Perhaps the people in Tallahassee don't read much on the interwebs. Or maybe they don't mind entrusting their kids' education to a team of real estate developers. Whatever the reason, the Leon County School Board has decided to approve a new Mavericks High charter school.
Mavericks in Education Florida is a West Palm Beach-based, for-profit charter school chain that promises to help at-risk kids graduate. But in reality, most Mavericks schools graduate less than 15 percent of eligible students. They score "incomplete" on state report cards, because so few students are taking the FCAT. Plus, two whistleblower lawsuits filed in Miami allege Mavericks inflates attendance numbers and inaccurately reports grades. (Read the New Times feature story on Mavericks here.)
There are eight Mavericks schools in Florida so far, including two in Miami-Dade, two in Broward, and one in Palm Beach County. In November, the Palm Beach County School Board canceled a vote to approve three more Mavericks schools because of concerns over the company's academic track record. Yet Leon County is forging ahead.
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To be fair, Leon school officials put lots of caveats in their agreement with Mavericks, which allocates the charter school $1.9 million for the first year of operation. Leon wants the newest Mavericks High to have an "at-risk" graduation rate that comes within 10 percentage points of the school district's rate, starting this fall. Also, at least 55 percent of the students enrolled at the school must improve their reading skills, as measured by FCAT "learning gains," every year.
Raising the bar for the company sounds like an excellent idea. But if a company has been accused in court of altering grades and enrollment data, can you trust it to tell the truth about test scores?
Kids in our state capital are about to find out.