lower in elementary schools than in high schools.  The study questioned, however, the number of charters that reported no suspensions.  Twice as many charters reported no suspensions than did traditional schools.

Interesting or alarming is the fact that Florida’s suspension rate of black high school students is 30% which is higher than in California, Texas, New York and Illinois.

Inquiries into harsh disciplinary practices in charter schools has raised questions about civil rights violations.  The core recommendation of the study is that charters should curb overuse of disciplinary exclusion and replace them with more effective alternatives.  There should be no exemptions or excuses for charter schools.

 

Meeting with the Black Caucus in Tallahassee

five for changeMonday three of us from 5forChange met with the group of legislators known as the Black Caucus.  We had been advised by our local representative, Clovis Watson, that we should talk to the broader black community.  He believed they would be supportive of our message about the need to preserve diversity in our public schools.  They were. We were able to explain the Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit and why it mattered to each of us.

These are personal, emotional remarks from the heart by parents of children in our public schools.  We represented diversity just by looking at us.

Tarcha Rentz spoke first.  She is a former teacher who grew up in our community and received her Ph.D. in Special Ed. She held everyone’s attention.  Here are her remarks:

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New Omnibus Bills Pass Senate Appropriations

japan-82123_1280The two new bills heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee today were not really new.  Senator Gaetz collapsed a number of existing bills into two omnibus bills.  The recess bill did not get included.  The limit on capital outlay for public school facilities was included.

The second bill relates to early childhood education, open enrollment, dual enrollment, private school sports participation, and charter school accountability.

These bills move on next week.  A lot of negotiation will happen between the House and the Senate.  The specifics follow:

 

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Money or Ideology?: Why Does the State Board of Education Overrule Districts?

money-40603_1280Sometimes the sun shines, and sometimes it rains.  I guess it is climate change??  It rained on St Lucie and Indian River’s school boards.  They had voted to reject three Somerset charter schools.  There were the usual complaints that the charters offered little new and also disrupted district desegregation efforts.  These new charters were proposed under the High Achieving Charter law that allows charters to locate in other counties if they have a charter school with at least two A’s and a B somewhere else.

School grades being school grades, high performing means little.  We all have schools that change from an ‘A’ to a ‘C’ depending upon how zone lines change.   Charters can maintain grades by strategic choice of location, students, and dismissal policies.

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Parents File Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Success Academy Charters

justiceI just saw a post from Diane Ravitch citing a New York Daily News report.  Parents have organized against Success Academy Charter Schools in New York.  I wondered when this lawsuit would happen.  The charges include:

 

 

 

 

  • refusing to provide special education students with appropriate services.
  • multiple suspensions of students without keeping records or providing alternative instruction.
  • harassing parents to return their children to public schools and even calling 911 to pick up children whose parents do not immediately arrive–even a five year old.
Several advocacy groups have joined the complaint filed in federal court.  Perhaps Success Academy is one of the more extreme examples of this type of behavior, but similar charges have been published in Florida and elsewhere.  Clearly, these parents have had enough.  Read the full complaint.

 

Charter School Bubble to Burst?

hands-982121_1280Are charter schools an emotional response by inner city low income families to long standing state funding inequities?  A University of Virginia Law Review article  addresses concerns that school funding inequities in Black urban areas lead to a tolerance of unfettered growth in charter schools. 

The federal government support for charters also feeds the expansion without sufficient regulation.  The net result may be a bubble and crash much like the recent financial crisis.  What should be done to avoid a cataclysmic fall that could destroy communities?

Mother Jones summarizes the three practices that lead to serious mismanagement.  I add a summary of the status Florida’s legislation to address these concerns.

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How to Fix Failing Schools and How Not To

directory-466935_1280The League asked the Florida State Board of Education:  “What Next?”    What should be happening to fix problems, not just point fingers?

The New York Times published some solutions that are working in Union City, New Jersey.  Note that it is not Newark, New Jersey where big money and celebrities tried to impose charter school solutions. Less hoopla and more methodical, careful community planning make a difference in Union City.  See how click here.

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Congress Passes New Federal ESEA Bill

legislation1We posted several analyses of the updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Current legislation, called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is on its way to the President’s desk.   No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top are gone.  What remains are annual testing requirements and support for charter schools.  Responsibility for most education accountability reverts to the states.  Thus, each state can determine how test scores are used for teacher evaluation, school grades and the Common Core.

States are required to identify schools with under performing students and help fix them.  What this means is unclear.  For a good analysis, see Education Week.  Many provisions are subject to different interpretations.  One thing is clear, citizens need to turn to their state legislatures  to make reasonable, valid decisions about how test scores are used.  Continued policies that force districts and teachers to focus instruction on ‘passing the test’ can be changed, if the voters insist.