Recent Data from SDE/SBOE Proves Petty Bias of Charter Commission Staff

Embattled Charter Commission Staff Uses Incomplete Data to Irrationally Target Schools 

Data recently released by the State Department of Education, paints a much different picture than the embattled Public Charter Commission staff claims. It is in the data where the real story is told, as SBOE combines multiple measures, like test scores, challenging demographics, and growth, to show academic progress. 

The Idaho Department of Education released the 2018-19 state reading, math, language arts and science results on Friday, August 16. The results confirm that during the illegal Charter Commission executive session in April, Commission staff members and Commissioners used inaccurate data to evaluate charter schools targeted for closure. 

During the April executive session, which violated the state’s Open Meeting Law, the commissioners and staff can be heard gossiping and criticizing schools they consider low-performing. At one point, commission staff members Tamara Baysinger and Kirsten Pochop accused Jerome’s Heritage Academy Charter School of “malpractice,” claiming it should be shut down as soon as possible.

However, state assessment data for Heritage Academy shows otherwise.  When examining factual information [available on the Idaho Report Card website https://idahoschools.org/] the story is very different.  Heritage Academy actually made more growth -- with more challenging demographic characteristics --  than any other school in surrounding communities.

“This is more evidence that the commission staff decides to harass a charter school and then selects the set of data that makes the school look bad,” said Tom LeClaire. “The commission staff is the most unprofessional and biased group of employees in our state government” he added.

“The commission’s staff has a pattern of selectively choosing data to manipulate commissioners into believing a school they personally dislike is failing when it is not. These schools have difficult demographics and the efforts of the teachers, administrators, board members and parents should be supported, not attacked and harassed. The SBOE understands this, why does the charter school commission staff refuse to look at the whole picture?” 

“Governor Brad Little needs to step in and reestablish the codified original mission, not allow this commission to be a rubber stamp for the staff’s petty personal biases.”

Commission staff members and Commissioners spent a great deal of the recording slamming Heritage Academy and its administrator, Dr. Christine Ivie.  Commissioners said that Heritage students, along with Jerome School District students, would be better off if they were bused to one of the Commission’s favorite schools, North Valley Academy in Gooding.

However, the data released by the body that oversees the charter commission, the State Board of Education, paints a much different picture. It is in their data where the real story is told, as State Board of Education and the State Department of Education combine multiple measures, like test scores, challenging demographics, and growth, to show academic progress. 

Here are the numbers: 

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At Heritage Academy, 96% of students qualify for free or reduced priced meals.  The average for the state of Idaho: 45%. The average for schools the Commission labels “high performing”: 24%.

At Heritage, one out of every four (25%) of our students have disabilities. The average for the state of Idaho: 11%.  The average for schools the Commission labels “high performing”: less than 3%

At Heritage, one out of every four (23%) of students is learning English as a new language. Compare this with 7% for the rest of the state, and 0% for the Commission’s “top performers”.

Many schools considered “low-performing” and targeted for closure by the Commission are similar to Heritage Academy: they serve students who have barriers to success or who are significantly behind when they start school in the fall.

Based on the illegal meeting and what it revealed about the Commission’s desire to close schools that serve diverse student populations, legislators and charter school advocates will be considering legislation that will significantly change the way charter schools are authorized and evaluated.   


Teresa- Charter School Board Member Testimony "The recording I heard really wasn’t that surprising. I have heard the same disdain and condescension from you and your staff for many years."

Good morning. My name is Teresa Molitor and I am a registered lobbyist for the

Association of Charter School Leaders. I am also a former Board member of

Heritage Academy in Jerome.

A few days ago, you all were found guilty of violating the state’s Open Meeting

Law. Anyone who has listened to the recording – and I think we all have – would

agree that your conversation was inappropriate for Executive Session.

But what about the conversations you have had in public, in regular meetings?

Those have been almost as inappropriate and offensive. I can remember back in

2013, when I and others from the Heritage Board were called before this

Commission for questioning. I had heard that these commission meetings had

become emotionally devastating -- that people would leave them crying -- but

until I witnessed it firsthand I didn’t know what had been going on in the nine

years since our lobbying efforts created this Commission back in 2004.

The shift that had taken place was saddening and disturbing. The other board

members and I were treated like criminals. We were interrogated about broken

playground equipment, alleged bullying, and, of course, test scores.

No matter what answer we provided, commissioners and staff acted as though

we had done the most egregious thing, opening this charter school in Jerome. It

was like we were embarrassing to the Commissioners and Commission staff.

Because Heritage wasn’t wildly outperforming the traditional public school in

Jerome, we were targeted. And Heritage has been on your hit list ever since.

The recording of your Executive Session, frankly, seemed almost like an extension

of the conversation you have boldly had in public for many years. Those public

meetings, even as recently as the last one you conducted in June, show a real

disdain and disregard for those who are passionate about providing education

choice.

And what about that word, choice? When we lobbied for charter schools in 2004,

we talked about choice, choice, and choice. Never, ever, was a promise made that

charter schools would outperform traditional schools. The mantra was: “Charter

schools will do as well or better than traditional public schools, and they will do it

with less money and more innovation.”

Let me repeat that: “Charter schools will do as well or better than traditional

public schools, and they will do it with less money and more innovation.”

You see, this recording is not just a violation of the Open Meeting Law. It’s a

violation of your original mission, to support Idaho charter schools, especially

those that are struggling. Not excluding those that are struggling, but especially

those that are struggling.

Charter schools wanted more freedom and flexibility to innovate, and were

willing to trade away some funding to get it. But guess what? Charter schools are

still giving away the money, but they are getting the opposite: They are saddled

with more reporting, more accountability, more busywork.

The Association of Charter School Leaders was formed to help policymakers

remember what the original mission was. It wasn’t for more money to duplicate

high-performing schools. It was for more freedom and flexibility. It was for choice.

That’s why Idaho agreed to do charter schools. It was, simply, to provide choice.

Your job, as commissioners, was to support schools that were providing choice,

whether they were virtual, brick and mortar, or something else.

The recording I heard really wasn’t that surprising. I have heard the same disdain

and condescension from you and your staff for many years.

This meeting today may “cure” your open meeting violation, but it won’t cure the

severe problems I just described. It won’t cure the fact that you are completely

misguided in what your mission is. That you think this will all blow over if you just

offer enough apologies.

Thank you.

Here's the full recording of the Special PCSC (Public Charter School Commission) meeting held on Aug 1.

It’s a good thing we requested the full file of the audio recording of the PCSC meeting as soon as the meeting concluded. We were told by IPTV (the entity that streamed the event) that they were instructed by PCSC staff not to save the audio/video of the special meeting. We then sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Board of Education. We received it! Here it is.

Listen here:

Charter Schools testify to years of malpractice by commission staff with no opportunity for due process.

Charter Schools testify to fear of retaliation for coming forward.

Charter Schools testify to a pattern of deliberate misinformation by staff to commissioners.

Parents testify to defend school choice.

Students testify in favor of virtual schools.

SBOE Sets Meetings Around Idaho to Discuss Rules Governing Education Policy

LINK TO PRESS RELEASE FROM SBOE HERE

HEARINGS SET STATEWIDE ON EDUCATION RULES

The Idaho State Board of Education will hold public hearings later this month around the state on education-related rules including the Idaho content standards.

In 2009, Idaho worked with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and other states around developing common core content standards in English language arts and mathematics.

In 2010, after a series of hearings held around the state, the Board adopted the Idaho content standards, which were approved by the Idaho Legislature the following year. Content standards are re-evaluated on a rotating basis (in alignment with the curricular materials five-year review cycle). As part of the rolling evaluation process and lawmaker interest, the mathematics and English language arts content standards were opened up for a comprehensive statewide review in 2015-16. Based on that process and feedback received, the Board adopted amended standards in 2016, which were approved by the Legislature in 2017.

“The hearings will provide an opportunity for the public to share comments and specific suggestions they may have about administrative rules,” State Board Chief Planning and Policy Officer, Tracie Bent said. “The purpose of the content standards is to set minimum levels for student progress by gradate the primary and secondary level. These minimum content standards are necessary to meet the constitutional requirement to maintain a“uniform and thorough system”of public schools. The method for meeting the standards is the curriculum that is chosen by each school district and charter school. Curriculum is set at the local level by each school district.”

Idaho has content standards in 13 categories, eight of them are identified as “core” content areas (IDAPA 08.02.03.105).

The schedule for public hearings on Docket 08-0000-1900, IDAPA Chapter 08 (education-related rules) is:

August 19, 2019 –College of Western Idaho, Nampa; Academic Building Room 102E -6:00 -9:30 p.m. (MDT)

August 21, 2019 –College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls; Hepworth Building Room 108 –6:00 –9:30 p.m. (MDT)

August 22, 2019 –North Idaho College, Coeur d’Alene; Student Union Building Lake Coeur d’Alene Room –6:00 –9:30 p.m. (PDT)

August 27, 2019 –College of Eastern Idaho, Idaho Falls; Building 6 (Health Education Building) Room 150/152 –6:00 –9:30 p.m. (MDT)

More about the rules process is posted on the State Board website

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