Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The extinction of Public Education

Belief systems are what is troubling Oklahoma public schools. No, you don’t have to go back and reread the previous sentence: our biggest problem with public education is the preconceived notions many of us have that give us our perspective, our point of view, our belief system.  It came to me in a moment of clarity, an epiphany if you will, during the OK Central PLAC legislative panel held in Edmond on January 28th.  It was that ah ha moment, and then suddenly everything made sense to me.  Public Education is in serious trouble.

Education is a microcosm of life; you get out of it what you put into it.   You want a better tomorrow than today? Then get an education! Get an education: I hate that phrase.  It implies you can get knowledge through a window like you can a cheeseburger. Seriously, they do not hand out knowledge.  You have to work at it, you have to earn it, and you have to put forth effort to reap the benefits of schooling.  Education is very little about ability and a lot about perseverance, attitude, and work ethic.  Does that sound familiar?  It is the same recipe for success as in almost any endeavor we take in life.  

So there I was sitting in the audience with a bunch of super charged parents listening to the legislators talk about public education. But as I sat there listening to what I was sure would be a group of legislators pandering to the crowd during an election year, I was shocked to find completely the opposite.   This is when reality slapped me in the face - and it stung.  It all suddenly made sense to me.  You want to know why public education’s budget has been in a slow decline lately; it’s because the people who make those decisions think public education is already over funded.  You can get all the data you want. You can show them the per pupil expenditure cuts, the cuts to RSA, cuts to ACE, the cost of fuel, insurance, textbooks, or whatever else you want to show them.  THEY DON’T BELIEVE YOU! They have already tuned you out; dismissed your research, your concerns, and your pleas.  They feel public education has enough money because of carryover funds, or because of admin costs, or for any other reason.  However, it doesn’t stop with funding.

Public education enthusiasts are pleading to tone deaf politicians in almost every phase of public policy. Legislators immediately dismiss our research, data, and years of actual experience in the field because they have been given the information backing up what they want to believe.  They have cemented their position on the matter BECAUSE of their preconceived notions and found a source of information that affirms the position they take as fact. The problem for me is the position they have taken is not an Oklahoma position; it’s a position rooted in model legislative policies from Florida, FEE or ALEC.  To make matters worse, the pieces of information backing up their claim are coming from our State Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

The debate is over for them.  Trust me; Senator Jolley and Rep. Martin are both on the appropriations committee.  If they wanted public education to have more money, public education would get more money!  If that is not bad enough, even the State Sup says public education doesn’t need more money (but she’ll take more money to dole out to her handpicked vendors).  If legislators thought our 3rd graders were being tested too much, we would stop testing our 3rd graders.  If they thought local boards of education could be trusted, then we wouldn’t have A-F accountability.  If they valued the work of a teacher, then they would treat them with respect and pay them a decent wage.  This is why I believe public education is in for the fight of its organizational life.  Is public education defeated; has it been left for dead by those who think the debate is over?  NO!, the life blood of public education will not give up; we will not go away in silence.  Students in public education need us to stand up and say the debate is NOT over! Students in public education need us to be strong and to be vigilant.  Students in public education need us to work diligently to make our Senators and Representatives listen to us, or we need to diligently work to replace our Senators and Representatives.  We had better act now or the debate will be over!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Support of the Teacher's Rally!

Source: OK Policy Institute

I don’t think anyone in Oklahoma challenges the notion that education is essential in the 21st century global economy.  Everything is specialized in the world today.  I couldn't even begin to try to fix my pickup if it broke down because today’s mechanics have to plug my truck into a computer to determine what needs to be repaired. Plumbers, electricians, and heat & air technicians must have industry certification and a license. Industry certification requires training at a technical school, and a license requires passing a test and demonstrating a specific set of skills.  No wonder some of them charge $89.50 an hour for a service call!  Doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, and physical therapists are all professions requiring advanced college degrees.  The one thing all these jobs and professions have in common is the need for teachers.  Someone has to have not only the required knowledge, but they must also possess the art of teaching those skills.  Teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible. 

Many of you may have heard that teachers are planning a rally at the capitol on March 31st.  To be clear, this is not a protest, it is a rally.  A protest indicates a strong objection to a situation.  This is a rally because teachers from all over the state will come together to support our legislators in making our schools the best schools possible.  Teachers, parents, grandparents, business owners, and community leaders will rally to support measures having a positive impact on the education of our children.  One reason we need support for legislation which positively impacts schools is due to the above graphic showing continued erosion of funding for public education. 

Specifically, public schools in the state of Oklahoma have $204 Million less dollars and 34,000 more students. In laymen’s terms, the amount of dollars the state gives our school per student is in steady decline! The state of Oklahoma is saying educating a child in 2014 is roughly $400 per weighted student less important than in 2008.  This is why teachers feel they have been given no other choice than to rally in support of additional funding for their classroom.  This is why it should matter to Oklahoma parents.  Their kids are being subjected to a discount education!  Since 2008, Oklahoma experienced the nation’s 3rd highest cuts to educational spending when 2014 has the largest economy in state history.  This transcends logic!  Why is it that more students are enrolling, costs are continuing to rise, yet the state’s commitments to public schools are continuing to decline?   Each of the last 2 years the state has DECREASED the money given to schools based on enrollment midway through the year!  This is the first time in the history of midterm adjustment that cuts have occurred at midterm 2 years in a row. The state gives an allocation for schools to budget in July when teachers are hired and resources are purchased, but then tells schools they were wrong and takes back some of that money. 

One of the biggest factors affecting our schools is the lack of qualified teachers available for us to hire.  There is a major teacher shortage in Oklahoma.  There could be any number of reasons as to why fewer and fewer college students are choosing teaching as a profession:  the over reliance on high stakes testing, a decline in teacher autonomy, toxic culture, larger class sizes, having fewer and fewer resources available, and/or the lack of pay might be why we are nearing a catastrophic teacher shortage.  It should be the goal of every parent to ensure their child sits in a classroom with only the very best teachers.  If our best college students are deciding to avoid teaching as a profession for any reason, isn’t that a detriment to our children?  For this very reason, teachers believe they have no choice but to rally in support of educational conditions that drastically effect the quality of both the teacher in the classroom and the school in which they work.

Almost every reason to support a teacher rally can be traced back to a declining educational budget.  I only bring up the state budget because it is insulting to educators.  This continued erosion of state support for public schools, once again, comes at the expense of the teacher.  Teachers haven’t had a pay raise since  2005.  Support employees shouldn't have to work a second job to earn a living wage.  For perspective, in 2008 gas was $1.78 a gallon and minimum wage was $5.25 per hour.  In 2014 gas is $3.00 per gallon (at the station on the corner) and minimum wage is $7.25.  So gas has nearly doubled and the cost of nearly everything else has increased drastically.  It doesn't matter if it is movie tickets, the price of a McDonald’s value meal, or the groceries at the store.  Everything has increased except the salaries of people who educate our children.  Our children should have the best bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teacher’s aides, and classroom teachers.  Our children should attend classrooms that are clean, safe, and full of the resources they need to learn.  Our children shouldn't have to be crammed in classrooms with 29 other students or share textbooks that are 10 years old.  Our children shouldn't be subjected to a high stakes test that will either label them as a failure or deny them a high school diploma. These are the reasons why teachers have decided to rally in support of improved educational conditions for their students.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

OOPS, the SDE didn't mean to tell you the truth!

Phil Bacharach, the spokesman for the SDE said to the Tulsa World, "If the school is receiving money for that child, it should be accountable for that child".  BALLGAME! Yep, there it is.  This is damaging for the SDE and in so many ways.  I'm almost giddy just typing it.  It's worth repeating!  “IF THE SCHOOL IS RECEIVING MONEY FOR THAT CHILD, IT SHOULD BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THAT CHILD.”  I can see Jason Nelson calling the SDE right now and going nuts! I promise ALEC and FEE are on hold somewhere in the labyrinth that is the SDE phone system.  I guess all those private schools accepting the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship will be glad to start testing for Reading Sufficiency according to the RSA act.  Yep, can't wait until they find out all their students who are there because the SDE has paid their tuition will be taking all those EOI exams.  But wait, there is more.  If they take taxpayer money in any form, this means private schools will also be graded with an A-F grade and it be posted on the SDE webpage like the rest of the schools who take taxpayer money.  Does this mean privates will have to test ALL students? SDE, ALEC, & FEE all want school choice don’t they? Shouldn’t taxpayers want to know how the school is doing with the money?  Don’t parents deserve to know if the school is doing what the school is supposed to be doing?  This is awesome.  

What is truly amazing is the previous statement wasn’t the only thing wrong with the spokesman’s comments.  He also said, "the date is now consistent with the date by which state aid is determined".  Well, that is not entirely accurate.  School districts that are experiencing an enrollment that is increasing gets state aid allocated to them based on the AVERAGE number of weighted students on roll for the entire first 9 weeks.  Those that know anything about school business remembers having to fill out, certify, and have their RAO (regional accreditation officer) certify what is called the First Quarter Statistical Report.  The bottom line is the school gets paid based on the AVERAGE number of students enrolled for the ENTIRE first 9 weeks of school! This is completely contrary to the Oct. 1st comment from the SDE.  Since schools get paid based on the percentage of time the student is enrolled in their school, does this mean the schools will only be held to the same percentage of accountability?  Sure, weights such as ELL, Bilingual, Special Ed, are verified by Oct. 1st enrollment. But the school gets paid based on the percentage of time those students have been enrolled and not PAID just because they are on the roll that 1 day.  And the process is even completely different for schools with declining enrollment. Schools with declining enrollment might not have anything do with Oct. 1st as a date for this school year.

Much has been made about the SDE's ability and willingness to change the rules of the accountability game in the middle of the year.  Okeducationtruths, Rob Miller, Jason Bengs, and myself have all written blogs about the absurdity of the SDE and all the rule changes.  But an interesting thing happened yesterday, and I bet the SDE's spokesmen, Phil Bacharach, wishes he hadn't said what he said.  

I'm willing to bet it will not take the SDE too much time to walk back from that statement.  It is bad enough their spokesman doesn't understand state aid payments, or even willing to talk to someone who does understand it, but to go out there and proclaim that accountability to should be required of any school who receives money for a child is just priceless. I want to see them spin this. I'm glad to hear the SDE is in favor of full fledged accountability for all schools who take taxpayer money.  Yep, Jason Nelson, ALEC, and FEE are still on hold.  

Teacher Shortage: A respectable perspective

Teacher Shortage:  In the Midst of a Major Crisis!
By Roger Hill, Superintendent, Altus Public Schools

The most significant contribution that an administrator can make to the teaching profession is to place the most capable and best teachers in the classroom in front of students.  Research clearly states that highly effective teachers have the greatest impact on student learning.
With that said, it is alarming to see the decline in the number of applicants for teaching positions during the past couple of years.  From what I anticipate, the trend will continue and as a result, Oklahoma is in the midst of a major crisis. 

How have we arrived at this crisis and what is the solution?  There’s no question that educators are feeling the increased stress and pressure for public schools to perform well on high stakes testing.  Just look at the turnover in schools during recent years.  Teachers are frustrated from the lack of respect that public education sometimes receives.  In addition, the increased workload of doing more with less, combined with the loss of autonomy and control of the curriculum have taken away some of the enjoyment of being a professional educator.  The lack of quality applicants that are now available to replace the teachers that have retired is clearly visible.  More people are leaving the profession than entering, and there appears to be no short-term solution in sight.  Keeping our experienced teachers motivated, excited, and committed to a longer career can only offset the teacher shortage temporarily.  Compensation for teachers must be addressed by the legislature.  Showcasing the success stories from our local schools in the media and encouraging our young adults to become a teacher could also help offset this problem to a degree.

However, the culture of the teaching profession must also change in order to begin to attract and retain the very best and brightest people into this profession.  Regardless of the person that serves in this position, the State Superintendent must be our strongest advocate for public education.  It’s imperative that the State Superintendent is a servant leader and one that will respectfully embrace constructive dialogue with stakeholders with the process and implementation phases of the new reform initiatives.  Furthermore, the State Superintendent must fight vigorously for additional revenue for public education so that our schools will have the necessary resources to address the many challenges that exist.  In my personal opinion, without changing the culture, the teacher shortage will continue and the pool of quality applicants will be limited.
Together, let’s stand united to resolve the teacher shortage crisis.  Our students deserve the best!

“The mediocre teacher tells.  The good teacher explains.  The superior teacher demonstrates.  The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

Friday, January 17, 2014

WE are nothing without RELATIONSHIPS

For those who consistently read my blog, this post might seem a little different.  And that is a good thing!  Usually I write about specific educational issues; trying to provide my readers with information and an explanation of what is happening.  This post, however, will be more philosophical:  We are nothing without RELATIONSHIPS!

I believe I have always been a relational educator.  I, as a young classroom teacher, tried to get to KNOW my students. I felt if I knew them, I would be better equipped to know how to TEACH them; if I got to know them, I couldn't help but CARE for them.  I just knew that a child who KNEW they were CARED for couldn't help but want to LEARN.  Maybe it was my small town upbringing, maybe it was because my parents made sure I learned how to develop quality relationships with EVERYONE in my life; whatever, the reason, I just KNEW being a relational educator was not the best way to be a teacher: it was the only way I could be an effective teacher.

Not much has changed for me as an administrator. I was reminded this week how vital relationships are in education.  Today about 80 people (teachers, principals, board members, parents, news editors, legislators, and administrators) held a "What's Great in Our Schools" summit at the Frisco Center in downtown Clinton, OK.  These people are extremely dedicated to serving the children of our communities to ensure they have access to the best schools possible.  Everyone who spoke had example after example of great things they do for their students and communities to make a difference in the lives of their students. I think everyone came to the meeting with 2 or 3 things they do great, but left with 30 or 40 great ideas they might want to implement at their school.  I was sitting there thinking how amazing it was this group had come together to share with each other these awesome ideas.  Then Micky Lively, Superintendent of Mangum PS, said something that I couldn't shake for the rest of the day; he commented on how everyone in the room had made a positive impact on him which was reflected in the way he leads his school.  He specifically wanted to tell Bob Haggard and Mike Maddox, 2 long time Western Oklahoma Superintendents who are retiring this year after a combined 80 years in education, how much they had meant to him as an educator.  I was stunned - I was left speechless (for those who know me know, that might be a personal first). I just sat and looked around the room and realized Micky was absolutely right. The sum total of my life is equal to all the influences by all the people I have a relationship with.  This realization got me to thinking about the total state of Oklahoma education.

I believe restoring our relationships should be our first priority in transforming our public schools into effective educational organizations of the 21st century. I say transform our schools because transform has a connotation of "building upon": like building upon what we already to do well.  I don't like reform because reform has the connotation of "destroy to rebuild". I don't think we should destroy our public education because we do have some really great things going on in our schools.  Reformers seek to destroy our relationships. Transformers should be about strengthening them.  Ever notice the current reforms do nothing but pit parents vs. teachers, teachers, vs. administrators, schools vs. communities, and communities vs. educational associations? However, we have to do better in our relationships.  There is such a negative relationship between our state department of education and well, just about everybody.  Our legislators don't want to talk to us because we are always pointing out the things we don't like instead of pointing out all the things we do like.  It seems educators are too busy being against the ideas we think will not work instead of working to improve those ideas using our professional experience.  

I'm going to take a cue from Micky and thank people who have impacted my life.  You know who you are; you're parents, teachers, executive directors, principals, cafeteria workers, secretaries, bus drivers, bosses, mentors, friends, and students. There are way too many of them to mention them all, but here are a few.  The Bob family from Cyril who acted like an extended family, Jerry Slawson & Lilla Higdon who taught me life lessons as well as subject knowledge, Dr. Jeff Mills, Steven Crawford, & Ryan Owens who gave me confidence in myself, Donnie Meason who taught me to value hard work & discipline, all the women at the Board Office in Clinton, Paula Squires, Jim Conger, & Kevin Hime who all taught me about leadership, Robert Trammell & Jeff Colclasure who continue to mentor me today, and friends like Chad, Jeff, & Micky. If we want to improve our school system, we have to improve our relationships. Let's allow our teachers to get back to getting to KNOW their students.  Let's allow our students to KNOW they are CARED for.  These are the things that matter in our schools. Relationships are the gateway to student learning. 

Another day Another change

Ever get the feeling the Oklahoma State Department of Education is just lost?  It seems like every day schools get another email from the SDE indicating a change in some policy, procedure, or rule. I’m not even talking about the philosophical reasoning behind these changes. The purpose of this post is to point out, once again, the SDE's willingness to make wholesale changes in programs or policies in the middle of the year or even after students have finished taking all their tests. Last year, the writing exam format was changed along with Social Studies standards in the middle of the year.  To make matters worse, the SDE changed science test cut scores after the science tests had been graded.

The only thing constant this year with the SDE is the number of changes they continue to make during the academic year.  Schools received an email today reminding us of the time frame the SDE will be accepting comments to the "proposed" rule changes.  (I say proposed, because I don't think a single rule has been amended because of comments.) For those who have stopped counting, this is track 5 of rule changes....that means 32 rules have changed this year!  Schools were notified in an email yesterday that middle school students do not have to take the grade level math test if they are enrolled in an advanced math course. This is a great idea; I only wonder why the SDE didn’t think of this earlier! (Before anyone says the Feds require this as part of accountability, I point you to the official email from the SDE. It states the Feds have not granted permission as of yet, but it is too important to continue to wait on them. So if it was too important on January 15th, was it NOT too important in August?)This makes sense for our students; it was embarrassing students had to take a test in a subject they were not enrolled in. As nice as this is for students, it could have a drastic effect on high schools’ A-F grades.  I don't think this change was thoroughly thought through.  If growth or test results from MS students do not count for the high school A-F grade, then the bottom 25% will count 3 times and the top 25% will not count at all! Schools also found out about a change in the definition of Full Academic Year. Now a student can miss as much as 6 weeks of school and be considered a FAY student.  Furthermore, a student can be enrolled in a school for 179 of the 180 days and be a NFAY student (if they are off roll on Oct. 1st, then NFAY it is).  Doesn't make sense to me either.  

The change that will cause the most disruption, in my opinion, is the required online readiness test. (Thoughts of the saying keep popping in my head….This job is only a test, had this job been a real job it would have come with raises, promotions, and other signs of appreciation.) Talk about late minute changes; this one is a doosey.  Schools were notified on January 15th that on January 28th they will be required to participate in an online readiness test on every computer being used for testing.  So tech departments all over the state must drop everything they had planned this week and start loading 2 test delivery programs (yes 2, one for the actual test and one for the “item tryout” company….yet another change) onto computers. Why must schools drop everything just to check and see if the company getting paid millions to conduct online testing has all their bugs worked out?  Is the SDE saying that schools can’t be trusted to get the machines ready for the test? Is the SDE afraid of another complete disaster during testing like last year?  I hope none of the tech people are out sick or on vacation!  Talk about a major blow to instructional time!  What about all those small schools that contract with a computer company to handle their technical issues?  More importantly, what about all those computer classes being held in computer labs having to stop instruction, so tech people can have access to the computers.  God help any teacher who needs a technical problem fixed, so they can teach a lesson!  Tech people used to have plenty of time to get things ready, now they have less than 2 weeks. I don't even think the mandatory tech trainings have even started yet!

I won’t even get into the changes with VAM or the OAM’s in evaluations this year.  I won’t even talk about the changes in Science standards that happened this year.  I’m not even going to mention the proposed changes to Teacher’s retirement. I don’t want to talk about how my schools’ A-F grade changed 10 times! What I will talk about is the next big change; and it happens right in the middle of testing. It is roster verification that all teachers will have to do for their evaluations.  More on that in the next blog.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Response to a Reformer: Got any other bad ideas?

Brandon Dutcher recently wrote an OP-ED piece for his blog and the the Daily Oklahoman about his opposition to the '49th is not OK' advocacy for increased public school funding.  He advocates public school funding based on results.  I think that is an absurd idea.  I don't know Mr. Dutcher, so I looked up his credentials.  Mr. Dutcher is the Senior Vice President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.  According to his bio on the OCPA website, he has a B.A. in Political Science and a Master's Degree in Journalism both from the University of Oklahoma.  Mr. Dutcher is a policy wonk; it appears his opinion stems from the point of view of politics and not direct experience in the classroom.

The article wants the reader to believe school choice is the answer to Oklahoma's public school funding problem. I argue Oklahoma already has school choice. How many times have we been told there are too many school districts in this state?  I believe there are 541 local school districts run by elected board of education members, and that is just the public school districts. I don't even have a guess at how many private schools, charter schools, or home school associations there are.  We live in America where people have the freedom to live anywhere they choose, to send their children to any school they choose.  Why do policy wonks like Brandon Dutcher suggest otherwise?  We have an activities organization that has about a bazillion rules on students moving from one school to another.  So why is it the OSSAA has to create rules to keep students from moving too much, and OCPA statesparents in Oklahoma can't have school choice?  Here is the answer, school choice proponents not only want school choice, but they also want convenient school choice;additionally, they either want public funds to pay for school choice, or they don't want the government to pay for anyone's education.  

Mr. Dutcher is of the opinion that money can't help schools. He says Oklahoma isn't 49th in educational spending it's 29th when adjusted for comparable wages. Why is it when educators point out American test scores are the highest in the world when adjusted for poverty - they're leapers, but opponents of increasing school funding can adjust per pupil funding by using comparable wages - and it’s a legit point? Why is it people who are against paying for a public education are always quick to point out money hasn't helped Washington DC?  Does Washington DC do anything right?  I know of no one who wants to follow the Washington DC model for education. Blindly throwing money at public schools has never been my or any education organization's goal to make our schools better for our children. It is a tactic that has been used to persuade public opinion, and it is disingenuous.  What 49th isn't OK wants, CCOSA wants, OEA wants, and teachers want is for the State of Oklahoma to provide funding for the goods and services required of public schools to educate the public's children.  Anyone who suggests we can increase the quality and quantity of these services when decreasing funding is just not sane.  

Why do educators want increased funding?  One reason is to pay teachers a competitive wage! Do you want better teachers in the classroom? Start by treating the teaching profession closer to the level of doctors and lawyers.  Teachers with a four year college degree who safely and securely protect our children while teaching them things like math, science, social studies, and life skills like reading should have an annual salary higher thanthe shift supervisor at McDonalds! What educators want are the resources to close the achievement gap between children of poverty and their non impoverished peers.  (Why is it so hard to understand that children who are behind in academics might need more time with a teacher to get caught up... why is it so hard for people to understand teachers want to be compensated for their time and expertise just like doctors, lawyers, plumbers, and electricians.) I think if the starting teacher salary in Oklahoma was equal to the average starting salary for Oklahomans with a college degree – this would be a great start to improving our schools.  

Speaking of doctors and lawyers, Mr. Dutcher wants educators to get paid based on results. He advocates that schools and therefore teachers shouldn't get any money until they show results.  I went to the doctor the other day about my weight and my cholesterol. You think my doctor should have to show my insurance company the amount of weight I lost or how much my cholesterol went down before he gets paid?  Seriously, doctors wouldn't go for that because they are not sure I'll follow their advice of exercise and eating healthier.  Should he get paid by the pound I lose?  How about a bonus for every point my cholesterol lowers? Americans’ paychecks shouldn't be based on things outside of their control.  Does the district attorney's pay get docked every time a jury votes not guilty?  What about the policemen who made the arrest? 

Mr. Dutcher's final argument might be the most ludicrous!  He suggests, instead of increasing the money allocated to schools, we just decrease the number of students to spend it on?  Either he is completely ignorant of how schools are funded, or he is intentionally misleading the public.  Public schools in Oklahoma get money allocated to them based on the number of enrolled students.  Students leaving the public school would just mean an automatic decrease in the funds allocated to the school. Thus, the amount per pupil would stay the same!However, what students is he wanting to leave public schools?  I'd like him to answer that question. Anyone want to bet it’s the students with high aptitude scores, loving parents, and absent any disabilities or learning issues.

The reason why privatization isn't the answer to our educational problems is in the very definition of 'for profit'. For profit organizations make decisions based solely on maximizing the profits. Do we really want some CEO with stock options and bonus checks determined by the company's bottom line to decide whether or not to spend the money to tutor a 3rd grader who is struggling to read. Or worse, do we want the same CEO to tell struggling learners they can't come to school anymore because it is no longer cost effective?  If this isn't reason enough, here is the final reason privatization will not work - competition only works when all parties have access to equal raw materials.  Will privatization proponents promise that all private schools will accept every child who wishes to enroll regardless of socioeconomic background, parent involvement, aptitude, or disability?  Will they promise not to restrict their enrollment?  Will they ensure they won't require students to perform at a certain level to stay enrolled?  Will they submit to the same testing and accountability requirements as public schools?  I didn't think so either.