It takes courage to speak out about an employer, even a former employer. Teachers especially have to be mindful about what they say about a school administrator they worked for. Long-reaching arms can make it hard for that teacher to find work elsewhere. Now that Michigan is a freedom to freeload state, keeping a position is even more tenuous. Two teachers recently contacted me to tell me about their experiences teaching for Dr. Steve Ingersoll at his for-profit charter schools. To maintain their privacy, they both spoke to me on condition of anonymity.
Steve Ingersoll’s for-profit charter schools are supposed to revolutionize how children are educated in the United States. Not only are IVL schools being run in Michigan, there is also a school in California that uses Dr. Ingersoll’s vision therapy to ‘improve’ student learning.
IVL cures 90% of students with ADHD Dr. Ingersoll’s Excel Institute claims. The research to support this claim took place at a for-profit charter school that operated in Livingston County in the 1990’s. A teacher who worked at this school remembers what they observed:
I worked for Smart Schools Inc. right out of college when I moved back home and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do yet. Charters were “newer” at that time, and I was too young to really evaluate the belief system behind its foundation. I just needed a job. I reported to both Steve Ingersoll and his partner, Chuck Stockwell, who I heard parted ways at some point. Their two companies were very entwined and I was paid from both to make up my salary.
This teacher is talking about the for-profit charter school Ingersoll ran with Chuck Stockwell named Livingston Developmental Academy. Stockwell’s current for-profit charter school is named after his daughter whom Ingersoll treated with IVL to improve her reading skills. The little girl later died from a brain tumor. The teacher describes some of the practices that happened when she worked for Dr. Ingersoll:
I worked as an administrative assistant in the office that treated kids with disabilities such as ADD/ADHD and autism. I never once saw someone cured, but of course I’m not a doctor and was too young at the time to fully understand the BS he was spreading. Lots of shifty practices, sub-companies and corporations that moved A LOT of money around.
Moving and shifting money around is something Dr. Ingersoll has been doing from the beginning. You don’t need to be a doctor to notice something shady is happening around you. Teachers are trained to pay attention to students they work with and make note of any problems they have. Even if this teacher was young and just out of college, they still had the training to evaluate a student’s progress, or lack of it. What did this teacher think of Ingersoll’s methods in the school where they worked?
His claims were/are at best a novelty in my opinion. If I recall correctly, students were initially given a screener to see how their eyes tracked on a page of text. This was done with a special machine and a pair of glasses hooked up to the machine. If their eyes didn’t track from left to right (as in how a person reads a page of text) and from one line to the next in the correct “zig zag” pattern during reading, then they were considered to need “therapy.” Therapy was expensive and rarely covered by insurance.
So these children were enrolled in Dr. Ingersoll’s school, given a test with a machine to see if their eyes zig zag across a page, and if they didn’t, they needed therapy. The disturbing part about this is the teacher’s revelation that if these children were diagnosed as needing therapy, the parents would likely have to pay out of pocket for this expensive treatment. What parent wouldn’t pay for this if it meant their child can’t learn how to read without it? Steve Ingersoll is a doctor, he wouldn’t lie to them about something this crucially important. Or would he?
The other teacher who came in contact with this blog worked at one of Dr. Ingersoll’s schools still in operation in Michigan. This is how they came to be teaching at one of Ingersoll’s for-profit charter schools:
I was so impressed with their philosophy that I left my teaching job in a “top notch” school to work at this charter school, where I took a 25% pay cut after less than 6 months of employment, and received many empty and broken promises.
Now why would teaching staff be asked to take a pay cut six months after accepting a job? This is because teachers who work at a charter school managed by a for-profit third party don’t have a union, and that third party manager can do whatever they want to the people who work for them. Welcome to the wonderful world of right to work.
Does this school also have a room where students are tested for IVL therapy?
There was NO room in the school specifically for IVL testing. There may have been equipment, but kids were never observed for vision. The IVL methods were taught to all kids, because Ingersoll made the staff do it; middle school and high school as well. Even the Special Education teachers had to teach it. which meant critical standards were not met.
The state of Michigan requires education curriculum standards to be taught in all schools receiving tax payer money. Not following these curriculum standards means students will do poorly on state standardized tests.
State records show that Dr. Ingersoll’s for-profit charter schools participate in Title I Part A services. Title I is federal funding that assists schools in providing special services for students in reading in math, including technology, training, and staff. Does IVL qualify for Title I funding? If every student in these charter schools receive IVL therapy for curriculum instead of actual curriculum required by the state, who pays for it? The parents, or the tax payers?
These two teachers provide more clues of what goes on in Dr. Ingersoll’s for-profit charter schools. Apparently testing students for whether they need vision therapy happened at one time, but not any longer. All students, whether they have reading disabilities or not receive Integrated Visual Learning, which means this is no longer considered therapy, but school curriculum.
The Michigan Department of Education has no authority to do anything about the schools, but they can investigate the charter school authorizers. Steve Ingersoll’s schools are authorized by Lake Superior State University. On their website they state:
(Charter schools) must comply with essentially the same statutory and regulatory requirements as other k-12 public schools, including No Child Left Behind and Education Yes! accountability programs and special education laws.
How does Integrated Visual Learning comply with federal special education law?
How does Integrated Visual Learning qualify for Title I funding?
Why is Integrated Visual Learning, once used as therapy, now used as school curriculum?
Did the Michigan Department of Education approve Integrated Visual Learning as an acceptable method for meeting state curriculum standards? (WHERE’S THE EVIDENCE?)
This story is like an onion, and there are more layers to peel through. Dr. Ingersoll’s federal felony fraud trial begins in less than a month.