Fulton Science Academy: Charter Renewal 2011
Page created Nov 30, 2011 Last updated Dec 19, 2011
In November 2011, the charter for Fulton Science Academy Middle School came up for renewal. The renewal proposal can be found at this link, and a related document with responses to Fulton County Schools' review here.
Some Georgia parents are working on a petition that objects to the renewal conditions that FSA is requesting. In particular, they object to the 10-year rather than 3-year renewal period, and the near complete lack of oversight by Fulton County Schools. C.A.S.I.L.I.P.S. strongly endorses this petition. In view of articles about abuses at Gulen charter schools, such as the June 2011 New York Times article on these schools directing large business contracts to firms in their own network, and a March 2011 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a government investigation into kickbacks, having oversight from Fulton County schools is entirely reasonable.
Further, when communities are forced to pay for a charter school but are not allowed any say in its governance, it amounts to taxation without representation. This is an issue that has flared up in other communities across the country, where small special interest groups of parents try to force a community to accept a charter school, and the community rebels.
The Fulton Science Academy administration appears to be contending that its performance has been so satisfactory as to justify complete autonomy. However, a "State of the Charters" document prepared by Fulton County Schools shows that FSA's academic performance is average for its demographics. FSA has the lowest percentage of economically disadvantaged students of any of Fulton County's middle schools. The document shows graphs of performance vs. percent economically disadvantaged students. FSA lies very near the regression line in all subjects (the deviations are not statistically significant), indicative of average performance.
On April 11, 2011 the State Board of Education voted to deny the expansion of LISA Academy, a Gulen charter school in Arkansas that is part of the same network as Fulton Science Academy. The remarks of one of the Board members in a news article could just as well have applied to FSA: “When I look at the comparison of LISA Academy with other schools that have the same socioeconomic demographic, I’m not impressed (that) the statistics tell me that LISA is doing anything other than assembling a group of socioeconomically advantaged students out of the area, where they’re a precious commodity, and by doing that you can have better test scores."
Connections to other Gulen charter schools
Large swaths of text describing the curriculum in FSA's renewal petition are identical to that in a document outlining the curriculum of Sweetwater Branch Academy, a Gulen charter school in Florida that is also run under the auspices of Grace Schools. This includes the sections on Language Arts Curriculum, Social Studies Curriculum, Science Curriculum and Foreign Language Curriculum. A large chunk of text describing the integration of technology into the classroom starting with "Thinking differently from many other schools, FSA MS looks at the technology integration from a broader perspective..." that appears in FSA's renewal petition appears in identical form in the charter applications of Greenville Science Academy in South Carolina and Knoxville Charter Academy in Tennessee (both are Gulen charter schools currently being attempted).
A number of other text strings in FSA's renewal petition (or in other FSA documents) that also appear verbatim in other charter applications and documents provide further evidence of the connections of FSA to the network of Gulen charter schools across the country. These similarities of long strings of text cannot be attributed to mere "coincidence." Examples follow (more will be added to this list soon).
"Multi-sensory approach to learning: students will be provided with opportunities to learn through auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic activities. Students will be guided through the process of determining which learning style is best suited to their needs." (from p. 37 of Fulton Science Academy High School renewal petition, 2009).
- Frequently asked questions for Harmony Public Schools (chain of Gulen charter schools in Texas managed by Cosmos Foundation)
- Knoxville Charter Academy application (Gulen charter school being attempted in Tennessee)
- Wake Math and Science Academy charter application 2010 (failed attempt at Gulen charter school in NC)
- Palm Beach Science Academy charter application (Gulen charter school being attempted in Florida)
- Albuquerque School of Excellence charter application (Gulen charter school currently in operation in NM; financially connected to the Cosmos Foundation in TX)
- Indiana Science Academy charter application 2001 (failed attempt at Gulen charter school in Indiana)
“shortage of certified candidates and/or for any other reason deemed appropriate by the principal, candidates from traditional secondary environments"
- Piedmont IT Academy (proposed Gulen charter school in NC)
- Wake Math and Science Academy (proposed Gulen charter school in NC)
- College Preparatory Charter School of Springfield (failed attempt at Gulen charter school in MA)
"Assessments for individual students should focus on a student’s growth towards a proficiency standard rather than comparing a student’s performance against that of other students."
- Indiana Science Academy (failed attempt at Gulen charter school)
- Indiana Life Science Academy (failed attempt at Gulen charter school)
- Palm Beach Science Academy (failed attempt at Gulen charter school in FL)
- Wisconsin Career Academy (Gulen charter school)
- Nashville Charter Middle School (failed attempt at Gulen charter school in TN)
"A detailed list of formal responsibilities and job descriptions are provided to teachers"
- Albuquerque School of Excellence, Gulen charter school in NM that has financial ties to the Cosmos Foundation and Harmony Public Schools in Texas
"Summative Assessments quantitatively determine achievement of students on a set of academic outcomes at a particular point in time."
- Knoxville Charter Academy (proposed Gulen charter school in Tennessee)
Additional connections of FSA to the Gulen Movement and other Gulen charter schools can be found here.