Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Report: N.O. charters "dumping" students

A new report from Dr. Barbara Ferguson's Research on Reforms organization documents ways in which charter schools practice selective admissions in spite of legal requirements for open admissions.

It's called "dumping." According to Dr. Ferguson, some charter schools in New Orleans find creative ways to legally remove students that they consider undesirable. Traditional public schools, on the other hand, must follow strict state laws regarding the expulsion of students.

That can have a very negative, two-fold effect on public education: it makes charter schools look more successful with the same student population than they really are, and at the same time, place more of the most disruptive students back into traditional public schools. That, in turn, creates the impression that traditional public schools are less successful than charters.

Here's one of the ways dumping works:

Lafayette Academy charter school, for example, can expel students for sleeping
in class, failing to report to the office as directed, disobeying a teacher,
cheating, lying, or for any other conduct that is disruptive, disrespectful
or disobedient, as determined by the principal. Lafayette was taken-over
because its 2005 performance score was 44.4, and now Lafayette has
a score of 77.3. At the time of its takeover, Lafayette could only expel students for
the offenses listed in Louisiana law, now it can expel students for just
about anything.

Dr. Ferguson's article offers several other examples of dumping and its negative effects on public education. Here is her conclusion about the practice:

Dumping kids out is a misuse of the charter school concept. Louisiana law
requires charter schools to address the “best interests of at-risk” students.
Yet, many New Orleans charter schools are allowed to dump out the at-risk.
This practice causes many ills. First, it becomes impossible to determine the
effectiveness of charter schools by comparing them with traditional schools,
because traditional schools cannot employ the dumping out policy.
Next, dumping kids out shifts the burden of educating the at-risk; it does
not address the issue for which charter schools are intended; thus,
diminishing the charter school movement. Also, dumping kids out of a public
charter school violates public law. Most importantly, dumping kids out of
public charter schools burdens the community. For the community to thrive
and prosper, the public schools must provide for the education of all
children and youth. Charter schools are public schools, but, when they dump
kids out they become more like private schools. Private schools are privately
funded; whereas, charter schools are publicly funded. And, all publicly
funded schools should be for the public purpose of educating all students.

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