Charter Schools Teachers and Teaching

New York: Allowing Non-Certified Teachers in Charter Schools Is Not a Done Deal!

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I have been watching the SUNY Charter Institute for a while and I will be shocked if they have any interest at all in the comments. This is a done deal and it is primarily for Success Academy — who desperately needs new teachers to meet their ambitious expansion plans. SUNY has a long history of taking marching orders from Eva Moskowitz (or her board members/funders).

To wit: SUNY — and most especially Chairman Joseph Belluck and the Executive Director (Susan Miller Carello) — have many times granted unusual favors to Success Academy. Journalists seeking a little background should look at the following:

February 2012 – SUNY trustee Pedro Noguera resigns from the board, after a meeting in which the trustees allowed Eva Moskowitz to apply for a charter in District 13 Brooklyn and then change the location when Mayor Bloomberg promised her a building in a very affluent Cobble Hill District 15 location instead. The trustees also obliged when Ms. Moskowitz demanded they allow her to change the charter SUNY had already approved in order to drop priority for at-risk kids in favor of students who lived in District 15. The result, of course, is that Success Academy Cobble Hill has only 1/3 of its students economically disadvantaged, and the “model teacher” at the school was caught on video punishing one of those few disadvantaged students for not knowing the right answer.

Without Noguera around, SUNY overlooked outrageously high suspension rates – sometimes over 20%! — at Success Academy schools. That led to one of SUNY’s biggest fiascos:

October 2014 — SUNY’s legal mandate was to establish charters that serve at-risk students. So it made absolutely no sense for them to approve Eva Moskowitz’ request for a 3rd elementary school in District 2 — the richest district in all of NYC! The 2 Success Academy charters already located in that wealthy district weren’t serving their share of at-risk students and had no wait lists for in-district students while schools in much poorer neighborhoods did have wait lists. Surely SUNY would question that, but they did not. Instead, SUNY was humiliated when a group of public school parents examined enrollment numbers and found that the claims of wait lists were belied by an extraordinarily high number of empty seats in those charters. It almost seemed as if Success preferred an empty seat to having to teach an unworthy student. To save face, the day before SUNY’s meeting, Success changed its application for a 3rd charter in wealthy District 2 to one in a less wealthy District 1. Although they had held no public hearings on such a change, SUNY jumped to approve the last minute change. But it turned out SUNY broke their own rules to accommodate Success and the next day had to backtrack and approve that third District 2 school after all. Anything for Success Academy.

mid-October 2015 – John Merrow does a PBS report on the extremely high suspension rates for Kindergarten students in Success Academy schools. Eva Moskowitz retaliates by illegally releasing the private records of a student who was interviewed in order to paint him as a violent and dangerous 6 year old. SUNY yawns and says if Eva Moskowitz says all those children are violent, who are we to question it? (Um, you are the OVERSIGHT agency!)

late-October 2015 — NY Times reports that principal at Success Academy caught with got to go list of undesirable students, most of whom had been withdrawn by their parents. Another vaunted Harlem principal directs staff not to send renewal forms home for unwanted students. SUNY does its’ usual faux “oversight” and Eva Moskowitz continues business as usual.

February 2016 – secret video of “model” Success Academy teacher ripping up a student’s paper and punishing her for not knowing the answer to a question is taken by an assistant teacher in the class after she is told by Success administrators to stop questioning the model teacher’s actions. SUNY does its’ usual bang-up job of oversight – nothing.

Finally, in March of 2017, SUNY Charter Institute acts! It chooses to renew 10 Success Academy school’s charters a year — and in some cases 3 years — before they are supposed to. Even though the state Board of Regents believe that SUNY would need more recent data to make sure that those charter schools are meeting targets serving high needs students. But according to Joseph Belluck (as quoted in Chalkbeat), that’s nonsense! “I am extremely troubled by the Regents rejection of these schools,” Belluck said. “It seems to me that there isn’t a single substantive basis for the rejection.” After all, it’s not as if there is a lawsuit pending by parents whose children with special needs were not being served, and in many cases were pushed out of Success Academy schools. Well, maybe there is a lawsuit pending, but that won’t stop the SUNY Charter Institute from sparing no effort in enabling Success Academy to do whatever it is they choose to do.

So I’m sure every letter will go into that SUNY circular file that holds all the parents’ complaints about got-to go lists and pushed out children, while the SUNY staff and trustees — led by Belluck — continue to express as much concern about Success Academy’s high suspension rate and high attrition rate as the Republicans in Congress express about Trump’s questionable actions. SUNY doesn’t do oversight. They are complicit.

So writing to them will likely have the same effect as writing to Mitch McConnell about any of President Trump’s corruption. SUNY’s duty is to a higher power than the public. And it’s the same power that the Republicans in Congress owe fealty to. The people with the most money. Until they want real oversight of Success Academy or any of their favorite charter chains, SUNY will not budge.

Right now, SUNY has its marching orders to allow non-certified teachers and they will not dare to disobey their masters.

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