Parents like charter schools because they are intensely student-focused. Hedge fund managers like charter schools because they provide a model for private education that is publicly funded. Governor Cuomo likes charter schools because hedge fund managers like charter schools (and because the Mayor ran opposing them). Sure they might be "polarizing," with their strict discipline, higher suspension rates, and frequent teacher burnout, but they get (test) results. Now a New York Times investigation reveals what charter opponents have been saying all along: they actively try to shed struggling students and those with special needs to keep their success rate high.
Using a bevy of anonymous sources, Kate Taylor reports that Success Academy, the largest charter network in the city, targets underperforming students who misbehave as potential candidates for expulsion.
While it's difficult to formally expel children from charter schools because of the public funds they receive, it's much easier to repeatedly suspend problem children and hope their parents take the hint.
Monique Jeffrey said her son, who was in kindergarten last year, was suspended so many times she “stopped counting.” In the middle of the year, Ms. Jeffrey said, the school’s education manager, Rebecca Fleischman, told her that her son had emotional and behavioral issues the school could not handle and that she should look for another school. Ms. Jeffrey withdrew him at the end of the year.
At Success Academy in Fort Greene, the principal made a list of 16 students under the headline "Got to Go." Nine of those students later left.
Other emails obtained by the Times show administrators and teachers at Success schools mulling how to designate a child as a special needs student so that the Success could plausibly tell their parent they were unequipped to teach them.
The notes also appear to allude to the possibility of getting one child on the “Got to Go” list classified as a 12:1:1 special education student. Those students are entitled to classrooms limited to 12 students, with one teacher and one aide, so Success Academy, which offers only five such classes in a network serving 11,000 students, might not be able to meet the needs of every 12:1:1 student.
Ms. Fleischman, the education manager, warned her colleagues in a follow-up email that the goal should not have been put in an email and that, in any case, a 12:1:1 classification “does not guarantee a withdrawal.”
A spokesperson for Success Academy told the Times that the principal in Fort Greene was rebuked for making the "Got to Go" list, but defended the suspensions:
Ms. Powell said that Success schools did not push children out, and that what might look like an effort to nudge students out the door was actually an attempt to help parents find the right environment for their children. Some on the list required special education settings that Success could not offer them, she said.
Success Academy and Cuomo's office have not responded to requests for comment on the Times piece. Moskowitz and her principals are holding a press conference in the playground of Success Academy in Harlem at 12:30 p.m.
— Eliza Shapiro (@elizashapiro) October 29, 2015
Earlier this month we interviewed six public school teachers. Here's what one said about charter schools:
I think defenders of charters say they get better results, they can be more flexible, you can do more innovative things. The big problem with charter schools is that, unlike public schools, they can kick kids out. It's actually a problem very similar to the issue with elite schools in New York in general, the application process for getting into a high school, which creates a class system in the public schools.