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Juan González: Growing Charter School Chain Suspends Special Needs Kids in Bid to Raise Test Scores

StoryAugust 30, 2013
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Democracy Now! co-host Juan González discusses his reports for the New York Daily News about how one of the New York City’s fastest-growing chains of charter schools, Success Academy, has far higher suspension rates than other public elementary schools. "More than two dozen parents have come to me complaining about their children — who are special needs, special education children, or children with behavior problems," González reports, "that they feel are being pushed out or forced out by the charter school in an effort to to improve the test scores." Success Academy uses its high test scores to attract funding, and just secured a $5 million grant it will use to expand from 20 to 100 schools. González obtained a copy of secretly recorded meetings in which school administrators pressed one parent to transfer her special education kindergarten student back into the public school system.


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’m Juan González. Welcome to all of our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you’ve had a series of interesting articles about charter schools this week in the New York Daily News.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes. Well, I’ve been now investigating for years, really, the spread of charter schools across New York City and the nation, and in particular I’ve been focusing on the fastest-growing chain here in New York City, the Success Academies charter network, which now has about 20 schools and is planning to expand to a hundred schools after receiving this week a $5 million grant from the Eli Broad Foundation.

And one of the things that I’ve been uncovering is the enormous suspension rates of the charter schools, as more than two dozen parents have come to me complaining about their children, who are special needs, special education children, or children with behavior problems, that they feel are being pushed out or forced out by the charter school in an effort to improve its test scores, because the charter school, Success Academy, has one of the highest test scores of schools in the City of New York, and that’s part of its selling points to continue to seek corporate foundation funding and to attempt to grow the charter model. So I’ve been trying to look into this—these numerous complaints.

In today’s paper, I actually report on a parent who secretly tape-recorded her conversations with school officials trying to convince her to take her kindergarten special ed kid, child, out of the school and transfer him back into public school.

So, this is going to be continuing, and the problem is that so many of the charter schools are not subject to monitoring or auditing on a—at the same level as public schools are, so it’s hard, really, to get a lot of the facts. Of course, the Success Academies insist that they retain their children at better levels than the public schools, that their test scores demonstrate that they are doing an excellent job in terms of education. Well, we’ll continue to see how this plays out as the charter school—the battle over charter schools spreads across America.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll link to your pieces at democracynow.org.

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