Wednesday, June 08, 2011

IN THE NEWS: CRESCENDO + ICEF - Rewarding moral and fiscal bankruptcy

By smf for 4LAKidsNews

06/08/11 - Today's print and broadcast news have the stories that tell the story, it doesn’t take a lot of reading between the lines or connecting the dots.


Daily Breeze - Melissa Pamer -| ‎

Crescendo teachers last reported Allen's actions to Los Angeles Unified's charter division, which in turn reported the incidents to the state. The California Department of Education ruled the test scores invalid. The Los Angeles school board started a ... read on


MyFox Los Angeles /Associated Press|

AP Los Angeles - The Los Angeles Unified schools superintendent says he wants to halt the planned revocation of a charter school operator involved in a state testing scandal after seeing extensive reforms at the organization. ... read on


Op-Ed by Tim Rutten | LA Times |

Money woes threaten ICEF Public Schools, a charter school success story in South L.A. read on

Crescendo Charter Schools – a charter management organization which institutionally+intentionally cheated on the STAR – the California State Standards Test -  is going to be given another chance. And columnist Tim Rutten argues that financially challenged ICEF  (Inner City Educational Foundation)  is deserving of another chance - a 'bailout”.

Both of these entities are doing important, critical work – the most important work out there: The Education of Children. And both have failed at it. One cheated on the state test as a matter of official policy. The other has been unable to manage its finances and teeters on the brink of insolvency – meeting payroll is a challenge.

Charter Schools are a noble experiment encouraged-if-not-invented-by teachers' union leader/reform guru Al Shanker in the '70's – a way for for teachers and parents - the School Community – to take control of their local public schools and run them, exchanging stifling school district bureaucracy. for increased accountability and hopefully: better educational outcomes for children. Charters were to be  a test bed for reform – where best practices could be developed and lessons-learned shared.

However the result has been – in some but not all cases – the operation of public schools with private agendas (or agendae for the hopelessly over-educated). Best practices and lessons-learned are guarded as proprietary trade secrets – and charters and traditional schools compete for diminishing resources. When adults fight children always lose.

There is big money in public education and charter management corporations have viewed the Charter Movement as government deregulation of Public Education – and leveraged that dereg as an investment opportunity. There is money to be made in public education and they inserted themselves into the process – in so doing leveraging the funding for public education to their own advantage and into their wallets. As profits, fees, salaries, consultancies and lucrative contacts. Venture Capital and Arbitrage have found their way into Public Education – sometimes masquerading as the beneficent wonderfulness of Billionaire Philanthropy.

Earlier I wrote that there is money to be made in Public Education. Any Econ 101 student will tell you that there is also money to be lost in Public Education – and ICEF seems to have been doing that exceedingly well. ICEF has relied on a growth model of business, building more and more schools, continuously increasing audience penetration to build market share to attract more investment. “Audience Penetration” sounds like porn marketing …purely accidental I assure you!

In business school parlance ICEF outgrew its model; the decreased public funding for public education met the sour investment and real estate market (Education requires real estate) and the ICEF balance sheet went upside down. ICEF backers might forgive a late rent or loan payment but their employees are not about to forgive a missed paycheck. Suddenly the investors are not making capital investments but propping up day-to day/paycheck-to-paycheck operations. The happiness of the campers is directly proportionate to the potential for Return on Investment.

And while Tim Rutten argues that ICEF is deserving of another chance – that chance – that “bailout” must come from the Private Sector – there is no way that it can come the School District, the State of California or the Feds. Moreover the Board of Education – as the chartering entity – bears a sovereign fiscal and fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers, voters, parents (and most of all children) to oversee the fiscal operation of ICEF to assure the public that the children are and can be educated as the charter specifies - and that there is a reasonable expectation that the schools will remain solvent in the future.

Oversight is complicated by the nearly incestuous/revolving-door relationship between LAUSD's Charter School Division, the California Charter Schools Association , charter operators themselves and their champions/investors/proponents – including The Broad Foundation, The Gates Foundation and venture capital like New Schools Venture Fund. Take a look at incoming ICEF CEO Parker Hudnut's bio (follows).

AND THEN THERE'S CRESCENDO - where cheating on the STAR test was a matter of policy and operation. I sit on the LAUSD Discipline Policy Teak Force and we avoid 'zero tolerance' polices where kids are involved. If a student cheats on a test I believe that student is entitled to another chance. If an adult cheats on a test in their official, institutional capacity I'm not quite so generous.

In this case the founder of Crescendo allegedly conspired with administrators to direct employees to cheat on the state test – not just defrauding the state and Crescendo’s students but all students in that overall results statewide were skewed.

Money was at stake because test scores equal money in public education, especially charter schools. The formulae go like this:

  • ADA (Average Daily Attendance) = $.

  • API (Academic Performance Index) = $$.

  • AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) = $$$.

When the Crescendo Board of Directors (who are public trustees) found out they first denied that wrongdoing took place, then downplayed the wrongdoing, then slapped slapped the wrist of the founder, and finally - when - faced with their own culpability replaced him …after providing a generous severance package. Initially the CEO of the California Charter School Association defended Crescendo's actions.

Al Shanker's initial premise in encouraging charter schools was exchanging administrival bureaucracy for increased accountability. Somehow we have tossed out accountability with the baby and the bathwater.

The questions ultimately are these: When is enough enough? When is not enough, enough already?



Incoming CEO/ICEF

From the Broad Residency site |

“The Broad Residency is a leadership development program that places participants into full-time high-level managerial positions in school districts, CMOs, and federal/state departments of education. While working, Broad Residents receive two years of professional development and access to a nationwide network of education leaders. Residents are often tasked with leading major projects like opening new schools, leading budgeting processes, increasing operational efficiencies, improving human resources, or supporting the launch of major policy initiatives. In these roles they can have an immediate impact on the education of America’s students.”

The Broad Residency Class of 2005-2007
Current Organization: Los Angeles Unified School District
M.B.A., The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
B.A., Environmental Science, University of Virginia

In September 2009, Parker Hudnut was appointed as the executive director of innovation and charter schools for Los Angeles Unified School District. In this role, he manages a performance-driven district of charter, pilot and other autonomous schools educating over 90,000 K-12 students. He is also responsible for Public School Choice, the annual process of transforming low performing schools throughout the district by selecting an operator through a competitive process. Previously, he served as the COO/CFO at the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, a nonprofit charter management organization creating a network of high-performing charter schools in Los Angeles. Hudnut was also the director of development at Chancellor Beacon Academies (now Imagine Schools), leading the expansion of charter schools in Arizona, New York, Michigan and Florida. Hudnut also helped launch the e-learning company Quisic and was an analyst at the consulting firm of Putnam, Hayes and Bartlett. Hudnut holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in business administration from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Hudnut participated in The Broad Residency in Urban Education Cohort 2005, serving his two-year Residency at the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools.

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