When you ask the leader of an allegedly high performing charter school what makes them so successful, they generally say that they have more flexibility with hiring and firing since they are free from pesky union contracts. This is why I found it quite odd that I received an announcement with job openings at a charter school called Green Dot High School the other day from the New York City teacher’s union, called the UFT.
It turns out that some charters do have teachers who are in the union. I’m not sure how many charters are like this in New York City, but in addition to this Green Dot High School, there is actually one called ‘The UFT Charter School’ which, much to the glee of ‘reformers’ is one of the lowest rated schools in the city and nearly had its charter revoked recently, but has been given two years to shape up.
Anytime I see the name ‘UFT Charter School’ I chuckle a little as I imagine a Saturday Night Live skit about what must go on in this school: The teachers all show up at exactly 7:52 AM and leave at 3:32 PM. Nobody ever helps students on their ‘duty free’ lunch. Everyone knows the contract by heart and anytime an administrator tries to get a teacher to do something, that teacher simply quotes the page on the contract that says the teacher does not have to do it.
With the current environment where charters compete with public schools for resources based on questionable definitions of their success, I don’t think the union should be in the charter game at all. But when I read the job announcement and description of this Green Dot Charter High School, I really got disturbed.
Here is the two page letter:
My problem with this is that it has the usual ‘reformer’ jargon with select ‘Academic Achievments’ like that this school was in the top 10 for New York City progress reports, despite the fact that the union often speaks out against these flawed progress reports when schools are shut down and teachers and students are displaced because of them. Also you have the infamous high ‘graduation rate’ and ‘college acceptance rate.’ Then, of course, under ‘Preparing students for college,’ one feature is “High expectations for every student.” This feeds into the common public perception that in ‘other schools’ teachers have low expectations.
Well, I thought I’d take a look at the progress report for this ‘miracle school,’ and see what I could find. They did, indeed, get an ‘A’ based on their ‘progress’ and also their ‘performance’ as compared to their peer group. But I found that the statistics at the end of the progress report gave a more complete picture.
Notice that when it comes to ‘rigor’ this school has nobody taking Physics, only 39 students taking Chemistry (with a 62 average on the Regents), and more than half failing the Algebra II / Trigonometry Regents. When it comes to SAT scores, an average score of less than 400 per section is extremely low. Out of 360 High Schools that have SAT scores collected, this would put them at 200th.
On the ‘college readiness’ statistic where students need to score above a certain threshold on these state tests, we can see how they did:
So this ‘miracle’ school has a lot of work to do to live up to its reputation and its claims. They are fortunate that the progress reports are such a sham. And the union — the big bad union that is always accused of putting the needs of adults ahead of the needs of the kids — they really need to think about why they are touting a false miracle school, just because the teachers are in the union. Talk about winning the battle but losing the war.