Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Other Seccret Success Academy Tape*

 [* Until the next one pops up.]
As mentioned before, there is reason to believe that at least part of the success Success has had at raising scores on some (though notably, not all) standardized tests can be attributed to selection biases that that effectively filter out many of the kids most in need of help (ESL students, the learning disabled and virtually all of the homeless).

This filtering does not appear to stop with the admissions process, at least when it comes to LD kids. Success is currently facing a wave of damning and credible accusations (not to mention lawsuits) around this issue. Perhaps the best reporting on this story has come from Juan Gonzalez, who has been on this for a long time:

The Upper West Side Success Academy charter school has touted itself for not trying to push out kids with special needs or behavior problems, but a parent has audio to the contrary.
Friday, August 30, 2013, 2:30 AM

[emphasis added]

The tapes, a copy of which the mother supplied the Daily News, poke a hole in claims by the fast-growing Success Academy chain founded by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz that it doesn’t try to push out students with special needs or behavior problems.
Nancy Zapata said she resorted to the secret tapes last December and again in March after school officials used their “zero tolerance” discipline policy to repeatedly suspend her son, Yael, kept telephoning her at work to pick him up from school in the middle of the day and urged her to transfer him.
 “There was a point when I was getting a call every day for every minor thing,” Zapata said. “They would say he was crying excessively, or not looking straight forward, or throwing a tantrum, or not walking up the stairs fast enough, or had pushed another kid.”

What school officials did not do, Zapata said, was provide the kind of special education services that her son’s individual educational plan, or IEP, requires.

At one point in the tapes, a Success official can be heard telling Zapata:

“We’re technically out of compliance because we aren’t able to meet what his IEP recommends for him.”
 In the tapes, however, another Success administrator is heard acknowledging that Yael’s tantrums are related to his speech disability.

“He is getting really frustrated when people can’t understand what he’s communicating, and you can’t blame him for that,” the administrator tells Zapata.

In a second meeting, the mother asks why Success admitted her son through a lottery but is not providing him all the services he needs.

“If they have those special education needs, you’re absolutely right that they need to be fulfilled,” an official replies, but then quickly adds that the network doesn’t offer smaller special ed classes in kindergarten.

 “We will help them find the [appropriate] DOE placement,” the official says.

In other words, lottery or not, kindergarten kids like Yael who need smaller classes should find a public school that has one.
 A few quick observations on the explicit and implicit here.

Starting with the explicit, the administrators are coming out and saying that they were knowingly violating this disabled student's civil rights by denying him legally required services and that they had no intention of spending the money to fix the problem. What's more, they wouldn't provide even accommodations for any infractions despite the fact that some were trivial while others were, by the administrators own admission, the result of the student 's disability.

On an implicit level, it is difficult to read this as anything other than a systematic and very effective way of getting rid of kids who put a disproportionate drain on the school's time, money and resources and who are unlikely to do much to improve the school's test scores. In particular, the policy of having (in many cases single) parents have to take off work because their kids were crying or not keeping their eyes forward is exactly what I would do if I were in their place and lacked all sense of common decency.

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