College applicant told charter school diploma is worthless

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Students are the ones returning to the classroom this fall, but with so many schools to choose from, its parents who need to do their homework.

Charter schools, vouchers schools, and online schools aren't all the s100_0018ame - and they often don't even have to meet the same educational requirements to operate.

After his daughter recently tried to get into college, David Sheriff, a dad of two, says he understands the ongoing concern about quality control in non-traditional schools.

He chose a charter school for his girls, who were struggling with learning disabilities. He wanted them to go to a school with small classrooms, so they could get a lot of teacher attention.

"We went to the school to meet with the principal and some of the teachers when they had their open house," he says. They thought the school, the Wisconsin Career Academy, an MPS charter school, was a great fit.

school 2David's daughter Amanda enrolled and attended all four years of high school. She graduated, and got her diploma in 2009. After working for a few years she decided this summer she'd like to apply to college, so she says she looked into the medical assistant program at the Milwaukee Career College.

"When I got there they looked up the school and to see what high school I graduated from," Amanda says.

The Admissions Director said she'd have to get her GED because the charter school she attended wasn't accredited. Amanda says she was shocked.

"I'm like, so basically you telling me that I have a 8th grade education, right now?"

"All I know is my daughter was in tears because she could not pursue her dream to go to college," says David, who called the FOX6 Investigators for help.

"The reason I contacted you guys is that I don't want any other parent, any other child or student to go through what my daughter had to feel and I had to feel as a parent," he says. "It's just wrong. These schools need to be held accountable for what they are doing."

The school David picked for his daughters was chartered by MPS in 2000, but at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, it lost its charter. A performance audit showed its students weren't performing academically, and the school was having some financial issues.

The school re-opened the following year as a voucher school, and it changed its name to Wisconsin College Preparatory Academy. After a year of more problems, like when a teacher was accused of sleeping on the job, it finally shut down for good in June after having lost its accreditation.

The Milwaukee Career College says that's why they thought Amanda's diploma was no good.SCHOOL CLOSING JUNE

The mixup was just with the dates that they had their accreditation active. Anyone who enrolls after they lost their accreditation, their diploma would be null and void," says Imera Burton, MCC Registrar.

She says she had a hard time verifying whether the school was accredited because it changed its name and the phone numbers listed on the school's website were disconnected, with no forwarding contact information.

MCC says while it made a mistake in Amanda's case, other students aren't always so lucky. Many enroll in academic programs that aren't accredited, and their high school diploma ends up just being a piece of paper -- instead of a key to college. MCC says parents should be especially concerned about online schools and schools that require payment.

school 4"There are so many choices now that parents get confused," says Julia D'Amato, the principal at St. Anthony High School, one of the largest, private, Catholic voucher schools in the nation. She says parents need a list of bullet points of what to look for when shopping around for schools.

"I think they need to take that responsibility seriously," she says.

"First of all, you have to do legwork and you have to visit the school. That is number one."

She also recommends that parents visit a school often -- and sometimes unannounced. She says you should always talk to the principal and ask to sit in on a class or see a sample transcript. If the school doesn't allow you in the classroom, that's a red flag. Be wary of course offerings, and call potential colleges to see how well students from a particular high school have fared in the 3

D'Amato says parents can't assume that a school is good just because its open for enrollment. With so many school to choose from in Wisconsin, there's no guarantee they will all make the grade.

"If you are looking to put your children in a specific school, especially if it says "charter" or "choice," David Sheriff says, "investigate that school."

"Look into accreditation, see what the state requires. If they don't have it, don't send your children there."


  • Jenna (@tvnutt)

    Well, just reading the young girl’s response of “you telling me. I got a 8th grade education” shows she didn’t pass English with flying colors. Makes me wonder what grades she really DID earn

    • bstar53

      Did she not earn it or did the school not earn all the taxpayer money that was shunted into it?
      It lost its accreditation for a reason.
      These schools are all scams.

      • Judith Pyrah Arnold

        I guess that the public schools in my area are all scams too, since they are not accredited either. I hate to surprise you but public schools do not have to be accredited and most of them are not. Please contact the regional accrediting body for your area and make some inquiries. It is shocking what public schools get away with, and have been getting away with for a lot longer than these charter schools.

      • RJ

        every public high school in Wisconsin that is operated by a local school board is accredited by the Department of Public Instruction as a public high school. Charter schools, voucher schools, choice schools, and private schools all have to be investigated before enrolling children at them to ensure they are an accredited school.

  • Duh Moment

    These parents DID visit the school, but the school obviously failed to notify parents AFTER it lost its charter. But visiting the school unannounced has NOTHING to do with the issue presented here and has no bearing on whether or not the school is still accredited. The visit could be amazing or horrible but the charter is all that matters, so the advice given at the end of is article is completely useless. Much better to have a state site that gives parents updated accreditation info and that shouldn’t even require a visit it should be able to be known from a simple phone call to the school.

  • Yvonne

    “Students are the ones returning to the classroom this fall, but with so many schools to choose from, its parents who need to do their homework.”

    *it’s parents who…

  • Judith Pyrah Arnold

    Actually, many public high schools are not accredited either. The local adult vo-tech programs in my area state they require an ‘accredited’ high school diploma but ironically the two public high schools in our school district are not accredited ant the vo-tech accepts students from those schools all the time. Maybe this dad needs to check into the accreditation status of the public schools this medical assistant program has been accepting students from. Public schools want you to assume that they are accredited, but they usually are not. I contacted our local school board to find out why our schools were not accredited and I was told it was ‘too expensive’. Which means that they know that the schools won’t meet the standards for accreditation but they don’t plan on doing anything about it.

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