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Charter School Failure: Why Imagine and Heritage Weren’t Included in FCAT Tallies

| July 1, 2010

imagine school at town center palm coast flagler county

At least it's improving. (© FlaglerLive)

On Tuesday, Florida finally released FCAT scores, after a five-week delay. We broke down those scores and posted them here, school by school. Charter schools were not included.

Brett Cunningham, a teacher at Imagine School, the charter school at Town Center, commented: “It sure would be nice if the county’s charter schools were actually represented here as they are indeed schools, filled with students with parents and families all the same.”

Click On:

Cunningham is right. They are indeed schools filled with parents and families. That’s about where the comparison ends. Comparing charter schools to regular public schools, on the same plane, gives the impression that charter schools and public schools are of equal stature. They’re not. Charter schools are to public education what double-A ball is to baseball: a training ground, perhaps an experimental ground, although in double-A baseball the rules are the same as in the major leagues in a way that they’re not when comparing charter school regulations to regular public schools. Charter schools get a bye on significant regulations. I’ll get back to that.

For the record, and since Brett Cunningham raised the matter, FCAT passing score rates at Imagine are below district levels in every grade, in math and reading, except for 4th grade reading (significantly higher: 89 at Imagine–based on results for 45 students–77 in the district) and fifth grade math (by 3 points). That’s it.

Editor’s Blog

Otherwise, the results are middling to dismal: 42 in 6th grade math (compared with 57 for the district), 67 in 6th grade reading, 51 in 7th grade math–11 points below the district–and, horror of horrors, 35 in eighth grade reading, compared with 55 in the district (not that the district has anything to be proud of in that regard, or the state, for that matter, which also comes in at 55). And eighth grade math? : 53, compared with a district average of 70.

Did you really want those figures highlighted, Mr. Cunningham?

An important point as far as Imagine is concerned is this: it’s barely a two-year-old school, and analyzing scores for a school that young should itself be put in its proper perspective, which Lisa O’Grady, the principal at Imagine, did: “We were a D school last year and our proficiency percentage this year increased across the board dramatically, and I think that’s the message that my staff is very, very proud of,” O’Grady said. “We are trying to raise the bar for charter schools in our community and we have shown good faith in our second year. The progress is outstanding.”

No question. And luckily for Imagine, there’s always Heritage Academy, one of the other charters in town, to make it look better, though it’s like Arkansas pointing to Mississippi and saying look, things are worse over there! They unfortunately are, disastrously so, and this is no laughing matter, because children are not guinea pigs, though charter schools make them so (and parents, who put their children in there in the first place, play along).

Heritage has been open in one manner or another since 2005, so the young-school syndrome doesn’t apply. It recently re-branded itself, from Academies of Excellence, which ran Cornerstone Elementary, Summit Academy and Heritage High School in Bunnell, to the combined K-12 Heritage Academy (kind of like British Petroleum doing the BP thing with a bright green flower around it). Scores are not only below district averages in every single reading and math category, in every grade (fifth-grade reading being the single exception). They are horrendously below district and state averages. Some examples: Heritage’s 7th graders, in math: 15 percent passed, compared with 62 percent in the district. Seventh grade reading: 40 percent passed, compared to 67 percent in the district. Ninth grade is just as bad: 18 percent passed in reading and math, and just 14 percent passed in 8th grade reading, and 12 percent passed in 10th grade reading.

Amazingly, the Flagler County School Board just this month approved extending Heritage’s charter by an extra year. But state legislators made sure that local school boards, which are ultimately accountable for charters’ performance, have very limited authority to deny a charter’s existence. It’s one of those calculated no-win slams legislators imposed on school districts. (Palm Harbor Academy is in its first year with just 45 students spread out over three grades. Its results are also very poor.)

So much for the details. A quick explanation as to why charter schools weren’t included in FlaglerLive’s round-up of public school results. It’s not just a matter of leagues or quality.

Charter schools are entirely paid for with taxpayer money. Entirely. But charter schools get a pass on regulations and standards regular public schools must abide by, which means that Florida from the outset, when it wrote the charter school law in 1996, lowered the bar for charter schools, an ideologically driven decision that has nothing to do with education, except to undermine the concept of traditional public schools in the name of innovation. Some charter schools have been fantastically innovative under that model. Most have not, and have cheated students of the far better education they’d be getting in the regular public school setting.

Charter schools are exempt from the Florida K-20 Education Code, with exceptions when it comes to students with disabilities, civil rights and so on, and public record requirements. Promotion rules that apply in regular public schools don’t apply in charter schools. Grading standards that apply, by law, across the state’s public schools don’t apply in charter schools, so an 85, which would be a B in public schools, could just as easily be an A in an inflationary charter school. Health and PE requirements? Don’t apply. General curriculum requirements all the way down to more specific civic education or even more specific but critical requirements, in Florida law, to teach (for example) the Holocaust “in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping” (that’s the law’s actual language) don’t apply in charter schools. Nor do requirements to teach “The history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery.” Waivers like that are inexcusable, and downright backward.

Obviously, that means charter schools can also exceed state standards. But academic results suggest strongly that the race is to the bottom, not the top.

Many building regulations don’t apply to charters. Local school board policies don’t extend to charter schools, even though school boards authorize those schools. And of course charter schools can, like private schools, pick and choose students in a way that public schools may not, including limiting the number of at-risk students taken in.

Also, the Legislature just passed a law exempting charter schools from abiding by the sort of class-size limits that are badgering school district budgets and site-based school management. The exemption, slipped into a bill by Polk County’s Sen. J.D. Alexander in the last session, was a straight-out favor to Alexander’s constituents in a county with 22 charter schools. It had no justification that couldn’t apply just as much to regular public schools. (Charters can still go by school-wide averages instead of class-by-class ratios, as regular schools must this fall.)

All of that would lead one to believe that charters are set up to focus on their core mission and excel. They don’t.(Especially not in Flagler County.) It’s the reverse. Florida legislators are setting up public schools to fail while promoting charters. I’m with Flagler County School Board Chairman Evie Shellenberger on this one. She summed it up perfectly on May 18: “The folks in Tallahassee, to me, their goal is to shut down public schools. Shut down public schools and go to charter schools.”

The charter craze began in the 1990s when public schools were getting slandered by reactionaries as part of that anti-government mentality that worshiped deregulation and free markets in all things, schools included. It was all about vouchers and charters. Those who opposed them were labeled troglodytes who opposed innovation. Parents don’t respond well to their children being treated like commodities, so the charter movement came up with one of these ingenious word plays, calling it “school choice.”

Diane Ravitch was one of the leaders in that craze. She wrote policy in the first Bush’s Department of Education and in the Clinton administration that fostered the voucher-and-charter epidemic. She was supportive of the early versions of No Child Left behind. Gradually over the last few years, she reversed course, realizing that the data of a decade and a half of the experiment never matched the promise. She ridiculed how states, Florida among them still, “responded to NCLB by dumbing down their standards so that they could claim to be making progress.” And she owned up to her own mistake about charter schools. Yes, they had great promise, she wrote in the Wall Street Journal in March,

But the promise has not been fulfilled. Most studies of charter schools acknowledge that they vary widely in quality. The only major national evaluation of charter schools was carried out by Stanford economist Margaret Raymond and funded by pro-charter foundations. Her group found that compared to regular public schools, 17% of charters got higher test scores, 46% had gains that were no different than their public counterparts, and 37% were significantly worse.

Charter evaluations frequently note that as compared to neighboring public schools, charters enroll smaller proportions of students whose English is limited and students with disabilities. The students who are hardest to educate are left to regular public schools, which makes comparisons between the two sectors unfair. The higher graduation rate posted by charters often reflects the fact that they are able to “counsel out” the lowest performing students; many charters have very high attrition rates (in some, 50%-60% of those who start fall away). Those who survive do well, but this is not a model for public education, which must educate all children.

[…] Given the weight of studies, evaluations and federal test data, I concluded that deregulation and privately managed charter schools were not the answer to the deep-seated problems of American education. If anything, they represent tinkering around the edges of the system. They affect the lives of tiny numbers of students but do nothing to improve the system that enrolls the other 97%.

Parents are trained to detect snake oil, which explains why that 3 percent isn’t a larger number. That’s another reason not to play up charters’ importance more than they should be when reporting about public schools: they don’t deserve equal time, because they don’t have it, and they don’t provide it. Advertising them, or reporting about them, as if they did (in the same context as public schools) misrepresents the facts. That would be an example of false balance.

Don’t get me wrong. They’ll be reported on. I’ve been tracking Flagler’s charter schools—their financial reports, their issues with the school board—and look forward to walking their halls should the occasion arise. But while Florida has lowered the bar of charter school standards, I’ve raised mine as far as they’re concerned: rather than play into the rah-rah reflexes of applauding charter schools as “choice” and “competition” and other such meaningless clichés, the burden is on charter schools to prove why they deserve to be considered on the same level as the traditional public schools, let alone be given anywhere near the attention regular public schools get and deserve.

34 Responses for “Charter School Failure: Why Imagine and Heritage Weren’t Included in FCAT Tallies”

  1. Citizen says:

    While I agree that charter schools may fail to produce students who perform well on a standardized test, I think in a lot of ways that may be the point. The problem with your argument is that your premise rests entirely on the principal that “higher standardized test scores == better educated student”. That is the heart of this issue. Teaching children to do well on a test doesn’t mean you’re teaching them to think critically, to solve problems, to apply knowledge, and be effective in life.

    The easy way out is for someone to invent a test and say, “As long as they score X or improve by Y we’ve educated our children” but it’s a cop out. Maybe kids aren’t good at taking written tests in some cases but that in no way means that they don’t have mastery of a subject.

    Our education system should be more focused on preparing students for life. I don’t know of many careers where you take a test to advance your position. Well, except of course, and ironically so, in the GOVERNMENT, MILITARY, or Government regulated professions. The reason you don’t take a test to go from CFO to CEO in industry is that your demonstrated ability in many forms are what matters. What were you able to accomplish after the real-world got in the way, how did you adapt and overcome to achieve goals? Education is about putting new tools in our toolbox but most of all about learning to use them effectively to accomplish something. You can’t measure that with a multiple-choice test in a classroom.

  2. Jim Guines says:

    WOW! This is a must read!

  3. Matt Hendricks says:

    Reading this article, I can tell Mr. Tristam has never spent anytime in an Imagine School. I personally worked with Imagine Schools for 4 years. I also have work with Lisa O’Grady at an Imagine school that worked to raise their school grades in the elementary and middle school from a C and a D to both schools receiving an A. Imagine is HIGHLY dedicated to doing anything and everything to help foster the best education a child could ever have! As the comment above said you can’t look at standardized test scores to understand the total success of a child.

    Many students who go to a charter school are students who left public schools because public schools did not work for them. What is so great about charter schools is that they don’t follow the cookie cutter methods that worked 50 years ago. Those methods are challenged at a charter school. They search to see if there is something newer and better. Change is very difficult. Sometimes you may not succeed. However, I feel it is definitely important to keep trying to improve the way we educate our children instead of always accepting the same methods, just because it is how we were taught. The world is ever changing and we must also change in order to be successful.

    I must agree with Mr. Tristam that public schools and charter schools are not on the same level. But if that is the case then he should not have written a whole article comparing the two. That is like comparing apples to oranges. If you take the time to compare an apple to an apple, then you can compare Imagine Schools at Town Center’s FCAT scores from 2009 to the scores from 2010. Then it’s easy to see the growth the students have made due to all the hard work and dedication put in by the students, parents, teachers and staff at Imagine Schools at Town Center.

    As I already mentioned, change takes time. Imagine Schools at Town Center is just breaking ground. They have only been open for 2 years. Seeing how much growth they had this year, I know Imagine Schools at Town Center is making great progress to be something amazing!

  4. PCadiron says:

    If the public schools test scores aren’t that great and the charter school is even worse, what are our options as parents? There are very few private schools in this area either, unless you want to send your child to a Catholic or Christian school. Even then, they would have to attend the public high schools.
    I am concerned about sending my child to school here in the next few years. I think we would be better off leaving the state!

  5. A parent says:

    Homeschooling is looking better every day.

  6. Marjorie says:

    My child will be going to Imagine School this Fall. I don’t look at test scores, I will evaluate how well my child is doing academically. But I don’t depend on Imagine for her education-I play a role. I do find the homeschooling parents tend to be critical of the school system (charter and public).
    But I do appreciate the information. Thanks Pierre.

  7. dlf says:

    Not having children in either public or charter schools I can not speak with and pro or con comments. I do know that we have spent a great deal of money to improve the education of our youth.Tons of money was spent during the Bush and Clinton years and the improvement was zero or a little bit above. I guess this is anothe example of our goverment taking over a project, pouring millions of dollars into it and coming out with nothing. When do we start holding these people accountable for the their results? If this was a public run business it would be out of business in a short period of time. But the talking heads in Washington and local officials continue to think that more money will solve the problem. It does sound to me like the playing field is not level, however no one is winning and the game is about over. Good article with some interesting facts.

  8. says:

    Sounds like you have made the charter schools a personal agenda Pierre, I supose I was mistaken in thinking this was a news source rather thatn a personal opinion blog.

  9. Pierre Tristam says:

    Have a look at the overhead on this piece crackercoast: rather clearly labeled Editor’s Blog. I’ll add it to the body of the text if you like, though even here there are no agendas. Just an explanation of why I don’t buy the state’s sell of charter schools being in the same league as public schools.

    At any rate, I got the following email addressed to “To Whom It May Concern” (unnecessarily, since there are no whoms here), from Brett Cunningham, fifth grade teacher at Imagine, whom I tried unsuccessfully to reach today by phone before running the piece (the staff at school assured me they’d relay the message):

    What an unexpected piece of writing, prompted by my audacity to ask to be included with all public schools. While I understand your numerous and slightly inconsequential issues with charter schools (please, by all means come to my classroom and allow me to dissolve your concerns and preconceived notions in mere moments), keeping our schools out of the news because we’re inferior recalls the nadir of race relations prior to the Civil Rights Movement. We are not inferior educators, I can assure you that. I teach to the Sunshine State Standards, and well beyond. We were recently recommended for full accreditation with SACS CASI.

    I am a public school teacher, even if you feel that the institution I work for is inferior, I inspire students all the same. I can’t afford to be as cynical as you, and I am proud of the work we do at Imagine. The scores are immaterial to me, and that is in keeping with public sentiment which is posted all around here. Your readers seem to understand the FCAT better than you do. To not print the scores is to imply that we don’t exist, and don’t matter to those families and educators who DO believe in our school. I do not work at an Imaginary school, I work at Imagine, a public charter school which was opened with the blessing of one of your very board members, Mr. Delbrugge. If you so lament the charter option in public schools, perhaps you should direct some of your criticism back toward the system that allowed my school to exist in the first place.

    We are tenacious educators, and exceptionally creative to make up for the lack in state funding -we receive 65% of per-pupil funds that district schools do- and we hold ourselves to every standard that district schools do, even if the State does not.

    If you would like me to begin amassing a portfolio of “proof” that we at Imagine deserve to be considered on the same level as the traditional public schools, which we refer to as district schools, I would be more than happy to do so. I am convinced that you are wrong to so purposefully, spitefully, and immaturely withhold attention given to our school. I shouldn’t have to do that, though, because we work just as hard, just as many long hours, are just as devoted to our students, inspire them just as fervently, and take pride in their achievements every single bit as much as district schools. I truly hope the people on your staff do not feel as adamantly about this issue as you clearly do. Your blog reveals far more about your character than it does ours. I inspire students and I work at a real school in Flagler County and if you are a news-reporting agency in this county then I expect to see our school represented when it is fair to do so.

    If you exclude us because we’re not worthy, not on the same level, then you’re saying that every parent made a poor choice for their children by sending them to school at Imagine, that each educator teaching there tirelessly is not worthy, that SACS CASI made a poor decision, that what we do within our walls doesn’t amount to sheer magic on our best days.

    I’ll let my piece speaks for itself, except for one point. Charters’ separate and unequal standards aside, comparing reporting (or lack of reporting) on voluntary and privately run charter schools in any way to Jim Crow is a howler. You’re not going to get sympathy or respect by identifying with a calamity that has nothing to do with an ideological experiment where no one is forced into anything, except taxpayers and school districts forced to shell out money to gamble on the charter crapshoot. But thanks for the email, reproduced here in full.

  10. PCadiron says:

    I posted this on another article, so I apologize if some of you had to read it twice. I’m just looking for some clarification.

    I’m a new parent, so please excuse my ignorant questions. Do the children need to pass the FCATs in order to advance to the next grade? Do they affect their overall GPA when applying to colleges? Are charter and private schools required to administer these tests? Do the scores determine the school rating? What rating are the Flagler district schools?

    My son is only 2, but I am very concerned with what I have read in some of the articles on this site. It seems there is no good choice in Flagler County, or maybe even in Florida overall!!! Should we be preparing to move out of state before he starts Kindergarten? (We moved here from NC)

    To the parents out there who expect their children to get a good education, whether public, charter, or private, please offer me some advice!!!


  11. Pierre Tristam says:

    Children in 3rd grade have to pass the reading and math portions of the FCAT to make it to 4th grade. And 10th graders have to pass reading, math, and now science, to graduate; should 10th graders fail in 10th grade, they get to retake it a good number of times through 12th grade, and more than 90 percent end up clearing the hurdle. FCAT does not affect students’ GPA, and out-of-state colleges don’t look at the FCAT nearly as closely as they do national tests such as the ACT or the SAT, because the FCAT is dumbed down and applies to Florida students only (though it’s produced by the even dumber Pearson company, which writes tests for several states and occasionally manages to grade them on time).

    There are fine schools locally, and Flagler is better off than most counties; even its FCAT scores consistently rank in the top quarter in the state, though Florida in general, and this Legislature in particular, is third-rate when it comes to its commitment to public education. In the end though I think if you depend on a school, any school anywhere, to be the mainstay of your child’s education, you’ll be disappointed. A school is your adjunct, a complement to how you’re educating your child. I think that’s as true in Florida as it would be in Oxford or Taiwan.

  12. PCadiron says:

    Thank you for some clarification Pierre. I seem to remember similar testing standards growing up in New York State. Too many years have passed for me to remember what we took though, oh boy I’m getting old…haha!

    I absolutely agree with you about parental involvement when it comes to raising a well rounded, well educated child/young adult. It is ultimately up to the parents and the child to make sure they are getting the best education possible, and doing the best they can, no matter the environment.

    I have a lot of homework to do within the next few years!! Is it crazy for a parent to start visiting/interviewing schools now, while their child isn’t even in preschool yet?!? Yes, I am a neurotic parent:-) I hope my son appreciates it later on, rather than hating me for it.

  13. Matt Hendricks says:

    To clarify Mr. Tristam’s comment “Children in 3rd grade have to pass the reading and math portions of the FCAT to make it to 4th grade..” FCAT scores work on a scale of 1-5. A 3 is considered passing in both reading and math. In 3rd grade, a child is retained if they receive a score of a 1 in reading. They are not retained for receiving a score of a 2 (which is still not passing). Also, there are no retention requirements for not passing the math portion.
    To question “Are charter and private schools required to administer these tests?” Charter schools are required to administer FCAT because they receive state funding. Private schools are not required as they receive no state funding.
    As far as your other questions ” Do the scores determine the school rating? What rating are the Flagler district schools?” The FCAT scores do determine the School Grade. It’s a very confusing formula they use, but somehow it makes sense. If you want to see the School Grades you can visit: .
    I would highly encourage you not to base your decision of where to send your child soley on FCAT scores. I’d talk with members of your community and even visit the schools yourself.

  14. Bob K says:

    My daughter received her HIGHEST FCAT scores the years she was homeschooled. I expect Pierre will have an article soon excoriating the public school system as compared to homeschooling.

  15. says:

    Thank you for the clarification Pierre, However It is not clear that this is a blog. It Does not appear in the header as linked directly here . perhaps when you navigate from the front page it is. ” Editor’s Blog” does appear in the Categories at the bottom. Perhaps this is a difference in how the page is seen by the public and the Admin.
    Quite Frankly I think that is what is wrong with Journalism today to much opinion and not enough facts.
    That’s the difference I expect in forums and blogs like Crackercoast and a reliable news source.
    In My opinion The Fcats are worthless if not detrimental because of the interruption of the curriculum for several weeks as they prepare the students and administer the test. Determining budgets by the results of these test is quite silly as the students have not got an incentive to do well. The schools however do have a grave consequence if they don’t do well.

  16. Citizen says:

    Although I obviously disagree with the conclusions drawn by the editor, I have to say that this article was never represented as anything other than an opinion piece. There is a bit of a slant on FlaglerLive but at least they don’t beat around the bush about it. Every publication leans one way or the other regardless of how pure their intentions may be, the writers are human. The difference is the others are deceptive about trying to influence you and hide behind claims of “fair and balanced”. I would much rather read something and know where the author stands, even if he does occasionally take a side, at least he’s upfront about it.

    Thus far I’m impressed with Mr. Tristam and this site. It’s refreshing and it is clear when reading articles here that they are not writing to win popularity contests, preserve the status quo, or make sure everyone feels like a winner. It’s clearly an honest and forthcoming representation of the truth as the author sees it. Nothing has been written that I have seen that raises any question to their integrity. I hope it stays that way but only time will tell.

  17. proud parent says:

    I’m not sure were to begin with my response to your article. I think I will begin with your reference to the students at Imagine being “guinea pigs”. I am a very proud Imagine parent. I resent your implications that I am using my child as a “guinea pig” and implying that I must not care. You could not be further from the truth. My child was in one of our “wonderful” public schools. It was one of the worst experiences. My child was told that she was “stupid” by the teacher. To get a meeting with the teachers, you had to beg and wait for them to feel like returning the call. Administration was even worse. They did not care about the parents and would not let you on the campus outside of the office. I wonder what they are trying to hide? My child started a downward slide and came home every night crying that she was to stupid to pass. I changed schools to Imagine. Immediately there were major changes. The teachers wanted input from me. They called every night to tell me what was going on. They worked with her to make sure she understood that she was not “stupid”. The teachers made sure that she was growing. Today, as a result, she is a straight A student. I know what you are going to say, so let me stop you. Imagine follows the same grading scale as the public schools. They do not call an 85 an A, it is a B just like any other school. We follow the same rules and curriculum. I switched my daugher mid year. She had the same exact books, the only difference was that at Imagine, they were 4 weeks ahead of the Public school. The difference between the charter school and public school is the involvement. Parents are required to spend 20 hours per year at the school volunteering. Do you get that at the public schools? No!!! It was like pulling teeth to get someone to help.

    As far as the FCAT scores go, how about using so logic in your assessment instead of a slam job. We are a new school. A large part of the students that have come to Imagine during the first 2 years have come for a reason, including not fitting in to the “public system”, poor grades and lack of understanding by the teachers. They were behind to start with and now are improving and gaining every day as the result of the teachers!!! What public school do you know of were a parent can walk in and go to the Principals office to talk anytime without an appointment? I know it would never happen at the public school we attended. It was easier to get into Fort Knox than her office.

    We must be doing something right if our enrollment continues to have a waiting list every year while we increase the capacity. It is a shame that you have used your position to give YOUR opinions without keeping the facts straight. It is also obvious that you have not been to the school. We receive a fraction of the money that the public schools do and yet we continue to grow and improve. Imagine was awarded the SACS accreditation after only 2 years!!!! Who else in the county has gotten that in such a short time frame? I was allowed to sit in on the final meeting with the SACS team. I have never been more proud of a group of teachers and administration than I was of the Imagine Team. They put their heart and soul into our children every day and the SACS accreditors saw that same thing. This is why we continue to improve. Our FCAT scores may still be low, but they are improving every year and our children are growing in more ways than learning how to take a test. There are other things that are just as important in an education. We also do not spend the entire year learning only things that are on the FCAT test to make our scores look better. Imagine is providing a well rounded education with other things besides the stupid test, whch as you pointed out, is only used in Florida and not looked at by colleges for admissions.

    Next time, it might be worth your time to check all of your facts and not use your position to further your friends (school board members) or your opinions of things that you obviously do not know about. It only makes you look stupid. Maybe you should take the FCAT test so we can see how you rank?

    Proud Parent

  18. PCRes says:

    Mr. Tristam, your opinion regarding charter schools is irrelevant if you are reporting a news story. Parents and other teachers, for that matter, should be able to compare and contrast the scores. Some people use that as a measuring stick, whether you like to or not. As long as tax payers are funding these schools in some way, then they need to be reported. If you want to condemn the schools, then you are free to do so in your editorial piece, as you did. But to leave it out of the news means you’re editorializing, and therefore are not reporting without bias.

  19. Pierre Tristam says:

    No argument there PCR, especially the points about taxpayer dollars and measuring sticks. We’ll get those scores up soon and they’ll be included in the charters’ individual sections, which have been on the site in the schools’ drop-down tab for a while now. As a matter of priority, for the reasons explained above, the traditional public schools will always go up first when there’s an issue of timing. But in the not-so long run they’ll all be up there.

  20. PCRes says:

    Thanks for the response, but the scores were available Tuesday morning on the DOE website for all schools, public and semi-public, in the state. Also, math is not a requirement to pass 3rd grade. Again, from the DOE website.

  21. PCRes says:

    @Citizen: This was the article. It wasn’t an opinion piece.

    And to everyone else: I’ve yet to meet a teacher who is teaching students how to take the test. If you don’t care for the FCAT, that’s fine. I have issues with it, myself. But in Flagler County, the majority of teachers are not teaching how to take the test.

    I would also like to know how do you measure the effectiveness of the teacher and student performance? Right now, all we have are complaints about the FCAT and how it doesn’t prove anything. The SAT and ACT are fine for high school students, but not every student takes it. You can’t use report card grades because they are highly subjective. If they weren’t, colleges wouldn’t rely upon the SAT and ACT.


    WOW! Mr. Tristam did you have a child that wasn’t accepted into a charter school?

    I would suggest when reporting news you should make an attempt to keep your personal opinion, whether directly stated or implied, completely out of the report.

    By the way, our child has been fortunate enough to attend private schools and charter schools in her 10 years of life.She has not attended public school yet, and won’t if we can help it. In her 6 years of school she has maintained an A-B average in all her classes since Pre-K! We have a part in her success because we agree the school system and its teachers (public, private or charter) are not solely respnosible for our childs growth, education and development. WE ARE INVOLVED PARENTS!

    We are PROUD parents of a charter school student and she will attend the same charter school next year (2010/2011 school year). We have no regrets.

    We also hope a charter high school comes in to Flagler County before we have to make a deicision of which public high school she must attend.

  23. gmemom says:

    Mr. Tristam, I also completely disagree with your very negative OPINION of charter schools. I have chosen for my child a smaller school, a place where most of the teachers from each grade level know her name, a place where a very shy child can blossom. Her teachers have been great and she is making wonderful progress as indicated by the SAT-10’s given twice a year (not old enough for the FCAT). It’s not for everyone, but that is what choice is about. I’ve been told that your family homeschools and I support that choice for you. Many of the students at Imagine have come from the homeschooling community and this is their first year in taking the FCAT.

    Please remember that the older kids at Imagine, specifically 8th grade were “horror of horrors” educated at the district schools for 6 – 7 years before coming to Imagine. Compare the 2009 scores to the 2010 scores and you will see growth as the students move from 7th to 8th grade. I encourage everyone to check out the official state site for complete details versus slanted details to see the growth at Imagine. Your lumping of all charter schools together disguises the fact that Imagine is making gains comparable to the district schools. I would think that the school board would be proud of themselves for making such a wise decision in selecting Imagine, a viable choice for parents. Check the state site, they do include all schools in their numbers because it reflects the true FCAT scores for our county, not the customized version you have devised.

    Congratulations Mr. Tristam, you’ve gotten one of your biggest responses for this slam piece. Beware though; publicity is a double edge sword. Imagine already has a wait list for most every grade. Thanks to you, more people will know how great the school is and they should be able to fill the remaining slots. Thanks again!!!

  24. Anonymous says:

    WOW!! This author doesnt seem objective at all, from the tone of the article it is clear that the author is biased and has an obvious bone to pick. First and foremost, Mr. Brett Cunningham its one of the BEST teachers that this state and that school has. He loves his job and loves the students, and is proud of what he does which is something that a whole lot of teachers don’t do anymore. It is very difficult to find a teacher up to his standards, so lay off. Second thing Imagine doesn’t put as much stock in the FCAT scores as state schools do, not to say that they don’t find them important; but they use them to grade the improvement that they are making as a school and are not comparing themselves to the state themselves. I have often complained that the FCAT or state tests like them are over rated. Most states concentrate on them all year around and if there is a student that cant keep up with the pace the school set, then they are left behind and the schools concentrate solely on the ones that can do well on the test so that that school can get the best grade. I have seen it over and over. I have always said the state schools dont care if the children can spell CAT as long as they can fill the bubble in on the state test. My kids have went To Imagine since it started and I love that school, couldn’t Imagine sending my kids any where else. Above earning a good grade on the FCAT you also have to put your children’s happiness and well being at the top of the list and my children are happier here then anywhere they have ever been and to me that makes for a better learning environment.


    Misty Ritchie

  25. CanSpeakForMyself says:

    I’m not impressed with this “Editor’s Blog” at all. You said, ” (and parents, who put their children in there in the first place, play along.” What puts you in a position to decide what we parents are doing? Reading this page? article? random thoughts? has left you with very little credibilty in my mind. We left a public school because of the bullying. Horrible behavior was allowed to go on. Teachers and the Vice Principal do nothing. My child’s safety is most important to me.

    a mother of 3 A-Honor Roll students.

  26. Citizen2 says:

    Mr. Tristam,

    You stated, “Children in 3rd grade have to pass the reading and math portions of the FCAT to make it to 4th grade.”

    Actually, 3rd graders must pass the reading portion with at least a 2 (out of 5) to be promoted to the 4th grade. They DO NOT have to pass the math portion to move on. See FLDOE information below.

    12. At what grade levels must students pass the FCAT?
    Grade 3 students must earn an FCAT Reading score of Level 2 or higher on a scale of 1 – 5 in order to be promoted to Grade 4. Graduating seniors must pass both the Reading and Mathematics sections of the Grade 10 FCAT to graduate from high school with a standard high school diploma. Requirements of FCAT scores for passing to the next grade level are set by school districts throughout Florida, as stated in each district’s Student Progression Plan, as permitted in s. 1008.22(3)(c), F.S.)

    Moving on, I absolutely loved the following response … I believe this was the first response to this op/ed. Thank you “Citizen” for emphasizing that a standardized test can in no way fully measure a child’s educational growth, subject mastery, and future educational/life growth/success. This is indeed “the heart of this issue.” Have students acquired the knowledge and skills needed to be productive adults with a passion for life and learning or have they learned only what they need to know in order to pass a test? In addition to the aforementioned response (below), I would also recommend reading a piece recently included in the Orlando Sentinel titled, “Lessons from Hogwarts” by Andrea L. Finkle.

    Citizen says:
    July 1, 2010 at 12:40 pm
    “While I agree that charter schools may fail to produce students who perform well on a standardized test, I think in a lot of ways that may be the point. The problem with your argument is that your premise rests entirely on the principal that “higher standardized test scores == better educated student”. That is the heart of this issue. Teaching children to do well on a test doesn’t mean you’re teaching them to think critically, to solve problems, to apply knowledge, and be effective in life.
    The easy way out is for someone to invent a test and say, “As long as they score X or improve by Y we’ve educated our children” but it’s a cop out. Maybe kids aren’t good at taking written tests in some cases but that in no way means that they don’t have mastery of a subject.
    Our education system should be more focused on preparing students for life. I don’t know of many careers where you take a test to advance your position. Well, except of course, and ironically so, in the GOVERNMENT, MILITARY, or Government regulated professions. The reason you don’t take a test to go from CFO to CEO in industry is that your demonstrated ability in many forms are what matters. What were you able to accomplish after the real-world got in the way, how did you adapt and overcome to achieve goals? Education is about putting new tools in our toolbox but most of all about learning to use them effectively to accomplish something. You can’t measure that with a multiple-choice test in a classroom.”

    Well said.

  27. Mr. Cunningham says:

    Charter School Successes: Imagine School at Town Center goes from a D in its inaugural year to an A in its second year! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Tristam!

  28. Pierre Tristam says:

    I’m strictly a Latakia and Balkan man when it comes to my pipe tobacco (Fcat tobacco having that fishy aftertaste), but thanks for the offer, and congratulations.

  29. homeschooler says:

    gmemom said:

    “Many of the students at Imagine have come from the homeschooling community………”

    Yes, quite a few homeschoolers tried this school…and then dropped out.

  30. ignorancecosts says:

    I really wish we could do away with Federal Department of Education, it’s money and it’s requirements. They have done nothing to improve education in this country. The standards are lowered across the board (I was shocked upon moving here (from Mississippi, mind you), that the grading system is a 10 point spread ..from 90-100 being an A all the way down to 50-60 being an F. The school system we came from, which had the foresight to become a separate municipal district so they had more control over teachers and curriculum, produces a 97% college accepted graduating class, with very low drop-out rate from 8th grade on up.. (they pull you out of all extra-curriculum if your grades get below a high D, to put you in remedial classes in the subject you are doing poorly in), require you to stay after school as well to be tutored by a teacher, and just will not allow you to fail, unless you just refuse to do the work. Out of a 500 member 9th grade class, the last year we were there, only 2 students failed. This is in a lower/middle class, 50% black-50% white ethnicity school population. Each teacher from Jr. High on up, sends a one page report home on Mondays, with the weekly class teaching goals required by the State for that specific subject, the schedule of work required to be done in class and at home for each day, by the student to meet those goals, is sent home to parents via e-mail along with a paper copy via the student, each Monday. There is no excuse for parents to say they did not know what work was required to be done by their child. If the parent is not involved, the school steps in and requires the students to do extra study time and work at school during non-academic class time, and after school. The school district ranks very well. The school is very choosy about it’s teachers, and it is hard to get a job there, unless you are very passionate about teaching.

    The teachers unions need to go too. The local parents, (who care enough to be involved) teachers, and a publicly elected school board need to run the schools. If private schools can produce better results with less money, so can the public schools. We don’t need Washington rules or $$. It may hurt to get back to basics for a while, but it would be worth it in the long run.

  31. She who must not be named says:

    My child attended Heritage Academy for junior high – it was our first experience with public school – we choose it for the small classroom size – my child is now attending a private high school and doing very well. Heritage did a good job of preparing my child for a college prep curriculm.

  32. palmcoaster says:

    Ignorancecost… After the charters test scores came in lower than in our traditional public schools you all here still lobbying on their behalf? Are you employed by any of these charter schools? Do you also would like to privatize our Federal Government as well…? Brainwash at work for the gullible and special interest seekers.

  33. Alyssa Dufresne says:

    Okay, on account that not many of the people who have attended a charter school have spoken up, here’s one for the team:

    Please do not make gaping generalizations. As a student who attended nothing but charter schools for the first 9 years of her academic life, I have to say that I’m pretty well off, especially if you consider that the skills I gained at American Renaissance School readied me and 45% of my other classmates to start college classes at age 13/14. Those skills are the ones that got me into an early college. But hey, that’s just me. (Not to mention, I have a 3.0 GPA, and if you take into consideration that I’ve basically been raising two kids since I was in 7th grade, that’s not shabby.)

    So, okay, if Florida charter schools fail to meet the state requirements, that bites, but don’t wrest the entire span of charter schools into your awful net of gloom. The failures of your examples are there because of their choices, not because charter schools are failures. Oh, and did I mention that my school has scored higher on their standardized tests than a good percentage of NC schools?

  34. Scott says:

    “And luckily for Imagine, there’s always Heritage Academy, one of the other charters in town, to make it look better, though it’s like Arkansas pointing to Mississippi and saying look, things are worse over there! ”

    I gotta say I love this comparison.

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