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Ohanian Comment: I taught in an alternative school. I can testify to their real purposes as viewed by the administrative establishment. At least our alternative school was local--not farmed out to a private business in another state. And when one of our students didn't show up when he was supposed to, we were on the phone to the family--and out on the streets looking for him.

CEP is different. It is a private business and if it doesn't want to answer questions, no one can compel it to.

Kudos to Robert Kimball, blowing the whistle again--for the sake of our youth: he found that 90 percent of the high schoolers were not in any HISD high school by September 11, 2006 and that less than 1 percent of the group had graduated.

Kudos to Margaret Downing, for having the journalistic integrity to dig deeply.

If we don't care about these youth now, we will pay for our neglect one hundred times over in the future.


By Margaret Downing

HISD continues to send students to CEP. Whether they go there, stay there or return successfully to their home school is anyone's guess.

Anthony was sentenced to alternative school at Community Education Partners, and there was nothing his mother or his lawyer could do about it. He had violated the student code of conduct regarding "dress code, defiance." Mom and the lawyer weren't disputing that Anthony had not behaved well, but they were hoping allowances would be made for the fact that Anthony probably should be in special education. And as offenses go, his profanity, belligerence and sleeping in class weren't on the level of weapons, drugs or serious bodily injury. . . .

Margaret Downing has asked that I remove this article and that you use the link below to access the article.

October 4, 2006
Senate Committee on Education
440 Sam Houston Building
Austin, TX 78711

Dear Honorable Senators:

SENATOR FLORENCE SHAPIRO, CHAIR
SENATOR ROYCE WEST, VICE CHAIR
SENATOR KIP AVERITT
SENATOR KYLE JANEK
SENATOR STEVE OGDEN
SENATOR TODD STAPLES
SENATOR LETICIA VAN de PUTTE
SENATOR TOMMY WILLIAMS
SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI

I am providing public comments today on accountability, the primary goal of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Houston ISD has out sourced its alternative program for students to a private company called Community Education Partners or CEP since 1997. Dallas ISD also used CEP but terminated the program because an internal evaluation recommended ending the program.

At your last meeting on September 20, 2006, you heard testimony from a representative of CEP. The testimony included a statement that CEP sends 86% of its students back to their schools and that 86% of them graduated. I am providing you with my data which found that less than 1% of high school students sent to CEP at one alternative school in Houston graduated and that 90% of them were no longer students in Houston ISD after two years of being enrolled in the CEP alternative school. A copy of my study is in your packet.

I believe that CEP is not being held accountable by the District or the State. I have enclosed in your packet a copy of an article (Fall 2006) with the subject, “CEP mystery: many pass through…and then?” The article discusses how the State of Pennsylvania and school Districts are paying 28 million dollars for a program “with little systematic oversight by the state Department of Education”. The Pennsylvania Governor’s policy chief stated that “It’s amazing that they’re willing to spend (this) money on kids, but it’s sad they don’t hold vendors accountable.” She adds, “We have no data…we are not happy”. In Philadelphia, CEP charges $13,000 per student enrolled in CEP. Houston pays approximately $10, 500 per student enrolled in CEP or over $17 million dollars a year.

There also is another article (August 2006) that was published in “The Nation” which I included. It argues that “”CEP uses political clout to carve a niche market serving students the public schools don’t want, and it makes millions in the process”. Carl Shaw, a former TX state official is quoted as saying, “It’s fair to say they (CEP) have avoided true scrutiny” and adds, “Their modus operandi is political, not educational and not scientific.” He evaluated the program for the Commissioner of Education, Mike Moses, and had this to say. He found limited student progress after six months in CEP and after a year actual regression. He wrote one report to HISD that stated, “Few CEP students would be smart enough for prison education. It’s shocking and here is a company touted as a leader”.

George Scott who has done extensive research on CEP believes that “As long as the district and the vendor have influence over accountability measures, it is corrupt”. Today, in the early edition of the Houston Press, (October 4, 2006) another feature article critical of the CEP program in Houston has been published. I have also enclosed a copy of that article in your packet.

Finally, I just want to say a few words about by research. I studied a sample of 180 students, by name, which was enrolled at one alternative school in Houston in March 2004. Under the open records act, I requested to know which students were still enrolled as of September 11, 2006 and which had graduated. The Houston ISD provided me the data that clearly shows that less than 1% of the high schools students in CEP had graduated and that 90% were no longer students in HISD. Now, one could argue that they all went back to their home country or went to another school District. However, I believe that almost all of them dropped out and that CEP is in reality a dropout factory.

At your last meeting on September 20, 2006, the President of HFT testified that she was the protector of CEP. She and others may tell you that my research was based on a sample of students. Well, Senators that is how research studies are conducted. You take a sample and report your findings. I recommended in a meeting with the Superintendent of Houston ISD on October 17, 2005 that he review the status of all CEP students and determine if those students are dropping out as I suspect they are. I also sent a letter to each trustee on October 27, 2005. No action on my recommendations to evaluate and hold CEP accountable has been taken. I have also met with the VP of CEP to discuss my concerns and visited CEP on at least 5 occasions.

TEC Code 37 (m) requires TEA to evaluate annually the performance of alternative schools. I requested those reports on September 22, 2006 from TEA. Yesterday, I was told by TEA (Perry Weirich) that they could not find the reports. Thank you for listening and reviewing the packets I have provided you. I trust that you will take measures to hold private companies like CEP more accountable to taxpayers, school children and parents.

Dr. Robert Kimball
32918 Willenhall CT
Fulshear, TX 77441

Enclosed: Study by Dr. Kimball, Recent news articles on CEP, Copy of Ltr to Trustees, HISD School Board, Copy of TPIA request to TEA

— Margaret Downing and Robert Kimball's letter
Houston Press

2006-10-05

http://www.houstonpress.com/Issues/2006-10-05/news/feature_print.html


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