Saturday, March 2, 2013

NJ's Charter Closures; Ideology Trumps Kids

In a post today Jersey Jazzman searches for the logic behind the charter closures announced last week. In a follow up post he unveiled the common denominator between the shuttered schools.  They have the highest percentages of special ed kids.  

This should come as no surprise. 

More special needs kids = lower test scores, and nowadays lower test scores = closure.  

Pretty simple. Gross, but simple.

This is what happens when you allow ideology to guide your actions.  The NJDOE and their cronies have set off on a course, and they're not about to let a bunch of special needs kids get in their way.

Chris Cerf's blind allegiance to the Broad Foundation, National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) is what's behind the closure craze.

Allow me to illustrate.  

The outstanding experts at the Broad Foundation, which transforms urban schools by closing them, have helpfully assembled an 83 page guide to shutting ‘er down. The guide is packed with easy-to-follow tips to guide you from start of your predetermined course (choosing which schools to close) to the not-at-all-surprising finish (leasing, selling or donating your old, closed schools to fresh, new academies of excellence and innovation). Well, what are you waiting for? Our schools aren’t just going to close themselves… (emphasis mine)
2.  I posted a tweet yesterday from NACSA CEO and president Greg Richmond:
3.  And don't miss this gem from a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the closure of the Institute for Excellence Charter School:
Starting a school is difficult, agreed Carlos Perez, the president and CEO of the nonprofit New Jersey Charter School Association, but the early years are critical to the school's long-term success.
"The first few years at the school, there's often a lot of turmoil, a lot of change," he said. "What we're seeing, though, is after a while, certain indicators start to emerge."
Charter schools have a 90 percent likelihood of remaining where they are after the first five years, he said, citing a Stanford University study. (emphasis mine)
There you have it, the trifecta of reformy closure ideology. The venture philanthropist, the industry kingpin and the research maven all concur - if a school isn't performing- shut it down.  

Just trust them, it's for the (special ed) kids.

Closures may be devastating for parents and students, but just look how proud they make exNJDOE Deputy Commissioner Andy Smarick!

Essential part of @tussotf?  Huh?

Smarick is referring to his new book, The Urban School System of the Future. In Smarick's view, charters are the best hope for urban school systems.
Smarick argues that the answer lies in charter schooling, the topic of his second section. Charter agreements have four “systematic advantages” over the current arrangement of schools: the ability to start new, diversity of options, the opportunity for replication and expansion, and the possibility of closure.
Interestingly, Smarick doesn't seem to want to interact with anyone that may disagree with him. I tried to follow him on Twitter and here's what happened:

Andy Smarick blocked me on Twitter!  It's one of my proudest moments!

Do not question the great and powerful reformers!  DO NOT look behind the curtain and question closures! 

But even one of their own seems to at least have a basic understanding that closing a school is not a picnic for the kids (while simultaneously implying that those doing the closing are pretty darn pleased with themselves...). Meet NACSA Board Vice Chair Lisa Keegan.

At 4:45 Kegan says:
Don't just satisfy yourself that you've got the courage to shut down a school. OK, but that's not bingo for the kids. That just makes you feel better.
She concludes:
You can't let failure continue but you can't pretend like you just did something great when you shoved a bunch of kids out of a bad school and the only opportunity they have is another bad school. That's not success.
It's not just me right?  Her attitude is really strange. Do reformers really "feel better" when they shut down a school? How is it courageous? Wouldn't it be more courageous to do what it takes to FIX IT?

None of the press coverage has detailed plans for the kids and parents effected by these closures. The letter to Liberty Academy Charter School only says the expectation is for students to transition "smoothly" into "new schools" next year. 

Chris Cerf's message is crystal clear. Raise those scores, even if it's on the back of special needs kids, or your school is history.


  1. We will see the creation of a new class of students termed, "The Uneducables" Those students will be akin to drivers who have an accident history being assigned to higher risk pools by insurance companies willing to take them on.

    The Uneducables will be composed of special education students, documented behavior problems, students who are functioning at 2 grades below testing scores in Lang Arts/Math, and those who show a high mobility rate.

    Privitization and charters are a zero sum game. Sadly, many parents and their children will be the victims.

    1. Anonymous, this is daunting yet eerily prophetic...

  2. Any SpEd parent in this state can tell you that any services provided are fought for tooth and nail. Even in an "I" district like mine. While I am not fan of Charters, for all the same reasons as you, I still find it despicable that Charters that accept SpEd students at all (even if they are the less disabled) are being punished for it.

    The other big attack on special ed, gone largely under the radar, is the 428 proposed changes to the General and Special Education Code. Pay particular attention to the changes in Child Study Team composition. Jersey Jazzman, and indeed SPAN, have rightly been touting the dangers of that ditty.

    Keep digging, Darcie!

    1. Hey Julie, I'm trying!

      Jersey Jazzman has done us a great service by pointing out the charters slated for closure have higher percentages of special ed kids. It makes my heart hurt that the kids that need help the most will be further destabilized by the callous decisions being made my Commissioner Cerf. I don't want to see ANY kids school closed. If the state opens a school that facility should be an inalienable brick and mortar commitment to the students inside. This scholastic revolving door is destructive and demoralizing to our neediest students.

  3. I have also said many times that the children who do make it and follow the rules and are allowed to stay in the charter schools are being trained for the military! Follow all orders without question, dress alike, no critical thinking there, just learn how to fill in the correct bubble, walk quietly do not speak unless asked a question and so many other rules that make it PRE MILITARY Training! So the private schools for the elite will produce the leaders of tomorrow, the charters will produce the workers and the soldiers and the rest will be the service people looking after and cleaning up after and fighting wars for the elite! The ones that do not obey and do not fit in a nitch will fill the jails!