Friday, September 30, 2016

Taxpayers, Kids Win. Ecot Loses Lawsuit. May Have to Repay $60 million.

Three years ago, I met with a group of folks concerned about the state of Ohio's charter schools. The group included members of the traditional public school and charter school advocacy world. During the part of the discussion when we tried to identify the biggest problems with charter schools, eSchools came up. But within minutes, the group shot down the idea of going after eSchools. That's because the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow's William Lager had grown so powerful, thanks to his significant campaign contributions. After all, Gov,. John Kasich had recently spoken at ECOT's graduation.

Lager had said while introducing Kasich at that commencement that "you will find no leader more committed to the ECOT idea than Governor Kasich."

"We'll never get anywhere," I remember someone saying about trying to take on eSchools. I didn't think much differently. Going after ECOT seemed an insurmountable political hurdle.

No more.

Word came out a few minutes ago that ECOT's lawsuit has failed. The school, which claimed to be the nation's largest, now may have to repay Ohio taxpayers more than $60 million of the $109 million it received last year because the state determined ECOT could only verify it had 40 percent of the 15,000 plus kids it claimed. The state still pays ECOT so much per pupil that even with this cut(and including all of its revenue streams), ECOT can still clear as much as 22 percent profit after paying all of its staff.

Now I know ECOT will use every maneuver to overturn this ruling from Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French. There will be appeals.

But what a day this is for Ohio's kids and taxpayers.

Since Lager opened ECOT in 2001, Ohio's taxpayers have sent the school $903 million. If the state's recent determination that ECOT was overpaid by 60 percent last year were applied over the last 15 years, Ohio taxpayers have sent about $540 million for kids that ECOT never really had. That's a staggering figure. And it's not outrageous to make that assumption because ECOT was nailed by State Auditor Jim Petro during its first year of operation for the exact same thing.

And what have we received for that? Certainly not high-quality education. ECOT earned only Fs on the new state report card -- something it also achieved two years ago under the less difficult state report card regime.

But here's the outrageous data point: According to the New York Times, no school in the country failed to graduate more kids than ECOT. Not a single school.

Just to give you an idea of the scale of ECOT's failure, here are a few examples:

  • More kids fail to graduate ECOT than attend all grades in the Norwalk school district.
  • More kids fail to graduate ECOT than attend Bexley.
  • More kids fail to graduate ECOT than attend 455 Ohio school districts
  • More kids fail to graduate ECOT than attend every school district in each of these Ohio counties: Vinton, Monroe, Carroll, Morgan, Harrison and Noble.
  • Enough kids fail to graduate ECOT to fill Community Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M. or Cleveland Central Catholic's new stadium.
  • Enough kids fail to graduate ECOT that their number would rank among the nation's 200 largest high schools
It is criminal that a school this adept at failing has succeeded so richly at fleecing Ohio's taxpayers. You want to know why elections matter? This, my friends, is why.

I applaud the Ohio Department of Education for finally standing up to the bully. I applaud those in the legislature on both sides of the aisle to stood up for kids and against the adults who would fail them while robbing their parents blind. I applaud those pro-charter school reformers who stood up for quality choices for Ohio's kids rather than more bad ones like ECOT.

Most of all, I applaud the members of the media and advocates who have banged this ECOT drum for 15 years. And while for too many of those years the drum's beat was lost on the winds of political power, today it was heard.

Loud and clear.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ohio Senate Passes Bill that Could Close State Agencies En Masse. Gift to ECOT?

I'm not usually Conspiracy Guy. But when Senate Bill 329 -- a bill that would force state agencies to sunset every two years and would have to be renewed or closed then -- passed the Ohio Senate today, I started wondering, "Is this a gift to ECOT?"

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow -- the nation's largest K-12 school run by huge political contributor William Lager that received all Fs on the state report card while failing to graduate more kids than Newark City Schools has students -- was hit this week by the Ohio Department of Education for only being about to account for 40% of the approximately 15,500 kids it was paid to educate last year.

ECOT has been embroiled in a contentious lawsuit with the Ohio Department of Education, who they claim is unfairly trying to find out if the $109 million the state paid them last year was actually justified.

Why do I think 329 has something to do with ECOT? First of all, the bill's sponsor is Bill Coley, yes, the same Bill Coley who almost cost Ohio's kids $71 million in federal funding meant to grow high quality charters because ODE submitted a rule 3 weeks late.

Is there a better warning shot fired across ODE's bow than a piece of legislation that threatens their very existence, unless Ohio legislators (who are the largest recipients of Mr. Lager's largess) say they can exist?

Again, I'm not Conspiracy Guy. But am I alone in thinking these dots seem awfully closely connected?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ohio: ECOT Overpaid by 60%. Still is Paid Enough to Clear 22% Profit

Well, it appears what had been long suspected -- that the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow has been substantially overpaid by state taxpayers -- is true. The Ohio Department of Education has determined that ECOT -- the nation's largest K-12 school -- really isn't, for it has only
40% of the kids Ohio's taxpayers funded last year.

However, even with that potential 60% cut in pay, ECOT would still have enough money to pay for all their school personnel and still clear 22%!!!

Let me say that again: ECOT could have their state aid cut by 60% and still clear 22%!!!

Last year, ECOT received $109 million from the state. They paid all their school personnel -- teachers, administrators, programmers, etc. -- $47.5 million. If they were cut 60%, then they would have about $4 million less than that. However, the school also receives $11.8 million in federal funding and another $5.5 million in "other, non-tax" funding, according to ODE records.

So they would clear -- all told -- more than $13 million, even with a 60% cut in state funding!!

Even if their other sources are cut by the same percentage, ECOT would still be able to clear at least 6% profit.

As I've said many times, we as a state pay eSchools waaaay too much money, especially given their dismal academic performance. Let's hope the legislature takes note and brings eSchool funding more in line with their cost structure rather than their profit motive.

Ohio Report Card Results Defy Belief

I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I believe in high standards for our kids. I like that my 6th grader was learning pre-Algebra concepts in 3rd and 4th grade. But don't think for a moment that this new state report card is anything but artificial grade deflation.

Grade deflation happens all the time. For example, I know that at one time, the Harvard Business School would fail students in the bottom 25% of their class, even if those students scored over 90% or something on their class assessments.

That's called grade deflation. It's every bit as pernicious as grade inflation.

It doesn't prove you have high standards. If you're a teacher, it proves you're a jerk. If you're a school, it proves you have some sort of tough guy complex. If you're a state, it proves you're trying to further the narrative that Ohio public schools are failing and need reformed in dramatic ways.

Is it a coincidence that giving more Ds and Fs to districts will potentially allow hundreds of more districts to be available for brick and mortar charter schools to open (it's currently at 39 districts) after the 2017-2018 school year?

Well, dear reader, I leave that analysis to you.

As I've said many times, if I created a test in my University of Akron course that I knew most kids would fail, I wouldn't be allowed to give the test. Because it's an unfair assessment of my students' understanding of the course material.

Yet we allow Ohio leaders to get away with saying "we're raising standards" to explain away the historically bad performance of Ohio's school districts -- a performance Ohio school districts have never replicated in nearly 20 years of high stakes standardized testing.

If you think it's really about higher standards (mind you, we've had these standards in place for two years now and passed them when I was in the legislature), then explain this: Not a single school district in this state received a higher performance index score this school year than they did in the 2013-2014 school year.

Not one.

Is that really possible? That no school district in the state is doing a better job today at preparing kids for these tests than they were three years ago?

How do you know that the score drops don't mean a lot? Because school districts generally rank about where they always have -- wealthier ones on top, poorer ones on the bottom.

This leads to all kinds of statistical nonsense. For example, Cleveland's performance index score dropped by more than 27%, yet their state rank was the exact same as the 2013-2014 school year. Meanwhile, Firelands Local in suburban Lorain County had a slight smaller, 26% score drop. Yet Firelands had the state's largest single rank drop -- from 161st to 528th (out of 609 districts).

And there are districts like Athens, which had a greater than 10% drop in their performance index score, but actually improved their state rank by more than 125 spots.

Overall, the biggest percentage score drops happened in the districts with the lowest scores already, with the bottom 10% of performance index scores in the 15-16 year seeing their scores drop nearly 25% since 13-14. Meanwhile, the state's highest performing districts this year only saw an average 6.2% score drop -- 1/4 the dip of the poorer districts. The median score dropped 13% and the number of scores over 100 (out of 120 maximum) dropped from 288 districts in the 2013-14 year to 48 this last year.

Another issue is each successive standardized test has dropped scores. Again, not surprisingly. The last year of the OAAs was 2013-14 and districts did how they traditionally have done -- very well. In the 14-15 year, we had the PARCC exams and scores dropped some then. Last year we had the AIRs (after complaints about the PARCC), and now we have the worst results ever. However, it's important to remember that the majority of school district grades remain A, B or C.

What we have here is artificial grade deflation posing as "tough standards." The standards have nothing to do with it. It's testing regimes kids aren't used to taking, coupled with tests that most kids were expected to do poorly on in the first place.

If teachers were giving these tests, they'd be fired. Deservedly so.

But when we attach real consequences to these results (a district's performance index score rank determines whether charter schools can open in that district, for example), our leaders accept them as little more than a "real" indication of how districts are doing because it fits in with their now 30-year-old narrative that the nation's public schools are failing.

And while in a few, isolated cases that narrative is true, in the vast majority of cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ohio Report Card Drives Down Performance. So What?

Amid all the hue and cry over Ohio's new, obtuse and downright head scratching Report Card results, it might be helpful to look at how performance has changed over the four years that Ohio has implemented its much-praised A-F grading system.

What is clear is that each year, report card grades stay the same, or get worse for all school and district types. However, the biggest performance drop -- by far -- has been for Ohio's school districts, which saw their percentage of Ds and Fs more than double over the last four years.

Meanwhile, Ohio's charter schools have had a nearly 40% greater jump in their failing grades than Ohio's much-maligned Big 8 Urban school buildings (the Big 8 school districts are Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown). Four years ago, Ohio's charters and urban buildings had almost exactly the same percentage of D and F grades and today, charters have 5 percentage points more D and F grades.

The charts below show the percentage of As, Bs and Cs each group of schools and districts received each year since 2012-2013 and their percentage of Ds and Fs.

Today, about 7 out of 10 Big 8 Urban building grades are D or F, which is not good.  However, 3 out of 4 charter grades are D or F, which is worse.

Meanwhile, even though charters did the best they had ever done in the 2012-2013 school year, with 60% of their grades being D or F, that result is still the mirror opposite of school districts' worst performance.

What's that mean? It means the best charters have ever done is having 6 out of 10 grades be D or F. The worst districts have ever done is have 6 out of 10 grades be A, B, or C.

The only constant between the 2012-2013 report cards and the 2015-2016 version is Ohio charter schools continue to be vastly outperformed by their school district counterparts (remember that all but 2 Ohio school districts lost students and funding to charters last school year). And now, unlike four years ago, we can say that Big 8 Urban buildings -- overall -- outperform charters in a meaningful way.

Regardless of school type results, what these historic data show is just how illogical the report card has become. Does common sense tell you that school districts today are twice as ineffective as four years ago, or even that 3 out of 4 times, charters are failing?

To hear the report card defenders, all this indicates is that our standards are getting tougher.

Never mind we've had three different state assessments the last three years. Don't think that matters? In 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 we had the same tests. Is it a surprise that the results are nearly identical each year? Now they are wildly different.

Never mind that it is illogical to assume that worse grades mean standards are tougher or results are more accurate -- a narrative thread I strongly oppose.

Never mind that if I developed a test in my class that I knew significant numbers of students would fail (like we were told these new Ohio assessments would do), I would be disciplined for developing a bad, unfair test.

What matters most to Ohio policymakers, it appears, is that we are finally getting some data that indicate Ohio school districts are failing kids almost as often as politicians have been telling us they have been failing for years. If the report card is meant to support a political narrative that public schools are failing kids and we need more choices, regardless of those choices' quality, then the report cards are doing that job better than ever.

But if they're meant to actually give the public a better, more accurate notion of what's happening in Ohio classrooms? Well, I'm afraid that on that account, the report cards would get a big, fat F.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

USDOE Calls Ohio Charter Program "High Risk", puts Special Conditions on Nation's Largest Federal Charter School Grant

It what appears to be a first for the U.S. Department of Education, Ohio has been designated a "high risk" state for charter school oversight, which means the federal government will assert far more authority over how Ohio distributes the $71 million it received last year through the federal Charter School Program grant, which was the largest given last year.

When the grant was given, many immediately questioned how it could have happened, given the fact that Ohio's well-told story of struggling charter schools was well known. The person who sent in the application, David Hansen (husband of Gov. John Kasich's chief of staff and presidential campaign manager Beth Hansen) was forced to resign for illegally doctoring a new charter school accountability regime to benefit politically powerful online charter school operators. It was this regime that was the foundation for the USDOE grant.

There were other sleights of hand that many people identified in the application. However, while USDOE found that there were no "significant inaccuracies" in the state's grant (leaving open the possibility that inaccuracies did exist), there were several problems with Ohio's history with charter schools in general that forced the Department's hand. Specifically, the letter cites the following concerns:

  1. The Hansen affair
  2. Ohio congressional leader concerns
  3. Issues found in previous audits of ODE's capacity to implement federal charter school programs (the only available audit I wrote about here in some detail)
  4. Implementation issues of the additional oversight functions prescribed by House Bill 2 that could impact the state's ability to administer the grant
In addition, the feds urged ODE to "put into place additional mechanisms to help earn the public's confidence in its ability to act as a proper steward of its Federal grant funds on behalf of Ohio's families and students."

The feds also went out of their way to "strongly encourage" the state to put special mechanisms in place to increase transparency between non-profit charter schools and the for-profit entities with which they contract. The feds also made explicit that no online schools can receive the funding. The feds also expressed so much concern about Ohio's miserably performing dropout recovery schools that they told ODE that the feds themselves have to approve all grants given to dropout recovery schools.

The feds wrapped up by expressing confidence that ODE will be able to administer the grant. But they warned that if they fail to meet these special conditions, the state will be subject to strict penalties. They especially pushed ODE to work toward creating "the rigorous oversight of authorizers that was described in ODE's approved grant application."

While I'm glad Ohio will have the opportunity to use this federal money to expand higher performing charters, it is once again a reminder of just what a backwater we have been on charters and how far we have to go.

To add insult to injury, a charter school chain that has some of the highest performing charters in Ohio was rejected for sponsorship in Mississippi -- yes, THAT Mississippi -- this week for not being high performing enough for that state to sponsor.

When the best performing schools in your state aren't high performing enough for Mississippi, you've got problems.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Youngstown Plan Steers Clear of Privatization. For Now.

The recently released plan for Youngstown City Schools had some encouraging things in it. A commitment to wraparound services. An idea to create a high school transition school for students entering high school. A professionalization of the workforce. A serious attempt to engage parents in their children's learning.

And, importantly, no obvious expansion of the mostly failing school choice experiment in Youngstown. Half the kids in Youngstown charters go to schools that perform worse overall on state metrics than Youngstown.

As we at Innovation Ohio suggested last month, Youngstown CEO Krish Mohip should follow evidence-based practices turning around Youngstown schools while trying to avoid the non-evidence-based practices, like relying more on school choice, which in Ohio, has not worked out as promised.

And, it looks like, for the most part, Mohip did stick to those principles. And while some of the stated plan goals are simply unrealistic (which I'll get to later), overall there is much to like with the initial plan.

Now to the details. The most glaring omission is one that Cleveland also neglected in its transformation plan: ask the state for more money to implement the plan. The problem in Youngstown is that I don't see the citizens of Youngstown passing a 15-mill property tax levy to make up for the state's lack of investment the way Cleveland's residents did.

So, for example, how will Mohip possibly be able to provide quarterly performance reviews of 100% of the district's teachers in two years -- a laudable goal -- (let alone weekly instructional feedback) with no additional funding to hire the necessary supervisors to conduct these reviews? Or, how will Mohip ensure that 85% of parents attend open houses in two years when there's no additional funding to pay for outreach coordinators who can be active in the city's neighborhoods? Or how will Mohip ensure all Youngstown children have a personalized learning plan in two years without any additional funding for the coordinators to organize such a massive undertaking? Or how will he pay for his proposed 9th Grade Academy to help kids transition to high school?

Again, all of those goals are laudable. They should be tried. But without additional state resources, it's going to be a struggle for Youngstown to meet them without radically altering job scopes for scores of district employees -- adding new responsibilities to already overloaded staff. Youngstown simply doesn't have the community resources of Cleveland, which was able to utilize substantial foundation and non-profit assistance to do many of the things Youngstown now wants to do.

But that doesn't mean the district shouldn't try.

It is also interesting that currently, 87.7% of the district's teachers are considered to be high performing and the plan's stated goal is to get that number up to 95% in two years. So while much of the plan entails doing more effective teacher evaluations (modeled after what Baltimore has been using for a few years), honoring exceptional performance, and requiring weekly, quarterly and annual teacher/leader feedback, the data suggest it's not teaching, for the most part, that's letting down Youngstown's kids.

In other words, if you were going to pour resources into Youngstown City Schools, the data suggest pouring tons of resources in a new teacher evaluation and tracking system may not be as critical, especially with no apparently new funding coming down the pike.

This brings me to another concern: the plan's call to review employee compensation to ensure "regional competitiveness." What if the review finds that Youngstown teachers make more than comparably prepared professionals? Does than mean Mohip will start ripping up contracts and paying teachers and other professionals less as he begins expecting more from them? Again, no indication one way or another yet.

But given this plan's origin in trying to primarily expand charter school options, it is indeed encouraging that there is no mention of "school choice" or "vouchers" or "charter school" in the 22-page document. That could be because a $71 million federal grant, which was largely intended to expand charters in Youngstown, has been held up by the U.S. Department of Education for several reasons. And once that money's freed up, it will be invested in Youngstown, as originally intended.

Or it could be that Mohip looked at the data and found that, unlike Chicago where he came from, there simply is not a critical mass of high performing charters in Youngstown. And maybe he is thinking that the best hope for parents and their children is to improve the Youngstown City Schools rather than hoping Ohio's nationally ridiculed charter school sector can ride in on a white horse (or White Hat, as the case may be).

That's a good sign that Mohip is actually paying attention to the realities on the ground in Youngstown. That's not to say there aren't some pretty unrealistic goals, even with unlimited funding, which Youngstown does not have.

While the Youngstown Vindicator's coverage called the plan "realistic," here are a few examples that left me scratching my head:

  1. The plan calls for 90% of district buses to pass State Highway Patrol inspection the first time. This year. Last year, 0% did.
  2. This year, the plan wants half of the district's employees' performance to be monitored through a data management system. Last year, no one was. As a City Council member in a community that is shifting to a new data management system for human resources for just a few score people, I can tell you this won't be an easy lift.
  3. Have 1/2 of all district teachers this year provide effective instruction as per the Baltimore system, which has yet to be adopted by the Academic Distress Commission. Again, adopting a new system during the year and expecting 1/2 of teachers (again, 87.7% of whom are already high performing, according to Mohip's report) to understand, adopt and excel with it is quite a lofty expectation.
  4. Ensuring that all kids' test scores and growth are measured every year from K-8, even in grades that aren't currently tested starting this school year seems like quite a lift. It costs the state about $760,000 a year to administer the tests it already does give to Youngstown students. Would the several additional batteries of tests the plan calls for be paid for by the state, or would Youngstown have to pay for them? Stay tuned.
  5. Going from 0 kids taking the PSAT to all sophomores taking it this year seems like a tough thing to achieve, if for no other reason than it costs $15 a student, which could prove a tough fee for parents to handle.
  6. There are several aggressive test score improvement goals throughout the plan that seem very challenging, such as increasing some proficiency rates by nearly 2-3 times in just a few years. Given test scores' nearly linear relationship with poverty, and Youngstown's distressingly high poverty level, it's tough to see these improvements happening, regardless of effort.
Although these goals seem destined to fail, it's good to shoot for the stars. Why not? 

But I have a couple long-term concerns. First of all is the legislation that took control of Youngstown from the people of that city and gave it to a state-appointed CEO requires great report card improvement in order for control to return to the people. And while the goals outlined by Mohip could lead to that improvement happening in a few short years, chances are without the necessary funding, the results will fall short -- sometimes far short -- of the goal. 

If these goals aren't met, then what?

Will Mohip turn to the ideologues? Will the test score pressure become too much for Mohip to resist the call of our state's mostly failing school choice options? Will whole swaths of teachers and principals get fired? Will cooler heads prevail?

We'll see.

But for now, it looks like the Youngstown CEO is moving in the right direction. And given where he could have gone (firing teachers, ripping up contracts, turning the keys over to Ohio's many failing charter school operators), that's a positive development.

Friday, September 9, 2016

When an F isn't an F

Yesterday, I posted about how Donald Trump was visiting a Cleveland charter school that received an F on the state report card for student growth -- a grade I called "failing" in several press accounts. And, in fact, I found it curious that Trump would visit a Cleveland charter with such a poor student growth grade given that Cleveland is the only area of the state where there are several high-performing charters.

I suggested that it was because Ron Packard -- a notorious political operative in the education space -- ran the for-profit company that operates the school. And, right on cue, Trump shouted out Packard at the beginning of his speech. I'm willing to bet that a Packard donation will show up in Trump's next campaign finance report.

Anyway, some charter advocates, especially Aaron Churchill at the Fordham Institute, pushed back against my characterization of the Cleveland charter as "failing" because it's only based on one year of data. And the previous year, the school performed well.

As I've said before, I really respect Aaron, but he's trying to do a do-over here on Ohio's accountability system -- a system he and Fordham pushed to have in place.

Fordham and Aaron championed our state's switch to an A-F report card system because "The A-F grades provide a clear and transparent way of reporting whether a school is academically strong, weak, or somewhere in between." This is also the same group that announced that the drop in state scores last year for many schools due to the PARCC exams and tougher Common Core standards was a better indication of how the students (and schools) "actually performed." (I vehemently disagreed with that assumption, by the way.)

Unless, it appears, Donald Trump decides to visit a charter school with an F in student growth. Then they'll make excuses.

Look, you're either for tougher standards and what the fallout from those standards entail, or you're not. You can't be saying that the tougher standards show us how kids are really doing, then claim they really don't in a school you'd like to see perform well. You can't say the A-F report card gives Ohioans a more transparent way to understand how schools are serving kids, then say the report cards don't in a school you'd like to see perform well.

I've said repeatedly that basing performance solely on test scores, as Ohio (and the country) currently does, is folly and wholly unfair to schools whose performance shouldn't be judged on how kids do during a few hours of testing when they spend more than 1,000 hours in school. But we have this high-stakes system in place. And it is there in no small measure due to the shaming of our public schools, which has been perpetrated by Fordham and others over the years.

And under the system Fordham and other reformers have trumpeted for years, the charter Trump visited yesterday failed to grow student learning as effectively as the Cleveland Municipal School District. And, in fact, the school got an F, which is a failing grade in anyone's book.

Fordham and others in their camp don't get to suddenly adopt a nuanced approach to school performance just because the schools they like failed.

I welcome the more nuanced approach and understanding of school performance. And I'd be less skeptical if Fordham and other education reformers hadn't spent the last 20 years trying to get the no excuses, un-nuanced system we have in place today.

In the words of Mike Brady from A Very Brady Sequel, "Caveat Emptor."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Trump Makes Point that Charters are Better Options by Visiting Poor Performer

Donald Trump has told the African-American community that "your schools are a disaster", so he has said Charter Schools are the answer. He's trying to demonstrate that today when he visits the Cleveland Arts & Social Sciences Academy in Cleveland.

Here's the thing. The school Trump is visiting received an F on the state report card for student growth -- the most important measure to most charter school advocates. Cleveland -- an urban district Trump has derided collectively -- received a C on the same measure. Visit to find all of the school's performance metrics.

Oh, and the state pays the charter school more money per pupil than Cleveland ... for worse student growth measures.

What's sad is that Cleveland is the only place in Ohio where a case can credibly be made that charters are in any significant way living up to their promise. The Breakthrough Schools and ICAN schools are performing very well. As charter school advocates have noted, that's in stark contrast to the rest of Ohio where 40% of its charter schools are in "urgent need of improvement."

So why would Trump visit a school with an F in the most important performance metric when he had plenty of much higher performing options? Perhaps it's because the school he's visiting is run by a for-profit company called Accel Schools Ohio. Accel is an imprint of Pansophic -- a charter school firm started by K12, Inc. founder Ron Packard. Packard has an infamous reputation for political gamesmanship.

If I wanted to make the point that charters can give kids hope where none before existed, I wouldn't go visit an Accel School. I'd visit a Breakthrough or ICAN school. However, if I wanted to make hay with a potential political contributor with experience in education politics, I would visit Ron Packard's school.

However, this choice doesn't surprise me given Mr. Trump's clear ignorance of the state of education policy.