Palm Beach School Officials Recommend Denying Three New Mavericks Schools (Updated)

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UPDATE: Read about the School Board's vote after the jump.

Mavericks in Education Florida should not be allowed to open three more charter high schools in Palm Beach County, school district officials say, because the for-profit company's claims about its academic achievements can't be verified.

The recommendation for denial -- which will be presented to the School Board for a vote tomorrow -- comes three months after the same officials recommended approving the new schools. They changed their minds after "a constituency letter and media postings about the effectiveness of Mavericks Charter Schools" prompted them to ask more questions, according to the written explanation the officials gave the School Board.

On November 21, the Pulp broke the story about Mavericks' academic troubles.

We found that Mavericks schools received "incomplete" grades on state report cards, and the company is facing two whistleblower lawsuits alleging that  its Homestead school is not issuing standard Florida high school diplomas. The day after our story broke, School Board officials canceled their vote on the new Mavericks schools.

On November 29, Area Superintendent Janice Cover wrote a pointed letter to Mavericks. She demanded proof of the claim that its education model "has been effective and successful in raising student achievement in all Mavericks High schools statewide." Cover requested enrollment numbers, graduation rates, dropout rates, diploma information, and FCAT test scores for each of the eight Mavericks schools in Florida. She also asked for all the documents and details about the whistleblower lawsuits and attached the Pulp's report as a reference.

Mavericks' response was absurdly inadequate.The company sent over a few bar graphs showing statistics from one school, in Osceola County, that allegedly graduated 185 students last year. That's it. No numbers from any other schools.

Perhaps that's because, according to the Florida Department of Education, the other Mavericks schools have grad rates below 15 percent. It's tough to verify Mavericks' FCAT data. With so few kids taking the test, their scores are not publicly reported on the state's website.

"Some significant aspects of the FCAT information Mavericks submitted for SY2010-2011 for its charter school in Osceola County is unsubstantiated and inconsistent with State documents," Palm Beach school officials concluded.

So, district officials do not want more Mavericks schools to open. But will the Palm Beach County School Board listen to their advice? Last year, school officials recommended denial of the Mavericks High school in Palm Springs, but the board approved it anyway.

Tune in tomorrow to see how the vote goes this time.

UPDATE February 22, 2012: The School Board voted 6-0 this afternoon to deny all three new Mavericks charter schools. There was no discussion among board members, and no one from Mavericks spoke. It was an eerily quiet end to three months of drama.

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