Monday, October 17, 2016

Andre Agassi Making Big Money Building and Selling Charter schools | Diane Ravitch's blog

Andre Agassi Making Big Money Building and Selling Charter schools | Diane Ravitch's blog:

Andre Agassi Making Big Money Building and Selling Charter schools



Former tennis star Andre Agassi opened a charter school in Las Vegas a few years back. He collected millions of dollars from adoring fans. He promised that his school would prepare every student for college. It was supposed to be easy. But there were many problems. Principals came and went. Teachers came and went. The school was a disaster. An article written in 2012 said:
More than 10 years after it opened, Agassi Prep, one of the first charter schools in Nevada, and arguably the most high-profile, is still finding its way. The school serves students from kindergarten to 12th grade (it’s arranged into elementary, middle and high schools), and graduated its first class in 2009. Like all public schools, it receives more than $6,000 per student from the state and county, and supplements that with private funding. During the last school year, Agassi Prep spent $11,069 to educate each of its 600 students.
“My impressions were that everyone wanted the school to be one of the best schools in the nation,” Piscal said. “It hasn’t all come together, and there is some frustration about that. But people still wanted to make it happen.”
Piscal has been on the job for more than a year. He is the sixth person to lead the school since it opened in 2001. But high turnover is not restricted to the chancellor’s office. Teachers, principals and staff come and go like visiting teams. Former teachers said the constant turnover creates a chaotic learning environment. Although the school has a high graduation rate and sends most of its graduates to college, it has had little success getting students into top-tier institutions, and many of its graduates attend community college.
Piscal wants to change that. The charter school veteran came to Agassi in January 2011. Not only is he trying to increase academic rigor, especially at the high-school level, he’s also supervising an increase in enrollment that will almost double the student body.
He’s already had some success staunching turnover at the high school and middle school. When he arrived, many positions were held by long-term substitutes. Some students had four or five teachers over the school year. Most of those subs have since been replaced by teachers who survived a rigorous interview process, Piscal said.
(The interesting thing about this article–which is unique in describing the struggles of the school– is that I quoted it in my 2013 book “Reign of Error.” At the time, it was easily discovered through googling by the school’s name. However, when I searched for it to link for this post, the article had disappeared. It took repeated efforts to find it, and it is filed under the name of a state assemblyman. I can’t help but suspect that an Internet mechanism was used to bury this piece.)
Agassi, bear in mind, is a high-school dropout.
But he saw a good money-making deal and he went for more, leaning on the alleged success of his Las Vegas charter school. He teamed up with an equity investor named Bobby Turner, and they raised nearly a billion dollars for charter investment deals. The first one they built was sold to KIPP in Philadelphia, and the Agassi team made a profit of $1 million.


The team recently opened its fifth charter school and its first charter in Washington, D.C., called the Rocketship Rise Academy. On the day it opened, it declared itself a high-performing school.Andre Agassi Making Big Money Building and Selling Charter schools | Diane Ravitch's blog:


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