Concept Schools Hired Felon, Unqualified Administrators
New Evidence of Test Tampering Surfaces
COLUMBUS — In 2002, state regulators refused Muhammet “Matt” Yildiz a teaching license after learning that he left his 1-year-old in a car while he went shopping. In 2010, the Ohio Department of Education gave him a principal’s license to run a Columbus middle school.
In 2006, a Dayton school put a convicted felon in charge of student discipline.
And the Dean of Students at a Cleveland school had “no educational certifications or experience,” according to a federal judge.
In each instance, the hires were made by institutions managed by Concept Schools, the Chicago-based non-profit that manages charter schools with ties to Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
FBI raids of Concept schools in Ohio and two other states, coupled with explosive testimony from teachers who worked for Gulen-affiliated schools in Ohio, have the schools’ aggressive marketing experts working overtime to insist the schools are top-notch academic institutions and the critics who say otherwise are engaged in what one called “a smear campaign.”
ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg, a leading critic of the schools, released a report Monday that raises new, more serious questions about the schools’ hiring practices and teaching methods.
The report, Concept Schools: Poor Results, Worse Oversight, also adds to the growing evidence that Horizon schools have tampered with standardized testing or used other nefarious means to try and improve their academic ratings.
“A man who puts his own child in danger has no right to run a primary school,” Rothenberg said. “Concept needs to stop insisting its schools are well run and focus instead on either fixing the problems or closing its doors.”
Amy Britton-Laidman, a former administrative assistant from Cleveland’s Noble Academy, said the school routinely found reasons to expel some of the worst-performing students before standardized tests were to take place. And although the school is supposed to take all students, she said it used entrance exams to cherry pick higher-achieving students, then lied to parents of low-achieving students by saying the school had a waiting list.
Her comments follow reports of routine test tampering at the Horizon Science Academy of Dayton, and a study suggesting test tampering at Horizon’s Columbus high school.
Ohio is home to 19 Gulen-affiliated schools that market themselves as preparing students for college by emphasizing math and science.
Despite the emphasis on college preparation, just 2 of the 19 schools – high schools in Cleveland and Columbus — received an A rating for meeting 9 of 10 performance standards, according to state report cards released last week. Both schools received an F the previous year.
Another key measurement of a high school’s success is whether it graduates students within four years. All of Horizon’s high schools received a D or F grade for four-year graduation rates, new state report cards show.