"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Perplexed; Imagine in FL

Recently, the state of Indiana released a list of schools that failed to make AYP.  I'm not going to discuss the (de)merits of AYP; instead, I'm going to point out something that, as the title of this post suggests, has me a bit perplexed.  Two of the four Imagine-run schools in the state made the failing APY list.  Here's the summary provided by the Journal Gazette, which also notes the reasons why the school failed to meet AYP:
Imagine MASTer Academy: English performance overall and by black, Hispanic and white students; English and math performance by special education students; English participation by black and special education students.

Imagine Schools on Broadway: English and math performance overall and by black and low-income students.
And here's what has me scratching my head: Imagine's 2010 annual report, recently posted on their website, ranks both schools an A- based on Imagine's internal measurements of student achievement.  Imagine MASTer Academy is described as "Making Unprecedented Gains!" The school, Imagine claims, "exceeded the authorizer's expectations in student growth in Math, Reading, and Language Usage in 2009-2010," and, "Met the exceeding growth category for all subject areas."  The other school, Imagine Schools on Broadway, is described as having a "Laser-like focus on Academics [that] Led to Significant Growth for All Students."  D'oh!

Meanwhile, in the state with the most Imagine-run schools (Florida - 17 schools), the company is receiving more negative publicity for the way one of their schools, Imagine Schools Land O'Lakes, is doing business.  Here's a snippet from a recent article, courtesy of the St. Petersburgh Times:
The school's enrollment has declined by 50 students — down to 485 — since the fourth week of classes. Its waiting list has shrunk to a fraction of what it was when the charter school first opened two years ago, with seats available in almost every grade level. Its governing board has experienced almost a complete turnover.

Pasco County school district officials found several areas of concern in their recent review of Imagine, including problems with financial reporting, governance, non-profit status, teacher certification and monitoring of student progress. The school's delay in filing one set of papers with the state has jeopardized about $75,000 in funding that was expected to pay for textbooks.
And more concerns (my bolds):
Scowcroft [the district's charter school supervisor] harbors a concern that has aired nationally about the non-profit status of Imagine. The state requires charters to be run by non-profit entities, yet Imagine corporate headquarters in Virginia has yet to secure that status from the IRS.

Also mirroring other complaints about Imagine across the country, Scowcroft notes that the local charter sends nearly 40 percent of its state money to the company rather than putting it into the school. The school has run two years of deficits, meanwhile, covered only by Imagine's corporate coffers, she said.

Moreover, the school's board of directors has what Scowcroft called limited power. Most of the members have turned over in the past year, and the decisions they make are largely controlled by the parent company, she said.
It was just a few weeks ago that another FL district approved a charter for Imagine.

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