Fear and loathing of charter schools

Oct. 10, 2012

Katy Grimes: I received a distressed phone call yesterday from a reader about a starling accusation of school cheating.

This reader, whose children attend the Oxford Preparatory Academy, which runs charter schools in Mission Viejo and Chino, CA, said that after months of diligent, time-consuming preparation for the mandatory May Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR exams testing), and months of teachers putting in 12-hour days, the Oxford charter school students reached an outstanding score of 997 out of 1000 possible points on the Academic Performance Index.

What should be good news has turned to controversy, because someone on the  Capistrano Unified School District School Board has now accused the charter school of cheating.

The parent said that she and other parents are flabbergasted, especially after having worked along side the children and teachers, and said that the cheating accusation is likely motivated by the local teachers union.

No stranger to controversy

Capistrano Unified School District’s Superintendent Joe Farley informed charter school officials that the school’s charter could be revoked in the face of misconduct.

Apparently the accusation, thus far, is light on any actual evidence of cheating. “OPA Superintendent Sue Roche said she knows the allegations will go unsubstantiated,” the Mission Viejo Patch reported. “Farley’s letter was the first she had heard of them. Not one allegation has ever been stated to me at all,” she said.

The charter school’s board of directors has launched its own investigation into the claims, Roche said.

The Capistrano school board is no stranger to controversy. In May 2011 Superintendent Farley and the Board of Trustees were accused by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas of violating the state’s open meeting law. Again.

After an investigation, Rackauckas released a 27-page report “with a stern scolding that makes CUSD’s leaders come off like whiny second graders,” reported the Orange County Weekly. However, the DA ended up concluding that there was not enough evidence to sustain the allegations.

Rackauckas had “accused the board of violating the Brown Act: at two closed-door meetings in December when controversial furlough days for teacher and staff were discussed; at January closed sessions where teacher salaries were talked about without the labor negotiator being present as required by law; and in March when the board went from addressing an agenda item in open session to chatting about it behind the dais during a recess,”  OC Weekly reported.

“Keep in mind this is a school district that has already been slapped around and threatened with legal action over Brown Act violations dating back four years, something that prompted the board to outlaw illegal secret meetings in 2009. Supposedly,” wrote OC Weekly. Indictments were handed out in that case.

What a mess.


In 2009, another Orange County school district, the Saddleback Unified School District, fought to kill the Oxford Preparatory Academy Charter. “The proposed Oxford Preparatory Academy in Mission Viejo would present an ‘unsound education program’ that relies on ‘questionable budget assumptions and unrealistic enrollment projections,’ according to a 32-page report released today by Saddleback Superintendent Steve Fish,” the Orange County Register reported.

“The petition also does not contain ‘reasonably comprehensive’ descriptions of how it will meet 10 of the 16 elements required of charter schools under California law,” the report says.

Superintendent Fish had previously asked the school board to reject another charter school petition, which had requested to use a closed elementary school.

Charter schools a threat

The San Juan Capistrano Patch reported about a letter sent in August to members of the Capistrano Unified Education Association  teachers’ union, which announced that it planned on dividing its attention between defeating Prop. 32, which would ban unions and corporations from donating directly to candidates, and a slate of candidates in the four local school board trustee areas.

“The letter also hints that losing in both these areas could lead to another teachers strike,” the Patch reported.

It appears that the teachers union is aiming at school board candidates who have the backing of StudentsFirst, the national education reform group run by Michelle Rhee, and Hold CUSD Accountable, “a new organization opposed to current plans to further increase class sizes, shorten the school year and otherwise diminish the educational opportunities provided to students.”

“It was our collective political power that kicked out the anti-public education advocates two years ago,” teachers union President Vicki Soderberg wrote in the August letter to members, “and it will be our collective political power which maintains pro-public education advocates this year.”

Could accusing the Oxford Preparatory Academy charter school of cheating be another way of using their collective political power?

There are many stories like this, and sadly there are also stories of schools cheating. But overall, charter schools have a tremendous record of student achievement, educational success, and student-teacher accountability. And parents love charter schools.

Thus far, no one involved at the Oxford Preparatory Academy charter school was willing to talk on the record, but I will follow this story and report the outcome.

Perhaps part of the problem is the school mission, which includes emphasizing “high academic standards, respect, patriotism and courtesy.”


Write a comment
  1. Hondo
    Hondo 10 October, 2012, 15:01

    Kalifornia has the highest paid teachers in the country. They have some of the highest tax rates and spent gigantic amounts of money per year on education.
    And their test scores are some of the worst in the country. 47th and 48th on reading and math.
    Oh, did I mention that it is basically legally impossible to fire a pedophile teacher, thanks to the public unions stopping that bill.
    Go ahead, vote for Mungers bill to throw more money at the problem. It hasn’t worked yet.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 10 October, 2012, 16:28

    Hondo is a sullen carpetbagger with a bad habit….telling us how to live in California…

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 10 October, 2012, 17:48

    Teddy, you’re a sullen sock puppet with a bad habit……posting under gimmick handles 😉

    Reply this comment
  4. a frequent reader
    a frequent reader 10 October, 2012, 21:09

    Agreed Rex. His intelligence is shown off daily. An idol to many and hero to none.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 11 October, 2012, 00:39

    Pack and Ship

    Reply this comment
  6. observer
    observer 11 October, 2012, 14:51

    I read several web sites on a daily basis. Many have insightful well reasoned discussions among adults. Not here.

    Reply this comment
  7. surfpunk
    surfpunk 12 October, 2012, 09:12

    I was able to place my high schooler in an out of county charter school, only because the failed prision prep joke of a school that is bragging of their 60,000,000 up grade,is a failed school-no child left behind.I have already been forced to go out of the county to find decent schooling ,next step, out of state! 150 $ illeagal fire tax,90$ new parcel tax on ballot, browns tax ,mollys tax ,cap and trade theft add it all up. Training, and OMBAMA phones will save state. TED,UHAUL and the like minded goverment class fascist,I will not end up paying for your pensions.There is another world out there called, THE REAL WORLD

    Reply this comment
  8. Concerned mom
    Concerned mom 18 October, 2012, 23:16

    Sorry…but spending hours “prepping for the test” is not true learning. No wonder they received a high API.
    Wasn’t the headmaster for this charter school terminated in June for falsifying federal documents? A teacher as well?

    Hate to tell you Hondo…California does not have the highest paid teachers in the state. Also, your test score information is incorrect as well. They do however, have the distinction, of being the 49th state in per pupil spending.

    I love that people try to vilify the unions when they don’t have their facts straight, and they forget that unions are designed to protect the working class, which is what they do. Try going to Arizona where teachers make less than they did 10 years ago, and many teachers are at the poverty level.

    Reply this comment
  9. Concerned mom
    Concerned mom 18 October, 2012, 23:17

    highest paid in the country…Sorry, my bad

    Reply this comment
  10. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 25 October, 2012, 18:51

    “Orange County district probes scores,” follow up to the cheating accusation: http://www.championnewspapers.com/articles/2012/10/24/news/doc5081bdf25c561456466653.txt

    and “OPA investigaor finds no basis for cheating:” http://lagunaniguel-danapoint.patch.com/articles/opa-investigator-finds-no-basis-for-cheating-allegations

    Reply this comment

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