Friday, July 13, 2012

Rolling The Dice; One In Three Approved Charters In New Jersey Can't Cut The Mustard

As I sit here waiting to find out if the NJDOE will release the list of final charters today, I can't help but wonder how many brand new charters will be opening this Fall.  

When the last round of eight approvals was announced in January of this year, the NJDOE stated that thirty three charters would be eligible to open in September of 2012.  I guess with Regis Academy getting thrown under the charter school bus that total is down to thirty two.   This morning Jersey Jazzman pointed out that Regis should never have been given the green light in the first place.

The takeaway here is that the NJDOE's charter application and oversight processes are hopelessly broken

I would imagine that anyone that reads my or Jersey Jazzman's blog would probably agree with this statement.  We have seen time and time and time again, that the application process is a "make it up as you go along" fiasco. 

If every application was put under the same microscope as Tikun Olam, Regis Academy and Garden State Virtual Charter School, and the communities involved were informed and felt empowered to participate in the process, we would see far more applications denied and far fewer doors opening.  

And magical things don't just automatically start happening for students and parents just because a charter school's doors do open. Clearly, there are some serious oversight struggles going on as well.  
In fact, some doors open into charter school buildings with no students inside...     

They have concluded the state sent Adelaide Sanford Charter school hundreds of thousands of dollars to lease the James Street building over the past 16 months. According to a state Department of Education report obtained by The Star-Ledger, the children were being educated somewhere else.


Jessica Calefati's excellent piece goes on to point out that:
Twelve other charters are also on probation now because of academic, fiscal or operational problems, according to state Department of Education records.

You need a score card to keep up with what charters are even open, let alone on probation, approved but waiting to receive a final charter, or being awarded their first, second, or possibly even third planning year.
Since we don't have the report Cerf has been promising for quite some time now, let's just take a look at some basic facts available on the NJDOE website to see if we can get a handle on what's going on.

According to the NJDOE's "New Jersey Charter School Fact Sheet", as of January 2012, there were 80 operating charter schools in New Jersey. 

And remember, above we said there are thirty two awaiting their final charter.  Let's just pretend they all get the green light.  That would be a 40% increase in the number of charter schools in one year!  

There is also a very telling list at the bottom of the Charter School Fact Sheet I linked to above.  It contains names of approved charters that:
  • had applications approved but were denied a final charter (five - not including Regis)
  • were operational but had their charters revoked (eleven - not including Emily Fischer)
  • surrendered their charters either after the application was approved or after opening (TWENTY!!) 
  • were open for "the life of at least one charter" but were not renewed (four)
That's a total of FOURTY CHARTERS that have been approved but just couldn't cut the mustard.  

SInce there are eighty charters up and running, and forty that never got off the ground, there is a one in three chance that an approved application will not make it in the state of New Jersey.  

Clearly, the NJDOE's current issues with oversight of the application process is not a new phenomenon, and despite the constant assurances of increased accountability, charters like Regis still blow up in their face.  

If the one in three trend continues, out of the current batch of thirty two charters awaiting final approval, which ten will backfire on the NJDOE?  And more importantly, how many students are enrolled for the 2012/2013 school year?  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for shedding light on this confusion.....we need those people who keep stats at sports games to keep track of it all. And the DOE needs a complete revamp so they could try to get this right. But they are so far from doing their job, that the overhaul needs to start at the top - with the Acting Commissioner - he is not acting very well and he should go....Dump Duncan and Can Cerf.....