More lessons emerging Acclaim Academy charter schools’ collapse

Acclaim screenshot

A screenshot of a cached copy of Acclaim Academy’s website, dated May 5.

The Florida Times-Union takes a deep dive this morning into the collapse of the Acclaim Academy charter school network.

We took a look at the chain’s unraveling here, but the newspaper adds important details, including one that appears to have gotten the attention of Duval County school board members. Dennis Mope, Acclaim’s CEO, had previously filed for bankruptcy.

That raises the question: Why didn’t this come up when Acclaim applied to open its first charter school? Shouldn’t districts take this kind of information into account when they vet prospective charter school operators?

The Times-Union reports:

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Georgia state Rep: Why don’t more civil rights groups support school choice?

Georgia state Rep. Mike Glanton

Georgia state Rep. Mike Glanton

Last week, at a gathering of school choice supporters in New Orleans, a pair of Georgia state lawmakers talked about the importance of educational choice, and their efforts to gain support for it among fellow Democrats.

State Reps. Valencia Stovall and Mike Glanton both represent parts of Clayton County, south of Atlanta, and have supported charter schools and other school choice legislation.

Glanton, who also chairs the board of a Clayton County charter school, said he could not understand why some groups that have historically championed civil rights in the school system have not also supported school choice. This transcript of his comments are slightly edited for length and clarity.

I spoke to the the Clayton County Education Association, which is a local union, last week, and they wanted to know why I voted for the [Opportunity School District].

I said I have 17 reasons why. … The 17 reasons are my grand children. …

I have 17 reasons why it’s important for me, and my family, that we get this right. My kids can’t afford to have people practice on them. My children get one shot. They get one opportunity.

Now I’m smart enough, and I’m certainly not naive, to know that my grandkids probably won’t have an opportunity to go to a private school. So it’s very important to me … that we make sure that every child has an opportunity for hope and access to a quality education, regardless of their socio-economics.

It’s also important to me to help folks understand, this is a civil rights issue. For me, this is about civil rights. It’s no longer about sitting at the front of the bus, or getting on the bus. It’s about having the opportunity to be educated, and successful, and buying the bus. That’s what we’ve got to instill. …

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Florida roundup: Charter schools, reading instruction, jobs and more

florida-roundup-logoCommunity. Early learning and college scholarships help fuel the revitalization of an Orlando community. New York Times.

Charter schools. The Florida Times-Union takes a deep dive into Acclaim Academy charters’ implosion. The Palm Beach school district gears up for a court battle over charter schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Virtual education. Virtual schools give students more options. Panama City News Herald.

Lawsuits. The Sun-Sentinel editorial board critiques a ruling dismissing a lawsuit challenging Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog and employs the author of this post, helps administer the program.

Testing. Students are surprised to learn their end-of-course exams won’t count as expected. Tampa Bay Times. School officials field concerns about students’ personal information. Lakeland LedgerTampa Bay Times columnist John Romano tees off on testing and accountability.

Funding. School districts, teachers unions and others call for funding to accommodate growing student enrollment. Gradebook. Palm Beach Post.

Jobs. A Miami-Dade teachers union leader is quoted in a New York Times article on a decline of public-sector employment and its impact on the black community. The Marion County school district aims to diversity in its hiring. Ocala Star-Banner.

Poverty. Teachers report on the toll of poverty in school district surveys. Tampa Bay Times.

Changes. many community groups say they support a planned reshuffling of East Gainesville schools. Gainesville Sun.

Magnet schools. Orange County schools prepare to expand their magnet programs. Orlando Sentinel.

Reading. Does an extra hour of reading help student achievement? Palm Beach Post.

STEM. Communication skills matter too, a Palm Beach Post guest column argues.

Disparity. A task force prepares to analyze academic gaps faced by Black and Hispanic students. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendents. Brevard school board members consider hiring a “non-traditional” chief. Florida Today. Manatee weighs a national search against hiring from within. Bradenton Herald.

Athletics. School officials hope an overhaul of high school sports regualtions remains sidelined in the Legislature. WTSP. They’re likely to get their wish. Northwest Florida Daily News.

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This week in school choice: Who benefits?

When new school choice options are proposed, opponents like to ask, “Who benefits?”

The answer, they like to claim, is someone other than the children the program would serve. It’s usually “the wealthy,” as was the case with the talking points rolled out this week against a proposed education tax credit in New York.

This line of attack glosses over the fact that New York’s proposal would offer tax credits of 75 cents on the dollar for every contribution, which means donors who fund scholarships would be giving up money to support education. Other states like Florida, offer dollar-for-dollar tax credits for similar programs*.

More importantly, parents and students (especially the low-income and working-class students the plan would prioritize) are all but invisible in the arguments about the program.

Both the Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Lieutenant Governor are barnstorming the state in support of the proposal. Jewish and Catholic leaders support it, as do some parents and school choice advocates. The usual suspects, of course, are up in arms.

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We can all learn from home schooling

home school convention

Parents and student browse curriculum in the exhibit hall at a home schooling convention in Orlando.

This weekend, thousands of families are gathered in Orlando for a yearly home schooling convention that organizers say is the largest of its kind.

The gathering, organized by the Florida Parent Educators Association, draws an estimated 17,000 attendees, including home-school parents and their children. A sizable portion come from outside the state. (It might help that Disney World is just up the road.)

It’s worth paying attention to trends in home schooling. For one thing, like other forms of educational choice, it’s growing and becoming more diverse.

It also offers lessons that, arguable more than ever, are relevant to the education system as a whole. The recent push for policies that support customized learning owes much to the home-school movement. Continue Reading →

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Putting Florida’s preschool programs in perspective

One state enrolls 80 percent of its four-year-olds in publicly supported preschool programs, while spending less than $2,300 per student on average. Another spends more than $4,000 per student, but only serves 30 percent of its prekindergarten-aged children.

Which state has made a greater commitment to early learning?

Preschool funding trend graph

Funding for Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program rose this year. Next year’s funding will likely be decided next month, when the Legislature meets for a special session.

The first would be Florida, where a nearly $400 million Voluntary Prekindergarten program is one of the most widely used forms of school choice, and serves a larger proportion of four-year-olds than its counterparts in any other state but Vermont.

The second is an imaginary state representing the national average in 2014, according to the annual State of Preschool report released earlier this month by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

The scope of Florida’s investment in preschool, mandated by a state constitutional amendment passed in 2002, would exceed the national average since it serves a larger proportion of youngsters. That point isn’t exactly emphasized in the report’s accompanying press release lamenting the level of funding in early learning programs, though it does note a funding increase approved last year is “encouraging.”

The VPK program funds scholarships, which help parents send their children to preschools of their choice. The vast majority of providers are private early learning centers.

The scholarships are considerably less than per-student funding for K-12 schools, or for other private scholarship programs. While the state mandates fewer hours of instruction for pre-k than it does in elementary schools, some advocates say increased funding could encourage more schools to participate, or to improve their existing programs. Continue Reading →

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Florida roundup: Bankruptcy, testing, Catholic Schools and more

IMG_0001.JPGBankruptcy. Acclaim Academy, the troubled operator of shuttered charter schools, files for bankruptcy. Orlando Sentinel.

Testing. Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab skewers the state of affairs on testing. Orlando Sentinel. The state’s testing vendor says it will help with a review of its validity. Gradebook.

Lawsuits. Editorials in the Panama City News Herald and Leesburg Daily Comercial praise the recent ruling on tax credit schlarhsips.

Charter schools. A charter school network under fire in Escambia County has also come under scrutiny in Bay County. Panama City News Herald.

Longevity. Three educators at Tampa’s Jesuit High School have worked together for 44 years. Tampa Bay Times.

High achievers. Twins finish at the top of their class at a Catholic high school. Tampa Bay Times.

Attendance. Three Broward students celebrate perfect attendance for their entire school careers. Sun-Sentinel.

Mentors. Jacksonville clergy back a major mentoring initiative. Florida Times-Union.

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