Six Los Angeles Charter Schools Shut Down

Is this a sign to pro-reformers' commitment to accountability? Or proof that charters are untested?

By Julianne Hing Mar 03, 2011

On Tuesday, the next wave of charter school closures arrived in Los Angeles when the city’s Board of Education moved to shut down six Crescendo charter schools that operate south of downtown L.A. after the chain’s president was accused of encouraging teachers to cheat in standardized test preparations. Crescendo’s executive director John Allen allegedly directed principals who ordered teachers to break open the seals of the prior year’s tests to use on drills with students for last year’s standardized tests, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Allen has since been demoted after teachers reported the misconduct. Incoming LAUSD superintendent John Deasy recommended that Crescendo renew the organization’s charter a year at a time with annual reviews. The Los Angeles Board of Education instead revoked their charter.

Charter school closures are not unusual. A 2009 report from the National Center for Education Reform, a charter school advocacy group, found that just over 12 percent of the 5,250 charter schools that had ever been opened in the country had been forced to close. NCER found that more than forty percent closed because of financial mismanagement and inadequate enrollment. Fourteen percent were shut down because of poor academic performance. Like Crescendo’s unfortunate demise, allegations of grade tampering and misconduct frequently swirl around their final days–the blog Charter School Scandals tracks these with gleeful thoroughness.

Charter school critics use such reports as proof that charters are untested, and therefore untrustworthy entities. Their supporters argue that frequent charter school closures are a testament to pro-reformers’ commitment to accountability. If it’s not working, shut them down, they proudly say.

Either way, school closures of any kind cause upheaval in kids’ lives as schools get shut down and reconstituted and kids get dispersed throughout the district. It all leads to more instability in kids’ education.

And it’s not just charter schools that are getting shut down these days. Under No Child Left Behind and in the frenzy surrounding Race to the Top, traditional public schools that can’t raise their performance adequately enough have seen mass firings, forced closures and, ironically, charter school takeovers.