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Parent Horror Story: Charter school chain “bullying” Black parents?

Everywhere you look there are wonderful stories and elegant arguments about why charters are GREAT for kids… especially poor Latina/os and Blacks. Today Cloaking Inequity has an exclusive— another horror story from a charter parent. I first discussed the BASIS charter schools, a quasi for-profit charter chain (see What BASIS?: Nepotism and aggrandizement in charters?), in the post Parent Horror Stories from BASIS: Corporate Charter Hurting Children? It is still one of the five most popular posts ever on Cloaking Inequity.  Here at Cloaking Inequity we can deliver the counter-narrative.  Without further ado, here is an open letter from a concerned parent.

Public Charter School Board

3333 14th Street, NW, Suite 210

Washington, DC 20010

Hello Ms. [BASIS administrator],

The purpose of this email is to establish a formal complaint against the Public Charter School Basis-DC. My son, [student name], is 12 and in the 6th grade. He is a Sixth grader that has been retained. The entire school year, I went to [BASIS administrator], whose email identifies her as being the Director of Exceptional Education & Student Advocacy for assistance with XXXX’s studies and behavior issues which included i.e. a heighten sense of frustration in not understanding the material, obsessive talking, a delay in response, appearing not to listen when spoken to and not focused on immediate tasks. I consulted the Basis Student Handbook. And I focused on the section and paragraph, where it outlined that student services are available for a child that is experiencing education problems. I then picked up the phone and called Basis-DC and was given [BASIS administrator]’s, name and contact information by the women in the Basis-DC front office.

After several voicemails and missed calls between us, [BASIS administrator] and I finally spoke early November. I then expressed to [BASIS administrator], about my son’s frustrating disposition to learning Physics, Math and Chemistry at BASIS. Several days passed and on December 6, I received an email where [BASIS administrator] acknowledged my call and stated that “[BASIS administrator], the 6th grade Learning Specialist, is working on his plan.  I will keep you posted and we will send as soon as it is completed.” On December 16th, I got an email message from [BASIS administrator], that [student]’s SST plan crafted from her office was still being worked on and it would be implemented immediately after the Holiday’s.

After the plan was put into action, I immediately started questioning the process with [BASIS administrator]. I then requested for my son to be retested for perhaps a learning disability which could be the reasoning behind his learning difficulty. Meanwhile, [students]’s grades continued to decline. The Office of Exceptional Education & Student Advocacy, then placed him into the Basis Saturday Academy, which was designed to go beyond the regular tutorial services. Sadly, this Saturday Academy failed to cover any of the important core classes in which [student] was having difficulty i.e. Chemistry, Math or Physics.

Upon my further questioning about the education services, another meeting was set up by the Office of Exceptional Education & Student Advocacy to discuss the current non-working SST plan. This time,[ BASIS administrator], promised to monitor [student] “behavior” and submission of homework to see if that would make a difference. She continued to update me on the status of {students]’s assignments. This action and the reading class were the only items in his SST that continued until the end of the school year. No other items were addressed i.e. Math, Chemistry, or Physics deficiencies.

I then was informed that [student] did not earn promotional status and was retained. He had passed certain classes, but did not pass the Basis’ Comprehensive exams for those courses mentioned above. I was told, he had until the summer to finish and complete four sets of informational packets per subject that ranged from two–three hundred pages each, with no assistance from the school. In addition, at the conclusion of packet completion, he would have to take a series of two exams per subject and pass in order to be promoted. This meant he took a double Math exam, double Biology exam, a double History exam, a double Physics exam, a double Chemistry exam and a double Latin exam. Again, these exams included the D.C. portion which consisted of 30 – 60 questions and an Arizona portion which carries additional 50-70 questions. These exams are combined to produce one series of test. The Arizona portion of the test is specifically created and corrected from the curriculum from the Arizona Basis School’s. At the conclusion of the test it is then sent to be corrected by the Arizona Basis Schools and then sent back to Basis-DC for disclosure of scores.

Several times, I questioned the Basis-DC Administration about the retake process. Each time, I was told that, at no time will staff be available during the summer to assist or help with the four sets of 2-3 hundred page packets. Even though, the Basis Student Handbook clearly outlines mechanisms that would be in place to assist for the school’s “uniquely rigorous curriculum”. My repeated requests were denied. I then contacted another highly regarded After School program to assist us with finishing the packets. They enrolled him into their High Achievement Summer School Academy which consisted of over 250 hours plus hours of instructional classes on Spanish, Math, Science, English and History from 8am until 4pm, Monday –Friday. Even upon the completion, we were still told, “it wasn’t enough to satisfy Basis requirements because Basis has such a demanding instructional program.” Despite the fact, they offered no instructional support assistance during the summer for retained students.

At the end of August, my son began his retakes on the Chemistry, Physics, Latin, Math, Biology and History Comprehensive Exams. This meant he took a double Math exam, double Biology exam, a double History exam, a double Physics exam, a double Chemistry exam and a double Latin exam. He concluded his testing on Monday August 18th. The following Thursday, August 21st in the afternoon, we got the dreaded call from Basis-DC which detailed that my son did not pass the Comprehensive Exams, therefore he was officially retained for the 6th grade. This news was delivered exactly 5 days before the start of the new school year. This extremely short notice left us with little to no time to prepare emotionally for the beginning to the 2014 school year.

On September 8, 2014, I sent an email to the Office of Exceptional Education & Student Advocacy, in care of [BASIS administrator]. I inquired as to what provisions are being put into place for my son who was retained. I added in my email that I did not want any of the items on his previous SST revisited because they didn’t work. [BASIS administrator], then quickly responded, that I “sounded upset” and she was going to refer my inquiry to the School Director and the Director of Academic Affairs.

It was later after I informed her of my displeasure with her accusatory tone that I cc’d an attorney She then forwarded my email to Basis-DC Attorney. To add injury to insult she even included in her email that she knew nothing about a reading program that my son [student] was assigned to for the spring 2014 academic year. Despite the fact that on June 4th, I responded to her email asking why when I specifically requested help with Chemistry, Math and Physics was he placed into a reading class. To date, I have received no answer to my lingering question?

Moreover, to date, no one from the Office of Exceptional Education & Student Advocacy in Basis-DC or anyone in the Management Staff of Basis-DC has offered any assistance to formalizing an active and productive plan of action so that my son will not be retained for this year. I shudder to think how many other parents have or are receiving this Adult Bullying tactics when asking about their child or children’s education action plan. In fact, I am feeling deceived that when I first enrolled my son in Basis-DC Public Charter School, I had constant reassurance from Basis management that despite its rigid academics, provisions will be made for those children who are experiencing difficulty in various subjects.

The school’s constant reassurance is why I went to [BASIS administrator] to seek out academic help for [student]. [BASIS administrator] has deceivingly insulted my integrity by questioning the facts surrounding my son’s SST plan and her involvement, by pretending our conversations never happened  even with email documentation. In addition,[BASIS administrator] who is a representative of Basis-DC has sought intimidation as a way to deflect from her, her employees’ and employers negligence to craft a proactive special education plan to prevent my son from being retained.

Furthermore, all actors inside the Office of Exceptional Education and Student Advocacy operating inside Basis-DC comfortably allowed this African American boy to fail. This begs the question, how many more parents at this school have or/ are having these same results with Basis-DC, a system which allows for failure. Rather, how many more minority parents at this school have or/are had these same results with Basis-DC, a system which allowed for failure.

I am asking the Public School Charter Board, the Office of the Ombudsman (DCPS) and/or a representative from the Chair of the Committee on Education to step in, intervene and assist with the mediation and solution of this situation. [Via word of mouth I have heard] other parents whose children attend Basis-DC that their management and staff have been inflicting reprisals on the many children whose parents have questioned their educational bullying to which has resulted in a rapid secession of parents leaving the school and/or students being retained.

Grateful,

[Concerned Parent]

How is this parent’s experience different than if her son had attended a traditional public school? A private school? Is this how we want charters to function? “public schools”?

For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts about charters schools click here.

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About Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig (685 Articles)
Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.

3 Comments on Parent Horror Story: Charter school chain “bullying” Black parents?

  1. As a BASIS student myself, I have the following thoughts:

    First and foremost, BASIS is not for everyone. They will try to accommodate you as much as they can, but there is a reason why so many students leave for other schools every year: LOW. WORK. ETHIC. If your student isn’t willing to put in the necessary time and effort (which is MUCH higher than at other schools), they will not succeed. I have been here since 7th grade, and I have a 3.96 GPA, and getting that while participating in extra-curriculars and keeping a good sleep schedule was VERY difficult. many students get little to no sleep just to keep a 3.5 GPA.

    Just as effort on the part of the student is an integral to the learning process at BASIS, so is the the parents willingness to help or encourage their student (which this parent seamed to be lacking). If a parent is unwilling a student can succeed but it is significantly harder.

    Like

  2. Chem, Physics, Math, Latin, Biology and History? Sounds like quite a load for most 11 year olds.

    Like

  3. Reblogged this on My Educational Escapades and commented:
    Still think Charters are the answer? Here’s just another example of how BASIS tries to weed out students who don’t meet their academic standards. If you are not dedicated to serving public education, don’t accept public funding.

    Like

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