TEA Is More Aggressively Closing Charter Schools, but Is It Targeting the Right Ones?

americanyouthworks.jpg
No one wants to give kids a crappy education with taxpayer dollars, but Texas regulators are now cracking down on a few charter schools that aren't actually the most embarrassing ones in the state.

In an announcement this month, the Texas Education Agency called out six charter schools that it plans to shut down in June, though the specifics of what the schools did wrong were vague. "The Texas Education Agency has identified six open-enrollment charter schools that meet the legislative criteria for mandatory revocation of their charter under Senate Bill 2," is the official explanation.

Looking at the numbers, the picture gets murkier. For example, one of those six schools getting the axe is American Youthworks, a charter school based in Austin. The TEA sent the school letter with the bad news on December 18.


Yet academically, American Youthworks has actually been doing okay, even as many other charter schools haven't kept up.

In fact, this August the TEA released academic ratings for all of the state's charter schools and gave 20 percent of the charters a failing "improvement required" grade. But Youthworks was not one of those failures. Instead, the school's academics won it a "met alternative standard" seal of approval from the TEA.

"We are academically strong," the school said in a statement. "The only negative [academic] ratings we have received are for a campus that we closed in 2010, by our own choice."

The TEA plans to move ahead to and revoke the charter anyway. The agency doesn't provide a reasoning so much as the law. Under Senate Bill 2, a charter-reform bill that passed in June and went into effect in September, the TEA gets a simple, predictable formula for deciding which charter schools don't deserve their charters anymore. Specifically, the TEA can revoke a charter that failed to pass either an academic rating or a financial rating for the past three years. In other words, a failing financial rating from 2010 counts the same as a failing academic rating from 2013.

"Failure can include three years in one specific area (academic or financial), or any combination of the two," the TEA explains on its website.

The Texas Charter Schools Association, which represents many of the big charters, has been supportive of Senate Bill 2. Among many other measures, the bill also makes it easier for new charter schools to open, lifting an old statewide cap on the number of charter licenses the state can grant.

But the schools now being closed under the bill are obviously not thrilled. They say they are being targeted by a rigid "one size fits all policy" that punishes schools for past academic and financial mistakes, even mistakes that have since been corrected.

With American Youthworks, for instance, the letter that the TEA sent points out the failing academic marks the school got during the 2010-2011 year. Though Youthworks has since corrected that, it still apparently counted against the charter. The TEA letter also says that Youthworks failed financial ratings for the past three years.

Youthworks contests that its finances are in trouble. "We would love for the TEA to review our books," the school says, claiming to have both a "positive bank balance," no outstanding payments and a $3.5 million endowment.

Another school with a complicated history set to close is Honors Academy, a Dallas-based charter school district with seven campuses across the state. In this year's academic rankings, three of its campuses were marked as needing "improvement" for either low STAAR test scores or low college preparation scores, which is based on the drop-out and graduation rate. The other four campuses did OK academically, all meeting state standards. Overall, the district met most of its academic standards but got an "improvement required" academic rating because of the college prep scores.

Honors claims in a press release that it had already made an arrangement with the TEA to work on its graduation and drop-out rate. The school says that last May, a TEA monitor even agreed to stop monitoring the school after Honors came up with an "action plan."

"TEA agreed with the action and progress made with the corrective action plan," the school says in a statement. John Dodd, the CEO of Honors, says he plans to appeal.

The other schools targeted for closing are the Richard Milburn Academy in suburban Houston, which also "met alternative standard" this year; the Azelway Charter in Tyler, which hasn't been ranked academically this year; and the Jamie's House Charter School in Houston and the Koinonia Community Learning Academy in Houston, both of which did worse, failing the academic ratings.

The schools all have a chance to appeal, but that could be tricky, because the rankings themselves that lead to the closure "are now final and not appealable," the TEA's revocation letters say.


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18 comments
lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

Some of the Charter schools should have never been opened! Many do good work but have been brought down by the bad ones who are in the news!

Deion Sanders' bogus chrter school is one that give all a bad name! Mismanaged, poorly performing and opened with one goal - sports!

TEA is to blame for many of the blank checks given to unqualified organizations!

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

The staff at TEA. Proof that Texas' schools, public and private, are broken.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

The very first sentence is flat out wrong.  To be correct, it would have to say something like "no reasonable person" - because there are plenty of unreasonable people (Tea Party Republicans, Libertarian Republicans, Evangelical Republicans, etc.) who are perfectly happy to see kids in public schools get screwed over at taxpayer expense.
As long as public education exists and works right, they try to undermine it to self-fulfill their own prophecies.  So when it fails for students, it's a win for them.


That's why Republicans are working so hard to shut down good schools, and to keep open the bad ones.

jamessavik
jamessavik

Teachers Unions are against charter schools and I suspect some political sabotage is under way.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@lzippitydoo

The problem with that is that the various fringes of the Republican party don't trust their own government - even though they get to elect their own "leaders".  They do, however, trust corporations. 

They'd rather their kids go to a religious school or football camp - and since they pay taxes, they have a right to say where those education dollars are spent.


That's one of the reasons why it's so important that anti-government "conservatives" not be given free passes on felony offenses - because a felony conviction would deprive them of their right to vote.


lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

BS ciomments! You have no clue what you are talikng about!

lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

Sorry - it isnt the Republican Party or conservatives to blame here! You are missing the point - Charter Schools can be good and many are, but ones like this bogus Prime Prep are examples of what kind of Charters are being approved and funded at a cost to the taxpayers! In fact, if I were the TEA - I'd shut down the Dallas School System as well. It is broken and has limited chances of being fixed!

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@lzippitydoo

That underscores my point quite well, that anti-government conservatives are not good stewards of public education.

As you point out, if y'all had your way - there'd be no education.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@gregmarcydagama @WhiteWhale @supermegabillionaire 

Don't get me wrong, I've no beef with your points regarding people's rights to free association, but "unions" as defined here tend to work most efficiently when they are in opposition to corporate ownership in the private sector.

When the union dynamic is introduced in the public sphere, the effect is distorted because there is no effective "ownership" for the union to bargain with. It is for that reason that many people dislike the union model for government or public employees.

gregmarcydagama
gregmarcydagama

@WhiteWhale @supermegabillionaire WTH do you have against groups of people coming together to say we work as one and as individuals; citizens with capital do it all the time; what is your beef with citizens utilizing their labor as both one and as individuals? You do know that it is the rich attempting to squeeze more labor out of people for less money and to deny them the same rights the rich enjoy, don't you? Sure, some unions have corrupted leaders; that is true in almost every aspect of life; it is better to correct the problems than to deny the rights of those who did not make those problems, sir. Thank-you. And I am not a union member, nor have I ever been. Still, these are our fellow citizens and they should not be denied the right of free association to barter their labor for capital just as the capitalists barter their money for  labor. ;) ~ / ~ OM


WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@supermegabillionaire@WhiteWhale  

Guess you better tell Alliance-AFT union president Rena Honea that her union is banned by your authority.  You can sit and spin and split all the hairs you want but the Texas ATF is a union that represents it's Texas Teacher Members.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@supermegabillionaire@WhiteWhale

Sorry, there is no law banning teachers unions.  There is a law banning collective bargaining for public employees.  As previously mentioned this reduces union power but it is not a ban on unions.  Texas AFT functions as a union and it is not illegal.  Don't take my word for it, read it on their web page.  


http://tx.aft.org/texas-aft-faqs-page-2

A number of the teacher associations are organized as unions and openly function as such.  Since unions are not popular in Texas, some associations function as for profit lobbying organizations and some such as the ATPE eschew the union organization style and label.  If you actually read your article and the comments you would know the headline was overblown.  Please deal with your rage and deceptions.

supermegabillionaire
supermegabillionaire

@WhiteWhale 

I'm sorry for all the rage you have.  The point of the link was that unions for public employees are illegal in Texas, not the "dubious 1999 study."  Teacher associations in Texas are not unions.  The fact that there are 100,000 paying members is irrelevant.  How many paying members belong to the rotary club in Texas or 24 hour fitness subscribers?  Are those unions?  They have about as much "some influence." Teacher unions in Texas are banned by law, period.  All your rage doesn't change that fact.  Peace be with you.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@supermegabillionaire@WhiteWhale

First there are teacher union organizations in Texas. There are well over a 100,000 paying members. It is very deceptive to pretend otherwise. Second, while there is not a collective bargaining strangle hold for educators in Texas the union organizations do have some influence.    The fact that the unions can’t call the shots like they do in some states is not effectively banning the unions. Third, the ranking in the article you point to is based on a dubious 1999 study that promotes correlation with causation argument.  Storks and babies arrive at the same time in some locations, so storks must be bringing the babies.  Do teacher unions really benefit the students?  Would collective bargaining for educators somehow raise test scores in Texas?  Make a real argument don’t link to some 8 sentence article with a bullshit headline.

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