Alternative Schools: Are Districts ‘Gaming’ the System?
EWA Radio: Episode 112
Heather Vogell of ProPublica discusses a new investigation into how districts utilize their alternative schools — campuses set up to handle struggling and troubled students. ProPublica concluded that by reassigning students unlikely to graduate out of mainstream classrooms, some traditional high schools were “hiding” their true dropout numbers, and boosting their own ratings within their state’s accountability system. Vogell discusses some of the pushback to the first story in the series, including the decision to focus on Sunshine High School in Orlando, Fla., an alternative school managed by a for-profit charter schools network. Have accountability pressures on schools and districts influenced the spread of alternative programs? What’s been the response from the local school board and Florida education officials to the ProPublica story? And how can local reporters use ProPublica’s approach to inform their own reporting on alternative schools?