Annette Fuentes, in “Failing Students, Rising Profits” [Sept. 19], refused to let facts stand in the way of her opinion of Community Education Partners as a “Republican-flavored” alternative education program. We gave her access to our schools, provided academic achievement data and supplied documentation that refuted allegations made against us. We at CEP expected an article opposing the program, given Fuentes’s statement that privatized education programs are an “abdication” of public schools’ responsibility. But we did not expect, and your readers do not deserve, a story with factual errors. Some examples:
§ Fuentes says that there has never been a favorable independent evaluation of CEP, ignoring the fact that CEP provided her with a list of ten evaluations by school districts, state agencies, etc., indicating that students consistently improved their academic performance and CEP met state standards. Temple University recently conducted an independent study for the Pennsylvania Education Department. The Philadelphia School District, not CEP, provided the requested data, and the study’s authors had free rein to review CEP’s record on state test scores. The study concluded that “while attending CEP, students attend school regularly, stay out of disciplinary trouble, and make, on average, impressive if not extraordinary gains in…student achievement.”
§ Having unearthed longstanding CEP critics Carl Shaw and George Scott, neither of whom has visited a CEP school in eight years, Fuentes voiced their allegations without checking the source. Even though Shaw’s 1997 evaluation of the CEP program was positive, CEP raised concerns about the assessment instrument because it was not validated. CEP provided this documentation for the story, but it was ignored.
§ Fuentes quotes Dr. Tom Kellow that “the longer [students] stayed, the worse their performance.” But she ignores the fact that Kellow had recanted this allegation. In a 2003 letter to CEP, provided to Fuentes, he acknowledged that after completing a thorough review of the Houston CEP program, he had changed his mind: “I have been a vocal critic of CEP…in the past; put simply, I came to this evaluation with a host of preconceived notions and reservations that some may perceive as adversarial, and rightly so. The improvements noted over the evaluation period reflected a well-executed effort by the CEP personnel to enhance student outcomes.”
§ Fuentes claims that the New Orleans public schools decided “against a contract with CEP.” Actually, the school board awarded a contract to CEP, and CEP chose not to proceed.
Fuentes relied on long since rebutted or recanted allegations, and systematically avoided contact with the people most familiar with CEP’s work–union leaders, superintendents, principals, teachers, students and families. CEP is making a difference in the lives of thousands of young people who critically need its services. These students, families, teachers and staff deserved better, and so do your readers.