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Charter School Workaround on Low Test Scorers: Place Them in a Private School!

May 28, 2018

Yesterday Diane Ravitch posted about a publicly funded Florida charter school that had the chutzpah to open a private school for those students who were deemed likely to score poorly on the State accountability test. Here’s how Ms. Ravtich described the gambit:

“Several days before the Florida Standards Assessments began near the end of the school year, 13 third-grade students suddenly transferred from the Palm Harbor Academy charter school to a newly created private school on the same school campus, run by Palm Harbor Academy governing board chairman the Rev. Gillard Glover.

With one exception, all of those 13 students had one thing in common: They were at least one full grade behind grade level. Many of the children were multiple grades behind grade level. Another five students in other grades, all at least two grades behind grade level, were also transferred out of Palm Harbor and into the private school at around the same time.

“The students’ transfer to a private school meant that they didn’t take the state assessments required of public school students — and, therefore, didn’t drag down the school’s state scores and school grade. A failing school grade would have meant shuttering the school, School Board Attorney Kristin Gavin said, because the school got a D last year.

“The school district has portrayed the moving of the students as an attempt by Palm Harbor to skirt the school grade process, at a cost to the students: Those with disabilities who were moved were not being provided state-mandated support, district officials said, at the newly created private school, the Academy of Excellence.”

The article from the Palm Coast Observer included details on the other misdeeds of the school, which included their decision to hire a teacher who had been dismissed from a nearby public school for abusing children. It also included a more detailed recounting of the Palm Harbor Academy governing board chairman, the Rev. Gillard Glover. Reverend Glover claimed that the school administration was shifting the students to the newly created school because the parents sought the transfers and that the newly created private school had been in the works for over a year. But the public records did not substantiate this claim. The Palm Coast Observer also indicated there were other problems with the charter school:

Other issues included the district’s assessment that the school had repeated issues with students record keeping, and that its bus was regularly late, meaning that students were missing instructional time.

District staff who visited the school had on several occasions found tables of students still eating their breakfasts in the cafeteria at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., Gavin said.

Time will tell if the Flagler School Board will close the school… but the politicians in Florida’s state house will be unlikely to do anything to ensure that parents are fully informed of the ability of charter schools to deliver the kind of education needed for their children to succeed.

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