Charter Schools USA boss Jonathan Hage bragged last month in his blog about some remarkable improvements his schools made in the past year:
Every single one of our “D” and “F” schools from 2013 improved to an “A”, “B”, or “C” this year. This evidence further proves that Charter Schools USA, one of the nation’s leading providers of education management, is making a positive difference in our children’s lives.
Hage’s post is clearly intended for the nation’s local decision-makers and parents who his company actively recruits. And those are pretty good outcome’s. But ones that are sure to have public school administrators rolling their eyes, too. To get such results could only have come with single-minded obsession on the school grade itself, grades dependent upon the high-stakes test results of children.
Sadly, for both traditional public schools and taxpayer funded charter schools like Hage’s, this has very little to do with classroom instruction. Jeb Bush’s school grade system no longer has any credibility with Floridians. Yet Hage has learned to manipulate the system to his benefit. A 2012 Naples Daily News story revealed CSUSA’s secret to success: they simply teach the test.
Bonita Springs Charter Principal Deborah Tracy said the school takes extra steps to ensure every student is successful.
Three times a year, the school assesses all students in an FCAT-like environment — a teacher proctors the test and the desks are moved apart to prevent cheating. Those performing below grade level are mentored after school and receive additional schooling on Saturdays.
The school tracks each student’s progress and targets lessons to help those students improve.
“We don’t just emphasize the FCAT the night before,” Tracy said.
Teachers participate in collaborative sessions twice a month to share best practices and to focus on FCAT instruction. Teachers also meet regularly with parents to discuss a student’s progress.
“Students didn’t feel anxious or frustrated this year,” Tracy said. “They knew what the test would be like and how they would perform.”
Embolden emphasis, them.