An archive of articles and listserve postings of interest, mostly posted without commentary, linked to commentary at the Education Notes Online blog. Note that I do not endorse the points of views of all articles, but post them for reference purposes.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Council for District One On Ross Global Academy charter school DoE authorized charter renewal hearing
Council for District One
On Ross Global Academy charter school
DoE authorized charter renewal hearing
The CEC for District One has a history of challenging DoE’s practice of parachuting and shoehorning charter schools into our community school buildings, with no prior community needs assessment, consultation or involvement of any kind.
Yet in the spring of 2006, the CEC for District One issued a resolution supporting the DoE’s placement of the RGACS into JHS 22 as a way of increasing utilization of that building by District One children. Our support was largely based on RGA’s commitment to engaging our community and community schools by recruiting District One students and working with parents, teachers, and school leaders to improve all of the District schools.
Too we were favorably impressed by the promise of RGACS’s stated mission to provide our local students w/ 21st century skills by means of an interdisciplinary curriculum based on cultural understanding, multiple intelligence, globalization, communications, technology and well being.
When representatives from Ross began canvassing our district’s day care centers and Laundromats, effectively doing outreach exactly as promised, our support felt justified, as the first of many promises by RGACS appeared to be genuinely fulfilled.
Three years later, in early 2009 RGACS underwent a charter revision hearing to reflect the move to the ESCHS building here in District One. I again testified on behalf of the CEC in support of the school and move, which took place in the Fall 2009 at ESCHS.
At that time I welcomed the school community to District One, offered our support, yet cautioned the school community that RGA would have to overcome many issues that had troubled the schools first 3 years.
The following statements are all culled directly from DoE/SED official reports, including annual Quality Review reports, Progress Reports, Charter School annual reports, Site visit reports, financial statements, etc
School Instability: high turnover/ low demand
High turnover of leadership:
Since opening in 2006, Ross Global Academy Charter School has had 7 principals in just 5 years, losing 4 in the first year alone.
Salaries/length of stay
FM 60 days/$53,704
JD 47 days/$24,923 (left before school started)
These changes were NOT communicated clearly to parents, creating confusion and uncertainty among the families that had chosen RGACS.
High teacher turnover:
2006-07=92%, or 13/14
2007-08 = 75%, or 18/24
2008-09 = 42%, or14/33
During RGACS’s first year (2006-07), teachers reported chaotic working conditions; many quit/were fired in the middle of the year (8 before the middle of the year) and only 1/14 returned in 2007-08.
During the school’s second year, there were documented reports from staff of fear of retribution and exclusion from secret meetings; other complaints ranged from inconsistent instruction, to lack of data/benchmarks/measures of accountability; from there being no plan aligning RGA curriculum to NYS standards, to the failure to monitor that curriculum was progressively developing through the grades.
Comparing RGACS with national teacher attrition rates
Leaving profession, including retirement)
Regular publics: 7.9 percent
According to the Department of Education, by February 2010, the middle of the 2009-10 school year 91 of the 410 students enrolled at Ross Global had left, at a rate of more than 22%. (Note- total enrollment was reported as 420 on 1/12/10 by Forbes).
In 2009-10 more than 100 students transferred out from a total enrollment of 415 students (24%)
In 2008-2009, the self reported attrition rate = 20.1% (80/399 students).
In 2007-08 = 24% (64/268)
And 2006-07= 20.5% (39/190)
At that time parents cited as reasons for pulling their kids out of RGA: violence/disorder/ curriculum too test focused, and not as elaborate as described in brochures/Summer school cancelled.
Not only it is important to note that these students attrition rate numbers are higher than average attrition rates for other schools, but we must keep in mind the documented positive correlation of student performance and attrition. The more a school counsels outtroubled or hard to reach students, students with high needs, English language learners, etc, the more likely the school is to show high performance.
Board related issues:
According to the 2006-07 QRA, the board is run by founder, Ms. Ross, and was not operating credibly, failing to offer oversight, and awarding large compensation packages to former execs.
The reviewers note that there were no job descriptions, no strategic plan, and parents were not empowered
The QRA from 2007-08 again stated that the board was run by the founder.
Furthermore, teachers feared Board dismissal for minor dissent
There were reports of conflicting adult agendas among Board/Principal/Teachers, as well as confusion over roles, and lack of benchmarks for instruction and learning.
Reports from SED note that classroom management is a concern in many classrooms- there are no posted rules, many students are off task, and students’ misbehavior attributed to teacher inexperience.
Furthermore it was noted that curriculum lacks differentiation.
Teachers in middle school reported feeling isolated, and are not supported.
During year 3, DoE’s Charter School Office Director Michael Duffy raised the possibility of sanctions ranging from probation to shut down in June 2008 based on what was termed serious concerns and substantial issues with regard to performance.
Failure to comply with charter mandates/terms and goals for progress/achievement
Moving enrollment targets:
The RGA Charter was established in January 2006 for grades K-12 (500 students).
The charter was revised in October 2008 to scale back the school to K-8th grades (414 total) retroactively, because, as the school leadership expressed it, the school “needed to stabilize the K-8th grades before starting a 9-12 HS grades”. This was the first year that RGACS was host to its first 8th grade class, the soon to be rising 9th graders..
As RGACS was only serving 318 students as opposed to the 440 total approved in the charter, the enrollment plan was revised down again in May 2009 to mirror the school’s actual enrollment- in other words, changing targets to meet reality:
2007-08 from old target of 320 to new target of180
2008-09 from old target of 440 to new target of 322
2009-10 from old target of 500 to new target of 414
2010-11 from old target of 500 to new target of 414
Actual enrollment is down again this year (2010 – 2011) by 9% as compared with last year.
Elimination of key program offerings:
The school administration decided to eliminate all after-school and Saturday programs due to a significant decline in participation in the Saturday school program and a difficulty in securing a qualified teaching staff committed to working in the weekday after school program (beginning at 3:45)
Chinese language instruction has not been offered consistently across all grade levels, as approved in the charter.
No structured athletics are offered.
Progress towards goals
RGCASsets the bar too low:
2006-07 stated charter goal=
50% students will meet proficiency (levels 3 or 4) on ELA/Math exams after 1 year
2008-09 stated goal =
65% students will meet proficiency (levels 3 or 4) on ELA/Math exams after 3 years
Citywide scores those same years far surpassed the modest RGACS goals:
NYC public schools student achievement for this same period.
51% reached levels 3 or 4 in ELA
65% reached levels 3 or 4 in Math
58% reached levels 3 or 4 in ELA
75% reached levels 3 or 4 in Math
70% reached levels 3 or 4 in ELA
82% reached levels 3 or 4 in Math
RGA’s attendance goals are set at 90% average school wide, while in District One the attendance has exceeded that level, every year despite a much more high needs demographic district wide.
Yet, RGACS still missed many of its own goals:
On the NYS 2010 Assessment for 3rd grade, only 30% of students met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts and 36% met or exceeded standards in math, far from the not- yet published 5th year goal (that had to at least exceed the 2008 third year goal of 65% proficiency.
The latest Charter School Annual Report, for 2008-09, makes note of many additional goals that RGACS failed to meet. Afew of these of note are:
In Social Studies only 81% of students scored levels 3 and 4 as compared to the goals of 90% students will meet/exceed grade level standards.
In Wellness 90% students on average met/exceeded grade level standards, missing goal of 95%.
RGACS failed to meet goal of students eating a healthy breakfast/lunch at the school
RGACS also failed to provide students with multiple opportunities to pursue passion/interests including intersession/electives because such programs were either not established or not developed if established.
RGCAS has not met its student attrition goals each year. For example in 2008-09 the target was 6%, when actual attrition was 20.1%
Special Needs Students
Proposed Charter goals state that 12% of the RGACS population will be made up of ELL and 10-12% will be classified as Special Education students.
In 2008-09, 40/399 students had IEPs or 10%, but it appears none are receiving more than SETTs, and have no access to self contained classes.
Many parents claim they were urged to withdraw their kids who had special needs; even after paying for their own evaluation they were unable to get services needed at the school.
RGACS did not meet its own chartered goal to help all special education students meet the annual goals in their IEPs
SED monitoring site visit in March 2009 revealed that RGACS lacks coherent resources for meeting the needs of students with disabilities.
That same year, 10 students were classified as ELL’s or 2.5% of enrollment, some 10 percent fewer than the chartered goals demographics.
In 2007-08, 6 students, or 3%, were classified as LEP
And in 2008-09, 8 students, or 2%, were LEP.
Besides failing to enroll and serve students learning English, only 80%of the ELL students at RGACS taking the ELSLAT improved by at least one performance level each year (falling short of the chartered goal of 85%)
In 2009-10 RGACS was awarded the numerically lowest score in NYC , among all school.
RGACS ranked 1,140 out of 1,140schools.
The school was awarded:
F for School environment= 0 points/15
F for student performance =0 points/25
F for student progress = 0.1 out of 60
NO ( zero) points for additional credit
Over all score 0.1 out of 100 = C *
*(really F, except the DoE agreed to drop a school by no more than 2 letters grades that year.)
At the Quality Review visit and ensuing assessment, reviewers found that in 2006-07, parents at RGACS were not empowered.
Many parents have claimed they were urged to withdraw their kids who had special needs, paying for their own evaluation and unable to get services needed at the school.
Per the SED monitoring visit March 2009:
only 22% response rate to Learning Environment Survey in 2007-08; and
only 28% of parents responded to an independent school survey administered in Dec 2008;
A high percentage ofparents were unhappy withthe discipline system (documentation/ process not consistent/clear, according to SED monitors)
Reportedly, the Ross School founder has spent more than $330 million on the Ross School school in Sag Harbor, of which at least a million dollars or more goes to student tuition scholarships,
The SED report from Year 3 points to issues around the schools’ financial goals and a lack of stability and clarity between the Ross Institute (not for profit) and the Ross School, RGACS.
The Ross Institute provides: curriculum, support, implementation, professional development, technical assistance, Quality Assurance, fundraising/development; advisors to school/board, as well as some services (such as HR/Fiscal that are not in the contract.
The Quality Review for 2006-07 report states that the school was “over spending, making the school increasingly dependent on cash/in kind services from Ross Institute.”
Of note: RGACS receives support from NYU, where the founder is a Trustee.
RGACS was accused of test tampering – later cleared
Principal Stephanie Clagnaz (5th principal to leave) was reported by a teacher to have taken student exams home.
This is a difficult and disappointing decision for CECfor District One given that RGACS came into District One with exciting plans and so much promise.
After an auspicious start they have struggled and have been unable to progress and are now failing to provide a good education in a good learning environment as promised.
After twice providing our support as described above, the CEC for District one now asks the DoE authorizing committee not to renew the Charter for Ross Global Academy Charter School.
Since every school in District One ( and in NYC) has outperformed RGSCA this year, and given the choices offered in our all-choice district, we pledge to help all students from RGACS to apply to enroll inDistrict One schools next year to suit their needs.
We will provide any and all support at our disposal, including lobbying for assistance from DoE’s Office of Student Enrollment, our district office support staff , and school and community leaders.