Tagged: ccsa

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CCSA’s last-minute effort to close Leadership High School

favicon Last Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted to renew Leadership High School’s charter for the next five years.

The 7-0 vote was unprecedented and demonstrated the Board’s confidence in the school’s track record. The renewal championed the democratic process. After all, charter schools are public schools and are accountable by law to their districts.

Don’t say this, though, to the California Charter Schools Association, which publicly called for the closure of Leadership High School in December.

Just in case the SFUSD Board did not receive its first memo, the CCSA made sure last Tuesday — on the day of the vote — to send Superintendent Carlos Garcia and the Board a seven-page letter advocating the school’s closure.

Here is the introduction to the last-minute letter:

We understand that the Board of Education of the San Francisco Unified School District will be considering the renewal of the Leadership High charter petition (Charter) today. We urge you to consider data related to the Charter’s poor academic performance, as explained more fully below, and deny the Charter renewal.

CCSA senior vice presidents Gary Borden and Myrna Castrejon go on to provide tables and charts explaining their rationale. At one point, they ask the Board to consider the organization’s own metrics of performance rather than relying on state law:

We recommend that the district take into account CCSA’s data analysis because current statutory renewal eligibility requirements do not provide an adequate evaluation of a charter school’s academic performance.

At the end of the letter, however, Borden and Castrejon reverse themselves and call on the superintendent and commissioners to act in order to preserve state law:

Ultimately, the intent of the Charter Schools Act cannot be fulfilled if charter schools do not improve pupil learning and increase learning opportunities for all pupils.

This extraordinary last-minute letter did nothing to sway the commissioners. In fact, the CCSA’s strategy backfired. President Norman Yee suggested that CCSA staff members should consider visiting the school themselves. Even more striking, Commissioner Jill Wynns, who does not support charter schools on principle, also voted yes to the renewal. In fact, Wynns said she would normally be inclined not to vote for renewal but did not appreciate CCSA’s political attack.

I am proud of the SFUSD Board of Education for doing its job — for visiting Leadership High School, considering the experiences of students and parents, and doing the necessary research to make an informed decision.

It is true that not all charter schools are performing well, and some deserve to close. Nevertheless, the CCSA’s approach is needlessly aggressive and reckless. Instead of issuing public calls for closure and sending last-minute letters to encourage district boards of education to close down schools, the CCSA should honor current law and the accountability process that currently exists. favicon

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Why Leadership High School’s renewal is a big deal

favicon The San Francisco Board of Education voted last Tuesday to renew Leadership High School’s charter through 2017.

Here are three reasons why it was a big deal.

1. The vote was unanimous. All seven commissioners warmly praised the school. Even Commissioner Jill Wynns, who usually opposes charter schools, voted for the measure.

2. The vote was in support of students of color and students who will be the first in their families to graduate from college. The Board recognized the school’s track record in preparing students for higher education. More than 80 percent of LHS students are African American or Latino, and more than 80 percent will be the first in their families to graduate from college. More than 90 percent of students go to college.

3. The vote championed the local democratic process. Instead of paying attention to the California Charter School Association’s misguided public call for the school’s closure, the commissioners did their own research and listened carefully to their constituents. Five out of seven Board members visited the school. It was clear that all of them read parent and student letters. In other words, the Board did not succumb to nasty politics and instead weighed the school’s charter proposal on its merits.

I am proud to teach in San Francisco. The Board did the right thing on Tuesday. With its unanimous vote, it sent a strong message that educating youth is more than just producing high test scores. It’s also about building character and preparing students to transform themselves and their communities. favicon

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Leadership High School’s charter is renewed

Mike, Monae. Photo by Jessica Gammell.

favicon Leadership High School’s charter was renewed tonight for the next five years by the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education.

The vote for renewal was a unanimous 7-0.

The school met with controversy in December when a state association called for the school’s closure.

School board commissioners praised the school for its commitment to providing a rigorous academic experience for all students, most of whom will be the first in their families to attend college.

Several students, parents, and teachers spoke out in favor of charter renewal and wrote letters of support. Special thanks go to Executive Director Elizabeth Rood, who spearheaded the campaign for charter renewal.

For more information, check out this press release and this article from The San Francisco Examiner. In addition, check out this blog post from The San Francisco Chroniclefavicon

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CCSA’s public call for charter school closures is wrong

favicon The California Charter Schools Association last Thursday called for the closure of Leadership High School and nine other charter schools in the state, citing academic underperformance.

CCSA President Jed Wallace said that the organization is “taking a lead role in ensuring appropriate academic accountability” by “establishing clear and transparent academic performance expectations for charter schools.”

I don’t have a problem with the organization weighing in on the charter school conversation. After all, the CCSA is the state’s leading advocacy group for charter schools, and accountability is important.

Nevertheless, the CCSA’s unprecedented public call for the immediate closure of 10 schools is an aggressive move geared to garner political support, rather than to advocate for quality education. Here’s why the CCSA is wrong:

1. The CCSA recommends school closures on criteria not based on law. In setting up its “Minimum Criteria for Renewal,” the CCSA has created performance metrics that do not follow current California law (Education Code Section 47607). To justify its extralegal criteria, the organization cites Ed Code Section 47605(b), a more general provision, which stipulates that the district may issue requirements to ensure the school does not have an “unsound educational program.” Instead of relying on districts to interpret current law, the CCSA wishes to inject its own, new criteria without legislative consideration.

2. The CCSA does not trust local districts to evaluate their charter schools fairly. In its FAQ about the public call for non-renewal, the CCSA states that districts have applied existing criteria unevenly, which has resulted in “the re-authorization of charters that depart significantly from the statewide distribution of academic performance that would be considered acceptable.” In other words, local districts have made mistakes in renewing charter schools and should not be counted on to make the right decision. Even though the CCSA claims it does not want to become a regulatory agency with the authority to close schools, that’s exactly what’s happening here.

3. The CCSA wants to close schools because of test scores but questions their validity. When it comes to testing, the CCSA is all over the map. On the one hand, the CCSA argues that test scores are fundamental:

Our framework — measured by testing — is the ‘bones’ of a sound structure. Without the ‘bones,’ there is no foundation, no robustness, and nothing to hang all the other things we know to be important in a child’s education.

In another part of the FAQ, the CCSA states that test scores provide appropriate benchmarks and levels of performance to evaluate schools. That’s why the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) is CCSA’s leading criterion for its recommendation to close the 10 charter schools.

On the other hand, the organization discredits the Academic Performance Index as “not there yet” but hesitates  to call the system “useless.” Most interesting is that the CCSA replaces the state’s Similar Schools Rank with its own “Similar Schools Measure,” claiming that state results “fluctuate significantly from year to year” and “have limited use in assessing the soundness” of charter schools. In short, the CCSA is using part of the state’s assessment system but throwing out the rest, thus devising its own evaluation process.

4. The CCSA modified its initial list of failing schools to single out schools for immediate elimination. In its press release, the CCSA states that 31 schools, or 3.2 percent of the 982 charter schools in California, did not meet minimum criteria. Yet only 10 schools, just 1 percent, made its final list for closure. The reason for the shorter list, according to the CCSA, is that these 10 schools face charter renewal before June 2012. Therefore, instead of naming all failing schools, the CCSA targets a small percentage, based on new criteria, and offers no time to improve. In its quest to appear tough on school accountability, the CCSA orchestrated its final list to make it more palatable.

I teach at Leadership High School, so it makes sense that I’m critical of the CCSA’s public call to close my school. Still, it’s apparent that the organization is doing this for political gain and not to improve student achievement.

For the first time ever, the CCSA is going over the heads of its member schools and daring local districts to close them. I am hopeful that the SFUSD Board of Education will see through this political move and consider Leadership High School’s application based on its merits and charter school law, rather than on the CCSA’s misguided criteria.

What do you think? favicon

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Leadership High School is not slated to close

favicon Even though my students read seven books, wrote 14 essays, and averaged 10 hours of homework a week this semester (in my class alone), I work at a failing school.

So says the California Charter Schools Association.

On Thursday, the organization — which has no authority over our school — recommended 10 schools for closure because of low test scores. My school, Leadership High School, was on the list. This press release prompted several misleading news reports and tons of anxiety in our school community.

The truth is, the CCSA does not choose whether our school gets its charter renewed. That authority goes to our district’s Board of Education.

The truth also is, our test scores are, indeed, low — if you look just at the overall score. But if you consider our performance with African American and Latino students, who make up 82 percent of our population, our results surpass those of other schools in San Francisco. Please read our school’s response.

In our current political climate, it’s easy to overgeneralize, and it’s easy to point fingers. That’s what’s happening here. With our economy down, money is tight, and that means emotions are strong. Charter schools run the gamut and are not widely understood as public schools. Because everyone pays taxes and has attended school, everyone has an opinion. People’s full selves — positive and negative, compassionate and mean-spirited, magnanimous and racist — come out when talking about public schools.

I’m proud to work at Leadership High School. That’s why I’ve been here 12 years. We do important work. I look forward to our charter renewal process in February with the Board of Education. I am hopeful that its seven members will follow the process and look closely at all the facts, rather than succumb to simplistic rhetoric. favicon