New York Charter Approval Process an Object Lesson Against Common Core?
In November 2014, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and New York State Regents approved a charter to open September 2015 in Rochester, New York: Greater Works Charter School (GWCS).
The lead applicant of GWCS, Ted J. Morris, Jr., lied about his credentials. Still NYSED and Regents approved GWCS. As his fraudulent credentials and embellished experience were exposed, Morris resigned from the GWCS board. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch tried to deflect blame to NYSED. Neither NYSED nor Regents expressed any inclination to revoke GWCS’s approval despite there being no assurance that Morris would not return in some capacity.
Now, in a wonderful turn of events for the community of Rochester, NYSED asked the GWCS board to rescind its application, and the GWCS board did so. Therefore, to quote the now-former-GWCS board chair Peter Kozik, “Greater Works is done.”
However, here is a nugget regarding the NYSED charter approval process, one divulged by NYSED spokesperson Dennis Tompkins: “We don’t grant charters to individuals. We grant charters to boards based on the application.” [Emphasis added.]
NYSED apparently does not investigate the individuals behind the application. What is in the application is taken at face value.
And you know what came to my mind?
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) ELA and its emphasis on New Criticism literary analysis. This means that CCSS ELA requires students to remain within a text when citing evidence.
That’s why CCSS “lead architect” David Coleman’s favored technique of “close reading” is so suited to teaching CCSS ELA.
Thus, the text stands as its own unchallenged authority.
This is a dangerous practice when the stakes are high– as they are in choosing to hand over both children and state funding to charter schools.
In the case of NYSED charter approval, what apparently constitutes a “sound application” is one that “looks good” and that serves as its own final authority.
In other words, in “soundly approving” charter applications, NYSED performs a “close read”: It does not look beyond the information as it is presented in the application itself– an amazing opportunity for fraud.
No verification of credentials and experience of the lead applicant or prospective board beyond what is written on the application.
A potential fraud bonanza.
To game this lame system, all one must do is create a visually appealing application to gain NYSED approval (and, in turn, rubber-stamped Regents approval). One could completely fabricate the credentials and experience that the individuals involved are supposed to submit as part of the application.
CCSS ELA in all of its real-world limitation.
How pathetic that NYSED needed a Ted J. Morris, Jr., to come along and be blown away in (primarily) social media in order to discover the folly of their flimsy “review” process.
So now, as the December 1, 2014, Democrat and Chronicle reports, NYSED is protecting Charter School Office Director Bill Clarke from the press while it reconsiders its use of “close reading” as its preferred method of approving charter applications:
NYSED would not make Bill Clarke, its charter school office director, available for an on-the-record interview, and did not respond to specific questions about Greater Works, but spokesman Tom Dunn said the department is reviewing its charter school application process.
I can just imagine the flurry of emails and other communications transpiring among NYSED, the GWCS board, and even Regents over this Bill-Clarke-directed “close read” embarrassment.
But don’t blame Bill. It seems he was only following “fewer, clearer, higher.”
NYSED (and Regents) charter approval ineptitude: The closest CCSS ELA has come to being piloted to date.
Potential lesson learned:
Sometimes, one must exit a text in order to access other texts, or individuals, or other communications and evidence, for purposes of authentication.
NYSED needs common sense, not Common Core. But common sense is not so “common.”
New York will have to wait and see if NYSED forsakes its charter-application-review, “close read” insufficiency or just tries for a “rebrand.”
Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education