Only in Texas.
R enowned athlete Deion Sanders has persuaded the Texas State board of Education to allow him to open a charter school — even though some members expressed concerns about just how academically rigorous the school would be.
According to The Texas Tribune, the board voted 8 to 4 Friday to approve Sanders’ application to open a school called Prime Prep, which will focus on sports and education on two campuses in the Fort Worth area.
Sanders had successful careers in two professional sports, playing football for the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens and other teams, and playing baseball for the the New York Yankees and several other clubs.
He got the idea for the charter school when he was watching some kids at a youth athletic camp that he runs, and, as he told the Dallas Morning News, “I sat up in the top of the bleachers and said, ‘This would be wonderful if we would educate these kids. We could marry the two. Why can’t we do such a thing?”
Why not indeed.
At the education board meeting, there were concerns expressed about the academic program, even by members who eventually voted to approve the application. The application said the schools would use CSCOPE, an online curriculum management system that is used by a number of schools in Texas and that provides lesson plans for teachers. Critics say that it has no research base and does not address the issue that students do not all learn in the same way or have the same abilities.
The Star-Telegram quoted state board member Michael Soto (D-San Antonio), as saying, “I have no idea what the applicant plans to do in the classroom.” It also quoted member Pat Hardy (R-Weatherford) as saying she also had concerns, but not enough to vote against the application.
She acknowledged concerns about the use of CSCOPE, but said it has improved in the last two years and is aligned with the state’s curriculum standards. “I didn’t want that to be a thing that could end [the application],” she told the newspaper.
Texas has 195 charter schools in operation. Sanders’s application was one of eight charter schools approved by the Texas Education Board to open in 2012-13. The board denied three others.
Now Sanders can join Andre Agassi, another celebrity athlete with his own charter school. Agassi opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in 2001 in Las Vegas, which was named a National Model Charter School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2003, according to the school’s Web site.
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