Talk About the Sentinel's Charter School Series

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Since: Nov 06

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#2
Mar 25, 2007
 
What do you think about the charter school issues raised in the Orlando Sentinel's special report?
Roger Heinig

Lakeland, FL

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#4
Mar 25, 2007
 
Vicki McClure and Mary Shanklin write:

> Pat and Tammy Rasmussen had no idea they'd sent their son Daniel to one of the lowest-performing schools in Florida [Richard Milburn Academy in New Port Richey]-- until he came home one day and said he was helping teach math class... The couple wanted a public school with small class sizes and rigorous instruction. Instead they chose one for potential dropouts. Only 12 percent of students could read at grade level... "We never would have put him in there had we known," the father said.

Let's back up a little bit here. The very first sentence in the Richard Milburn Academy FAQ < http://www.nesihq.org/rma-faq.htm> ; reads:

> Richard Milburn Academy is a public charter high school for students who have not been successful in a traditional public high school setting.

Just in case that's not clear enough, the FAQ goes on with more specifics:

> RMA is designed to assist students who have experienced difficulty in a traditional public high school as exhibited by a variety of situations including but not limited to failing courses, being suspended, having poor school attendance or being retained in a grade during the past four years. RMA also serves students who lack demonstrated proficiency in English, perform better with fewer distractions, have earned low scores on standardized tests or are transitioning from other alternative learning environments.

So why were Daniel Rasmussen's parents surprised to learn that RMA is a school for potential dropouts? And where exactly did they get the idea that RMA offers "rigorous instruction"?
total_eclipse

Shreveport, LA

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#5
Mar 25, 2007
 
The need to open up a charter "School of Hard Knocks"...
Involved_Charter _Parent

United States

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#6
Mar 25, 2007
 
Once again, the Slantinel writes another misguided "investigative" report. I don't understand why there was no mention of the numerous charter schools in Orange County that are "making the grade". Yes there are charter schools that are ungraded, but that is generally due to the educational services that they provide to their students. In addition, to imply that these schools are not held accountable is a falsehood. Orange County charter schools are required to provide financial reports to the county school district monthly as well as an audited report on an annual basis. For an "investigative" report, did your reporters even bother to contact any of the district's charter schools? Being very involved with my childrens' charter school, I am fairly certain, based upon your article, that you did not contact them. It's a shame that your organization fails to be objective time and again in your "investigative" reporting.
Alaina

Pompano Beach, FL

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#8
Mar 26, 2007
 
RogerSimmons wrote:
What do you think about the charter school issues raised in the Orlando Sentinel's special report?
I think this report is very one sided. I am a teacher at a charter school, and while I am sure we are not perfect much of what was reported is incorrect. We are an A school with many rigorous teachers and subjects. In all schools students have to take classes that are not required ( they are called electives). The only way a student is "forced to take a class that they don't want is if that class is full. Again, this happens in all schools. Perhaps a little more research should have been done before reporting on this subject.
Concerned Taxpayer

United States

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#9
Mar 26, 2007
 
I am grateful that the Sentinel reporters did not overlook or soft-pedal the very real abuses that they found in some Florida charter schools. The shady financial dealings that they exposed and the lousy learning conditions that some of these schools provide are an affront to every taxpayer. We deserve better both for our kids and for the use of the money that we send to Tallahassee. To argue that some, even most, charter schools do better or to argue about the journalistic merits of the series is misleading. The reality is that these abuses occurred and will continue unless something is done to stop them.

Does anyone really think that abuses like these are defensible or that they should be hidden from public view? Instead, let us face these very real abuses and act to see that they are stopped. Our state government created this framework for charter schools, and we should insist that the framework is modified so that these abuses are stopped.
Charter Parent

Lady Lake, FL

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#10
Mar 26, 2007
 
No, these abuses should be stopped and better framework for overseeing would be reasonable.
Just because someone disagrees with the tone and lack of scope in the articles, doesn't mean they think the abuses are OK.
I have two boys in a charter school in Seminole County. As parents, we took it upon ourselves to interview staff, and research the curriculum being used before enrolling them... ANYWHERE! That is our job as parents. Giving your young children over to a school, of any structuring, would be neglectful if not first interviewed and investigated.
Our school's FCAT grade is an A. Both our boys are reading years above grade level, in large part due to the school and the reading program used.
The Sentinel is very good at choosing a topic, finding the worst case available, and then creating a week's worth of articles that show only the evidence that supports thier original intent.
Wonder if they will follow up with an article on the outstanding work being done in many charter schools? I for one, won't be holding my breath.
Bernie

Orlando, FL

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#11
Mar 26, 2007
 
The Charter School system is nothing more than a sophisticated Pozzi Scheme; instead, it's rob the taxpayer to pay Paul, and in return Paul votes for the elected official in favor of such a rediculious system.
Bernie

Orlando, FL

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#13
Mar 26, 2007
 
one more note...not only do we the taxpayers lose but the students who attend some of these failing charters schools have suffered a greatest lost.
Bernie

Orlando, FL

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#14
Mar 26, 2007
 
The Charter School system is nothing more than a sophisticated Ponzi Scheme with a twist - Rob the taxpayer to pay Paul and the gang. In return Paul and the gang votes for the elected officials in favor of such a ridiculious system. At the end of the day not only have we the taxpayers lost millions to this scheme but the students who attend these chartered schemes suffer the biggest lost.
Amber Pindell

United States

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#15
Mar 26, 2007
 
As a parent of an elementary student enrolled in a charter school, I am disgusted with the slant that the Orlando Sentinel has put on this story. While I can appreciate the fact that they are highlighting some major issues, there are issues with Florida's entire school system. I also noticed how they have failed to mention those charter schools that do a great job with their students and budgets, that earn an "A" for the FCAT scores and have many students that read and have math skills above their expected level. This story may have some benefits and good points but they seem to be drowned out by the overall negative viewpoints which isn't surprising for the "Slantinel". I'm cancelling my subscription because they are very biased.
Charter teacher

Longwood, FL

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#16
Mar 26, 2007
 
I find it interesting that this series focuses so much on the negatives of charter schools in Florida, but does not highlight the successes that many charter schools have had. Bernie, who seems to have the most to say, needs to take a look at his grammar and spelling before posting. Maybe he could have benefited from the small classes and individual attention many charter schools provide.
slb421

Orlando, FL

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#17
Mar 26, 2007
 
Concerned Taxpayer wrote:
I am grateful that the Sentinel reporters did not overlook or soft-pedal the very real abuses that they found in some Florida charter schools. The shady financial dealings that they exposed and the lousy learning conditions that some of these schools provide are an affront to every taxpayer. We deserve better both for our kids and for the use of the money that we send to Tallahassee. To argue that some, even most, charter schools do better or to argue about the journalistic merits of the series is misleading. The reality is that these abuses occurred and will continue unless something is done to stop them.
Does anyone really think that abuses like these are defensible or that they should be hidden from public view? Instead, let us face these very real abuses and act to see that they are stopped. Our state government created this framework for charter schools, and we should insist that the framework is modified so that these abuses are stopped.
I have to agree. Like anything in life, a few bad apples can certainly ruin the bunch. There is absolutely no excuse for this sort of financial abuse when the rest of our public school system is suffering a shortage of funds. I, as the parent of a public shool student, am outraged that our school's budget has been cut time and again while Charter School administrators are driving BMW's and going to Dolphin's games. Disgraceful!!! While there have been (and continue to be) several excellent charter schools, I don't see where they are a true justice to the education system. Every successful charter school that I have encountered REQUIRES parents to donate a significant amount of time as a volunteer to the school. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent requirement...and it's unfortunate that this must be mandated by the schools (or that it can't be mandated by ALL schools). However, the parents who are typically taking advantage of these schools are parents who care enough about their child's education to be involved to begin with and would gladly give their time. Bottom line, I don't think you can compare charter schools to public schools as far as grading. It's like comparing apples to oranges. The doors to public schools are open to anyone willing to drop their child on the doorstep. If you were to segregate a population of students from ANY school where the parents are actively involved in both their children's lives AND their school activities, you'd see an upward soar in grades. My child is in a public school that has been an "A" since the inception of FCAT testing. It's worth noting, that our parents VOLUNTARILY donate more than 10,000 hrs/year to the school's activities. Charter schools (at least successful ones), in my opinion, are a bandaid that covers a small boo-boo on an enormous lesion and this type of mis-management tells me they may not be the "correct" bandage.

I have also found that a significant number of Charter Schools use their quasi-public status to their advantage...touting themselves as a public school when convenient for their needs/demands...and denoting it when there's negativity. While there may be some degree of oversight, it's clearly not enough.
Decrease my school taxes

Sanford, FL

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#18
Mar 26, 2007
 
Although many of you have pointed out the Sentinel did not represent both sides appropriately what we all should be demanding is a reduction in school taxes. Until the State can come up with a better method of accountability we should not take the approach of throwing money at something and hope that the deserving schools get a fair share.

Our lawmakers are meeting in Tallahassee to try and fix the property tax issue. Well wouldn't this be a good start?

A reoccurring theme in Florida is that schools, turnpike authorities, POLITICANS are all doing unethical and borderline criminal acts and wasting taxpayer's money.

And for those of you who send kids to good charter schools, those schools will not have any problem passing more stringent budget accountability.
Mark Cannon

Orlando, FL

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#19
Mar 26, 2007
 
For charter schools, accountability is at the core! A few bad apples won’t spoil the whole bunch because the charter, or contract, is the built-in mechanism to root out the bad.

Among the few negative anecdotes that the Sentinel series has surfaced, the reporting typically goes on to discuss how that school is under investigation, on probation, failed audit probes, or is being subjected to closure. Due process takes time, but they system does work especially when the charter authorizing body takes is oversight responsibility seriously.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of charter schools are amassing records of high academic rigor (the focus of part 1) against incredible financial odds (the undercurrent to part 2), especially in serving the most hard to reach students. The charter movement as a whole adopts a “no excuses” attitude bent on continuous improvement. There are many fine instances of Florida state and district officials collaborating with the best charter founders and leaders to raise the standards for everyone. These efforts, too, should be profiled and rewarded.

The implication in part two’s reporting is that charter school board members are not held to the same level of public accountability as elected members of district school boards. The differences in roles are significant in scale and scope, but what the reporters glossed over is that charter boards are held to the same IRS nonprofit laws befitting a million public charitable enterprises that employ more than ten percent of the nation’s workforce. IRS rules for setting reasonable compensation, disclosing conflicts of interest, prohibiting private gain, and assuring independent board action have well stood the test of time. A couple of the accounts of self-dealing, if not presented out of context, appear extreme and giving public scrutiny to these should put every charter board member on alert to know and follow the law. Federal indictments against nonprofit boards and executives are not so uncommon as one might think.

As we root out the bad, let’s be careful not to do a disservice to the many charter school board members, leaders, teachers, parents and volunteers whose sacrifices in service to this new educational democracy have helped put a shiny polish back on the apple of especially alternative education, which is closing achievement gaps for the historically underserved and helping improve educational opportunity for all students.
Kym Elder

Venice, FL

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#20
Mar 26, 2007
 
The only way to be unbiased as a journalist should be is also to investigate why some charters are so successful?

It is very difficult to live up to district schools when the discrepancy in funding is so large. Did you point out that new charters are not even eligible for facilities funding for three years? How is a school supposed to compete with district schools with that sort of disadvantage? The facilities funding that charters do get is well below the district per student equivalent. Tell me how charters are supposed to be so perfect in an underfunded environment like this? Not to mention that Florida still ranks near the bottom of the list in per student funding...Not to mention the class size amendment requirements for elementary schools with the state not raising FTE enough to counter the discrepancy in revenue?

Give us a break. We are doing a Herculean job with less people doing many district job descriptions, working long hours, and trying to give non-affluent and affluent families some options that typically only wealthy children have. Many charter schools have administrators who are making less than their district counterparts, teachers who are making less than their counterparts, and unable to afford the state retirement system.

Nonetheless, countless educators come to work everyday for the benefit of the students in their care, making a real and lasting difference in the lives of the children and their families.

Enough of this yellow journalism. We don't need muckraking; we need unbiased reporting by people who are knowledgeable about education, and about charters. We do not need more articles by junior reporters trying to make a name for themselves. It is insulting that papers like yours and the others who have engaged in similar "unbiased" reporting can still call yourselves journalists!!

Cut it out! You are hurting too many of us out here who are doing a good job. And to them I say, keep your eyes on the goal rather than on newspapers like this one.
ken

AOL

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#21
Mar 26, 2007
 
Trailer King wrote:
Wow another sentinel "investigative" article where it's tone was determined even before it was started.
If you think these reporters intended to find out the truth about charter schools you are a true lemming.
Why did they even waste a year "investigating"? They could have just wrote a "charters suck" in a weekend since that was the original intent.
What a joke of a newspaper
Hear! Hear!
Wally koski

Walla Walla, WA

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#22
Mar 26, 2007
 

Charter Schools. Do Charter Schools Have something Public Schools do not have? Do they hire certified teachers? How do they determine who are the best at teaching children? The Public Schools were doing a good job until someone or somebody decided to prove we were doing a bad job at educating the youth of today. If the public schools are failing, find out why we are failing and make the necessary corrections and then there should be no need for charter schools. The question is have the public schools failed or have the School Boards, State, Federal Legislatures and parents failed the give the schools the funds that are needed by the schools to run fully functioning schools. The federal government should only gives money to the states -no hooks. The teacher teaches children not subjects. By using this method the child is not a machine or a robot but a loving, trusting, willing to please child. The Doctor of today has over 50 services he can call on to keep his patients alive and well. Why over 50-- Knowledge in the medical field has exploded and continues to explode. A persons brain can only hold so much knowledge. Now we have more knowledge for another department, on and on it goes. More knowledge, more people to put that knowledge to work to keep people alive and healthy. The patient is a person. Now the student is also a person. The teachers brain can only hold so much knowledge. New knowledge needs another person to put that knowledge to work to help the teacher in the classroom teaching children not subjects. Now you ask, who are these new people that have that new knowledge? Speech Therapists, Psychologists, School Nurses, Math. Supervisors, Language Arts Supervisors, Nutritionists, Reading Diagnostic Centers, staffed by Reading Diagnosticians and Remedial Reading Teachers. The teacher has hundreds of things to do in her classroom. That is why she needs a support staff to call on when need be. WE must remember that child coming through the doors of a school brings all his baggage with him, he does not leave it at the door or at home or on the bus, in the door it comes. We the teacher must be there with open arms, love in our hearts and a smile on our face. The battle is half won with the proper attitude. Each one of those children is a human being, the baggage they bring with them is full of his life, from the time he was born till now. That bag will open so be ready for anything that comes out of it. Love, hate, trusting, hurt, anger, well behaved and the thousand things that some and many of the children experience. The teacher listens and watches as she teaches, John looks sleepy, Susan looks like she needs a breakfast, Jack needs a shower, Bob needs to be checked by the Speech Therapists, Jim needs a vision check, Joe has to be referred to the Reading Diagnostic Center, reading problem. On and on it goes, day in and day out. The District Math Supervisor has called a meeting for the 5th grade teachers next Friday. subject finding common denominators using prime numbers. He keeps the teachers that teach math up with the latest and newest practices in the field of math . There are many more support staff that I have not mentioned, that should be on the staff of any school district. Now, that is where the bucks go. The teacher can not do the job alone. Just think if we practiced medicine of yesteryear today , the undertakers would be kept busy. Many patients died because the knowledge did not exist to cure or stop the illnesses that the patients had. No different with the teacher, no support staff. and the drop out rate is high, children keep falling through the cracks of the school system.
Wally koski

Walla Walla, WA

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#23
Mar 26, 2007
 
Part 2
Many say we do not need more money to have good schools. They have their heads in the sand. When I was a principal in 1952, 50% of the budget was for teaching, 50% for ins,. lights, heat and etc. Time marches on now we have an increase in ins,. lights, heat and etc, now it is 30% for teaching and 70% for the other. This is where the error was made. It should have remained 50 -50, but you see what has happened. No money for the support staff the load is on the teachers back, the drop out rate climbs, the children keep falling through the widening cracks in our school system. We tried as principals and teachers to tell the boards what we needed to run a good school system but it took money and the boards did not have the guts to go to the public and tell them what was needed to run a fully func-
tioning school system. Remember the 50 -50 story. Take all the support staff away from the Doc. and most of us would be DEAD.
Take a look at the Finnish schools and you have the best system in the world. No Charters nothing but the public school system. All the schools are free in Finland.From K through College.
We have NCLB -Mr. Bush's school System . No good. Look at the Texas school system. That is where he came from.
Korrin Dykhouse

AOL

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#25
Mar 26, 2007
 
"Why did they even waste a year "investigating"? They could have just wrote a "charters suck" in a weekend since that was the original intent.
What a joke of a newspaper"

Amen to that...One side of a story is what I've come to expect from this newspaper....

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