| The Charter Explosion | Carnegie-Knight Initiative for Future of Journalism Education These hybrid schools are blowing up the public education model Mon, 21 Jun 2010 04:27:29 +0000 en hourly 1 Is Profit Dead? Thu, 30 Jul 2009 21:39:33 +0000 Sharon McCloskey

By Sharon McCloskey, with reporting and media production by Annie Hauser and Michele Hoos

For-profit companies rushed into the public school market at the same time the first charter schools took hold. Some 17 years later, can we safely say that this profit experiment has run its course? Or has it simply moved out of brick and mortar buildings and into cyber space?



When Chris Whittle announced the formation of Edison Schools in 1992, he was betting on a startling, simple proposition: that corporate America, hewn to a bottom line of efficiency and profitability, could do a far better job running the public schools than did local school districts. It was a smart idea with a noble touch: Fix the schools and make some money.

Whittle succeeded for a time, enough so that the company went public in 1999, but next came a series of missteps and mishaps that sent investors heading for the hills. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was scrutinizing its financials and regulators were challenging its test scores and school performance. In 2003, a group led by then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took the company private, and Edison Schools became the poster child for the failure of the for-profit education management model.

But Edison Schools did not die. The company kicked around quietly for a few years, held on to a few school management contracts and searched for greener pastures. In 2008, the company acquired Provost Systems, an education software company, reconfigured itself as Edison Learning, and announced a new focus on delivering online and supplemental education services.

“We envision a brighter future liberated by the power of technology and the Internet,” Edison C.E.O. Terry L. Stecz proclaimed in his letter announcing the change to investors and employees.

Edison’s recent transformation reflects yet another chapter opening in the tale of the education management business. Even though doubts lingered following the Edison Schools debacle, for-profit education management have grown steadily over the years. Indeed, reports of the death of education management organizations (E.M.O.s) have been greatly exaggerated. They are alive and thriving in a new realm: cyberspace.

Most charter schools continue to be managed by their founders, but the number using E.M.O.s is growing and is now at 22 percent, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. More companies are launching into cyberspace, even though many remain wary of online classrooms and skeptical of their academic results.

Gary Miron, a research scholar from Western Michigan University, has been tracking E.M.O. growth for the past 10 years. During that period, says Miron, the number of for-profit E.M.O.s has grown from 14 in 1999 to 50 in 2008, and the number of schools served by those E.M.O.s rose from 131 to 533.

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But as he compiles his latest report with colleague Jessica Urschel, and Alex Molnar from Arizona State, Miron is seeing a new trend. “For-profit growth (in terms of number of companies) appears to be leveling off, and the expansion we’re seeing now is in the nonprofit sector,” Miron said.

Though still confirming numbers for the report due out in September 2009, Miron estimates that the number of schools managed by for-profit companies declined from 533 to 525 over the past year, while the number of nonprofit-managed schools increased from 488 to 622. This is due, in part, to the decrease in number of schools managed by Edison — from 80 to 62 over this past year, affecting the for-profit sector — and the rapid growth of KIPP schools on the nonprofit side. KIPP, also known as the Knowledge Is Power Program, had a total of 66 schools in the 2008-2009 school year.

Growth still continues in the for-profit sector, notes Miron, though in a different direction. Like Edison, existing companies appear to be focusing on the diversification of their products and services, instead of on acquiring more schools.

That growth is most notable in the virtual, or online, education sector. Although his group has only collected data on virtual schools since the 2003-2004 school year, “the number of E.M.O.-managed virtual schools has grown from 17 to 40,” said Miron. Virtual schools accounted for only 4 percent of the E.M.O.-managed schools in 2003-2004. In 2008, they accounted for 8 percent.

And while the total number of virtual schools in the overall charter landscape may be small, such schools tend to have much larger enrollments than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. In 2008, 17.4 percent of all students enrolled in E.M.O.-operated schools were in virtual ones.

Making Money Online

Virtual charter schools are leading the education management sector largely because they are proving to be profitable. Lower costs and higher demand are main causes, but the schools also have a certain grassroots appeal.

Virtual learning “can be a democratizing force,” said James Maher, an analyst with the San Francisco - based investment banking firm Think Equity LLC. This is especially true for low income students who might have safety concerns about their local schools and limited access to resources, like computers, at home. Cyberschools provide their students with computers as part of their programs. “Virtual learning allows slower and faster students to work at their own pace, and often in a more secure place,” said Maher.

Terry Moe and John Chubb, who last took on education’s special-interest groups in their 1990 “Politics, Markets and America’s Schools” agree with Maher’s assessment. In their new book, “Liberating Learning,” they portray online schooling as the great equalizer, allowing students and parents to sidestep bureaucracies and unions and get straight to learning.

Not everyone is jumping on the virtual-school bandwagon yet, though, as data establishing academic performance at these schools is inconclusive. In Pennsylvania, for the year ending June, 2008, only three of the state’s 11 virtual schools met required testing proficiency levels.

Maher sees growth in the virtual sector continuing. Obviously, as an outgrowth of distance learning, virtual schools can help in large geographic areas, like Wyoming. But demand is rising elsewhere. Some states are now requiring districts to offer online classes. In Michigan students are now required to take one online course, he said. And Florida now requires all school districts to provide an online school as an educational option.

From a company perspective, online education is also attractive because its platform is so nimble. Online curricula, once designed, can be used over again, be easily tweaked, and, in the event of lost business, be peddled elsewhere. Such curricula can also be sold in bits — Advanced Placement courses, for example - as well as an entire program. Amy Junker, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co., agrees with Maher that, going forward, this hybrid development gives education management companies a good chance for success.

Cyber Domination

Two companies continue to lead the virtual-school sector: K12 Inc. and Connections Academy. K12, based out of Herndon, Va., is doing particularly well. The company, launched in 2000 and public as of 2008, may see a 40 percent growth in revenues by year’s end, Junker projects.

K12 recently came out a winner in a battle with the Chicago teachers union, which had challenged the state’s authorization of the Chicago Virtual School District as a “home-based” charter school prohibited under Illinois law. In June, the Cook County Circuit Court dismissed the union’s suit, finding that the virtual school district was subject to the same state regulations as traditional public schools and was not “home-based.”

That battle taught K12 that it would not be immune to problems plaguing its more traditional competitors in the brick-and-mortar sector: unions, funding, accountability, mismanagement and reliance on an unpredictable client base — school districts.

Funding remains the bane of charter-school development, for both E.M.O. and self-managed charter schools. While traditional schools bemoan their lack of public funding, their cyber counterparts may actually get too much. Ironically, what makes them profitable creates a big public-relations problem.

Virtual schools have much lower facility and overhead costs, but they still receive the same funding as the brick-and-mortar schools, leaving many virtual schools with significant fund balances at year’s end.

In states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, where virtual schools have a large presence, debates over this funding inequity are reaching the state legislatures, particularly as school districts grapple with budget deficits. In Ohio, Gov. Ted Strickland has proposed cutting funding for online schools from $5,732 per student to $1,500. And as the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School Board announced an increased budget of almost $90 million for the upcoming school year, critics renewed their pleas for changes in cyberschool funding.

Should the funding equations for cyberschools be adjusted so that their profit margins are narrowed, success for virtual-school E.M.O.s may prove to be as elusive as it has been for the brick-and-mortar sector.

Virtual-school E.M.O.s are also learning that, like their brick-and-mortar competitors, success depends upon the vagaries of an unpredictable client base - school boards. K12 is facing that problem now, as it is embroiled in a battle between one of its largest clients — Pennsylvania’s Agora Cyber Charter School, from whom K12 derives 10 percent of its revenues - and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In April, the state suspended Agora’s charter after an investigation revealed that its board had contracted out management services to both K12 and a company owned by one of the school’s founders, a violation of the school’s charter. Since then, the state has held all funding for the school in escrow - though K12 has been allowed to pay school expenses from that fund. In turn, the allegedly-improper management company has sued K12 in federal court to recover the money K12 is spending from the fund. While the courts sort out the situation, 10 percent of K12’s revenues hang in the balance, along with Agora Cyber School’s charter.

Raising the Bar

Mosaica Education Inc. is another for-profit slated to jump into the virtual-school realm this September, when it plans to open two online schools in California and Arizona. Mosaica — like Edison — has found itself tiptoeing into cyberspace, forced to reinvent itself in order to survive.

Founded in 1997 by Dawn and Gene Eidelman, Mosaica distinguishes itself from its competitors with its “Paragon” curriculum. Mosaica students spend half the school day learning traditional subjects and the other half immersing themselves in a period of history, like the Renaissance. The curriculum has since been criticized, though, for causing some Mosaica schools to churn out low test scores. A 2003 study of the Paragon curriculum by Howard Nelson of the American Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO discredited Mosaica’s own assessment of student performance and found Mosaica schools ranking below average at all grade levels. Still, Mosaica CEO Michael Connelly stands by Paragon, claiming that it helps students enhance basic skills. “We think our kids do well on basic skills testing because of Paragon,” said Connelly.

Tracking the actual performance of Mosaica schools has always been difficult since its portfolio of schools has been somewhat of a revolving door, with schools leaving the Mosaica fold and new ones entering on a regular basis.

As noted in the Miron report, Mosaica had 36 schools in 2008, after losing seven schools from the prior year. The company’s Web site currently lists 33 schools open in the United States, with five from this past year no longer in the company’s portfolio. Miron, at Western Michigan, says Mosaica has a reputation for a high number of schools leaving its management, either breaking away at the end of the original five-year contract, or severing ties before the contract is up.

Not all Mosaica schools have problems or are looking elsewhere for management services. In Michigan, for example, Mosaica schools in Flint and Pontiac are testing at above-district levels, and staff and parents are happy with Mosaica’s management, especially compared to their public district schools.

The reasons for Mosaica’s erratic growth typify problems plaguing other E.M.O.s — poor performance in some schools, mismanagement in others and overall high management fees. Mosaica charges 10 to 15 percent of a school’s annual revenue.

Like Edison, Mosaica has managed to work around those problems and has demonstrated a chameleon-like ability to reorient itself in the E.M.O. landscape. In 2004 it began to expand internationally, opening schools in the Middle East. Today it operates seven schools in Qatar and Abu Dhabi. And now, with the opening of two virtual schools, it will continue to diversify by stepping into cyberspace.

As they have for years, Edison and Mosaica continue to compete in the brick-and-mortar sector. But now they’ve seen the cyberlight — driven perhaps by the success companies like K12 are now enjoying, or perhaps by the possibility of delivering a quality education to more students.

“Competition drives innovation,” says current Mosaica C.E.O. Michael Connelly. “I’ve been doing this for 12 years, with 18,000 students, and I’ve never had a single parent that cares whether you’re a for-profit, nonprofit, or what you are. All they care about is is their child getting a better education than before.”

Resources Thu, 30 Jul 2009 21:38:37 +0000 Elaine Meyer Columbia News 21 used many online resources to inform our reporting for The Charter Explosion project. Some of those links are listed below and should be useful for anyone who is looking into charter schools. Please feel free to suggest additional resources in the comments section.


Andrew Rotherham at Education Sector has research on charter schools’ efficacy and discusses what donor’s should look for in teachers and principals..

Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives is Tulane University’s “action-oriented think tank”, originally established to lead education reform in New Orleans.

Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University.
Erin Dillon at Education Sector talks about promoting charter school choice and development in communities in “Food for Thought

Gary Miron at Western Michigan University has research on charter schools and school choice in general.

Jeffrey Henig at Columbia University Teachers College has a lot of research on charter school organizations and enrollment patterns .

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute
is a Washington D.C.-based think tank that does research on K-12 educational issues including charter schools and Catholic school conversions.

Governmental Organizations:

U.S. Department of Education
New Jersey

New Jersey’s statistics on school spending compare spending by all public schools.
New Jersey’s statistics on school testing compare schools and tests by grade and year.

New Orleans
Louisiana’s Recovery School District is a school district administered by the state’s education department. It is made up of schools identified as under-performing.

Louisiana Department of Education

Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education or O.S.S.E. collects data from the District’s charter and regular public schools.

The District of Columbia Public Charter Schools Board has the power to authorize charter schools.

The District of Columbia Public Schools system oversees all public schools in the districts that are not charters.

Education Reform and Advocacy Groups:
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given grants to many charter schools through non-profit organization EdVisions.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the lead advocacy group for charter schools nationwide and also features statistics about charter school growth.

The Newark Charter School Fund helps charter schools throughout the district get what they need.

Teach for America is a non-profit organization that recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in under-served schools.

New Orleans
Louisiana Charter School Associationis an advocacy group that promotes the advancement of the charter school movement in Louisiana.

New Schools for New Orleans is an organization that aids the development of new charter schools in New Orleans by recruiting and training new school leaders who open the schools and by providing support to existing charter schools.

Teach Nola, an initiative of the New Teacher Project, recruits recent college graduates, working professionals and certified teachers to teach in New Orleans schools.

New Orleans Parent Organizing Network is an advocacy group for parents that created “The Parents Guide,” a comprehensive guide to New Orleans public schools published several times each year.

Orleans Public Education Network is a collaborative of individuals and organizations invested in New Orleans public schools. The group focuses on defining one vision for the future of the city’s public schools.

Educate Now is a non-profit organization dedicated to effective and sustainable reform of New Orleans public schools founded by Leslie Jacobs, a native of New Orleans who served as an elected member of the New Orleans School Board, followed by a twelve year government appointed position on the state school board: the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

Twin Cities

MN2020 recently published a report, taking a closer look at the finances of charter schools.

Washington, D.C.
Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) is the lead advocacy group for all charter schools in D.C.


Education Week is a national education magazine with frequent coverage of charter schools. (A subscription is required for viewing).

Gotham Schools is a New York city education website with thorough coverage on New York City charter schools.

Jay Mathews, a Washington Post education reporter and author of the book Work Hard, Be Nice, about the rise of the KIPP charter schools, has covered charter schools for many years.

Rethinking Schools
has been covering the growth of charter schools for years and published the book “Keeping the Promise? The Debate Over Charter Schools” in 2008.

The Times Picayune is the local, daily newspaper of New Orleans. Articles from the paper appear on blog and articles. Their education reporters include Brian Thevenot, Darran Simon and Columbia Journalism School alum, Sarah Carr

The Washington Post has extensive coverage of the city’s charter schools.

Reporting Guidelines:

Hechinger Institute Guidelines for journalists who cover education.

Uncertainties Around Charters’ Special Ed Role Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:32:50 +0000 Elaine Meyer One Family’s Legal Struggle
Jaleel, who was expelled from a charter school, and his father Franklin at home in Washington, D.C. (PHOTO: PAUL STEPHENS/NEWS21)

Jaleel, who was expelled from a charter school, and his father Franklin at home in Washington, D.C. (PHOTO: PAUL STEPHENS/NEWS21)

By Elaine Meyer with additional reporting by Paul Stephens

Like many District of Columbia parents, Renell and Franklin F. were pleased to have the option of enrolling their 16-year-old son Jaleel in one of the city’s many charter high schools instead of one of the rougher public high schools in their neighborhood in Anacostia. For nearly two years, Jaleel attended the Capitol Hill campus of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School, where he earned As and Bs. (The family has declined to use their last name to protect their privacy).

Then, last February, Jaleel was suddenly expelled by the school. School officials claimed he threatened to kill a teacher. His parents said that Jaleel had been merely muttering to himself in the hallway, not making sincere threats.

More importantly, his parents said he had a mood disorder, and that school officials were well aware of it. When the family met with an education attorney after Jaleel’s expulsion, they were told that the school should have evaluated Jaleel for a special education plan, because counselors and teachers had let principals know of Jaleel’s difficulties many times. Instead, Renell and Franklin, who are divorced, had to go to court to get their son an evaluation. As the legal process escalated, Jaleel, who enjoyed academics and the graphics club at Chavez, remained out of school.

“They’re shellshocked,” said Patrick Hoover, a Maryland-based attorney who represents Jaleel and his parents.

“We didn’t know what our options were really,” said Renell. “We don’t even know if he will be allowed to go the 11th grade.”

The conundrum is all too common in the District of Columbia public school system, known for the exceptionally large number of special education violations filed against it. Jaleel’s parents believed charter schools were supposed to be intimate havens for innovative education, a refuge from the troubles of other public schools–not business as usual.

But now Renell and Franklin find themselves struggling against the D.C. public schools juggernaut that they had tried to avoid, since Cesar Chavez School, is represented by District of Columbia education attorneys because it is technically part of D.C.’s school district for special education purposes. After multiple requests by phone or email, Cesar Chavez School declined to comment on any part of the story, which was communicated by Daniel Kim, the school’s attorney.

The District has long had trouble serving its 12 percent of students with special education needs. Now that charter schools’ enrollment has taken over one-third of the public school population, many parents and teachers are wondering whether the new schools are up to the challenge of educating special education children.

A recent federal court monitor’s report suggested that charter schools in Washington, D.C., have thus far not served their fair share. District records show that D.C.’s charter schools serve 3 percent fewer special education students than the district’s traditional public schools.
In the 2008-2009 school year, 89 charter school campuses had 10 percent, or 2,558 of their children in special education. In the same year, 132 of D.C.’s traditional public schools had

Compare special education enrollment in charter and regular public schools.

Click here to compare special education enrollment in charter and regular public schools.

about 13 percent or 5,720, students in special education, according to statistics from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education or O.S.S.E., the body that collects data for all District of Columbia public schools.

Most charter schools do not enroll students with a heavy load of disabilities. If such students apply, charter school officials “often” refer them elsewhere, found an ongoing study mandated by the 2006 class action cases Blackman v. District of Columbia and Jones v. District of Columbia, commonly referred together as Blackman/Jones. “Many charters cannot cope with the large numbers of students with disabilities,” the report says.

Large public high schools, on the other hand, must accept all students, except when the public system determines students needs are better met at private schools, in which case it refers them there and pays the tuition. District records show that the rates of students in special education at several of the district’s largest public high schools such as Anacostia, Ballou and Cardozo have increased in recent years, though it is unclear whether this is the result of students transferring from charter schools.

For their part, charter school officials complain that some parents do not disclose their students’ special education needs during the admissions process, presumably in order to increase the odds of their children being accepted to the charter schools, and that there are schools that are reluctant to admit special education students. “Some schools were frank to concede that they would not admit students who required a large number of hours of specialized service (16+) or had specific diagnoses they were not equipped to serve (e.g. mental retardation),” according to the Blackman/Jones report.

Amy Totenberg, the assigned court monitor for the Blackman/Jones case, said that she could not comment further on the report, except to say that it addresses the current limitations of traditional public schools as well as charter schools and that a comprehensive report for the 2008-2009 year will be released in October.

Jaleel is one of an unknown number of D.C. charter school students with special needs who never made it to the special education evaluation stage. His parents contend, and several of his counselors agreed, according to court records, that his angry outbursts in class owed to his fear of failure exacerbated by a mood disorder. As a result, the school acted rashly when it expelled Jaleel, his parents say, rather than complete the official process to give him services.

According to Jaleel’s parents, the school’s lawyers have also tried to avoid discussing an earlier episode of Jaleel’s at special education court hearings, as it is indicative that he should have gotten attention back then. In December, 2007, Jaleel became frustrated in art class because he couldn’t get his teacher’s attention to ask her what color he should use to paint a project.

“I didn’t know what color to put on there, and I didn’t want to get a bad grade if I put a color on there that’s not right in her eyes,” Jaleel said on an afternoon in June, in his father’s basement in Anacostia. “So after that, when she was not giving me the help that I want, like the rest of the people, I started to get mad, like real angry, and then I went outside the classroom, and I shouted off things in anger, like I wish she was dead, I wanted to kill her, and stuff like that.”

That incident led his counselor to recommend that Jaleel get a psychological evaluation and to advise that the school follow up with a special education evaluation. However, the Chavez administration never went through with it.

The situation remained quiet until February of 2009, Jaleel’s sophomore year. When he saw a grade of a D on a biology quiz, he said he got so angry that his teacher ordered him to the hall to calm down. However, he said, he could not stop thinking about how the grade would send his 98 percent class average plummeting. He said he muttered violent words under his breath in the hallway, including a wish– he was just being dramatic, he says–to kill the teacher. Two other teachers overheard him and took him to the counselor’s office. Jaleel was suspended and then expelled from school that month.

“Jaleel has always been respectful,” his teachers told Franklin. Listen to Franklin talk about his experience going back to the school after the expulsion.

How widespread are forced or unforced transfers from charter to public schools due to special education issues? It is difficult to say, since there is no data at the moment on the number of students who are expelled or pushed out from D.C.’s charter schools and back through the doors of traditional public ones. (According to the Office of the Superintendent of Special Education, statistics on transfers between charter and traditional public schools will be available this October.) But teachers in traditional District public schools report that they routinely see students with special education needs transfer into their already-overcrowded classrooms in the middle of the school year.

One special education counselor at Garfield Elementary said the school frequently enrolls transfer students from charter schools with behavioral disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That counselor, Candi Peterson, runs an anger-management program at Garfield for students with emotional disturbances.

Click here to watch the video.

Click here to watch the video.

Peterson, who runs an education blog, said she also knows of students with special education needs who have been discouraged from attending D.C. charter schools by leaders at those schools. “I have been involved in cases, where a charter school will tell parents off the top that they won’t accept them,” she said.

When students transfer from charter to traditional public schools after early fall, traditional public schools lose money. Charters and traditional public schools receive the same amount of funding per pupil at the beginning of a school year, but the money does not follow a student who transfers after November from charter school to regular public school, according to Mary Levy, an education budget expert at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.

Kerry Sylvia, who teaches history at Cardozo High School, said she has seen charter students transferring into her high school with incomplete evaluations of their special needs. It is up to her high school to complete the rest, as well as to absorb these students in an inclusive classroom setting that current special education law requires.

“The whole thing is that we can’t turn students away,” said Sylvia. “If they’re in our boundary, we have to take them.”

Charter school advocates say that it is difficult for them, as start-up schools, to properly tend to special education students in their first difficult years of operation. A charter school that is founded for specific educational purposes around niche programs such as language immersion or gifted courses does not always have the focus or the resources to serve students who need special education. However, charter schools are accountable to a federal law that gives students with special needs the right to an education that attends to their disability without keeping them in unnecessarily restrictive environments.

Click here to learn more.

Click here to learn more.

“A child who is extremely emotionally disturbed, having all kinds of meltdowns and problems, may need a full time out of a general education program,” said Ellen Dalton, an attorney who advises and represents charter schools on issues surrounding special education law.

Patrick Hoover, Jaleel’s lawyer, sympathizes with charter schools’ difficulties in complying with special education law but believes that Cesar Chavez Public Charter School handled Jaleel’s situation the wrong way.

“The expulsion was, I think, the school system’s attempt to get this kid out of their hair and push him on down the road,” said Hoover.

According to Dalton, “It’s pretty hard when a child comes to a charter school in ninth grade reading at a second-grade level. There is no way a charter school can help that child.”

The District’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, or O.S.S.E., in part was created in 2007 to bring charter schools and traditional public schools together under the same special education-related regulatory requirements after years of problems.

“O.S.S.E. is saying the charter schools are referring too many kids out, and that if we provided more services in our schools, we would be able to service those children. There comes a reasonable point that a charter school cannot serve,” said Dalton. Dalton believes that part of the special education problem in the city is due to insufficient programs for these students in D.C.’s traditional public schools.

“If they had appropriate programs, attorneys wouldn’t be fighting to put kids in a private school,” said Dalton.

As for Jaleel’s family, their legal headaches have not gone away. In late July, a D.C. social worker told Renell that the D.C. public school system could sue her for parental neglect, for allowing Jaleel to be absent for more than 10 days from the Cesar Chavez School back when Jaleel attended. Renell contends that Jaleel was never absent when he was a student there and that the school admitted during Jaleel’s hearings that it had a policy of shredding all of its records on students after a certain period of time.


Jaleel, Franklin and Renell. PHOTO: PAUL STEPHENS/NEWS 21

The traditional public schools have recently proven more tolerant of Jaleel after the family had no guidance from Cesar Chavez School on how to find a new school to attend for the rest of his year.

But this summer, the family enrolled Jaleel in the Sharpe Program at Ballou Public High School in Anacostia, which educates students who are studious but require additional attention. The program is a small part of the public high school where Jaleel’s mother was initially reluctant to send her son. Jaleel takes English and math during the day and stays after school for a graphics club in the evening.

“I guess this is a sign that Cesar Chavez wasn’t meant for me.”

So far, the family is happy with the school. “We’re getting more help with them than with Cesar Chavez,” said Franklin toward the end of Jaleel’s first week of school in July. His parents are hoping their son can get promoted to the 11th grade beginning this fall. Still, they worry about having to send him to the larger Ballou during the school year, because many teachers have told them that Jaleel would not be well-suited for that environment.

At this point, the family believes its best out of many non-ideal options is to send Jaleel to a different charter school, one that they hope is more willing to give him a special education.

Special Education by the Numbers Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:31:18 +0000 Paul Stephens By Elaine Meyer and Paul Stephens

In Washington, D.C., a few charter schools were created specifically for troubled children. Still, traditional public schools serve a larger percentage of special needs kids than charter schools.

Why does it matter? It matters when test scores and spending levels are compared without factoring this into the equation. Special education is expensive. And kids with everything from learning disabilities to physical handicaps tend to score low on standardized test.

The graphs below show where the special education students are.


Map of the Percentage of Special Education Students at Each Public School

in Washington, D.C.



View Special Education Students in Washington, D.C., Percentage at Each School in a larger map

Interactive Timeline: Indian Schools Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:30:21 +0000 Jamie Oppenheim

Since the European arrival in the United States, formal education has been a sorrowful experience for many American Indians. The results? High high-school dropout rates. Click on the timeline to track the beginnings of the problem and then learn how education has evolved and improved over time for this population. Hear Upper Peninsula tribal historians describe their local educational histories.

Refuge on the Reservation Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:28:06 +0000 Jamie Oppenheim

Educators have long worried about the grim statistics surrounding American Indian high-school students. Dropout rates in particular have remained stubborn and high, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Fifteen percent of American Indian kids nationwide drop out of school, a rate second only to Hispanic students, at 21 percent.

In Michigan, the situation is even more dire. There, 20 percent, or one in five, American Indians does not finish high school. These troubling statistics reflect the Indians’ long, rocky relationship with formal education.

It began in the 1870s with the infamous government boarding schools. There Indian children were forced to shed their families, their language, their customs, their dress, and every other aspect of their culture to become civilized Americans.

More recently, when two Upper Peninsula Indian reservations decided to create two public charter schools on their reservations, they did so in spite of this painful history. Their mission? To use state funding to renew and celebrate Indian culture, rather than to eradicate it. The end goal? Rescuing children in danger of dropping out.

One charter is in Hannahville, a reservation on the southwest side of the Peninsula, 10 miles outside Escanaba, the largest urban center in the area. In 1976, with financial support from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe opened the Hannahville Indian School. Then in 1995, it was converted into a charter which came with additional state funding. Today, the school serves 175 students, more than half of whom are Native American, and offers Indian culture and Potowatomi language classes.

The second charter was founded in 2003 on Ojibwe tribal land along the banks of Lake Superior. Its founders wanted to offer an alternative to the nearby Brimley public school, where American Indian children had long felt less than welcome by other students. The hostile treatment there had driven large numbers of kids out of school. The Ojibwe Charter School currently serves 88 students, and graduated its first high-school class of five students last year.

There is no data yet to determine whether these charter schools are reversing decades of educational neglect for these children. The Michigan Department of Education began tracking dropout rates by race and ethnicity only last year.

But in 2008, 22.2 percent dropped out of the Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy, down from 27 percent the year before.

The Ojibwe Charter School reported a 66 percent dropout rate for its first graduating class and 50 percent dropout rate for students who started high school in 2005.

I met three students from both of the schools last spring. Elijah Jesse and Pete Meshigaud are both 17. Chelsea Sagitaw is 15. Each recounted why they left their more diverse public schools for exclusively Native American charters. Click to hear their stories.

Without Classrooms or Grades, Students Rule This School Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:26:03 +0000 Claire Moses By Claire Moses

It’s next to impossible to know at first glance if any kind of learning is going on in the Minnesota New Country School. The one-room charter in Henderson, Minn., population 900, is typically abuzz with the chatter and laughter of its 125 sixth- through twelfth-graders, all mixed together in a school that has a look and a sound all its own.

First-time visitors may need some coaxing to recognize that students are — no, not socializing, but — working in teams on involved, long-term projects, such as quilting or community service projects. Other kids are negotiating credit points with their advisers and plotting their next round of individual study. All students are encouraged to delve beyond the surface facts into deep knowledge about their chosen subjects.

Founder Dee Thomas calls her 15-year experiment “organized chaos.” Others, including wealthy philanthropists, consider this school one of the most imaginative examples of the charter movement’s original purpose: fostering innovative teaching.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation bought into the idea in 2001, when it pledged $4.3 million to create more schools just like it around the nation to non profit organization EdVisions, a non-profit headed by Thomas’ husband Doug. The non-profit runs New Country and many schools similar to it. In 2003 the Gates Foundation donated another $4.5 million for a second round of replications. There are now 40 “grantee” schools in 13 states, said Doug Thomas. Edvisions has worked with 20 more schools, who have not received part of the grant money, to model those after the New Country School as well. Two schools similar to the New Country model, one in Arizona and one in California, are opening this fall.

In an age when school uniforms, standardized tests and data-driven curriculum rule the education reform agenda, this iconoclastic school with no teachers, no classrooms and no grades seems like a hard sell.

At the Minnesota New Country School, students of all ages sit together in one room. All the students have their own desks and personal computers.

At the Minnesota New Country School, students of all ages sit together in one room. All the students have their own desks and personal computers. PHOTO: CLAIRE MOSES/NEWS21

The biggest opponents are local unions in the states where Edvisions tries to start new project based schools. In many states the charter school laws are strict and people do not see the need for programs that are different than traditional public schools, said Doug Thomas. Since New Country opened in 1994 more than 90 percent of the graduates went on to a post secondary education and 69 percent graduated in time, he said also.

“This is a place for kids who want to excel academically,” insisted Dee Thomas, sitting at her cluttered desk, decorated with joke quotes from former President George W. Bush. Among them: “You teach a child to read and he or her will pass a literacy test.”


This rural school-as-no-school is not for everyone. Students at New Country need to be self-motivated to complete their work and succeed. Before a project is approved, a student must draft a detailed proposal, describe a time frame and learning outcomes, and negotiate for credit points. Credit points are New Country’s answer to the traditional letter grading system. Some projects take a couple of months, while others can span the entire school year.

Craig Peters, 18, a graduating senior who plans to attend college to study welding, said he used geometry “sorta, kinda” to build this working smokehouse. He tried first to build the structure without the math, and it didn’t fit.

Other projects from the past school year include a PowerPoint presentation about Greek mythology, a project using art as therapy, and designing hemp jewelry.

Students need to earn 10 credits per year in order to move on to the next grade. They have to argue for credit points with their advisor based on time spent and lessons learned. “For some students the skill is also to fight for what they deserve,” said teacher Anthony Sonnek after finishing a negotiation with a student for credit on her sowing project.

Students become skilled negotiators, Thomas said, but that may cause them to lose respect for hard deadlines.

True project based learning is hard to balance with teaching individual disciplines, explained Dee Thomas. The teachers at New Country have to give up their own personal discipline areas in order to free up time for student project work. The school won an innovative waiver from the Minnesota State Legislature.


One advantage of this non-traditional learning environment is that it fits the needs of children who would be labeled as special education in regular public schools. Thirty-five percent of New Country’s students–an unusually high percentage compared to other traditional and charter public schools–qualifies as special needs, ranging from learning disabilities to autism. At New Country it is difficult to tell which child is labeled what, Thomas said, because all the students are blended into one student body, rather than divided into classes. Rather the students are divided into advisories, which are small groups of students. There the advisr

Sixteen-year-old Margerita Whalan said she struggled in the traditional public school in nearby Le Suer. “After years of being passed up by younger kids than me, eventually I got ashamed,” she said, dressed in black clothes that match her black hair. “But this school has helped me at least get some credit to my name.” Still, Whalan said school — any school — is not for her. She said she is planning on dropping out, getting her GED and going to cosmetolegy school.


Allison Lashley and her sculpture project. Lashley, 16, recently transferred to Minnesota New Country. PHOTO: CLAIRE MOSES/NEWS21


Rapid technological developments have created a different generation of kids, said Dee Thomas, who taught for 31 years in traditional public schools before founding New Country.

“We can’t teach them the same way we taught 30 years ago,” Dee Thomas said, “or we’re going to lose them.”

Some students may lament missing choir or sports teams, or the popularity that comes with athletic talent. Thomas’s own son, she said, probably couldn’t imagine missing out on the fame and glory that came with his football prowess when he attended public school in Le Suer.

And while the school may not have a choir, it has a recording studio where students can learn how to sing. Other unique features include a greenhouse, and a kitchen where children can prepare food. Students of all ages interact in one room, meaning older ones can serve as examples of younger ones.

“I’m 16 and one of my bestest friends is 14,” said Kyle Wendroth. “and it’s cool.”

In fact, what’s cool, the ultimate high school reward, is reinvented here.

Allison Lashley, who has a wide smile and bleached blond hair said it wasn’t right to hang out with little kids in her previous school. She recently transferred to New Country a few months earlier. “Here it doesn’t matter at all.”

Interactive Timeline: Uncertain Future Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:24:09 +0000 Paul Stephens Explore the history of how and why the Catholic parochial system developed in America.

Back to main story.

Keeping the Faith Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:22:25 +0000 Paul Stephens

Photos by Paul Stephens, reporting by Elaine Meyer

Like urban Catholic schools across the country, St. Thomas Moore in Washington D.C. faces declining enrollment and mounting financial difficulties. The school remained a Catholic school last year when seven other Catholic schools in the city became public schools in order to stay open.

A Breeding Place for Global Citizens Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:22:18 +0000 Claire Moses The Twin Cities German Immersion School in St. Paul teaches the German language in every class. Its aim is not to produce “little Germans,” said principal Marcy Zachmeier-Ruh, but to educate “global citizens.”

Teaching from the African American Experience Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:20:28 +0000 Claire Moses Higher Ground Academy in St. Paul is an Afro-centric school, with a strong focus on African American history. The student body is composed of African American students, as well as East-African immigrants. Bill Wilson, its founder and director, explains why he believes the school is not contributing to resegregation.

Character-based learning Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:18:40 +0000 Paul Stephens Produced by Elaine Meyer and Paul Stephens

Washington Yu Ying, an elementary charter school with a Chinese language immersion program in Washington, D.C. just finished its first school year educating its students in Chinese, as well as English. Students who start as pre-kindergartners can expect to be fluent by the fourth grade, according to Mary Shaffner, the school’s executive director.

Here in the nation’s capital, there is strong demand by parents for dual language programs that immerse their kids in increasingly wide-spoken languages like Spanish and now Chinese. Charter advocates in Washington, D.C., say that charter schools responded to a strong demand for language education programs that was not being met by the city’s regular public schools. Parents send their children to Yu Ying so they can learn a language that will come in handy for future jobs or for brain development, according to Shaffner. Other schools teach Chinese, but this is the only one to Shaffner’s knowledge that immerses its students in it.

Old Values in New Kind of Education Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:12:30 +0000 Annie Hauser star-sign2

Star International Academy in Dearborn Heights

By Annie Hauser

Signs in Arabic dot the halls of Michigan’s Star International Academy, where 90 percent of the students are of Arabic origin and the vast majority speak Arabic as their first language.

The public charter school is located in Dearborn Heights, home to one of the nation’s largest concentration of Arab Americans; 8 percent of its 57,000 residents are of Arab descent.

A K-12 school, Star is designed, in part, to reflect this community’s conservative and cultural values. It is one of few charter schools in the nation to offer Arabic language instruction in every grade. In addition, it offers students the option for single-sex classes in its high school.

“We want them to be proud of who they are and embrace their culture,” says Leif Batal, who heads the school’s English department. “We don’t want our students to lose their identity as Arabs.”

And Principal Anita Hassan makes sure behavior common in other high schools is invisible here: “There is not kissing in the hallways or anything like that that you would see at another school,” Hassan explains. “That just does not happen here. It’s against the rules.”

For Star International parents such as Alex Samhat and Khalid Almaasnah, the culturally-sensitive setting is welcome. They came to the area in the last decade in part because of the high concentration of Arab-American families, as well as for the mosques and the availability of Middle Eastern goods at local stores.

Neither parent sees a downside to sending their children to a school so densely populated by one ethnic group.

“I actually think it will be better,” says Samhat. “Here, they learn to have a respect for other people.”

While it’s hard to say for sure, the school’s unusual approach may be translating into higher student achievement for the primarily low-income students. According to 2008 data from the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, Star exceeded state average test scores on all Michigan state tests.

Still, not all members of the Arab-American community embrace Star’s approach.

Judeh Jamana is a Dearborn Heights businesswoman and former city council member, and says she is unusual in the Arab-American community as both a Catholic and as someone with many non-Arab friends. She enrolled her two children in traditional public schools.

A fifth grade Arabic class at Star International.

A fifth grade Arabic class at Star International.

Jamana acknowledges that the influx of Arab-American students in the area’s public schools has caused some growing pains. For instance, school officials need to schedule exams around Muslim holidays. Still, she believes it is the responsibility of the Arab community to interact more with the wider population.
“The Arab community does tend to be somewhat conservative,” says Jamana. “Would I go out of my way to put my kids in a school where everybody looks the same? No. I don’t think that’s better for their education.”

Parents like Samhat and Almaasnah agree they would like to see the older generation of Arabs interact more in the community, but say they like the concentrated population.

This tension reflects the larger mission of Star International, according to founder Nawal Hamadeh, who opened the charter school in 1998 to strike a balance between Arab and American identities.

“For example, students wearing the hijab [the traditional Muslim head covering for women] feel more comfortable because no one here will question it,” Hamadeh says. “By that I mean not ask questions about it, but question it. Here, the students adapt well and learn about American culture and society.”

Losing their Religion Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:10:25 +0000 Paul Stephens Produced by Paul Stephens and Elaine Meyer

Holy Name, a financially troubled Catholic school in Washington D.C., became the Trinidad campus of Center City Public Charter Schools last year. The school shed its religious curriculum in order to stay open. Back to main story.

Public Schools as Ethnic Enclaves? Thu, 30 Jul 2009 20:00:23 +0000 Maura Walz By Maura Walz, with additional reporting and media production by Claire Moses and Joseph C. Lin

Kindergarten students graduate from Higher Ground Academy, an Afro-centric charter school in St. Paul, Minn.  PHOTO: CLAIRE MOSES / NEWS21

Kindergarten students graduate from Higher Ground Academy, an Afro-centric charter school in St. Paul, Minn. PHOTO: CLAIRE MOSES / NEWS21

Some charter school names in Minnesota’s Twin Cities announce their ethnic preferences straight up.

The Dugsi Academy takes its name from the Somali term for “school.” Academia Cesar Chavez is named after the renowned Chicano labor leader. The Hmong Academy caters to children from the indigenous Cambodian community.

Other schools slide their ethnic identities into their taglines: as in Higher Ground Academy, Minnesota’s Preeminent Afro-Centric Charter School.

There seems to be no end to the ways these hybrid schools have redesigned education for reconfigured populations in this city.

A group of families and members of the Germanic-American Institute in the Twin Cities founded a German language immersion elementary school in 2005. A Chinese language immersion school has attracted many students adopted from China by American families. The East African and Hmong communities — the two largest immigrant groups in Minneapolis and St. Paul — have been especially active in founding culturally-based schools.

And on it goes.

These schools are part of a trend in charter school education toward creating safe havens for niche groups, ones that parents and advocates argue have been neglected by the general school system. Segregate them, they argue, in order to better teach them.

School choice has begun to mean parents choosing a school for children that look just like themselves. As more “ethno-centric” charter schools open, parents and experts are debating the costs and benefits of voluntary racial and ethnic isolation in public schools.

Nearly one-fifth of Minnesota’s more than 150 charter schools cater primarily to families belonging to specific ethnic or cultural groups. By law, any student may attend these schools. But in practice, the majority teach student populations that are overwhelmingly homogeneous.

See how the demographics of charter and traditional public schools in the Twin Cities have changed since 1990.

See how the demographics of charter and traditional public schools in the Twin Cities have changed since 1990.

Hmong students make up 98 percent of the school population in five out of six charters designed just for this burgeoning population in the Twin Cities. Similarly, schools that focus on the Latino or East African immigrant groups, are nearly completely Latino, or East African.

The emergence of these racially isolated schools has left charter school advocates fending off charges that charters are re-segregating the American public school system.

In November, researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Race and Poverty released a report contending that charter schools have intensified segregation in the Twin Cities. Nearly 90 percent of black charter school students attended a racially segregated school in 2008, the report claimed, compared to just under 40 percent of black students who attended segregated traditional public schools.

“Segregation concentrates poverty, and poor schools perform worse,” said Myron Orfield, director of the Institute on Race and Poverty. “It doesn’t provide any low income minority kids the option to go to better schools.”

But charter school administrators, along with many Minnesota charter parents, say there are important advantages to educating children in culturally sensitive environments. Many of these segregated schools serve recent immigrant children who may be overwhelmed in large traditional schools by language and cultural differences.

Some even contend that words like “segregation” and “integration” are outmoded concepts now that legally mandated racial separation is a thing of the past. Advocates argue that these terms detract from the schools’ significant impact on the wider educational system.

“Segregation is a legal matter,” said Bill Wilson, the founder and executive director of the all-black Higher Ground Academy, an Afro-centric charter school that opened in St. Paul in 1999. Wilson, who went on to become a noted St. Paul civil rights activist and City Council member before founding the school, draws a strong distinction between forcibly segregated schools and racially homogeneous schools that parents and students choose to attend. People who claim his all-black school is only about segregation, he said, cannot overcome the choice issue.

Bill Wilson, founder and executive director of Higher Ground Academy

Bill Wilson, founder and executive director of Higher Ground Academy. PHOTO: NEWS21 / CLAIRE MOSES

“I had no choice,” said Wilson about his days as a black student in the racially segregated schools of Indiana. “I rode the bus until the bus stopped and that’s where I got off. Now let’s compare that for a moment with charter schools. It starts with choice.”

Wilson disputed the notion that parents choose these niche schools solely because of race or identity.

“People choose to be here, and they’re not choosing because of the color of their skin,” he said. “They’re really choosing because of the quality of the education.”

Orfield said that the choice charters offer to low-income and minority families is often an illusion. Impoverished families can choose between a dismal traditional public school, he said, or an equally poor-performing or sometimes worse charter school.

“Low-income kids of color don’t have the choice to get into the white segregated schools,” he said. “And white families won’t choose to send their kids to the minority segregated schools.”

The performance of Minnesota charter schools varies widely. Wilson’s Higher Ground Academy does fairly well: just over 53 percent of Higher Ground students were proficient at reading on state accountability tests in 2008, over a percentage point higher than the scores for St. Paul’s traditional public schools, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. In math, Higher Ground students do significantly better, with 52 percent of Higher Ground students scoring proficient, compared to nearly 46 percent of St. Paul school district students.

Higher Ground is not alone. Students at Harvest Prep Academy, another charter school geared towards African-American students, score similarly well. And scores at Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy, a charter school with a primarily Muslim student body sponsored by Islamic Relief USA that has been the center of much controversy over church-state separation lines, posts among the highest test scores in the region.

It’s unclear to what degree these schools are the exceptions, however. A number of studies of Minnesota charter schools, including a 2008 study by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor and a 2009 study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, have concluded that charter schools largely under-perform compared to their peer traditional public schools.

But some parents said that the quality of the education should be judged by more than just test scores. A school’s ability to embrace students’ cultural identity makes a big difference in their educational life. Ethno-centric charter schools meet student needs in a way that larger traditional public schools cannot manage.

Watch a video about Higher Ground Academy

Watch a video about Higher Ground Academy

“There’s a lot of social challenges parents are going through,” said Nadifa Osman, a Somali mother who has sent three children to Higher Ground Academy. Large family sizes, parental separation, language challenges and a cultural background where involvement in children’s education is not the norm–all these issues can prevent immigrant parents from engaging in large, traditional public schools.

“When I was growing up, the teacher was in charge of me,” Osman said. “My parents never put one foot inside the school.” Understanding that cultural background, she said, helps the school encourage parents to be more involved, visit the school and talk to the teachers.

Rather than expecting parents to come to the school, Osman said, schools like Higher Ground Academy reach out to parents in the neighborhoods where they live. Osman acts as a parent liaison between the school and Somali families. The school also has parent liaisons to other East African immigrant groups, such as the Oromo community who have fled oppression in Ethiopia. Families that might be lost in a larger public school find a welcoming, supportive environment.

“I came here to help some parents who were struggling,” she said. Osman was raised in Somalia but completed higher education in Europe and the United States. She said that her ability to see both worlds helps her show other Somali parents what it takes for their students to succeed in an American school system.

“It’s very common to say, ‘what you’re going through, I’m going through,’” she said. “That support makes a huge difference.”

Osman said that the opportunity for her children to learn more about their East African heritage and retain their Somali language fluency was also an important factor in choosing the school. But she cautioned that the school is not culturally isolated, with students taught about their own heritage and culture and nothing else.

“They learn more about their heritage and where they’re coming from and the history of the Africans that you don’t get in many mainstream schools,” she said. “But they’re not limited to that. I like that they’re learning about their own culture but open to others as well.”

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, school districts have also responded to market competition from charters that focus on a specific culture by opening their own within the traditional public school systems. The St. Paul public school system, for example, opened the Phalen Lake Hmong Studies and Core Knowledge Magnet School last year. It represents the city’s first magnet program emphasizing one culture.

Critics contend that this response from traditional public schools further intensifies the lines of separation and segregation in the school systems, with harmful result. Many educators in the districts struggle with a commitment to integrated schools and what they say is a clear demand from parents for programs with cohesive cultural identities.

Watch a video about the Twin Cities German Immersion School

Watch a video about the Twin Cities German Immersion School

“That’s the conundrum of choice,” said Yusef Mgeni, Director of the Office of Educational Equity for St. Paul Public Schools. “You have to be prepared to modify and adapt your policies to whatever choices parents want to make. The real hat trick is to how to get the best education for everyone under the circumstances people choose.”

The public school system in St. Paul has long striven to provide options for students to take select language, history and culture courses that reflect the diverse make-up of the school district, and district-wide school choice was originally instituted as a mechanism for integration, Mgeni said. And because of a continued trend of falling birthrates and enrollments, he said, a school district would be foolish to ignore the expressed wishes of parents.

Paradoxically, a byzantine system of choice among neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools and others may increase the concentration of single-ethnicity schools because parents may choose the schools most familiar to their communities because the plethora of other choices is overwhelming to research.

“It’s a very complex issue and process for any parent,” Mgeni said. “If you’re a new immigrant, it could seem very daunting.”

Education policy experts confirm that when parents are deciding where to send their children, the desire for cultural sensitivity often outweighs a given school’s academic test scores.

“Those are factors that go to social climate, size and safety of the schools,” said David Garcia, who studies education policy at Arizona State University. “All of those elements make a really big difference in the decisions that individual students and families make and are generally left out of our macro-policy discussions.”

Read more about ethno-centric schools in other states

Read more about ethno-centric schools in other states

It’s a national pattern, Garcia said. When a student leaves the traditional public school system for a charter, students of every ethnicity, except Latinos, go to schools with a higher concentration of their own ethnic group than the traditional school they left.

But like Minnesota charter advocates, Garcia emphasized that patterns of segregation are the result of an increased mobility that low-income, minority and immigrant families are experiencing for the first time.

“Charter schools have opened up choice to a whole strata of people who’ve never had it before,” he said. “What they do with that choice is really interesting.”

Bill Wilson of St. Paul’s Higher Ground Academy said that too much emphasis on whether or not schools are integrated misses the point.

“At the end of the day, the question remains, is learning occurring?” he said. “If that’s happening, is it then an issue what the color of the child is who sits in the seat where the learning is happening? I don’t think so.”