The Unlocking Potential Shell Game

Those of us who care about public education have become somewhat obsessive in trying to get policymakers to really look at what is happening in charter schools.

UP Academy is instructive. The in-district charter took over the Gavin Middle School in 2011.

Here is the CEO of Unlocking Potential:

One of the things we wanted to prove is that if you take the same student population that has always been in a school, and you surround them with really strong educational practices, including some of the practices charter schools are using, those same students can succeed at really high levels.”

That sounds really great, doesn’t it? And in one year, UP Academy doubled the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced at the former Gavin Middle School.

Or did they….

Because if this model is really a success you should be able to raise the test scores of the students who were actually attending the Gavin when it was taken over.

The first thing UP Academy did was push out a program for children with multiple handicaps (lab cluster). Interestingly, they are still housed at the Dorchester location but they are not considered part of UP Academy so their scores aren’t factored into the UP Academy Results.

In fact, UP Academy demands complete autonomy in Special Education affairs as can be seen by this email that was part of an FOIA request concerning UP Academies take over of another school, the Marshall. (Full emails from FOIA request at bottom of post)

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 5.53.30 PM

Then, UP Academy actively recruited students from the surrounding area sometimes by posing as a “private school.”(From same FOIA request)

Up Creaming-2

The test scores were raised by pushing out the most vulnerable of the population in the community and actively recruiting high achieving students NOT by any pedagogical method.

I have personally pointed the reality of this to policymakers so often that I have decided that lawmakers and the school districts are aware of what is happening. They simply don’t care. Because test scores are the most important thing in the education reform movement.

 I don’t know if they have decided that children who don’t score well are simply collateral damage but no one seems to think of them at all.

Scott Given was just awarded a $2.2 million grant from the Department of Education to scale up his model.

Freedom Of Information Requests Regarding UP Academy: Full Emails between Scott Givens and Boston Public Schools

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