NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf has made no secret of his wish to bring more charter schools to New Jersey. Less well known is his desire to bring in national charter management organizations (CMOs) to take over locally-run charters. This happened before at Paul Robeson Charter in Trenton; now he's bringing a New York CMO into Camden:
I'll bet it was "touchy." But as we found out earlier, dissent is no longer tolerated in Camden; not on the city's school "advisory board," and not on charter boards:
Oh, my. And this is being aided and abetted by the USDOE, which, again, gave Democracy Prep a multi-million dollar grant for expansion. Yes, your federal tax dollars are being used to force local charters to accept national-level CMOs while dissenters are forced off of their boards. Everyone OK with that?
If this is the m.o. of the NJDOE, than I have to admit that Democracy Prep is actually the best possible candidate for a hostile takeover of a "failing" charter. Not only does DP have lots of powerful friends; they also have plenty of experience in charter vulturing:
[Update: to be clear, this is from March of 2012, not "yesterday." The source is Leonie Haimson writing at the NYC Pubic School Parents blog, but she herself is quoting from the NY Times. I indented the graph that comes from the NYT, and kept the rest of Haimson's post unindented. Hope that clears up any confusion - JJ]
This is how NYT/SchoolBook reported it yesterday:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is speaking at a benefit on Tuesday night for Harlem Prep Charter School — a formerly independent charter school called Harlem Day that had its charter revoked for poor performance. In an unusual arrangement, the state allowed Democracy Prep, a charter management organization that oversees several other schools, to reopen the school with the same students and a new staff. The event is being held at a restaurant on the Upper East Side and top flight tickets go for $15,000 — the cost of educating five Harlem Prep students for one year.
Now that is NOT really the cost of educating five Harlem prep students in one year, of course. Actually, the city provided $16,660 per pupil in charter schools housed in public school buildings in 2009-2010, considerably more just in public funding per student than regular public schools receive, according to the Independent Budget Office.
The IBO also concluded that the disparity between the public funding that co-located charter schools receive for each student compared to district public schools would likely be increased over time.
But that obviously doesn't stop Bloomberg from making sure that charters can raise even more private money to spend on their students, rather than the schools that he is supposed to be responsible for -- whose school budgets he has cut four years in a row. Even without that extra subsidy of free space and services -- which we believe is illegal in state law -- the city is spending $737 million on charter schools this year alone. [emphasis mine]So Democracy Prep came into a "failing" school in Harlem, took it over, and jacked up the per pupil spending. As Bruce Baker points out, that extra funding is a big help:
Figure 7 again shows that in New York City, charters tend to significantly outspend district schools with similar populations – well except Equality charter which is somewhat closer. On average, the average gains are indeed higher in these higher spending charters – actually moving upward in sort of a pattern. But remember, the peer groups in these schools also aren’t particularly comparable. KIPP AMP and Brooklyn prospect, however, don’t do so hot. But, if there’s any case to be made here with these charters, resources just might matter. Not the same kids. More money. Some reasonable outcomes.
Clearly, some deeper investigation is warranted. But, in each case there are also district schools, including lower spending district schools that outperform most of the charter schools.
There's Democracy Prep, spending more than $4,000 more per student, and getting better value-added scores for its teachers.Figure 7. New York City Value-Added
But what about the student population? Is Democracy Prep teaching "the same kids" as other schools? Well, here's a comparison to the public school Democracy Prep is co-located with in New York, the Academy of Collaborative Education:
Fewer Special Ed children, fewer LEP children, fewer children eligible for Free Lunch. How does Democracy Prep make that happen? Well...Taking a closer look at Democracy Prep’s enrollment in comparison to ACE specifically (as we did in 2010) shows that other than the first year ACE opened, these patterns have been true throughout both schools’ existence. In addition, though Democracy Prep no longer publicly reports the type of services its Special Education students receive, evidence from 2008-09 showed that only 18% of its students with IEPs were mandated to be in self-contained classes, compared with 50% of Special Education students at ACE.
School Year % Free Lunch % Limited
% Special Ed Academy of Collaborative Education 2008 79 4 10 Academy of Collaborative Education 2009 71 8 13.4 Academy of Collaborative Education 2010 83 10 21.6 Academy of Collaborative Education 2011 82 10 21.7 Democracy Preparatory Charter School 2008 64 7 11.6 Democracy Preparatory Charter School 2009 64 6 no public data Democracy Preparatory Charter School 2010 66 5 11.9 Democracy Preparatory Charter School 2011 66 6 11.5Sources: NY State Report Cards; NY State Charter SPED Invoices; NYC CSC Database
OK, that's just one teacher's report. What else do we know about Democracy Prep's practices?
And what does this harsh environment lead to?
The “no-excuses” culture at Democracy Prep could explain why one of its schools had a high attrition rate, according to data obtained by Schoolbook and WNYC. The data only included the network’s oldest middle school, where more than 23 percent of the students left during the 2010-2011 school year. That’s higher than most charters, although some regular district schools in Harlem also have equally high attrition. [emphasis mine]Except those public schools don't claim to educate "the same children" as Democracy Prep, do they?
To recap: Democracy Prep's practices include more spending per pupil, a rigid "no-excuses" culture, high rates of attrition, and segregation by poverty, special need, and English proficiency.
This is your future, Camden - imposed on you by state-officials and outside CMOs. Don't even think about fighting back.
Resistance is futile.