Sunday, February 24, 2019

EPIC FAIL ANOTHER TYPE OF CHARTER SCHOOL: Arizona 'alternative' CHARTER Schools are failing at-risk students, Republic finds

Arizona 'alternative' schools are failing at-risk students, Republic finds

Arizona's at-risk students go to 'alternative' schools. Then the system fails them
The lowest-performing students end up in the Charter schools with the least accountability, according to an analysis by The Arizona Republic.



William Hollis enrolled his son at StarShine Academy because he hoped the school would offer Matthew more one-on-one attention.
The Phoenix K-12 school’s website advertised itself as a place where students would be prepared for “college, career, life.”
But the reality was different, Hollis said. Matthew got little attention during his middle school years there. He was sometimes handed a tablet as the teacher in the classroom "babysat." He fell behind.
Hollis had no idea that StarShine was one of the state’s more than 100 "alternative" schools, a separate system intended to serve Arizona's most vulnerable students but that instead has allowed poorly performing schools to avoid academic scrutiny.
For years, the state has exempted alternative schools from annual letter grades, the chief measure of academic performance in Arizona, meaning that parents and students are often unaware schools are failing. 
The result, according to an Arizona Republic analysis of state Department of Education records, is a system where the state's lowest-performing students end up in schools with the least public accountability and the lowest expectations for progress.
For failing schools, the alternative label can help them avoid closure for poor performance.
That label also allows the schools to misrepresent themselves as an innovative alternative for unconventional students when, in fact, the schools graduate only 28 percent of their students within four years, The Republicanalysis shows.
Matthew did not fit the state's definition of an at-risk student before he entered StarShine. But after StarShine, Matthew had fallen behind and become an at-risk student, Hollis said.
“It all started with StarShine,” he said. “That just threw him backwards.”

What is an alternative school? 

Alternative schools are both little-known and a significant area of Arizona public education.
Operated mostly by charter school owners, these schools are meant to serve students who struggle or are behind academically, according to the state's definition.
But they increasingly advertise themselves online, on TV, and even on highway billboards as a more flexible charter option for high-performing students.
And the schools are growing. Since 2010, the number of Arizona students enrolled in alternative charter schools has increased by nearly 40 percent, according to The Republic's analysis.
Matthew Hollis will be among at least 30,000 students attending alternative schools in Arizona next school year. Districts operate some of the schools, but charters enroll 86 percent of all alternative school students.
Despite this growth, oversight has remained lax.
The Arizona Department of Education, which regulates alternative schools, can’t accurately verify whether schools that apply for alternative status actually serve at-risk students, The Republic found.
And the agency has enabled failing schools like StarShine to use the alternative label to shield themselves from academic scrutiny, leaving parents in the dark as they decide where to send their children to school. CONTINUE READING: Arizona 'alternative' schools are failing at-risk students, Republic finds

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