Five days after a sharp-eyed parent called it to my attention, Florida’s mainstream media is reporting the abysmal performance of the state’s charter schools. Miami CBS4 doesn’t pull any punches in its report released last evening and the numbers couldn’t be any worse for Rick Scott:
When it comes to the failure rate, charter Schools – operated at public expense by private companies – tanked on the 2011 FCAT. And an explanation provided by a major charter school booster does not appear to make the grade.
The numbers, first reported by CBS4 News Tuesday, are striking:
Of Florida’s 2,280 public elementary and middle schools, only 17 scored an “F” on the FCAT. Of the state’s 270 Charter elementary and middle schools, 15 flunked.
Charter schools had a failure rate 740% higher than that of public schools
Naturally, the state’s republicans are spinning, but CBS4 Miami won’t have any of it.
Charter school boosters were working damage control Wednesday.
“Traditionally, they (the charters that failed) were in failing school neighborhoods,” said Representative Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican who sits on several education committees and is a strong supporter of charter schools.
Fresen said that a rule that requires charter schools to give the FCAT in their first year of operation accounts for most of the failure rate.
“They started as an “F” because they inherited, essentially, “F” performing students,” Fresen said
Fresen’s defense, however, does not appear to wash.
CBS4′s analysis of the 15 charter schools that failed show at least nine have administered the test for at least two years. Some saw their grades plunge from an “A” to an “F.” At least two had back-to-back “F” grades, including Broward Community Charter Middle School and Lawrence Academy Elementary Charter School in Miami-Dade.
Rick Scott signed legislation last week that strengthens the ability of charter schools to operate in Florida. One mechanism involves failing public school grades. Scott and likely Fresen never considered what will happen if their charter schools would fail.
Still, the episode further illustrates lack of foresight and unfettered zeal with which Florida’s republicans have implemented their plans to change the state’s education system. While establishing strident accountability guidelines for public school, they neither desired nor implemented any for charter schools. Their much ballyhooed school grade system - that they have made the final arbiter - reveal as much.