Status: NOT a miracle school
Main Reasons: High attrition, extremely small graduating classes (around 20 students), low percent of at-risk students.

Link to Newsweek listing of this school as one of ten "miracle schools:"
http://www.newsweek.com/2011/06/21/ten-miracle-high-schools/harmony-science-academy-dallas-dallas-texas.html


INTRODUCTION

School website: http://www.hsadallas.org/

Harmony Science Academy Dallas (HSA-Dallas) is one of 37 in the Harmony Public Schools chain, run by the non-profit Cosmos Foundation. The latest Texas school report cards (called AEIS) available presently (July 2, 2011) are for the 2009-2010 school year. In that year, 25 Harmony schools were in operation. The increase from 25 to 37 in one school year shows that this is a very rapidly-growing chain. All schools in the chain are run according to the same model.

HSA-Dallas is a relatively new school. The first graduating class (12th grade) of HSA-Dallas was for the 2009-2010 school year.

HIGH STUDENT ATTRITION

HSA-Dallas has high student attrition going from 9th to 12th grade. (Higher resolution versions of these graphs can be viewed by clicking on these links: class of 2010; class of 2011)


Harmony_Dallas_11_-_Copy.JPGHarmony_Dallas_10_-_Copy.JPG

From AEIS reports, look diagonally, down and to the right, to follow a cohort. So for the class of 2010, there were 94 8th graders in 2006, 69 9th graders in 2007, 45 10th graders in 2008, 29 11th graders in 2009, and then 24 graduates in 2010.
Class of 2011 had 44 sixth graders in 2006 and had only 14 juniors in 2010.


2006-07
2007-08
2008-09
2009-10
2009-10
6th grade
80
74
68
88
96
7th grade
124
117
91
94
100
8th grade
94
100
90
70
97
9th grade
44
69
56
58
77
10th grade
0
33
45
39
49
11th grade
0
0
18
29
37
12th grade
0
0
0
14
24

COLLEGE PREP

The Harmony chain advertises its schools as intensely focused on college prep. From a Texas Monthly article of August 2010, Harmony's "primary stated goal: to thoroughly prepare students to enter and succeed at four-year colleges."
In 2009-2010, only 3 of the 25 operating schools had a 12th grade, so only those 3 could report SAT (college entrance exam) scores:
School
Class of
Average SAT (out of 1600)
Average ACT
Harmony Science Academy Dallas
2009
915
not available
Harmony Science Academy Houston
2009
906
"
Harmony Science Academy Houston
2008
932
"
Harmony Science Academy Austin
2009
931
"

To put this into perspective, here are average SAT scores for the entering freshman classes of some Texas universities:
University of Texas Austin
1220
Texas Tech University
1085
Texas A & M University
1190
Baylor University
1210
University of Texas Pan American
930

Some key lines from a New York Times article of June 6, 2011 about the Harmony chain:
"The Harmony schools advertise themselves as college preparatory schools with every graduate accepted to college, and a bulletin board in the hallway at the science academy displays pictures of this year’s senior class, along with their college acceptances. But Harmony’s '100 percent' acceptance rate actually represents only a small census, since most of the schools do not have senior classes and many students transfer earlier on. Statewide, 154 students graduated this year, the largest class yet. And while the schools’ combined math and English SAT scores — an average of 1026 — were 37 points above the statewide average last year, they fell short of the 1100 on those two parts that the state regards as predicting “college readiness.”

EMPHASIS ON STATE STANDARDIZED TEST PREPARATION

A Texas Monthly article of August 2010 inaccurately portrayed the Harmony schools as not emphasizing test preparation. The New York Times article of June 6, 2011 gave a more accurate picture:
"And so the Harmony schools place a heavy emphasis on preparing for state assessment tests, with four practice tests annually, according to schedules on school Web sites. Each practice test occupies the better part of a week, and students who fail get mandatory tutoring, some of it on Saturdays."


LOW PERCENTAGE OF AT-RISK STUDENTS; SCHOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION

The Texas Monthly article of August 2010 on the Harmony chain suggested that Harmony schools target at-risk populations. Here are two lines from that article:
"Just ask the hundreds of at-risk students who have graduated from his charter schools."
"That helps explain the success of KIPP, YES, IDEA, Uplift, and Harmony. All of them target such at-risk students..."
Yet in fact, the Texas AEIS report shows that the percent of at-risk students is much lower at all Harmony schools than the state of Texas average:
Harmony Science Academy Dallas 23.5% at-risk students
Texas state average 47.2% at-risk students

From Texas Tribune article of September 27, 2010:
"Tarim counters that Harmony doesn’t claim to serve the most-troubled students. And while he acknowledges that students do leave the schools for a variety of reasons, he says academic struggles aren’t the major reason, and that the schools work hard to help kids who get behind to catch up — the schools offers one-on-one tutoring both at the end of the day and on Saturdays. The major factors driving some students away, he says, are the burden of transportation, strict discipline policies, the requirement of school uniforms, a homework load of about two hours per night and strongly encouraged after-school activities and volunteer hours for both students and parents."
"And Harmony schools naturally attract more-motivated parents seeking a more rigorous environment and willing to play a supporting role. Like many charters, Harmony purposely does not offer transportation, partly as a matter of cost concerns but mostly out of a desire to demand a family investment, Tarim says."

Texas Monthly August 2010: "He freely admits that schools such as KIPP, YES, Uplift, and Harmony follow practices proven to work: longer hours, after-school and weekend tutoring and enrichment programs, insistence on parental involvement."

The fact that Harmony does not provide transportation, a significant burden to many families, especially single-parent families with inflexible work schedules, should be kept in mind when comparing with other schools.

LACK OF TEACHER EXPERIENCE

All Harmony Public Schools have very high teacher attrition and hire teachers with little prior experience. The following graph, based on Texas AEIS reports, compares a number of Harmony schools, including the HSA-Dallas, to the Texas state average:

Teacher_experience_2_-_Copy.JPG


CONNECTION TO GULEN MOVEMENT

News articles discussing the connection of the Harmony Public Schools chain to the Gulen Movement:
Texas Monthly August 2010 "Head of the Class" by William Martin
PBS January 21, 2011 "Religion & Ethics: The Gulen Movement"
New York Times June 6, 2011 "Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas"

MORE LINKS:
http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/p/list-of-us-gulen-schools.html
http://gulencharterschools.weebly.com

This is a blog about how they misrepresent their stats
http://harmonyparenttruth.blogspot.com/
http://harmonyparenttruth.blogspot.com/2011/06/gulen-charter-schools-truth-behind.html

One thing I've seen is a lot of anti-Islamic conspiracy theories which we need to ignore and also be careful about misleading data against this charter network. Actual data from Texas State Ed is most revealing.

Best info is from state where we see a lot of attrition. Would like to know size of graduating class 2011 since it was down from 33 to 14.