By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
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HISD spokesman Terry Abbott wrote in an e-mail that the decision to add the credit recovery program was based upon its cost, as well as that CEP has demonstrated success working with students to catch them up in the credits they need for graduation in a special accelerated program.
Although Abbott has said there are no plans for a transitional program to ease the way back from CEP into the home school, there has been discussion of the need for this by HISD educators. Nearby Alief Independent School District has installed a transition program in its own alternative school, which allows students considered ready for a home school return to ease in on a partial-class-load basis before returning to all their regular classes.
Alief, like many other local districts, tends to send its students to alternative school for much shorter stays than are the norm at CEP.
CEP, which a few years ago set aside 110 slots for shorter sentences, says that it is up to the individual school district to determine the length of stay. Standard placements, it says, range from 30 to 180 days, with 102 being the average.
One teacher described his year at CEP in nothing but dismal terms. "All we were doing as teachers was being a police officer without badges, trying to stop fights and trying to stop food fights and riots all day."
He said more than half of the kids there did want to get rehabilitated, get straight and return to their home school. But he doesn't feel CEP did well by those kids because, he said, "they were getting absolutely zero education."
Another teacher, the one who stayed with CEP for so long, saw changes and feels CEP did some good, especially with students caught up in gang violence at their home schools who felt CEP was safer.
Many of the students sent to CEP, though, he said, just spent time learning more bad behaviors. If classes had been held to eight to ten kids, he said, he thinks the students could have been helped more. But in classes of 30 kids, there were just too many behavior problems for teachers to be effective, he said.
Ultimately, his heart was broken when the school seemed to step back from some of the gains it had made, when, he says, attendance figures once again became far more important than anything else.
CEP has its roster of stars, of kids who made it. HISD has its statistics and points to CEP as a more than acceptable solution.
Robert Kimball's numbers don't match all this self-congratulation. He went looking for kids and couldn't find them in HISD's own databanks. He matched anecdotal stories with stats with common sense and came up with a much more disturbing outcome than the one claimed by either the public school system or the private company that takes its most troubled kids.
In Anthony's case, his attorney says he went through a special-ed program at his middle school this summer that allowed him to move on to Sam Houston High School. In late September, just shy of two months into the school year, he was still enrolled there, according to HISD records.
There are victories even if they are of the moment. It will be interesting to see who gets the credit in Anthony's case.