A plan to save failing charter schools | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 1, 2015

A plan to save failing charter schools

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 1:08 PM

click to enlarge markhenry.jpg
Could we get enough money to hire Dr. Mark Henry away from the Houston-area Cyrpress Fairbanks school district to take over in Little Rock? What's not to like about his recent blog post (hat tip to Diane Ravitch).

He was responding to the cookie cutter Texas legislation inspired by the Billionaire Boys Club legislation machine  (Walton Family Foundation a charter member) to turn over "failing" public schools to charter school operators. The Walton lobby — with support from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and their former legislative enabler, Johnny Key, who's now education commissioner — tried to create a similar program in Arkansas. But the legislation failed after an enormous outcry.

Henry writes, in a satirical vein:

Under proposed Senate Bills 669 and 895 and House Bill 1536, the Texas Opportunity School District would swoop in to properly educate and save the students attending “failing” public schools.

These bills are proposed to help heal those public schools with a 10-year minimum contract with a charter school Band-Aid, but with no guarantee for solving the student performance problem. The bills also provide a method for increasing the number of charter schools without having to follow the authorization process established in Senate Bill 2. As a matter of fact, SB 895 validates the quality of a charter school by asking the charter operator, “Is your charter a good one?” Talk about rigor!

I have an even better prescription that Texas should try. In my solution, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD will create “The Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Opportunity School District” to take over and manage failing charter schools.

Around 8.2 percent of public school campuses are classified as failing, but nearly 17 percent of charter schools are designated as failing. In fact, within three years of being included on the low-performing list, only seven out of approximately 8,500 traditional public schools are still designated as failing. If you are mathematically inclined, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all Texas public school campuses are rated IR or AU for more than three years.

It seems that public schools are doing a great job of addressing low-performing schools without the added bureaucracy of another state agency. But there does appear to be a need to help charter schools, when nearly 1 in 5 are considered failing.

CFISD is recognized as one of the most effective school districts in the state when considering academic achievement and financial efficiency. We don’t pick and choose our students; we educate all students within our borders. The principles we practice should be quite useful in assisting the great number of failing charter schools. We feel that with more funding, less regulation and our processes, we can give thousands of students trapped in failing charter schools hope for a better tomorrow.

The proliferation of failing charter schools is the “civil rights issue of the 21st Century.” CFISD sees an opportunity to rescue these students and generate additional dollars to help offset the current underfunding (less operation funding than charters) that we receive. It is a win-win! Students at the failing charter school will benefit by receiving a quality education and CFISD students will benefit with more funding.

We are excited about the opportunity to teach so many charter school operators how to run an efficient and effective public school—our prescription meets every child’s needs!

Although this article is satirical, hundreds of public school districts have proven they are capable of rehabilitating low-performing campuses—a much more effective solution than an entirely unnecessary new state bureaucracy.

I'm reminded of the Arkansas Education Department. Its charter review committee almost never meets a charter school it doesn't like, particularly if it proposes to skim students from the Little Rock School District. Poor performing charters? It rarely meets one. Just the other day, not long after the state had taken over Little Rock for low test scores in six of its 48 schools, it recommended continuation of a Little Rock charter school whose scores have NEVER reached tje proficiency standard in seven years of operation. And you wonder why John Walker insists a double standard exists for Little Rock. Maybe that school could get some help from LRSD.


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