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Charters defense? School district is 'biased' against charter schools... New York charter school under fire for abusive policies

As the charter school movement expands across the USA thanks to the Obama administration's support for charter schools and the coercive "Race To The Top" guidelines forcing states to embrace charter schools as part of what is called "education reform", more and more controversial charter school people and policies are being exposed slowly in the press and to the public. Although Chicago charters schools have a least as checkered a history as those in other cities, since the movement expanded in Chicago (to a current number of nearly 100 charter schools and "campuses") there has been little critical examination of charters except in Substance, through the union, or by a handful of former charter teachers and parents.

Since November 1, 2010, criticisms of one of New York's charter schools have been growing.

The two articles shared here have recently come out. The first was published by The New York Post on November 1, 2010. The second is from an e-mail forwarded to Substance by colleagues from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the New York local of the American Federation of Teachers.

According to the Achievement First website, the operator operates ten charter schools in New York City, including the Crown Heights schools which is the subject of the controversy today. According to Achievement First, they were asked to begin opening charter schools in Brooklyn in 2005 by New York City school chancellor Joel Klein.

FIRST, FROM THE NEW YORK POST:

School big 'bullies' kids, By LACHLAN CARTWRIGHT and YOAV GONEN, Last Updated: 11:25 AM, November 1, 2010, Posted: 1:29 AM, November 1, 2010

A Brooklyn charter school administrator who gave up his old gig in California amid charges that he had been physically and emotionally abusive to students is at it again, fed-up parents told The Post.

Just over a year into Chi Tschang's role as assistant superintendent of middle schools for the Achievement First charter school network in Brooklyn, a student’s mother said he aggressively grabbed an 11-year-old boy he was kicking out of class last month.

"[Tschang’s] not supposed to do that," said the AF Crown Heights mom, who asked to be identified only as Lorna. "He’s supposed to speak with his mouth, not grab him."

Several other parents at the Crown Heights school questioned Achievement First’s judgment in hiring an educator who resigned as head of KIPP Fresno, part of the Knowledge Is Power Program charter network, in February 2009 after an investigation into his disciplinary practices.

Achievement First officials, who have fielded complaints about their strict discipline in the past, stood by Tschang, despite the ruckus raised earlier this year when he took a misbehaving Crown Heights student home in his car.

That incident prompted the network’s co-CEO, Doug McCurry, to write parents a six-page letter in May that qualified Tschang’s move as a misunderstanding of school policy.

The letter also said Achievement First’s review of Fresno’s investigation found it to be factually inaccurate, "bogus" and conducted by a district that was biased against charter schools.

"During his entire tenure in Fresno, Mr. Tschang never hurt a single child," Dacia Toll, co-CEO of the Achievement First network, told The Post. "In fact, he was beloved by the students and parents at his school, so much so that hundreds of them took to the streets to protest his resignation."

Tschang resigned following a report issued in December 2008 in which the school district of Fresno, Calif., found that he had pushed students against the wall, repeatedly yelled at them and instituted various forms of punishment that "exceeded the bounds of the law."

This included a charge that he forced a student to crawl on his hands and knees and bark like a dog, according to the district probe.

Tschang had allegedly punished a whole fifth-grade class by stuffing them into two bathroom stalls and placed misbehaving kids outside the school building for hours at a time in extreme heat or rain.

He even channeled Oscar the Grouch on one occasion by dumping a garbage can over a student who was clowning around.

According to the Fresno investigation, Tschang admitted to placing "an empty, clean trash can over his head for a few minutes while I was talking to him."

In response to an allegation that he had picked a student up, held him against the wall by his neck and dropped him, Tschang told probers, "I don’t remember picking up and dropping a student, I do remember shaking a kid."

A message left at a number listed for Tschang Friday was not returned.

Fresno district officials dismissed the characterization of their probe as biased, noting it had been conducted by an independent investigator.

Additional reporting by Erin Calabrese, yoav.gonen@nypost.com

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/school_big_bullies_kids_tYDkSueDY2zXz7GDx6H70H#ixzz16HtUWe3h

THE SECOND ACCOUNT OF THE PROBLEMS WAS FORWARDED BY LEONIE HAIMSON OF CLASS SIZE MATTERS THROUGH ICE ON NOVEMBER 24, 2010:

Subject: [nyceducationnews] Punishment First at Brooklyn Charter School

Punishment First at Brooklyn Charter School

November 24, 2010, by edvoxny

http://edvox.org/2010/11/24/punishment-first-at-brooklyn-charter-school/

My name is Jasmine Crawford and I’m a parent at Achievement First in Crown Heights. On Monday night, after stories surfaced about dozens of children being mistreated, more than 70 parents came together and attended the Achievement First Crown Heights Board meeting to call for a change to the school’s discipline policies. This was the most parents they had ever seen at a board meeting.

As parents, we are outraged at the excessive disciplinary actions taken against our children in Achievement First schools, and, at the meeting, we let our feelings be known. Many of the scholars have had detention almost every day of the year! Trivial infractions such as dropping a pencil, not making eye contact and “slouching” have landed our children in after-school detention. Students have received demerits for having tissues in class if they were sick; one scholar stood up and told of how, after she’d used her asthma inhaler, she laid her head on the desk and received a demerit. Although she was feeling sick, she didn’t want to ask to go to the nurse out of fear that the teacher would call it “talking back” and “being disrespectful.”

What kind of environment is this school producing when sick students are scared to ask to see their nurse?

Even at the onset of our press conference, held before the board meeting, AF staff tried to silence parents and challenged students as liars.But we would not be silenced then, and we won’t be now. We entered the meeting and were all given the opportunity to tell our “war stories.” The board chair, Judge Pricilla Hall, was very patient despite the urging of her assistant to close the open floor and go on with the business meeting. Even though the chair did not answer any direct questions, she did listen.

Each war story varied, but each also had a common theme. As parents, we completely agree with and understand the need for a consistent discipline code. But the stories we heard made it clear to anyone with a modicum of common sense that AF has gone overboard. When you are trying to control natural impulses of students such as yawning, you have truly gone off the deep end, and your policies become indefensible. Parents recanted stories of terror on the parts of their children in the school. With each story, a constant theme was being developed: a lack of respect from the school’s administration for parents and students, especially from Principal Blanchard and Dean Solomon.

When my son was sick with bronchitis and missed a couple of days, I gave the school a doctor’s note but was told it was unacceptable. When I reached out to them to discuss the policy, numerous calls and emails are not returned. But when he was missing a belt or had a white stitch in his sock … five minutes after he walked in the door, my phone would be blowing up! Some parents did not even know what Principal Blanchard looked like, because he never met with nor returned calls.

The school does not seem to care when parents declare that the disciplinary policies have had a very detrimental effects on our children’s emotional states, even to the extreme where some students have talked about suicide. Mr. Solomon took a scholar who was supposed to be suspended off the line and made him wait outside in the cold alone while his mother came from Manhattan to pick him up. Does the administration truly care about our students’ welfare?

If that doesn’t raise a flag of concern I don’t know what does.

More alarming and disturbing is that Chi Tschang, who has a history of emotionally and physically abusing children, was brought in as Superintendent of their schools. Mr. Tschang had been reported in California to have put his hands on students and using harsh punishments like sitting out in extreme cold/sun for hours. We are calling for the removal of Mr. Tschang immediately. Although we saw him walk in the build shortly after 5pm, he was not at the meeting.

Judge Hall said she’ll have a meeting with parents and the school’s administration. But I am weary. I can only hope we can work to create a fair and transparent code of conduct. We the parents seek to improve the overall educational atmosphere of the school, but as each day passes and these policies remain in effect, we feel our hands are being tied and our voices being silenced. Although the AF administration may not believe this, parents do know what’s best for their children.

UPDATE: Retribution on our kids was seen the very next day at school. Scholars were forced to sign a statement in support of Mr. Solomon and praise the school and staff on videotape. More disgusting, a teacher denied a scholar a high school recommendation because of the board meeting. All was done without parent knowledge and the penalty for not following was an automatic detention. What lesson is the school teaching our children?

Jasmine Crawford is a New York Communities for Change member and a parent of 2nd and 8th Grade students at AF Crown Heights

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters, 124 Waverly Pl., New York, NY 10011, 212-674-7320, classsizematters@gmail.com, www.classsizematters.org

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leonie-haimson

Another story from the New York Daily News is available at the following Web address but is not shared here at Substance: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/11/23/2010-11-23_dean_accused_of_acting_out.html



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