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Lost in the District's shuffle: City's neediest students

By the Notebook on Feb 15, 2013 12:01 PM

by Andrew Sparks

Amid the School District of Philadelphia’s financial struggles and sweeping plan to close and consolidate schools, the story of one of the smallest high schools in the city, serving students with the greatest needs, has failed to gain much attention. In June, HOPE Charter School is scheduled to close, sending more than 250 high-need, at-risk adolescents back into a system of schools that has previously turned them away or failed to meet their social, emotional, and academic needs.

HOPE Charter School was founded by administrators from JJC Family Services, a nonprofit agency with the mission to provide family/foster placements, care, and support to severely neglected, abused, abandoned or seriously delinquent children. The founders started a charter school in 2002 after seeing the unmet needs of the children and adolescents that JJC was serving. The school’s mission was, and still is, to “meet the unique needs of students who are not currently succeeding in their conventional school, may not be attending school, or attending sporadically, and/or may be in danger of leaving school prior to their graduation.” The goal was to provide these students with a safe and caring environment and an array of emotional, academic, and social supports.

HOPE’s students come from across the city to the school's West Oak Lane location. Most of its students have attended other high schools, and many have attended more than one. Some have dropped out. Others have been asked to leave their previous District or, in many cases, a charter school. Last year, one student was “promoted” to the 9th grade (by her District middle school) and directed to HOPE a few weeks before the administration of the state's PSSA tests.

Unlike other charter schools across the city, HOPE has almost never turned a student away. This approach has stemmed from its founders’ insistence that all kids deserve a chance at an education, regardless of past struggles or failures.

The District’s primary argument for closing HOPE (and Arise Academy, the only other charter school in the City with a similar mission, which is now on a one-year extension from the SRC) has been that virtually no 11th-grade students reach a level of proficiency on the PSSAs. HOPE and Arise have responded that because most of their students come to the school more than three grades below level, and a majority have attended between one and four other high schools before enrollment, the PSSA score is a terrible indicator of the school's success. Though other indicators might be more appropriate and fair, considering the charter's mission, the District has ignored efforts to figure out a better accountability rubric.

In our view, the Charter School Office did not do its homework in evaluating whether to renew our school. Its review of HOPE, which factored into the SRC's decision to close the school, contained what we contend are factual errors and unsubstantiated claims. Further, the SRC's lack of communication during an already drawn-out renewal process put the board in an untenable position and raised levels of instability and uncertainty among parents, staff, and students. 

HOPE's story is not just that of a poorly managed process of charter evaluation and renewal in the hands of a small Charter Office that lacks sufficient capacity. It raises larger questions about how the District intends to implement its "portfolio" approach to school management, meeting the needs of all students. What about the students who have been the victims of abuse and neglect, students who have grown up surrounded by drug addiction or who have struggled with addiction themselves, gay and lesbian students bullied in their previous schools, teen mothers and fathers, students driven in fear from larger schools? Where will they find a safe, supportive, and caring educational environment?

The pending closure of HOPE, the potential closure of Arise, along with the District’s stringent approach to funding and expanding non-punitive alternative programs (like Kensington’s El Centro program) and years of cuts to in-school support services, are combining to create a gaping hole in Philadelphia’s "system of great schools." Some politicians, reformers and educators savor the concept of "no excuses" schools. But some of these schools have been known to quietly redirect students to schools that are a “better fit” or drop students from their rolls after five consecutive absences. Likewise, schools designed narrowly and exclusively for sub-segments of the alternative education population -- such as schools designed for foster children, schools exclusively serving students with disciplinary histories, or computer-assisted “credit recovery” programs -- still leave hundreds, if not thousands, of students without the emotional and psychological supports they need to overcome lives of abuse, neglect, violence, and poverty.     

Until there are "great schools" to meet the needs of these students, closing HOPE Charter School is not in the best interest of the city, the School District or Philadelphia’s families.

Andrew D. Sparks is a member of the HOPE Charter School board of directors. He received his doctorate in education policy from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.  

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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Comments (35)

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 15, 2013 2:03 pm
keep hope alive!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2013 2:48 pm
As we in our traditional public schools have to do as the communities serving our neediest children face school closures when members lives are already wrecked by the kinds of problem mentioned in the above article.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2013 2:19 pm
"HOPE and Arise have responded that because most of their students come to the school more than three grades below level, and a majority have attended between one and four other high schools before enrollment, the PSSA score is a terrible indicator of the school's success." This quote is true for most high school students across the neighborhood schools as well, and yet with those, they are either closing them (G-Town, U-City, etc), or turning them around via the Renaissance initiative. Why should these charters be any different? Perhaps "if we look at the data" (as the District is so fond of saying), we'd see the problem stems from younger grades and that there's almost no way a kid who comes in at a 4th or 5th grade level will be able to do well on the PSSAs/now Keystones, because they really do require the reading/comprehension skills of higher grades. How is one suppose to get a kid to read and understand Frederick Douglass or William Lloyd Garrison, when they can't read Encyclopedia Brown? I feel bad for HOPE charter because it does serve a needy population, but their issues are the issues that most of the high schools across the city face.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 17, 2013 1:42 pm
Being a committed teacher at Hope Charter, I feel that the School District and the SRC have absolutely no clue when it comes to the decisions that are being made at this interest in where these students are going to go to finish their education, what impact these decisions are having on their"dreams and visions" of their future, and completely burring their heads in the sand like what an ostrich does when they do not want to face something, and to think that some (a great majority) of these students are not going to get their education because they want to be at Hope...they know what they are getting from the school, being treated with respect and integrity, and being held to a standard that they are successful at. The decision makers are truly fools if they believe that the displaced students are going to actively pursue their High School education. Let me ask this: would you go back to somewhere you felt unsafe, unwanted, and not appreciated...treated like a cast away and given no motivation to dream, expand the mind, and truly work to become an active, productive part of society. I THINK NOT!! Where are the children of these decision makers going to school? Are they in the PSD, or are they in very insulated, removed private schools? Are these schools even in the city? If these wise(?) decision makers do have their children enrolled within the PSD, what would their reaction be if their child's school was being closed, they were forced to go to the "neighborhood" school that they know is unsafe, non-educationg, and basically a "happy day care center" running on the auspice of being part of the PSD.....set up by these brilliant "decision makers" The majority of these decision makers have spent very little to no time in a classroom, nor have any resemblance of a relationship with these students to even remotely understand them. In many cases, Hope is a safe haven for them, maybe the only time during the day to have something to eat, and above all realize that they are in a learning environment with virtually no distractions. During the time that these "wise" decision makers were implementing their choices and deciding to close Hope, there was very little time spent within our building, observing the education that was transpiring, the interaction between students and staff, and the enjoyment that was shining from the students faces as they walked through the halls, and how they interacted with each other. They spent their time in a remote conference room behind closed doors for the entire day, doing what???? Must have been eating donuts and performing the duties surrounding their "real" jobs to make their lives more secure and profitable. Obviously there was no concern about the situation at hand, no interest in the students at either Hope or any PSD student's future. These decision maker's have absolutely no interest in the school district itself, nor any of the students within it.....their children are far removed and very well insulated from this. It is a shame that people, when put in a situation of power and authority, become these egomaniacal, self satisfying melanoma's, In my opinion, these melanoma's should be surgically remove and thrown in the dumpster, just like any other piece of trash. Do not mis-interpret this, does and did Hope have student altercations.....absolutely. The altercations were, nor are any different that any other high school I have ever encountered. I personally have students in suburban school districts, and the stories my children tell me, and what I have observed, there is no difference in the "Tom Foolery" of children. In both situations the students can be unruly, rude, disrespectful, and down right nasty. To think that the sole academic/educational outcome is based upon a test (PSSA) it totally absurd and retarded and the decision makers behind this concept just as retarded. There is not a school district in the country (to include the PSD) that can take a student at the 11th grade level and make them proficient in 8 short months being 3-5 grade levels behind. Now that the PSSA's are defunct, and the Keystones are in place do you really belief the outcome will be any different? How about holding the middle school and elementary teachers more accountable for what they are teaching their students in preparation for High School. How about demanding that these "brilliant decision makers" have some experience in what they are deciding upon. Would you have someone operate on your brain knowing full well that the person performing the procedure has absolutely no prior experience. Why are we asking people to make decisions concerning our children"s future with absolutely no experience in education? RETARDED AGAIN!! The decision makers have to get off their derrière's and truly research the entire encapsulation of the PSD, to evaluate and create extraordinary learning experiences for all its student's, and to hold teachers and administrations accountable for the outcome of the individual schools. It is extremely sad to think, realize, and see that these decision makers are truly all about themselves and the retardedness is that these brilliant people have no concern for the students---who they are working for ultimately (the school district)! This is NOT their company, they are the shleps/grunts in this situation. They must do what their job entails and take their personality out of it. All children in the PSD MUST be treated as if they were the children of these retarded decision makers to make this work. It is a shame that these decision makers have the audacity and brass ba**$ to use the children as pawns for their own benefit and advancement. How do they sleep at night???
Submitted by Andrew Sparks (not verified) on February 15, 2013 3:54 pm
We agree that countless Philadelphia students are reading, writing, or doing math at far below grade level and that many non-HOPE students require the social, emotional, psychological and academic supports that HOPE has offered. We would certainly advocate for increased supports in ALL high schools. However, having analyzed the HOPE student population extensively, I would argue that the school has traditionally served students with a higher degree of need than other comprehensive high schools. (see the link to our rebuttal to the SRC recommendation for some of these statistics) HOPE was opened as a charter school to fill a need that wasn't being filled by the District at the time and that, we believe, has not been filled since. If these students could be better served in a different format (for example, neighborhood schools with dramatically increased support services) in the future that might be OK. Unfortunately, those options do not appear to exist right now or for the near future.
Submitted by Ken Derstine on February 15, 2013 3:20 pm
This once again shows the fallacy of the entire corporate reform agenda. If public schools are not given the support and resources to fix the schools in low income areas, the problems created by the income gap will not be overcome. Starting an alternate school system with private managers will only aggravate the problem. Their results are being shown to be the same because the essential problem, the income gap and its connection to student learning, is not being dealt with. Politicians are just trying to divert attention away from their failure to equitably fund schools, and make a profit for corporate interests to boot. It is a crime these students at HOPE and Arise are once again seeing their hopes dashed. Like so many public schools, these schools are failing because the resources for the needs of their school population were not provided. It's not about "bad teachers" and "bad schools", its about bad politicians who are only interested in the profit margins of corporations and banks.
Submitted by Stephen R. Flemming (not verified) on February 16, 2013 6:33 pm
Well said! I agree!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2013 3:43 pm
Why is World Communications Charter open while Hope and Arise are slated for closure? World Communications not only has very low test scores but also nepotism and financial improprieties. Khin gave them 5 more years. On top of the difficulty of teaching in a neighborhood high school, in 2014 teachers will be evaluated on test scores. Teachers at magnets are not "better" - they are receiving students reading on grade level or above, often more home resources, more engaged family, etc.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2013 3:59 pm
Why is Mastery allowed to open another charter school (K-8 in South Philly at a closed Catholic school)? Isn't there a moratorium on new charters? South Philly is saturated with charters - Performing Arts is opening a 9-12 for 1400 students! This is crazy.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2013 4:23 pm
I know that you are new to the HOPE board, and you are correct that kids with the most crucial needs are not served well in any Philadelphia public school (charter or district). However, if you read the recommendation for non-renewal and the site visit report, you will see that the school had been mismanaged for many years prior to your arrival. If PSSA goals are not appropriate, why did the school not propose its own goals to its board? Why were teachers unaware of assessment targets for their own students? Why was the CEO spending half the year in the UK? This is the school that testified in public before the SRC that they had not had a chance to work on academics for the past five years because the school had to work on discipline. Really? Did you tell the families and students that they would not be receiving instruction for five years while discipline was figured out? By the way, PA charter law states that charter schools should provide innovation and improved student outcomes. Just because the district has also failed in their responsibility is no reason to keep HOPE open. I do wish that your article reminds the district about these kids -- they deserve much better than what they have been given so far.
Submitted by An offended HOPE Charter Teacher (not verified) on February 17, 2013 1:43 am
As one of the few teachers who was hired at HOPE from its onset, and remained or many years, I am utterly offended by this response. Your hearsay evidence stated as "if you read the recommendation for non-renewal and the site visit report, you will see that the school had been mismanaged for many years..." indicates clearly that you are either incapable of assessing that such "recommendations" may be submerged in falselties, or are yourself one of the members who was involved in what I remember for example was a one day site visit in the 10 years HOPE has been in existent, and only last year, and was conducted by 2 -3 staff members that never left the conference room to even spend time to walk through the building. So your cited site visit report alone is laughable, and an affront to anyone who knows about it or was involved in it. We were all very aware of the assessment targets and took steps towards accomplishing them, with great success, in spite of having many students who were kicked out of other schools and well behind grade level. Many teachers I worked with loved our students as I have, and dedicated their lives, as I had, to bettering students who in mass can not in good conscience be referenced against PSSA scores... Our students were mostly students who faired very poorly at their previous schools, hence being sent to ours. The CEO spending half of the year in the UK is ludicrous and along with the rest of your response a complete fabrication. Shame on you.. No wander you are anonymous! The tone of your response further adds to the obviousness of you having been a part of this criminal assessment.. The School District and the completely misinformed SRC should be ashamed of themselves for shutting down HOPE Charter School. Ask the students, current and alumni, if they were taught there.... Ask the many students who have come back to hug me and thank me for literally saving their lives if their is any reason to keep HOPE open. Then ask yourself who you think you are for making such uninformed and offensive statements without access to any accurate information... The nice thing about social media is that you get to say to me that my kids deserve much better than what they have been given, but get to do it without having to actually confront me when doing so... how convenient this media is now for liars.
Submitted by Andrew Sparks (not verified) on February 15, 2013 6:17 pm
To the most recent anonymous responder I offer the following answers to your questions. (It is discouraging that so many choose to comment anonymously, as I think it changes the tone of discussions in a negative way.) Question #1) However, if you read the recommendation for non-renewal and the site visit report, you will see that the school had been mismanaged for many years prior to your arrival. I, obviously, have read these reports. Mismanagement as judged, once again, by PSSA scores? The school was found to have solid financial management and no sign of foul play. Our rebuttal addresses the CSO concerns over governance. Question 2) If PSSA goals are not appropriate, why did the school not propose its own goals to its board? The school proposed alternative goals and assessment approaches in its renewal application to the Charter School Office, an application approved by the Board. These included the use of alternative assessments (GMADE, GRADE, 4-Sight exams) and important non-cognitive factors such as attendance, behavioral incidents. Question 3) Why were teachers unaware of assessment targets for their own students? This was the opinion of the CSO based on a 1-day, 3-person site visit and a handful of teacher interviews. In 2003 I participated in numerous 3-day, 6-8 team-member SchoolWorks site visits on behalf of the School District. I assume that financial issues have caused the site visit process to be reduced, but that does not mean that the process is an effective one. Question 4) Why was the CEO spending half the year in the UK? This erroneous accusation was never put forth as a problem in the recommendation sent to the SRC. Hopefully such an accusation was never made, unofficially, to the SRC as an excuse for voting for non-renewal, as that would be irresponsible and non-transparent. Question 5) This is the school that testified in public before the SRC that they had not had a chance to work on academics for the past five years because the school had to work on discipline. Really? Did you tell the families and students that they would not be receiving instruction for five years while discipline was figured out? I don't recall this comment, but I do know that some people get nervous testifying before the SRC and may not word things in the manner they wish. I have personally witnessed academic instruction occurring in the school many times. I hope this provides some answers to your questions. Thanks.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 15, 2013 7:28 pm
Andrew Sparks-----------------All of this is by design and none of it is based on the needs of kids nor the Poverty Cycle which is behind all of it. All of it is supported by crooked politicians and their buddies, the charter operators who fleece the government of monies designed for kids' education. They don't want to change the dynamic so they won't and they have the power to bully in all directions. Unless, the people, by any means necessary, force justice and equity, it will only get worse for the already disenfranchised. The SRC, Hite and Uncle Mike are doing exactly what the corporations want them to do.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2013 9:26 pm
Joe, I think I love you!!! Or maybe I just vehemently agree with you!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2013 10:10 pm
So, HOPE has figured some things out now that they are faced with a non-renewal decision. You seem to be very good at deflecting responsibility -- the CSO is responsible when it catches our CEO holding dual positions (because they didn't catch it before), but the SDP is also wrong when they hold our school to the standards mandated by law. And our CEO gets nervous and forgets how to represent the very school that he founded. It's just too much to believe.
Submitted by Andrew Sparks (not verified) on February 15, 2013 11:14 pm
Anonymous: The piece that I wrote was about the need for schools and services to support students with specific social, emotional and academic needs. I, and many others, are concerned about them and where they will go next year. You appear to have a personal problem or grudge with the school's founder and former CEO who has never been found to have done anything wrong beyond establishing a school for kids who really need support. The idea that the CSO "caught him" in wrong-doing is ridiculous and I doubt the District's legal offices or the CSO would publicly stand by such a comment. Once again, it would be a lot easier to have a constructive conversation if you were not "anonymous." Perhaps I could connect you to people within the District and Charter School Office who could clear up some of your misperceptions.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 16, 2013 9:05 am
andrew, I admire your passionate defense of the hope program. I strongly agree that the school serves a population that has not and cannot be served in neighborhood schools. i am we'll aware of the fact that you have had to deal with the emotional instability in the charter office. in fact, almost everything wrong with charters in philadelphia is a direct result of inaction or Incompotence in the charter office. having said that, you must admit that mismanagement, and i'm not talking financial management, but the operational mangement of the school has failed to produce the results of the school's mission. this is not an indictment, this is awfully hard work. but a winning plan would have accounted for academic goals and a plan to attain them. a winning plan would have created an alternative to the the ineffectual assessment grid the boobs in the charter office came up with. i want hope to continue to serve those children, but hope needs a new leadership team with a clear mandate to produce distinguishable outcomes. the reputation is hope has honest, well-intentioned people, but they lack the capacity to achieve their mission. I think that is an honest evaluation of their situation. in that context, i believe you can make a case for keeping the school, but with a whole new leadership team. i hope that this school can me saved and, on behalf of the children who need hope, thank you for trying.
Submitted by Catherine Russo (not verified) on February 18, 2013 3:07 pm
Dear reformer, I am not sure I understand what you mean by not producing "the results of the school's mission". The mission has been to help students succeed, not pass standardized tests. It goes to the definition of success. For most in the HOPE community, success is defined by getting students to actually come to school, which our attendance data proves we have done in most cases; decrease incidents of misbehavior, which again we have achieved; and most importantly, graduate students with skills that will allow them to get a decent job and become productive members of society, not end up in jail, or worse, as another victim of the violence plaguing the city. Our students may not all graduate college, but many do get jobs, and gain a sense of self-worth and pride in themselves, which they DID not have when then came to HOPE. When I spoke of a graduate at the SRC meeting who graduated and is managing several McDonald's, an SRC member commented that this is not success because the student did not go to college! As for the leadership team; the District never gave us a chance to make changes when they made their decision. The original decision was to be handed down in January. We did not get it until April 15th; after that, the SRC and District refused to talk with us, even after we presented a proposal they suggested for a complete "drastic" change in leadership. With no response three days before we were to go to a hearing, our Board President felt he had not choice but to cave in and agree to close. In a recent meeting with Mr. Kihn, we were told that even though he agreed that the process used was flawed, that test scores should not be the primary means of measurement, that the "Charter School Office was in shambles" and that he agreed it was wrong for us not to get any response from the district, he did not feel there was anything that could be done to allow us to stay open because our Board President signed that document! Never mind that it was signed because we were backed into a corner. Never mind that everyone knows that a contract can be made null and void if both parties agree. Never mind that now all of our students will once again be kicked to the curb and made to feel that they are unwanted. Our students were asked to fill out a form in November asking what school they would like to attend next year, only to find out that many of those schools are also being closed or merged with other schools- schools that asked them to leave. Mr. Kihn did say he would check with the attorneys to see if anything could be done. That was back in the beginning of January and we have had no response since. At this point, we are wondering why other schools have been given reprieves and HOPE, because we were backed into a corner by trying to work WITH the District rather than take legal action that would tie up funds that should be used to educate our students, is not being given the benefit of discussion. Find out the changes made. We could not change the operations of the school if we did not know that the District had a problem with it. Why was there no communication to that end? We have made changes this year, including a new CEO. Why hasn't anyone noticed this?
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 19, 2013 8:29 am
I would support the work you have been doing, but then the question arises whether you are doing the work of a social services agency rather than that of an academic institution. Is the founder interested in starting such a (social services) agency rather than a charter school? No one would deny that these children would need the guidance and support services first before they could achieve academically. It is not fair or realistic to expect that academic institutions provide all of these. Did the school ever attempt to partner with any social services agencies?
Submitted by Andrew Sparks (not verified) on February 19, 2013 10:11 am
HOPE Charter School was started by representatives from JJC, Inc., a non-profit social services agency in Germantown. I agree that all schools cannot provide a full range of social services and that without them many students have little hope of school success. However, we have found that providing these services in a school setting ensures that certain students have access to and take advantage of these services AND we believe the availability of these services in a school setting keeps many kids in school who might otherwise drop out. You are also correct that it is unrealistic to expect immediate academic success, especially when these students are already very far behind. However, does this mean that a student shouldn't be in school until all of their issues are resolved? Thank you for you comments and questions. YThey are the kind of concerned and nuanced questions that we had hoped would be discussed during the District renewal process. Instead, attention was focused almost exclusively on PSSA scores and veiled accusations of "potential conflicts of interest" between the two organizations.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 19, 2013 1:42 pm
Mr. Sparks, thank you for your thoughtful answers to my questions. Can you give a brief summary in layman's terms of what the alternate assessments were you hoped would be used? I would have to agree on the value of "in school" social services, however, I do see where this could create a conflict of interest or potential for "double dipping" if the CEO of the school and the provider of the social services were the same. Perhaps having a different social service provider would resolve this? Then there are the physical time requirements for academic instruction; How do the support services interface with the instruction? As critical as I am of the "wonder" solution of community schools, where such as social services are provided to students, I would have to say I support this concept. Perhaps there is also a future for JJC, Inc. in a pilot community school?
Submitted by Andrew Sparks (not verified) on February 19, 2013 2:23 pm
I can attest that the Board took care to ensure that the costs of the services rendered contractually from the partnering nonprofit were appropriate. Translation, the school paid a pro-rated amount for services that were below what most other charter schools pay, including for the CEO. This contract was reviewed regularly by lawyers and both the District and state had many opportunities to review and approve it. While there have been many examples of conflicts of interest and double dipping in Philadelphia charter schools, a brief and logical review of HOPE's situation would make it very clear that no one was taking advantage of the situation. As far as evaluation criteria, there are computer/online tests like the 4-sight assessments that can be administered at regular intervals to measure progress. The GMADE and GMADE exams take a grade level snapshot of student levels at the point of entry. Some alternative programs use assessments that focus on work-ready skills at the point of graduation. I, personally, am old school and think that there is a place for portfolio assessment techniques, writing samples, and other student work tied to state standards (or common core). College admission, behavior and attendance measures could also be integrated into a better overall school performance measure. Add in a better observation and site visit approach and an authorized can make an informed decision.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 19, 2013 3:04 pm
Mr. Sparks I wish you the best in your appeal. Obviously the "conflict of interest" issue is a sore spot with you. Unfortunately it is more important than you might think it should be. Even if there are no improprieties, there must be a certain amount of separation in order to insure fairness. None of us can be the judge of our own children in any competition, for example. An "in house" partnership is really no different than a "no bid" contract. The SDP has problems with this (as in having "in house" professional development using Title I funds). As opposed to the lack of accountability in a traditional public school, one of the fundamental premises of a charter school, is its better accountability, both to caregivers and the public. You might want to establish a different social services partner in making your appeal.
Submitted by Andrew Sparks (not verified) on February 19, 2013 4:15 pm
We have always been willing to consider other partners and formally presented such a plan almost a year ago. If the alleged "possible conflicts of interest" were an issue they could have been or could still be easily resolved. They were irresponsibly thrown into the pot as a red herring.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 15, 2013 11:04 pm
From the April 25th, 2012 HOPE Charter School Board Meeting minutes posted on the school website: Discussion: There is a charter school law that states that a CEO of a charter school cannot work for another entity.This law effects Mr Chapman’s role, as he is also executive director of JJC, even though he has been in this position for ten years, and the matter has not been raised until now, at our charter renewal.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 16, 2013 5:50 am
Hope seems to be an approach that is greatly needed. So many comments here on how unfair it is that charters enjoy some selection bias from attracting kids with motivated parents and removing discipline problems. Yet it seems that schools focused on providing a different environment for tough cases, an area charters should be helpful with, may not be feasible. Clearly there should be different standards for schools dedicated to serving the most difficult neediest cases in a city like Philadelphia, applied to both district run schools and charters.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 15, 2013 12:50 pm
Charter does not mean magnate. Charter implies that their is a special focused mission. Charter can be the neighborhood school.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on February 16, 2013 10:28 am
I am opposed to turning public education into a for-profit business and regularly post criticisms of the charter school movement, but I find myself feeling sympathy for the plight of Hope Charter. This is where our institutional dishonesty comes into play, and it is a dishonesty that starts at the top of our educational systems. It is a dishonesty fed partly by ignorance and partly by arrogance. We've done a bad job of keeping many of our kids in school, and we don't seem to know a whole lot about how to do a better job. We just keep hitting these kids with more and more of the same stuff that doesn't work for them. Of course our "one size fits all" approach is stupid--who can expect kids who have consistently fallen through the cracks to turn into proficient PSSA scorers in the course of a year or two? It's ludicrous, as is our ridiculous misunderstanding of the quality of data these tests offer. There needs to be some room for intelligent interpretation of data and for combining that data with facts on the ground. These kids are coming to school. They are apparently sitting down and taking these tests, which I imagine is quite frustrating for them, one more confirmation to them of their inferiority. It is a feat of some significance that their teachers can get them to tolerate testing at all. That in and of itself should have us questioning the appropriateness of closing Hope down until we have a better alternative within the system for these kids.
Submitted by A HOPE Charter Teacher (not verified) on February 18, 2013 9:05 pm
Thank you for this post... Many teachers at HOPE would agree fully with your sentiments here.. One of my biggest difficulties, and something I spend considerable time on, is getting my students to buy into and understand the value of an education and life-long learning, character education, and how to be a good person and what significance that has on the potential life course of each of us... Our students need more patience, love, and care than any group of students I have been around in the past... but with it they begin to strive... to try to better themselves... and my time at HOPE has been more rewarding than any past experience I've had in 20 years. To close this school under the excuses provided is not only ludicrous, but a sad injustice to many students I've come to love.. our small classroom size and intimate development ability has been all the difference... The SRC and school district should visit our school sometime.. well they did 5 years ago and said we were doing great.... no one mentioned that in the thread.... and 2 or 3 people did last year for a few hours located solely inside a conference room... other than that... someone should have and stilll could actually visit our school... talk to our students.. ask them.. funny and ironic how much smarter our kids are than the SRC members...
Submitted by Catherine (not verified) on February 17, 2013 12:01 pm
I have had the privilege of working at HOPE for the past seven years, six of those as an administrator. I can attesst to the fact that in that time, there was only ONE visit from anyone from the School District, and that was in preparation for the Charter Renewal. There was NO checkups or guidance from the SDP in alll of those years. There was no indication that anyone was not satisfied with any governance procedures or the CEO. It is true that PSSA scores was extremely low. As we explained to the SRC and SDP, we typically have students for less than two years before they take the PSSA, and these students come to us at between the 3rd and 5th grade levels in Math and Reading. It is almost impossible for students to score at a proficient level under those circumstances. In our meetings with the CSO during the recharter process, they agreed that the SPI and current means of showing success were not appropriate for HOPE. They asked for our suggestions, which we provided several times. We never got any feedback or response, and our calls went unanswered. The School Site Team, which was supposed to be made up of outside, impartial people, included a member of the CSO.. This team NEVER left the conference room and did not even walk through the school. We were given a schedule that included classroom visits, which never took place. After the recommendation to close was made, we were allowed to only present two pages to respond . Again,, there was no response from the District. In a meeting with the CSO, Mr. Darden confirmed that her had never read the information we sent describing a process for assessing the school, showing the growth students had made according to the 4Sight exams, testimonials from students and staff, and data regarding improvement in attendance and behavior. After the vote from the SRC, HOPE was told they could present a plan that included drastic changes for consideration. The school teamed with Big Picture and presented a plan to have Big Picture take over the operation of HOPE Charter, giving it a new CEO, leadership team, and curriculum. There was no response from the District or SRC regarding this plan despite repeated calls. The result is that, on June 29th, with still no response from the District, and a hearing set for July 2nd, our Board President felt it in the best interest of the students not to tie up funds in a law suit and said the school would close in June 2013. He was literally forced into such a decision, based on the non-response by the District. I would like to add that when we asked where our students would go when HOPE closed, the District said they didn't know and had no plans for students such as ours. I would also like to add that this year, the school has a new CEO and is still getting requests for admission by students unhappy with their neighborhood school and those being "counseled out" of other schools. We are still hoping for a miracle that will allow us to continue serving out students, and would welcome any assistance in doing so. We believe the process used to judge the success of our school is invalid and unfair. One SRC member literally said that if our students did not go to college, they were not successful. I refuse to believe that. If we help students earn an education, graduate from high school, and become productive members of society, rather than another drop-out or Philadelphia statistic, we ARE successful.
Submitted by Sant (not verified) on February 18, 2013 10:56 pm
So they're going to amend the list of school closings. I wonder...which ones will be saved?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 18, 2013 11:04 pm
Any clue? It was around this time last December when the whole list was leaked to the Notebook. It made it easier to go in the next day, because I had a chance to mourn in private beforehand.
Submitted by Sant (not verified) on February 19, 2013 6:16 am
No, I don't. Wish I did as my school is on the list.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 14, 2013 11:12 pm
There obviously is a need for a 'school' like Hope Charter so if their charter is not being renewed then someone else should pick it up. Remember that education is supposed to be about the kids and this particular closing completely ignores these neediest of all kids.
Submitted by beats by dre turbine cyber monday (not verified) on November 22, 2013 6:51 am
Cyber Monday Beats

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