Sunday, October 14, 2012

WARNING: The Other Corporate Charter Application

My last post described my concerns about one charter school application, Nexus Academy of Indianapolis, that seems to be more about profits and expansion than meeting educational needs of a community. Another similar charter school type is also being proposed during this Fall 2012 charter application cycle called Premier High School by Responsive Education Solutions, Inc.

Premier High Schools are identified as virtual charter schools, but according to their application, the schools wouldn't qualify as a virtual charter school under Indiana law. Indiana identifies a virtual charter school as being a school with more than 50% of a student's instruction through virtual distance learning, online technologies, or computer based instruction. Their education plan is very similar to Nexus Academy, but students seem to have less face time with a teacher at Premier.

Apparently, Responsive Education Solutions, Inc. (also know as ResponsiveEd) has been given the authority to open an unlimited number of schools in Texas. They have a pretty aggressive expansion plan for Indiana as well which includes expanding to include middle and elementary schools.

ResponsiveEd has developed a general five-year growth plan for developing schools in Indiana, anticipating the establishment of 36 successful campuses by the academic year 2017-18. Utilizing a proven system of school organization and operation, these campuses will function as part of ResponsiveEd’s family of schools, whose growth is anticipated to reach 500 schools nationwide by the fall of 2020.
They claim to consistently exceed state averages (in Texas) by approximately ten percentage points on state assessment  performance. That's sounds promising, right? Then I looked at their education plan...

A typical 10th grade PHS student starts each day working on a beginning of the day warm-up activity and then moves into a Knowledge Unit as prescribed by their Individual Graduation Plan and Daily Goal Card. The student uses their daily Goal Card to determine the day’s activities in all subjects, including when they plan to take the Knowledge Unit test. 
Each student’s day is broken up by one to two pullouts – one for science and one for math – during which time the student receives direct instruction in core content and state assessment preparation material.  In the student’s homeroom, the student will work on math, science, social studies, English and elective classes. The student may use technology in the learning center to work on state preparation software programs, online curriculum, network based computer curriculum, or uses the Internet to research or differentiate coursework. 
PHS is supposed to be a drop-out recovery program. This typical day for a student doesn't sound like the sort of environment meant to inspire students. It's sounds quite cold and robotic. But I guess if the test scores are good then it must be great for kids? (Please note the sarcasm) The Knowledge Units and software used will of course be ResponsiveEd's own design, so they will be using state funding to pay themselves for their own instructional materials and software.

Their plan is to start with enrollment of 120 students and expand to 200 students by year 4. The way they figure staffing is a little strange. Instead of listing the number of teachers in whole numbers, they have the number of teachers for the year listed as 3.79. I'm not quite sure what that means, but check out their staffing for year 1: there will be 3-4 teachers, 2-3 aides, 1 special education teacher, 1 spec. ed aide, 1 Title 1 teacher, 1 director, and 1 campus assistant. Now logistically speaking, how in the world will a student actually get help or be able to ask questions with only 4 or 5 adults around and possibly 119 other students? I hope these kids will be REALLY independent learners. This leads me to wonder what their education plan is for those middle and elementary schools?

I'm praying that this charter school application and the one for Nexus isn't approved today. I'm not very hopeful after checking the Indiana Charter School Board website. Three charter schools have withdrawn their applications, but three have not. The three remaining charter school applications still up for approval today are: Nexus Academy, Premier High School, and The Excel Center.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Nexus and Premier don't have ANY specific locations or properties yet (according to the applications). How will that play out?

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to more postings - this blog brings to light some of the complex issues we face. We are in unique times - where we have all these 'new' schools popping up - but none of them are actually 'new' - have you noticed that? It's like everyone is pouring all this money into buildings and hiring - but they haven't really changed anything for the better. Instead of doing what has been proven in research - these education "business leaders" are doing just the opposite - they are hiring less and enrolling more. Instead of hiring the best and brightest teachers (i.e. those with experience and/or have earned masters/PhDs) they are hiring inexperienced and maybe even not licensed teachers (maybe they have a few experienced teachers on staff - to 'mentor' their inexperienced teachers). Instead of thinking outside the box - ALL of these schools are thinking "inside the box" - I dont' see ONE school that has opened recently that is truly different than what is already out there. Why? Because they are ALL mandated by law to meet the standards - 99% of our population is going towards standardization. Do you know what the remaining 1% is doing? Definitely, NOT more of the same - they have protected themselves from standards and testing. They are safe from the government mandates. They have true local control. I find it ironic that all these top 1%ers are opening schools, and yet I wonder, where do their children attend school? Are they sending their children to the schools they open or fund? I'm willing to bet that their children are tucked away in a school that costs $20k-$38k a year per child. I'm willing to bet their children are participating in interest-driven curriculum, are required to exercise via a sport of their choice for an 1.5 hours a day (while in school), meet with a tutor one-on-one when needed, and participate in classes that are only 45 min in length - AND have less than 19 children in a class. I bet their child's teacher has been teaching for atleast 10 years (is well out of the 'sink or swim' stages of his/her career) ----- I wonder - when are the American people going to question "who" is opening more of the same? And why are these people all of a sudden taking an interest in opening 'more of the same'??? What is the true motivation for doing so?

    There might be a few schools nationwide that have used government funding to open their schools (i.e. public charters) - that are truly innovative - how are they fairing? But the rest of them - they seem like more of the same.