It must be Charter School weekend at the Boston Globe! One article that caught my eye was “Top-notch school isn’t marred by loose ties to Turkish cleric.” Good to know, since Pioneer Charter School of Science might be “marred by the data!”
Ignoring the current economy, and attributing Saugus community concerns to an “undercurrent of xenophobia” so they could be readily dismissed, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) granted a charter to Pioneer Charter School of Science II. It will be a regional Commonwealth charter school that will open in Saugus in fall 2013 and, at full capacity, will service 360 students from Saugus, Peabody, Lynn, Danvers, and Salem.
In Pioneer’s application to the MADOE, it anticipates receiving $13,500 per student; 360 students at $13,500. = $4,860,000. Out of this figure Pioneer will take a 9% management fee of $437,400 to “manage” 360 students. This figure does not include the $893 per public “facilities support” or any additional non-tuition revenue, which has yet to be determined. Divide $4,860,000 by the 5 communities = $972,000. per community. Again, this figure does not include the “non-tuition” revenue or the additional 5% yearly increase usually budgeted for charter schools from the sending districts. Each of these towns will end up giving Pioneer Charter School over a million dollars to service 72 students!
Pioneers website has a bar chart comparing their MCAS Scores to the state and sending districts, what is missing here is that in their 10th grade cohort, 22.2 % of students with disabilities left (counseled out?) leaving Pioneer with 3 students with disabilities taking the MCAS! It doesn’t indicate what SPED designation these students were, but there is a big difference between a .4-SPED SAR (Severe Academic Remediation) or .4 LAB (Learning Adaptive Behavior) student and a .2 or .3 Resource Room student who needs a little help in math or English! Take the dough then let the SPED kids go! Also, Pioneer is comparing their 54 students who took the test, with 72,220 from the state, and 1043 students from Everett, Chelsea, and Revere Highs who took the 10th grade MCAS!
What Pioneer fails to explain is their staff and student attrition rate. Pioneer Charter started out with 58 students in 9th grade (their last accepting year, Pioneer does not backfill grades 10, 11, 12) and ended up graduating only 34 students! Very surprised the SPED attrition rate was not seen as red flag to Commissioner Chester. Pioneer is supposed to be a “high performing charter school,” the Boston Globe called it a “Top-notch school,” yet half the kids are gone and the BESE is allowing Pioneer to open another school? Why?
Then I read, in the Globe, that Pioneer was looking into acquiring the former Weylu’s Chinese Restaurant on Route 1 as a possible location for Pioneer Charter II, my curiosity was sparked, I had to check it out. This property is listed for $10.75 million, and several buyers are lined up to purchase it. Even though Pioneer is now out of the running for the property, where was the money going to come from, to even entertain this purchase? Is Pioneer affiliated with a non-profit foundation that is willing to buy the property and pick up the tab to cover such costs as fees for legal, project management, and architecture and renovation expenses, and then lease it back to Pioneer? Were they planning to approach Mass Development, the state’s finance and development authority, for a tax-exempt bond? If that was the case, it didn’t appear in the Pioneers Charter School application. Was there any thought by Pioneer that, in addition to taking a million dollars to service 72 Saugus students, they would be taking a valuable piece of tax generating property off the Saugus roll?
In Massachusetts, we graduate thousands of teachers from our excellent colleges and universities each year. Last summer at a UP Charter in Boston, 4,100 certified teachers interviewed for 58 positions. So I find it difficult to believe, and unacceptable, that 16 teaching positions were filled from outside the United States, at Pioneer Charter School of Science, when we have qualified unemployed teachers right here in Massachusetts. I do not think it is a good use of public education funds to pay the $84,215 on legal and immigration-related fees.
How many of the original 16 Pioneer teachers with temporary H1B, B-1, and L1 visas were certified to teach in Massachusetts? How many had taken and passed the MTEL. How many were teaching on a waiver? How many were teaching in their subject area? As of Pioneers last report to the MADOE 2010-11 only 56.7%, out of 27.7 teachers, were licensed in their teaching assignment! In Saugus Public Schools 99.5 are licensed in their teaching assignment. In the state 97.5 are licensed in their teaching assignment.
Recent research by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) finds over half (54%) of all workers brought in through the H1B visa program are being paid at the lowest level. Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations noted, “hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers into the US each year on H1B, B-1, and L1 visas and then treats them like modern indentured servants: they are tied to a particular employer with little bargaining leverage or workplace rights and paid an artificially low wage. The H1B sets the minimum wage for this imported talent at a mere 17% of the prevailing US wage; the L-1 visa, for transfer of employees within companies, has no wage floor, allowing firms to continue to pay home-country wages. This means that some Indian engineers are working in the US for as little as $8,000/year plus expenses.”
After I read the GAO article, I wondered about the 16 foreign born Pioneer teachers. Were these new comers to Massachusetts “modern indentured servants”? Dominic Slowey, of Slowey/McManus Communications, a “strategic public relations firm,” who’s clients, in addition to Pioneer Charter School of Science, include the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, Academy of the Pacific Rim, Phoenix Charter Academy, Boston Renaissance Charter, Associated Early Care & Education, Community Group, and Hampden Charter School of Science, pointed out PCSS is non-union and thus able to hire and fire who they want. This is true, charter school teachers do not belong to a union. However, I would remind Mr. Slowey that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, and we have laws in Massachusetts! If the school was opened Monday thru Saturday, 7:30am to 5:30pm, how long was a teacher’s workday and week? What were their salaries? Where did they live? Since only 4 remain in the current school, where are the other 12 teachers now? Have these teachers returned to Turkey? Why? Are these teachers at a sister charter school in the United States? What school are these teachers working in? What are they getting paid? Since Pioneer Charter has been open since 2007, why isn’t the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Pioneer teachers and the charter school on the MADOE site? Inquiring minds would like to know. Finally, I’d also like to know how much Slowey/McManus Communications is getting paid to provide public relations services to all these charter schools!
I wonder if I could ask a question about charters, but it’s from a different thread.
A BMG regular, Kirth, was dismayed. Me too. I’ve just never heard of 10 kids ever assigned to any public school class in February. Let alone 10 kids from charter schools.
I think I’ve seen DOE data that last February fewer than 20 charter school kids in the whole city returned to BPS, across all 13 grades.
So if BPS is somehow rounding up all charter transfer students to go into your class alone, then I want to speak up on your behalf. And I say this as a charter supporter and employee. No teacher should have that happen.
Is there a way I could verify this and then front-page a post on BMG?
Are you talking about the DOE attrition rate for February FY2012 or 2013? It might be beneficial, in the spirit of transparency, if the Charter School Network kept a running monthly tally of the various charter’s attrition on their web site.
Your right, “no teacher should have that happen” but it does. As you know, by virtue of being a traditional public school, the BPS has an open door policy. What concerns me, and never seems to be discussed, is that these incoming charter students, for whatever reason, have lost their community. They come to our schools feeling, and acting, that our school is less than the one they left. There is always a considerable adjustment period.
Perhaps in the future, as charter schools evolve, we can legislate that charter schools keep their students for the year, or transfer students,who are not the right fit for their school, to another charter school in the charter network. Something has to be done.
with lots of what you said. in fact, this is the best comment i think i’ve ever seen on BMG. so i’ll process a few things.
a. you’re right about kids losing their community. that should be the first concern. i don’t think it’s just charters. kids transfer schools a lot within bps. but certainly it includes charters.
b. i think there should be “intake” meetings in both directions. it would be some teachers in former school and some teachers in new school. it’d be arranged whether kid was leaving a bps school and heading to a charter, or leaving a charter and heading to a bps school.
it helps set up kid for success, and it also puts teacher in best position, b/c they hear straight from the teacher on how things went last year. a side benefit would be charter and district teachers end up side by side and realize they’re both motivated by same thing, the kid.
i know that some of our kids arrive from bps and talk down their teachers. at first i think i believed what i heard. but then i was around long enough to sometimes actually know the bps teachers the kids were talking smack about, and i learned (duh) what i should have known all along — there’s 2 sides to every story, and sometimes a kid will play up what he sees as a teacher’s failure and play down his own choices.
when a kid leaves the charter for a bps school, like yours, i also hope you take it with a grain of salt when he says “the teachers didn’t like me, they threw me out.”
c. the boston “compact” – the bps and charter folks talking to each other – are tackling this issue. i’m not sure, though, on where things stand. it’s better than before though, when there was just very little communication.
d. i’ve long sought apples to apples comparisons on departure rates from all public schools. i.e, the reason the “attrition” discussion is warped, in my opinion, is that there’s departure from all the schools in boston — pilots, charters, traditional, etc.
the only public database i know of is the state’s which measures “Churn.” according to that, charter departure rates are actually LOWER than district schools. anyway, i just think if there were clear data it would lower animosity. maybe it would make charters look good, maybe bad, but at least we’d respond to real comparative data.
A very real issue is not backfilling seats…Certainly “creaming” takes place, and has even been lauded by some charter proponents. I can attest to receiving charter school kids who did not “fit” at their previous school, but can you attest to receiving public school kids midyear? If you look at the enrollment data on the DESE sight of Boston’s “miracle” charter schools the attrition rates speak for themselves. Students leave, but then are not replaced, ever…Additionally, many Boston charter schools (especially the ones claiming superiority and infallibility) also have ACLU actionable suspension rates. One can easily make an inference about creaming just by looking at these data points. Some proponents have owned it, and argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, most deny and manipulate the data/facts in their favor. Perhaps that’s why “churn” might be lower. If I start with 100 kids in 9th grade, and then only have 50 kids by 12 th grade, my churn percentage would be lower because there are no longer students to churn. Make sense?