Gilbert Classical Academy and AZ Charter Schools: Good and Bad (Mostly Bad)

While the Arizona Legislature is in session, you hear a lot about charter schools and funding for education, generally in very negative terms. That’s especially true if you’re hanging around professional educators who don’t spend time in classrooms actually engaging in the profession of teaching children.

While the matter of wresting a new campus for Gilbert Classical Academy is taking all the oxygen out of the room in Gilbert Public Schools, you hear a lot about charter schools, generally in very negative terms. However, ordinary citizens are appalled by the racist, discriminatory subtext of pronouncements from GPS educrats who have decided to close a school to benefit GCA. This is abhorrent, and it is all the more disgusting because the leader of GPS educrats, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, cannot receive a Superintendent license in this state because she never, ever taught in a K-12 classroom. But apparently she is an *expert* at closing schools! #SAVEGJHS 

First, let’s look at some of the common complaints about how charter schools are ruining education in Arizona, and how the legislature is behind the master plan to destroy public education once and for all. The Superintendent of Apache Junction School District draws a picture to explain why charter schools are different from public schools:

Legislators and the governor point to these for-profit businesses [charter schools] and claim their models should be replicated to improve the educational opportunities of all students.

Unfortunately, the models cannot be replicated on a statewide scale because the success of these charter and private schools are predicated on creating campuses and classrooms that do not reflect the demographics of Arizona students. When comparing the demographics of the highly touted charter and private schools to the Arizona average you get a strikingly different picture.

The charter and private schools the state holds on the pedestal of success have very few, if any, poor students, English Language Learners or special education students. They also have an above average percent of students who are white/non-Hispanic. When demographic adjustments are applied to the academic scores of private and charter schools, the performance gap disappears.

What does this have to do with Gilbert Classical Academy? It’s the same picture! The demographics of the GCA student body do not reflect the demographics of other GPS schools, particularly the two junior high schools that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has placed on the chopping block. She has done this to placate some very loud, demanding parents who want all the benefits of a private school education without paying tuition bills.

How does GCA get to the point of being the number ten high school in the country and number three in Arizona? It’s all about numbers and statistics. As Mark Twain said, “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” First, US News and World Report gives the teacher to student ratio — 11:1. Another data point — the student body is 54 percent male and 46 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 29 percent. At GCA, Asians make up 15%, Hispanic 8% and Blacks 5%. All students take Advance Placement classes, and they all take Advanced Placement tests. That is the key to the rank on US News and World Report: the AP test percentage. If a student doesn’t want to take all AP classes, they are booted out the door.

The real secret to GCA’s success is that if a student fails a class, the student is kicked out of GCA. Permanently! With those kids that are left at GCA, of course the numbers and statistics are amazing! The school was designed to be a *perk* for GPS employees, and somewhere around 75% of GCA students are in that group. Parents would prefer that you think their kids are just totally, flat-out amazing and that they all waited anxiously during the infamous lotteries held each year to select the new seventh grade class, but they didn’t.

“Academics are everything at Gilbert Classical Academy,” used to be a true statement. Not now. The attrition rate became so big, it got the attention of community residents who wondered aloud why GPS was pouring so much attention onto a select few students, the GCA students. It began with the original school design:

Automatic admission is granted to an incoming seventh-grader with a sibling in the school or with a parent permanently working for Gilbert Public Schools. That group makes up about 20 percent of the 85 students in every incoming seventh-grade class. For the November lottery, every applicant’s number is painted on a Ping-Pong ball, which is placed in a drum that tumbles the balls — not unlike the Arizona state lottery.

Students in most public high schools who find AP world history too rigorous can drop out of AP and go down to an honors history class. But not at Gilbert Classical Academy. … “Here at Gilbert Classical Academy, they need to take AP world history,” [former principal Jodie] Dean said. “If it’s too difficult or too much work load to have all courses AP, students will often make the decision to go to a comprehensive campus.”

That attitude sums it up: GCA looks down on other students in Gilbert Public Schools. By the way, those of you who remember Jodie Dean: she went to be principal at Kino Junior High School in Mesa Public Schools, but she didn’t last. Birdies chirp something about Jodie Dean taking *The Gilbert Way* along with her, and anyone who reads WestieConnect expects that would not be a good thing. It wasn’t, so Good Old Jodie Dean is now the principal of an online school in New Mexico.

Finishing up today’s Leap Day post, we return to the Superintendent of Apache Junction School District

I am anti the systematic approach of our elected officials to promote and fund a model of schooling that cannot be replicated to scale, across our state, and to use the inability to replicate the model as further proof that our public school districts are inadequate and failing.

Why would our elected officials make decisions that clearly favor a small group not representative of the state demographics and use these decisions to rob the schools that serve the majority of the students in our state?

Or maybe our elected officials would like to find avenues that allow “some kids” to not have to go to school with “those kids.” Unfortunately, I think it’s the latter of the two. I hope I am wrong, but it seems to me we are witnessing the dismantling of public education, by segregation, under the umbrella of school choice and vouchers.

Westie agrees: GCA parents were outspoken during the public meeting last week about how they do not want *their kids* to go to school with *those kids.*  And they’re proud of it! <shaking head sadly…>

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