Turkish-American charters questioned

Charter schools started by Turkish-American educators are raising questions, reports USA Today. The schools are inspired by the teachings of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic leader who now lives in Pennsylvania.

Followers of the so-called Gülen Movement operate an “education, media and business network” in more than 100 countries, says University of Oregon sociologist Joshua Hendrick.

Officially, Gülen-inspired schools teach tolerance and multicultural understanding. Critics say Gülen promotes Turkish nationalism and Islam. At the very least, his views are ambiguous.

There are no official ties with Gülen, but “virtually all of the schools have opened or operate with the aid of Gülen-inspired “dialogue” groups, local non-profits that promote Turkish culture, reports USA Today.

While Turkish language and culture are often offered in the curriculum, there’s no evidence the schools teach Islam.

. . . The Turkish-affiliated schools focus on math and science and often appear as top scorers on standardized tests. Still, lawmakers, researchers and parents are beginning to put the schools under the microscope for hiring practices — they import hundreds of teachers from Turkey each year — and for steps they take to keep their academic profile high.

Texas parents last year  accused a Gülen-inspired Harmony school of “pushing out” underperforming students.

Ed Fuller, a University of Texas-Austin researcher, found that Harmony schools throughout Texas had an “extraordinarily high” student attrition rate of about 50% for students in grades six through eight.

“It’s not hard to be ‘exemplary’ if you lose all the kids who aren’t performing,” Fuller says.

Why would Americans choose a school that stresses Turkish language and culture? Apparently, they want good math and science instruction and are willing to accept some gratuitous Turkishness. The Gülen-inspired schools enter the best students in math and science competitions, winning awards and attracting parents who want their children to excel. (The high turnover rate may reflect students who aren’t able to win awards and don’t see the need for Turkish.)

A parent gave me a link to a web site criticizing Gülen, but also said her children are challenged by their teachers and enjoy the hands-on science curriculum. She’d prefer fewer Turkish teachers and more transparency by the administration, but plans to keep her children in the school.

USA Today compares the Gülen-inspired schools controversy to the questions about whether Waldorf-inspired schools should be publicly funded. There are similarities.

About Joanne


  1. Amy in Texas says:

    This is my charter! Harmony SA Dallas, where my son has been and I have volunteered for 5 years. As a teacher and parent (and atheist) I can say that Harmony Dallas has never pushed any agenda about religion or Turkish nationalism.
    I can’t speak to attrition rates, but the staff is the most dedicated and ethnically diverse in town. They push academic competition, that’s about it.

  2. Maybe they are not pushing direct Islam off on your son but the purpose is Islam in it’s intent.
    Turkish Nationalism is obvious, have you not attended the big Turkish Olympiad in Texas that the kids perform in?
    The Academic competition that you speak of is a farce. Cosmos foundation, Raindrop Turkish house, and about 3 other Gulen Foundations sponsor and OWN the contests your son compete in: Math Matters, Math Counts, Science Olympiad and of course the not so famous Turkish Olympiads in the USA and the big hoopla one in Turkey that includes students from other Gulen Schools.
    the point isn’t about Islam or Turkish National Indoctrination. It is about money fraud of public funds to support an agenda, money laundering, racketeering. Our public funds are also paying for the import of uncredentialed teachers from Turkey in Texas there have been 1,100+ since 2001. More public funds are spent on non-educational matters such as this while our children are fairing no better at these privately managed Charter Schools. Not to mention how much money Cosmos has had to pay to fight EEOC claims and other legal fees.
    The teachers from Turkey are uncredentialed and are NOT scholars as they claim. They have at best a undergraduate degree. Scholars BTW do not teach in k-12 grades they teach in higher academia.
    For more information about our tax dollars going to Turkish contractors to build more Harmony schools please visit Peyton Wolcott’s report with a copy of Cosmos Foundation’s 990 IRS Tax Return. Lastly Dr. Soner Tarim, who is your Harmony School Superintendent….has no teaching experience. He has no SBEC licensure as well. http://peytonwolcott.com/Charters_Cosmos.html
    DO YOUR RESEARCH, GOOGLE Sibel Edmonds and google, and also Homeland Security case vs. Gulen.

  3. Texas watcher says:

    These schools are supported our tax dollars and they have greatly misrepresented themselves. How can they have a closed bid and only use Turkish owened construction companies? It also no seceret that these schools push out students as well. I say this because a charter school is a public school so even if a student is struggling academically in public school they will stay in public school, charter schools are no difference. Statiticaly most families choose a school because the are convienant and close to home. There is evidence that charters are better than public schools. these schools are guilty of inside trading, money swapping of public funds,fruadulent tax practices, nepotism,unfair hiring practices and so on. they use manipulative langues such as Euro-trip when Turkey is not in Europe its in Asia Minor, Gulen inspired instead of affiliated, Last year they just flately denied everything to the point of even saying they had no idea other turkish schools exhisted. Many of these teachers float between schools state to state and to and from foundations and non profit.

  4. GoogleMaster says:

    I don’t have a dog in this hunt, but I find it interesting that of the three responses prior to mine, the two anti-Gülen comments are illiterate, misspelled, unintelligible, run-on rants from people who don’t actually appear to have any personal experience with Gülen schools, and the one pro-Gülen comment is from a Gülen parent.

  5. Google master;
    In my position in the Biotech industry, I and my co-workers have advanced degrees and education. Do you know how many of us including medical Doctors have poor grammar and handwriting skills? This is why spell check is so popular.
    Mr. Google Master; It is obvious you are part of the Hizmet. Maybe I will translate in Turkish for you. BTW your English skills at these schools is barely discernable for our American students to understand. Your post above is not in proper form and is far from perfect.

    Gülen bir yalanc?d?r. O Güney do?u Türkiye’de köyden Kürtçe oluyor. Ona de?er ba?ka bir ?ey de?ildir ederken 25000000000 $ de?er. O size laughes yaparken maa??n?zdan tuzuk.

    Bizim çocuklar CIA ve FBI izledi?iniz almazs?n?z. Umar?m Türkiye için ç?k?? vizesi var.

  6. Cranberry says:

    I agree with GoogleMaster. Mura, your English skills are imperfect. This statement is…not credible: “Cosmos foundation, Raindrop Turkish house, and about 3 other Gulen Foundations sponsor and OWN the contests your son compete in: Math Matters, Math Counts, Science Olympiad …”

    I think Science Olympiad, Inc., and Mathcounts Foundation would be astounded to learn of your unfounded assertions. Their Form990s seem to be in order. They both predate the Cosmos Foundation. They are well funded through entry fees and donations from industry, universities, and foundations.

  7. Merhaba Cranberry and Google master (the same poster);
    Your English skills and your Hizmet’s English skills are improper. Not to mention your math and science skills are subpar to Americans.
    There you go again YALAN, we know all about Math Matters and Math Counts and how the Turkish Gulen groups fund these organizations.

    “Astounded to learn of your unfounded assertions” . Nothing unfounded about it, there is truth in everything I am posting, you are once again trying to side step the issue about this groups and their obvious interconnections to each other and the Gulen movement.
    All of those Industry, foundation and Universities are Gulen supported or owned by other Turkish nationals. like EGE Construction and ERBU TV, ZAMAN Today.

    Nice try Google Master and Cranberry but the US Attorney’s office is already on to this and anyone that matters knows the truth.

    P.S. any idea how much the lawyer is going to cost in Chicago to fight the Teachers union at CMSA? Again, more money spent on non-educational items for our children. This must be a topic for your next “Turkish Character” class (if their is such a thing as Turkish Character)

  8. If anyone is going to judge the detractors of the Gulen schools by their poor grammar in hastily written submissions to a comment board, then you should know about this description on a tax forms on more than one of the Gulen schools (sics are mine;other Horizon forms used the same text): “Horizon Science Academy Columbus Elementary School is managed by Concept Schools, an Illinous [sic] based, non-profit, management company…The School’s Superintendent and Treasuer [sic] are appointed and compnasated [sic] by Concept Schools. Concept Schools porvide [sic] a wide range of sevices [sic] such as; appointment of school leaders, professional development and evaluation services for teachers, curriculum assessment, school database management system, OAT (Ohio Achievement Tests) applications, instruction monitoring etc, etc . In return of those services, the School transfers 12% of it [sic] foundation monies from state to the management company. The charter school law in Ohio makes it possible to establish a charter school only when the school is opening under agreement with a management company that operates other schools in the state with Continious [sic] Improvement rating or above of five school ratings indentified by Ohio Department of Education.” [2008 document]

    Or what about this mission statement from the School of Science and Technology in San Antonio: “The mission of the School of Science and Technology is to create a safe and healthy learning environment that will nurture, motivate and enable our middle school youth to develop into mindful and responsible, contribute people who their community [huh?!] and the diverse society in which we all live.”

    That bad grammar/carelessness was pointed out by a teacher acquaintance of mine who was job hunting and saw red flags going up as she perused the school’s web site. She was particularly alarmed that the online application form requires the submission of social security numbers.

  9. Cranberry says:

    According to Google translation, YALAN means lie.

    “There you go again YALAN, we know all about Math Matters and Math Counts and how the Turkish Gulen groups fund these organizations.”

    Assertion does not suffice. How do you know that Mathcounts is funded and controlled by Turkish Gulen groups? How much money? Mathcounts is well funded by many major American companies. There is no need to assert Turkish control.

    Turkish funding would be a grave surprise to the organizations which actually fund Mathcounts. From their website,

    “Meet Our Sponsors

    Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and CNA Foundation, MATHCOUNTS® is made possible through the generosity of corporations, foundations and individuals. The MATHCOUNTS Foundation expresses its sincere appreciation to all those who help the program reach over half a million students across the country every year.”

    Their Sponsors include:

    The National Defense Education Program
    Northrop Grumman Foundation
    National Society of Professional Engineers
    CNA Foundation
    ThinkFun Inc.
    Texas Instruments
    The Brookhill Foundation
    General Motors Foundation
    National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
    Wolfram Research
    Tyco Electronics Foundation
    Caserve Foundation
    Rockwell Collins
    The Actuarial Foundation
    Flour Foundation
    American Public Works Association

    If I have to choose between Mathcounts and their sponsors, and an unfounded internet allegation from a Turkish poster with poor English skills, I choose Mathcounts.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    Presuming Waldorfishness and Turkishness are negatives, seen from the outside by some as such, isn’t it interesting that parents will put up with one or the other in order to get their kids a good education?

  11. Richard Aubrey: Do you think the parents even know that a religious-based Gulen Movement even exists or anything about it? Do they know that what is driving these charter schools is the opportunity for Fethullah Gulen’s followers to implement his religious-based educational philosophy?

    Do the parents know that the inspiration for these charter schools is tied in with things like this? http://en.fgulen.com/essentials-of-the-islamic-faith/662-jinn-and-human-beings.html

    Some parents might still choose to use Gulen schools if they were informed about these things, but I think many would feel too uncomfortable. I even think that some authorizers would be uncomfortable with approving the petitions. This is why this whole affair is being conducted with such stealth.

    Read the petitions and you will find nothing said about Turkishness or the Fethullah Gulen educational philosophy.

    This is not just about influencing kids to develop a strong affinity for Turkey and Turkishness. And good grief, even Waldorf schools even announce that they are such.

    Let’s require these schools to publicly post their affiliation with Gulen’s beliefs, and we’ll see how long they last.

  12. Cranberry says:

    I found a recent New York Times profile of Fethullah Gulen: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/12/us/12iht-gulen.html?_r=1. The New York Times writer, Brian Knowlton, describes the schools, and the controversy around them:

    “Asked at one point about the work of his followers, he replied, “I believe that calling this movement the ‘Fethullah Gulen movement’ is not right, and doing so is disrespectful to many people dedicated to carrying out its activities. My role in this movement is very limited, and there is no leadership, no center, no loyalty to a center, and no hierarchy.”

    But others say that there are more than 1,000 schools in more than 110 countries, and perhaps five million members. Emre Celik, a Turkish-Australian who presides over the Rumi Forum, a Gulen-affiliated institute in Washington, recently visited one of the more farflung schools, on the island of Zanzibar, and says more in Africa are likely. The schools are supported by wealthy Muslim businessmen.

    There are several such schools in the United States, even one in Burma. They impart Islamic values but, unlike madrasas, employ the official curriculum of whatever state they are in and emphasize modern science and technology. The quality of education is considered high, and competition for spots is keen.”

    If the schools offer a better education than the nearby public schools, I would expect them to last. I know several Protestants who attended Catholic schools for the education. It didn’t turn them into Catholics. As a matter of fact, I believe many parents who received vouchers for their children have chosen to enroll their children in parochial schools. Many of the parents aren’t Catholic, but they believe in education. You can put up with a lot of nonsense for a better education for your child.

  13. GoogleMaster says:

    A question for the people who object so violently to the Islamic schools — do you also object vehemently to Catholic schools? Baptist schools? Amish schools? Why or why not?

    I haven’t been keeping track. Are the people who object to tax money going to schools that may or may not have a religious slant the same people who want to withdraw “their” tax money because they’re homeschooling their own children?

  14. Raytheon and the rest of the companies have a large amount of Turkish employees that have donated money to Cosmos Foundation and other Gulen School Foundations. It is also the same lie (story ) that each school professes in their shit story of lies….”Our school was started by scientist and engineers from XYZ companies”

    No, I don’t object to Catholic, Amish or Baptist schools because they are private and not SWINDLING PUBLIC FUNDS. Again, your arguments are the typical Turkish lies (Yalan) that the Hizmet teaches is acceptable.

    Have you ever thought about being honest to the Parents that your are followers of Fethullah Gulen the 5th grade educated knucklehead Kurd. Perhaps, you might want to explain to the parents your agenda of doubling your campuses and pushing the Turkish indoctrination (Turkification) via your nonsense Turkish Olympiads which are expensive and a waste of time.

    Try teaching American Children our culture for a change, instead of being anti-American bigots that you are. Your agenda will be short lived in the USA, once the government is done using your Baba Gulen the Con Artist.

  15. I have reviewed test results for all the states where these Gulen Science academies are. The test results are no better and in many cases worse than public schools (which is what a charter is)
    Here is the STAR results for CA schools Magnolia Science Academy, who I am told just applied for a $17 million loan – click on reports to the right side and you will see that over 50% of the children test at basic level to BELOW BASIC. Very few are proficent.

  16. P.S. Raytheon also closed their plant in Arizona and opened a larger facility in Turkey. The Gulen schools in Texas and Arizona have both recieved sizeable donations from Ratheon as well as the other sponsors listed above. Have any of you heard the expression “Gulen’s Raytheon”
    Rayheon is the defense contractor that has a multi-million dollar contract with the Republic of Turkey.

  17. http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2009/05/05/Raytheon-picks-Roketsan-in-Turkey-as-Patriot-missile-partner/UPI-17561241538687/

    There are countless examples of the above listed companies and their financial ties to Gulen’s organization and to Turkey. Gulen has nicely helped negiotiate these contracts as he is tied into the AKP Ruling party. Erdogan and Gul are both Gulen Followers, who would both like to implement S’haria law in Turkey. Erdogan’s wife wears the Hibjab which is a subject for heated debates in Turkey.
    Lets see with September’s vote in Turkey what happens.

  18. Türk karde?ler kibirli ve oyunculuk daha ak?ll? olmaktan Amerikal?lar. Sen Gülen takip aptal koyun vard?r, o bu yalan ile ibadete hak etmiyor ve para çalmak. O ay içinde baz? Türk ö?retmenlerin ödenmi? de?il.
    Gülen bir Kürt, o Türk de?ildir.

    Turkey to investigate Islamists coup claims

    (AFP) – 7 hours ago

    ANKARA — A Turkish prosecutor opened an inquiry Tuesday into claims that followers of a major Islamic movement in the police fabricated and doctored evidence in probes into alleged coup plots, Anatolia news agency said.

    One of Turkey’s most respected police chiefs dropped the bombshell claims last week in a book which became an instant bestseller in a country where hundreds of people have been charged over coup conspiracies since 2007.

    The book says followers of influential Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen in key posts in the police and judiciary have manipulated probes into a series of alleged plots by military and civilian figures to discredit and topple the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

    An Ankara prosecutor responsible for organised crime launched a preliminary inquiry into the allegations after the government, which is backed by the Gulen movement, came under mounting pressure to act, Anatolia said.

    “Why is a probe not launched into the allegations in the book? Isn’t there a brave prosecutor in this country?” Kemal Anadol from the main opposition Republican People’s Party told a news conference earlier.

    The government launched an investigation into the author, Hanefi Avci, immediately after the book was released, but stayed mum on the allegations. Gulen, based in the United States since 1999, denied the charges.

    In a television interview late Monday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the book as “unfortunate” but would not comment on the allegations.

    In one of the probes, 196 suspects, including senior army figures, have been charged over an alleged 2003 coup plot involving plans to bomb mosques and provoke tensions with neighbouring Greece to spark political unrest and shape public opinion in favour of a military coup, before seizing power.

    Avci alleges that Gulen followers in the army have smuggled out military documents, which were subsequently leaked to the media after being “doctored and mixed up to distort events” to pave the way for judicial action and sideline secularist forces.

    “In my opinion… (Gulenist) policemen and prosecutors make plans together and documents are then leaked to the media in line with their recommendation,” he wrote.

    Avci also alluded that ammunition dug up as part of the investigations might have been planted by the police itself.

    The opposition has long raised similar charges, but it is the first time that a senior official — respected also by AKP supporters — has openly accused the Gulen community.

    The wealthy movement, estimated to number up to six million, has won much praise for establishing hundreds of high-quality schools — both at home and abroad — to raise devout Muslims reconciled with science and modern life.

    Gulen preaches moderate Islam, promotes inter-faith dialogue and denies having political ambitions.

    But Turkey’s secularists insist the community is a sly movement infiltrating the state in a bid to Islamise secular Turkey, charges of which Gulen was acquitted in a 2006 case.

    The coup probes are already under fire: critics say they have degenerated into a campaign to disable the secularist army and bully the opposition.

    Journalists and academics are among dozens of suspects awaiting trial in jail.

    The probes have progressed amid extensive wiretappings, with prosecutors relying heavily on anonymous letters and secret witnesses

  20. AzDefender says:

    Yes I would agree that there days are really numbered espeacially here in Arizona. Now that Sb1070 has awakened the public to illegal workers and those that abuse HB-1 visas in order subvert our economy here and to push there own bigotted agenda. Under the basis that they cannot find quailified teachers in Arizona when there has been over 20 public schools complety closed and some schools have even had to cut back on staff. There are hundreds of unemployed teachers yet these Turkish Scholors (ha ha wink wink) lie to the government that there are no Americans that can teach engineering , science and math. Not to mention 247 engeneers from Raytheon had been layed off as I am sure at least one would enjoy teaching school espeacially in this economy. But getting back to Arizona new standards it will be even more intresting to see how they fair against the no child left behind act. Public School teachers with Masters Degree who may have a little bit of an accent have been audited. Resonably thinking it would suit the state far better than to visit four different schools to nail four teachers when they can visit one campus and nail 30 in one clip! Karma is a wonderful thing. We can go further into the Ethnic Studies ban. I wonder how much money they can piss away on legal fees to keep Turkish Olympiads, and Native American Geniside studies. Which does promote anti-american views and ideals.