Harmony Public Schools

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Harmony Public Schools
HarmonyPS.png
Location
Texas
United States
Information
Type Public Charter School
Faculty 3,500
Number of students 30,000
Color(s) Red and Blue
Website
Harmony Public Schools headquarters in Houston

Harmony Public Schools is the largest charter school network in Texas with 48 campuses statewide serving more than 30,000 students kindergarten through 12th grade. The headquarters are located in Greater Sharpstown, Houston, Texas,[1]

History[edit]

The first school opened in Houston in 2000 after former Texas A&M University graduate student, Dr. Soner Tarim, saw a learning gap among freshman taking his math and science classes. Tarim, along with other Turkish-American graduate students, wrote a charter school proposal and received approval from the Texas Education Agency in April 2000, only months before the first campus opened in August.

Within 10 years, Harmony expanded to 33 campuses across the state, reaching as far as El Paso and Dallas. Now at 17 years and 48 campuses, Harmony is fast approaching its goal of operating 50 schools and educating 35,000 students by the year 2020.

Academic performance[edit]

Harmony Public Schools works to break down the educational barriers for low-socioeconomic students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Its project-based learning method and STEM SOS model requires students to complete multiple hands-on projects per year in select fields, then present their findings to the community. This motivates students to master complex academic concepts and gives them practice at lifelong skills, such as public speaking and communications. [2]

Every Harmony campus passed or exceeded the state's academic standards in 2016, with six of its campuses earning all seven available academic distinctions and two of its districts earning the post-secondary readiness distinction.

In 2011 the Texas Education Agency (TEA) rated 21 of the 33 Harmony schools as "Exemplary" or "Recognized," while the remainder were "Acceptable."[3]

Texas newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman, and the West University Examiner, commented favorably on the schools.[4][5][6] HSA Houston was awarded by U.S. News & World Report a 'Bronze' medal in 2009 and a 'Silver' Medal in 2010.[7][8] A Newsweek report in 2011 named two of the Harmony Schools "Miracle Schools".[9]

Participation in competitions[edit]

Harmony Public Schools students participate in a variety of competitions because of the school's emphasis on extracurricular activities. Harmony is especially active in MathCounts, Science Olympiad, First Lego League (FLL), DISTCO (Digital Storytelling Contests) and Science Fair. Harmony Science Academy of Euless received an award as the 2010 Best School by the Fort Worth Regional Science and Engineering Fair only a year after it opened.[10]

Harmony hosts and organizes I-SWEEEP (International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering & Environment Project), a global science fair where students travel from dozens of countries to showcase their projects. Many Harmony campuses traveled to the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, for the expo to support their classmates with exhibits.

Harmony's computer and English classes participate in DISTCO. The DICTCO project evaluates educational videos made by students presenting about their research or stories. The topics of choice include: Art, Cultures/Religions, Computers/Technology, English Language Arts, ESL/Foreign Languages, Health/Medical, Mathematics, Music, Personal Stories/Reflections, Places/Travel, Physical Education/Sports, Pop Culture, Science/Engineering, and Social Studies.

Management and operations[edit]

Financial operations[edit]

Harmony Public Schools enjoys a AAA financial bond rating awarded by the state and has received numerous federal grants, such as the 5-year $30 million Race to the Top grant in 2011.

[11] Five Harmony schools in Austin spent $7,923 per student, about $800 below the statewide average and $1,600 below the average of the Austin Independent School District. Kate Alexander of the Austin American Statesman stated that the system had good academic performance "on a shoestring."[12]

The Harmony Public Schools provides management services for other charter school networks.[13] According to Tarim, Cosmos provides consulting services to the San Antonio, Texas charter network School of Science and Technology, operated by the Riverwalk Education Foundation, which has a separate school board from Harmony Public Schools.

Harmony in 2015 received $22,791,460 from federal and $229,245,331 from local and state grants [14]

Business contracting[edit]

The Harris County Department of Education assists Harmony Public Schools in its bidding process by reviewing every submission and making a recommendation to the board of directors. The lowest responsible bidder is given the contract. Harmony works with more than 5,000 vendors and its financial interactions are published on the main Harmony website.

The New York Times article in 2011 on Harmony Public Schools and Gülen Movement in Texas reported that "Some of the schools’ operators and founders, and many of their suppliers, are followers of Fethullah Gülen" [15]

Filing of H1-B visas[edit]

As of the 2016-17 school year, 197 of Harmony's 3,500 employees, (approximately 6% of the Harmony workforce), are on H1-B visas. This number was reported to be 292 in June 2011.[16] Most of the employees who are on H1-B visas are from Turkey.

Harmony experienced a lack of qualified math and science teachers in Texas. To alleviate the shortage, Harmony began Grow Your Own Teacher program, which encourages and financially supports its alumni who earn teaching certificates. This program greatly reduced the number of Harmony teachers on H1-B visas.

A New York Times article in 2011 also raised suspicions about the HB-1 visas used by Harmony, stating that "American consular employees reviewing visas have questioned the credentials of some teachers as they sought to enter the country. "'Most applicants had no prior teaching experience, and the schools were listed as related to' Mr. Gulen [Fethullah Gulen], a consular employee wrote in a 2009 cable," and stating, "Some with dubious credentials were denied visas."[17]

Investigation by Office for Civil Rights[edit]

Harmony Public Schools were subject to a compliance review by the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, examining whether the system was compliant with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in education programs operated by recipients of federal financial assistance), and Title II of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities). The OCR's investigation found that although HPS's admissions policies, procedures, and information provided to prospective students and their parents were prima facie non-discriminatory, the school systems' enrolments of disabled students and English-language learners were significantly lower than for public school districts covering the same geographical areas. In late 2014 the investigation was closed after HPS submitted proposals to resolve the issues identified by the OCR.[18]

Influence of Gülen movement[edit]

Harmony Public Schools is not associated with any religious movement or organization. The school network has been accused of being part of Gülen's "academic empire," but Gülen has denied relations between Harmony and himself

William Martin of Rice University said, as paraphrased by Toppo, that "educators' assertions of 'no organic connection' to Gülen are 'accurate,' but that 'their efforts to minimize ties to Gülen, likely from fear of being branded Islamists, bring unnecessary and probably counterproductive suspicion.'"[19]

Sharon Higgins, a public school advocate and researcher on Gülen-linked schools, argues that there are 167 Gülen-linked charter schools in 26 states including the D.C. [20]

Mark Hall, the producer of the documentary titled "Killing Ed: Charter Schools, Corruption and the Gülen Movement in America" says that "the documentary is about one of the largest networks of taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. are a worst-case-scenario—operated with questionable academic, labor, and H1-B visa standards by members of the “Gülen Movement” – a rapidly expanding, global Islamic group whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, lives in seclusion in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania." [21]

Schools[edit]

Harmony's initial schools opened in areas formerly occupied by stores and leased areas owned by churches; these spaces are typical locations for charter schools. After selling public bonds, Harmony began building its own campuses, although many campuses still occupy leased space.[22]

Austin[edit]

K-8

  • Harmony Science Academy
  • Harmony School of Science

8-12

  • Harmony Science Academy-North Austin

K-12

  • Harmony School of Excellence

K-11

  • Harmony School of Political Science

Beaumont[edit]

K-12

  • Harmony Science Academy

Brownsville[edit]

K-12

  • Harmony Science Academy

Bryan/College Station[edit]

K-8

  • Harmony Science Academy

Dallas[edit]

K-5

  • Harmony School of Innovation-Carrollton

K-12

  • Harmony School of Nature
  • Harmony Science Academy

6-12

  • Harmony Science Academy Carrollton

K-10

  • Harmony School of Business

El Paso[edit]

K-12

  • Harmony Science Academy
  • Harmony School of Innovation

Fort Worth[edit]

K-5

  • Harmony Science Academy

5-12

  • Harmony School of Innovation

Garland[edit]

K-5

  • Harmony Science Academy

6-12

  • Harmony School of Innovation

Grand Prairie[edit]

K-8

  • Harmony Science Academy

Euless[edit]

K-6

  • Harmony School of Innovation

7-12

  • Harmony Science Academy

Houston[edit]

K-8

  • Harmony Science Academy
  • Harmony School of Fine Arts and Technology
  • Harmony School of Excellence
  • Harmony School of Endeavor
  • Harmony Science Academy-Houston North West
  • Harmony School of Achievement

9-12

6-11

  • Harmony School of Discovery

K-3

  • Harmony School of Exploration

6-12

  • Harmony School of Ingenuity
  • Harmony School of Innovation-Katy

4-8

  • Harmony School of Innovation

K-5

  • Harmony Science Academy-Katy

Sugar Land[edit]

K-6

  • Harmony School of Science

7-12

  • Harmony School of Science High School

Laredo[edit]

K-12

  • Harmony Science Academy

K-5

  • Harmony School of Innovation

Lubbock[edit]

K-8

  • Harmony Science Academy

Odessa[edit]

K-8

  • Harmony Science Academy

San Antonio[edit]

6-12

  • Harmony Science Academy

K-9

  • Harmony School of Innovation

K-5

  • Harmony School of Excellence

Waco[edit]

K-12

  • Harmony Science Academy

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Map Major Roads." Greater Sharpstown Management District. Retrieved on August 15, 2009.
  2. ^ http://www.cosmostx.org/AboutUs.aspx
  3. ^ Kastner, Lindsay. "Harmony schools causing discord." San Antonio Express-News. Wednesday January 4, 2012. 1. Retrieved on August 29, 2012.
  4. ^ "Turkish scholars excel with charter schools that emphasize science, math". The Dallas Morning News. 2010-03-02. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  5. ^ "Group ranks Central Texas' best and worst schools: Westlake High, Harmony Science Academy and Pillow Elementary are ranked No. 1 in Austin area". Austin American-Statesman. 2009-09-20. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  6. ^ "DeBakey, Carnegie, HSPVA place high, but charters show gains in rankings". West University Examiner. 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  7. ^ "Best High Schools: Texas". U.S. News & World Report. 2009. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  8. ^ "Best High Schools: Harmony Science Academy-Houston". U.S. News & World Report. 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  9. ^ "Ten Miracle High Schools." The Daily Beast. June 21, 2011. Retrieved on August 29, 2012.
  10. ^ "Local School and Educator Win Top Honors in Science Competition". PR Newswire. 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  11. ^ Saul, Stephanie. "Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas." The New York Times. June 6, 2011. 1. Retrieved on February 21, 2012.
  12. ^ Alexander, Kate. "Can traditional schools learn a lesson from charters' efficiency?" Austin American-Statesman. Saturday August 18, 2012. Retrieved on August 28, 2012.
  13. ^ Kastner, Lindsay (4 January 2012). "Harmony schools causing discord". Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  14. ^ http://www.harmonytx.org/Portals/0/Finance/HPS_Audit_Report_June_30_2016.pdf
  15. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/education/07charter.html
  16. ^ SAUL, STEPHANIE (6 June 2011). "Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas". Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  17. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/education/07charter.html
  18. ^ August, Taylor D. (26 November 2014). "Letter: Harmony Public Schools, Texas: OCR Case #06-11-5004" (PDF). ed.gov. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  19. ^ Toppo, Greg. "Objectives of charter schools with Turkish ties questioned." USA Today. August 17, 2010. Retrieved on August 29, 2012.
  20. ^ http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/p/list-of-us-gulen-schools.html
  21. ^ http://killinged.com/
  22. ^ Kastner, Lindsay. "Harmony schools causing discord." San Antonio Express-News. Wednesday January 4, 2012. 2. Retrieved on August 29, 2012.

External links[edit]