It seems to me that "dumping" kids into charter schools to skew public school ratings isn't an either/or kind of thing, but rather we should be asking the extent of this? In a previous post, Nichols & Berliner reveal the great ends that many schools/districts will go in order to preserve their viability. -Angela
March 24, 2005, 11:22PM
Senator questions heavy charter school transfers
Mario Gallegos asks for an inquiry into possible 'dumping' during testing time
By JEFFREY GILBERT
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN - A state senator wants to know why more than 400 Houston-area charter school students moved to traditional schools in a four-month period leading up to February's state testing.
Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, wrote a letter to Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley this week asking for an investigation into possible "student dumping."
"This figure appears inflated to me, and it is almost as if students are being dumped off onto school districts for the sake of ratings," Gallegos said. "Texas relies heavily on students' academic performance, and this alleged trend could have a profound affect on a school's academic rating."
Gallegos is asking for an audit of student migration trends, whether there was a spike in enrollment in the months leading up to the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, and how charter schools report student migration.
Last year, 43 percent of charter schools and 3 percent of regular schools were not included in the state system as an alternative education rating system was being developed. This year, they will be measured.
"It is a key year," said Carolyn Boyle, coordinator of the Coalition for Public Schools, which includes a number of education and public advocacy groups.
Charter schools are public schools that are privately managed and exempt from many of the regulations governing traditional schools.
'Burden' on public schools
Houston Independent School District Superintendent Abe Saavedra told Gallegos that 407 children moved from charter schools to HISD between Nov. 1, 2004, and Feb. 22, 2005, the week of the testing. Officials with the school district did not return telephone calls.
Gallegos said it isn't fair for a public school to take on a child just weeks or days before the testing is done. He said if it is happening in the Houston area, it is probably going on around the state.
"It's just astonishing," he said. "The (public) school has had to take on the burden of the charter, and the teachers haven't had a chance."
A spokeswoman for the education agency said Neeley is reviewing Gallegos' letter before deciding if any action should be taken.
Boyle said the education agency should conduct an investigation into the allegations, but said there could be other explanations.
"It could have been that the parents and the students chose to leave the charter school and return to the public because the public school offers a much better educational program," Boyle said.
She pointed out that the numbers could be skewed because 76 of the migrants came from the Harris County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program, a course that accepts students for a certain period of time and then sends them back to their regular school.
Schools losing students
At the American Academy of Excellence, 14 students migrated to traditional schools during the four-month period. The charter has been rated academically unacceptable in three of the four previous years and could have moved the students to avoid getting a similar rating this year, Boyle said.
Even the highly regarded Yes College Preparatory School, one of the only charter schools in the state given an exemplary rating last year, lost 19 students.
Chris Barbic, founder of Yes, said he doesn't think Gallegos' allegations hold water.
"We never try to identify kids who aren't going to pass the test and have them check out," Barbic said. "Almost 100 percent of our kids pass the test anyway."
Still, Gallegos is looking for an investigation. He said if the charter schools want to be in the business of teaching, they should be held responsible for their own actions.
"We are talking about keeping a child up to a certain point and then dumping that child due to low performance," he said. "Any way you paint it, that is wrong."
This article is: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/3101535