Oct 17

Texas Legislature Hears Positive Endorsements for Charter Schools

This is from Harmony Public Schools blog.

On Friday, February 17, the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Public Education met to discuss the overall charter school system in Texas. The hearing was designed to review the operation of charter schools, in general, and provide an opportunity to learn more about the system that now serves approximately 130,000 students across 206 open-enrollment campuses, with an additional 56,000 on the waiting list. Harmony Public Schools is the largest charter school operating system in the state with 36 campuses and 20,000 students.

Harmony had a strong attendance at the hearing, with several witnesses testifying, and numerous additional parents of Harmony students in the audience prepared to provide testimony if necessary.

Among those invited by the committee to testify was David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter School Association.

“Clearly there’s a great demand from parents and students,” Dunn testified, “and there’s also a lot of interest in additional folks coming in to meet the educational needs of those students.”

Dunn also noted that one-fourth of the schools recognized for their efficiency by the state comptroller were charter schools, despite currently educating only three percent of students in the state.

Two audience members criticized charter schools, and Harmony in particular, but they were met with strong support from several of the legislators on the Committee, who noted that the critics had never visited a Harmony school and seemed to base their opinions on unsupported information and speculation. Harmony parents then provided testimony on their personal experience with charter schools, generally praising Harmony for providing a high-quality education and expecting a standard of excellence from faculty, teachers, students and parents.

Many charter and Harmony supporters were on hand to testify at the hearing. Among those testifying was Dr. John Harper, former mayor of Rowlett, Texas, CFO of The Cooper Institute and member of the Harmony Public Schools Advisory Board. Dr. Harper has visited twelve of the Harmony campuses. He shared with the Committee what he has seen in these schools:

“I came away from that experience extremely impressed by the extraordinary results that Harmony Public Schools have consistently achieved all across Texas for more than ten years now! Those academic achievements, especially with previous under-achievers, have been recognized many times by very prestigious groups nationally.”

Harmony officials plan to be a resource to the Committee as they continue to learn about the positive impact that charter schools such as Harmony are having on public education in Texas.

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Oct 16

Four Harmony Campuses Made into the Challenge Index

Washington Post has announced its Most Challenging High Schools list of 2012. Four Harmony high schools made the Challenge Index and three of them in the top 100 out of 1900 schools in the list.

The Challenge Index of Washington Post ranks high schools since 1998 based on the student achievement on IB, AP, and college level tests (SAT, ACT, etc.) and graduation rates. The index score is the number of college-level tests given at a school in 2011 divided by the number of graduates that year. Also noted are the percentage of students who come from families that qualify for lunch subsidies (Subs. lunch) and the percentage of graduates who passed at least one college-level test during their high school career, called equity and excellence, (E&E). A (P) next to the school’s name denotes a private school.

See the detailed list here.

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Oct 11

Harmony Public Schools Have Cracked the Code!

By Kate Alexander

Harmony Public Schools appears to have cracked the code.

The charter school system, with 38 campuses across Texas and more than 23,000 students, regularly produces students who excel at math, science and engineering. And they do it on a shoestring.

Harmony’s five schools in Austin spent $7,923 per student in 2010-11 on operating expenses, almost $1,600 less than the Austin school district and about $800 less than the statewide average.

Harmony’s schools have also consistently beat the rest of the state on standardized test scores even while educating about the same proportion of students considered at risk of dropping out.

Few other charter schools operate as efficiently and effectively as Harmony. But the ability of some charter schools to seemingly do more with less could become a key issue in the mammoth school finance lawsuit that is set for trial in October.

Two-thirds of Texas school districts, which together serve about 75 percent of the public school students in the state, have claimed the state’s school finance system is unconstitutional, in part, they say, because the Legislature has not provided adequate resources to schools to match the rising academic standards lawmakers have imposed.

For the first time in the two-decade history of repeated school finance lawsuits, charter school advocates have joined the fray.

And one group, called Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, argues that more money might not be necessary if schools were wiser with their money.

The group has called on the court to strip out large portions of the state education code in order to improve efficiency, lift the current cap on new charter schools to increase competition and enact other remedies. A court hearing is scheduled this week to determine whether the group can stay in the lawsuit.

“Traditional public schools could realize enormous savings to the system if allowed to operate under the same rules and regulations as charter schools,” according to a legal brief filed by the group, referred to as TREE. “The waste caused by special interest-driven regulatory burdens on traditional public schools has rendered the entire system inefficient.”

Those burdens include a minimum pay scale for teachers as well as contractual protections and certification requirements.

A 2011 study done for the Texas Education Agency found that charter schools spent 15 percent less on operations than did comparable schools in traditional districts. Most of that difference came from hiring less experienced teachers and paying them less.

Lindsay Gustafson of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association said paying teachers less and stripping them of job protections would drive good teachers out of the classroom. Teacher turnover was twice as high in charter schools as in traditional public schools, according to the 2011 TEA study.

“We’re interested in quality, not just what’s cheap,” Gustafson said.

Kent Grusendorf, leader of TREE and a former chairman of the House Public Education Committee, declined to comment last week when contacted by the American-Statesman. The Texas Association of Business, a major force at the state Capitol that represents mostly large employers, has also signed on to the TREE case.

Soner Tarim, Harmony’s chief executive officer, said his schools are methodical about getting the most out of every employee, giving each person multiple jobs to ensure a leaner administrative operation.

Read more here


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Sep 13

A large number of participants of ISWEEEP come from Gulen schools around the world and Gulen Charter Schools in the US

There goes another baseless, and false that has no supporting evidence. First of all, there is no such thing as “Gulen Charter School”, please refer to other posts. It does not become gulen charter school just because you say so! Secondly, If you do a quick search about which schools participated in I-SWEEEP, you will find that the majority of these schools are not even charter schools. If you research the list of schools that participated in I-SWEEEP, you will see that the US participants come from either public or private schools, not from so-called gulen charter schools.

Since the people behind this accusation did not do any research, I had to do some. Here is what I found online and also from the program director:

I-SWEEEP works with regional, national, and international science fair organizations to bring together the top-ranking participants and qualifying projects from these competitions.

First of all, a project can qualify for I-SWEEEP in three ways:

1. Direct Qualification from Regional, State, or National Science Fairs: A certain number of projects directly qualify from Regional, State, or National Science Fairs. Those projects are judged by the fair organizations and qualified for I-SWEEEP. While all applications are subject to pre-elimination process, those projects forgo such screening by I-SWEEEP’s Scientific Review Committee. Please, see the list of I-SWEEEP partner science fair organizations in the attachment.

2. Recognition from Regional, State, or National Science Fairs: Additionally, some projects are recognized and nominated for I-SWEEEP by partner science fairs. This recognition does not guarantee the spot at I-SWEEEP. I-SWEEEP’s Scientific Review Committee evaluate the projects and notify the students of their eligibility to participate in I-SWEEEP after factoring in the recognition from science fair organizations.

3. Individual Applications: Individual projects that are not recognized thorough fair organizations may also apply for I-SWEEEP. Those projects are expected to compete in a regional, state, or national science fairs prior to I-SWEEEP. I-SWEEEP Scientific Review Committee evaluate the projects and notify the students of their eligibility to participate in I-SWEEEP.

In 2010, students from 70 countries have participated in I-SWEEEP. So I guess the Regional and National science fairs of all these countries are Gulenist and part of this scheme as well! Or better yet, almost all public schools in U.S. are now Gulen Charter Schools! If I was not convinced of your ill intentions from previous questions I would say I admire your imagination!.

Secondly, last year, 203 schools from United States participated in ISWEEEP and more than 80% of them are not charter school; they are either public or private schools. So, how can you claim that all schools participated in ISWEEP are Gulen charter schools?

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