Charter school for troubled girls

In Tennessee, a residential program for pregnant and addicted girls will become a charter school for girls in grades six-12. The Florence Crittenton Agency, which now runs a small private school, will open the Knoxville Academy for Young Women.

It would offer onsite psychological and social services to girls like a 15-year-old ninth-grader who attends Crittenton’s existing private school. She was kicked out of public school for having sex in the school bathroom. She would be in class with peers who have drug and alcohol problems.

Going charter will let Crittenton serve more girls with a mix of residential and day students.

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Comments

  1. I am so pleased to see a charter school serving this population. If more try this, and are successful, then I might have to change my mind about charters!

  2. These are exactly the type of charter schools that should open. Freed from some of the more onerous regulations and largely sans unions, charter schools have the flexibility to educate non-traditional populations.

  3. wayne martin says:

    I’ve been ambivalent about Charter schools since I began to learn about them on the Blog. The premise that overbearing state regulations were hampering teachers who were, hence, failing to teach to the fullest of their capabilities. A charter school was supposed to be exempt from many/most of the State’s Education Code so that they can “get back to basics”. Proof of these claims would be hard to prove in an “a priori” sense, so maybe giving the idea a try and look to see the “proof in the pudding”. The jury is out for me. This study say this and that study says that .. no clear evidence that kids in Charter schools are all graduating, with “B” or better averages.

    > The school is being created by the Florence Crittenton Agency,
    > a nonprofit residential program for teens who are pregnant or
    > at risk of engaging in substance abuse and other dangerous behavior.

    The article does not investigate why the Crittenton Agency is converting their private program to a public one.

    > It would offer onsite psychological and social services to girls
    > like a 15-year-old ninth-grader who attends Crittenton’s existing
    > private school. She was kicked out of public school for having sex
    > in the school bathroom. She would be in class with peers who have
    > drug and alcohol problems.

    Since Crittenton is already operating a private school which they fund, oversee and control—why would they want to give up this control? What could they possibly offer troubled teens in a private venue that that now believe they will be able to offer in a public venue?

    > For the ninth-grader, the charter school would provide a
    > “more comfortable environment” where she can regain focus on
    > her studies, she said.

    Hmmm .. and a Charter school would offer a “more comfortable environment” than what? The current Crittenton school, or a District school?

    > Crittenton’s private school would cease to exist once the
    > charter school begins. The new school will have four teachers,
    > twice as many as the private school, and potential teachers
    > already have been applying.

    > The school also would receive about $500,000 in federal startup
    > money over its first two years, said Cile Mathews, Crittenton’s
    > executive director. The school also plans on fundraising, she said.

    The article, typical of so many Main Stream Media reporting, has failed to look into the issue of funding. Certainly obtaining an infusion of $.5M would be a nice gift of US taxpayer’s money. Not clear why this much money is being given to schools like this one, or what the taxpayer should expect to get back for the investment.

    Given the “tough love” of boot camps, it’s not clear why anyone believes that the kids coming out of this Charter school will actually be better off than if they went to private schools via vouchers, or to publicly funded “boot camps”.

    This sort of publicly-funded school that seems to be catering to “sub-group identities” just seems wrong.

  4. As a private school, Crittenton must raise every dollar from donors. (Their students come from low-income families and can’t afford tuition.) As a charter, Crittenton’s education costs will be funded through tax dollars. The agency still will have to raise money for residential care for kids who can’t stay at home and mental health services, but the burden will be lighter and it will be possible to serve more students.

  5. Good questions, Wayne Martin….

    You said it was “Not clear why this much money is being given to schools like this one, or what the taxpayer should expect to get back for the investment.”

    I know what I expect: those “troubled” girls to stay out of jail and be productive tax paying citizens so they can help support my retirement….

    Now, I have a question: if public school regulations are so “onerous” (a claim I certainly do not dispute) then why don’t state’s simply make them more reasonable? Is it a liability issue? The fear of being sued?

    Several years ago, when my HS was evicted from the decrepit bungalows of LA Southwest College, we asked the school district if they could move us across the street to a defunct K-Mart. No, they could not because the building did not meet the seismic standards for a school (it was “safe” enough for shoppers and employees of the now-closed K-mart but not for school children or their teachers — unless, of course, we were in there shopping before or after — or during — school).

    All right, fine, a higher standard of safety for a school.

    But then the district suggested we could use the K-Mart building if only we turned ourselves into a charter school.

    A recognition, it seemed, that the earthquake safety standards of the state Ed code were more strict than was necessary — or that the ones for a charter school too lax…

    My point is, if the state is willing to give public money to charter schools without the same degree of regulation, why not make the regs more reasonable for the public school?

  6. wayne martin says:

    > As a private school, Crittenton must raise every dollar from donors.
    > (Their students come from low-income families and can’t afford
    > tuition.)

    (From the Child Welfare League of America WEB-site):
    In 1893, Charles Crittenton met Dr. Kate Waller Barrett, a women who had opened a maternity home in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Barrett became increasingly involved in the Florence Crittenton network, and was instrumental in establishing several more homes in Pennsylvania and Kansas. In 1895 the Florence Crittenton Mission was incorporated, with Charles Crittenton as President and Dr. Barrett as Vice-President. By 1897, forty-six Florence Crittenton homes had been established and were “engaged in the work of reclaiming unfortunate women.”

    The Crittenton organization has been doing this work for over 100 years now, providing help to girls who couldn’t afford it frequently.

    > As a charter, Crittenton’s education costs will be funded through
    > tax dollars.

    Which was the point of my question. Why not simply push for vouchers, or grants? Why get involved with the State education system via the Charter path?

    > The agency still will have to raise money for residential care for
    > kids who can’t stay at home and mental health services, but the
    > burden will be lighter and it will be possible to serve more students.

    If the money were provided as grants, the results would be the same—with a lot less paperwork.

    > I know what I expect: those “troubled” girls to stay out of jail
    > and be productive tax paying citizens so they can help
    > support my retirement….

    This was the mission of the Crittenton schools. There is nothing in this article that suggests that the Charter schools goals will be significantly different, or more effective, then the Crittenton’s.

    > Now, I have a question: if public school regulations are so
    > “onerous” (a claim I certainly do not dispute) then why
    > don’t state’s simply make them more reasonable? Is it a
    > liability issue? The fear of being sued?

    That question comes up every time folks talk seriously about Charters. One answer lies in the State Ed Code.. In California, it’s over 13,000 pages long. Most of it has nothing to do with educating kids, but deals with how to run a school system. Lots of code dealing with just about every problem that a school district might encounter. It’s not exactly clear how much of these regs are suspended for a Charter.

    > No, they could not because the building did not meet the seismic
    > standards for a school (it was “safe” enough for shoppers and
    > employees of the now-closed K-mart but not for school children
    > or their teachers — unless, of course, we were in there shopping
    > before or after — or during — school).

    Well .. there is a little history here–

    Field Act and School Safety Requirements:
    http://nisee.berkeley.edu/long_beach/long_beach.html

    Long Beach Earthquake of 1933:

    As a direct result of the structural failures of unreinforced masonry schools, earthquake-resistant design and construction were mandated for public schools: K-12 and community colleges. This was due largely to the efforts of California Assembly Member, Charles Field and the law, known as the Field Act was passed on April 10, 1933. It and its subsequent revisions authorized the Division of Architecture of the California State Department of Works to review and approve all public school plans and specifications and to furnish general supervision of the construction work. No Field Act school has ever failed in an earthquake.

    For the last 80+ years (here in CA) .. students in pubic schools have been afforded higher standards of building safety than shoppers.

  7. > For the last 80+ years (here in CA) .. students in pubic schools have
    > been afforded higher standards of building safety than shoppers.

    Which makes sense, especially given he history —

    But why should students in a public school be afforded a higher standard of safety than students in a charter school?

    Anyway, thanks for the detailed answer.
    The photograph from the LB earthquake is frightening….

  8. wayne martin says:

    > But why should students in a public school be afforded
    > a higher standard of safety than students in a charter school?

    Since schools are a state matter, there would be fifty different answer to this question.

    However, from the point-of-view of an “outsider”, it would seem that there is so much power and money tied up in the District schools, that those vested in the status quo see no reason to accept Charter schools and simply do the least they can to comply with the legal mandates of the program–hoping that Charters will sooner-or-later just “go away”.

  9. -…it would seem that there is so much power and money tied up in the -District schools, that those vested in the status quo see no reason to -accept Charter schools and simply do the least they can to comply with -the legal mandates of the program–hoping that Charters will -sooner-or-later just “go away”.

    Yes, that makes sense, though doesn’t that give the charter schools an unfair advantage since they need not spend as much money as school districts to meet the legal requirements….?

    Assuming that school districts care whether they are outperformed by charter schools…. which, I suppose, is quite likely an erroneous assumption….

  10. wayne martin says:

    > But why should students in a public school be afforded
    > a higher standard of safety than students in a charter school?

    Since schools are a state matter, there would be fifty different answer to this question.

    However, from the point-of-view of an “outsider”, it would seem that there is so much power and money tied up in the District schools, that those vested in this program see no reason to accept Charter schools and simply do the least they can to comply with the legal mandates of the program, hoping the matter will sooner-or-later “go away”.

    > … though doesn’t that give the charter schools an
    > unfair advantage since they need not spend as much
    > money as school districts to meet the legal requirements….?

    As asked, this question seems to foster a “turf ownership” point-of-view. The off-make claim that Charter schools are supposed to relieve teachers of “onerous” state regulation and reporting requirements would seem to give the teachers an “advantage” over their District counterparts—leading to more time to teacher (or more innovative teaching methods) which is supposed to lead to higher performing students, better performing schools, and perhaps the end of the education “tar pit” was we know it.

    Then there is the matter of actually running the physical plant, which consumes about the same number of dollars as the operational side of running the schools does—but this money is always “under the table” and not usually reported by individual schools in a meaningful way. These dollars show up on the US.DoE WEB-site, if you’ve got the time to dig thru the mountains of data there. Sometimes, as is the case here in CA, the State will produce a reporting of this school spending (as does the Office of the Legislative Analysist).

    Most Charter schools seem to have found quarters in existing buildings, so that the cost of building new schools for them has been avoided. However, this is a bubble that will break one of these days, and spending for Charter schools will begin to go up as demands for new, or better, or safer, or something, schools begins to occur for parents and staff of these schools. Although lower-cost-per-student spending claims were a part of the arguments that lead to the formation of Charter schools, one can find the odd article on the WEB these days where Charter school advocates are complaining about substandard schools and lower per-student spending. In short, most of the arguments that were accepting to justify Charters seems to be disappeared without any real evidence that this “experiment” has produced anything of value.

    > Assuming that school districts care whether they are
    > outperformed by charter schools…. which, I suppose,
    > is quite likely an erroneous assumption….

    This point has been discussed many times on this Blog, under many different disguises. The degree of effort that many school districts have demonstrated to fight NCLB would seem to provide a lot of evidence that student/district performance is not a important aspect of their mission.