Charter group calls for closure of two of its own

Charter group calls for closure of two of its own

(Calif.) The state’s preeminent arbiter of charter school performance is calling this week for the closure of two campuses deemed to be falling short of meeting even minimum academic standards.

The petitions authorizing Oasis Charter Public School in Monterey County and Century Academy for Excellence in Los Angeles County should not be renewed, the California Charter Schools Association said Wednesday, because they have consistently ranked among the lowest performing schools in the state and have not demonstrated substantial growth over time.

“We understand that closing a school is a heavy decision and is difficult for families, but keeping students in schools that are not providing the education they deserve is far worse,” Myrna Castrejon, acting CEO of CCSA, said in a statement. “Furthermore, the time and resources needed to overcome several years of low performance are a far less effective use of public funds than it is to close a chronically underperforming school.”

The organization’s annual “call for non-renewal” of low performing charters comes as California is in the midst of transitioning to a new school accountability system – based on the Common Core standards – that, while still using test scores, also takes into account other indicators of student achievement.

While public charter schools are subject to some of the same state accountability requirements as traditional schools, they also operate with a greater degree of autonomy from government regulation in exchange for meeting the terms of their locally- or state-approved petition to operate. Those terms generally call for demonstrated success in the areas of student academic achievement, financial management and organizational stability.

Working with its members, researchers, policy advocates and other stakeholders, the CCSA in 2009 established an accountability framework that sets high standards for academic performance in charter schools, and serves as a guide for evaluating petition renewal. The CCSA framework places emphasis on academic rigor, the group says, while giving schools credit for growth and taking on the challenge of serving traditionally disadvantaged students.

 “As California defines its future accountability system, we are pressing for clear accountability measures that are consistent across the state and that prioritize strong academic outcomes for all students, particularly those most in need,” CCSA’s Elizabeth Robitaille, senior vice president of Achievement and Performance Management, said in a statement.

Robitaille called for 2016-17 accountability frameworks to include a straightforward set of minimum criteria aligned to the Common Core standards that is centered on a two-stage process allowing for a secondary review if schools can’t meet one of three measures showing either student proficiency, growth over time or demographic comparison. For the 2015-16 school year, CCSA’s first-stage performance indicators are:

  1. A 2013 API score of 749 or higher, or
  2. 50 points of cumulative API growth between 2010 and 2013
  3. Similar student measure showing the school is performing “within” or “above” its predicted API score in either 2011­12 or 2012­13 (based on how all other schools serving similar demographics of students performed)

If a school does not meet one of the three criteria, CCSA offers a review of multiple measures aligned to California’s eight state priorities as described in the Local Control Accountability Plan – required under California’s school education funding system. The standard for this review, according to CCSA, is to identify “substantially compelling evidence of student outcome success and growth in achievement beyond that which is seen at other schools.

“This is also an opportunity for the school to be able to tell its own data story of success in achieving strong student outcomes, choosing the measures it feels are most closely aligned to its mission and are most indicative of the school’s success,” the policy reads.

Under California law, charter school petitions may be authorized for up to a five-year term, and may be renewed by authorizers – state and local boards of education – for additional five-year terms.

To inform schools, authorizers and the public on school performance, CCSA publishes Academic Accountability Report Cards every fall that show the results of each charter school on the Accountability Framework and CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal.

In recommending closure of Century, a 6-8 middle school in LA county’s Lennox Elementary School District, and Oasis, a K-8 charter in Monterey’s Alisal Union School District, CCSA said a healthy charter school system thrives in part by weeding out those that consistently fail to meet minimum performance standards.

“While there is much discussion and debate about the new state accountability system, there is one thing that is certain – the charter school movement has thrived because of uniform, transparent and clear minimum performance standards,” Castrejon said in the CCSA statement. “This clarity has created an environment of freedom and autonomy in exchange for accountability, where high performing charter schools flourish and chronically underperforming schools close.”

California leads the nation in the number of charter school students and the number of charter schools with more than 580,000 pupils being educated in 1,230 charters, according to CCSA. An additional 36,000 students chose to attend charters this school year, said the group, and some 158,000 students remain on public charter school waiting lists.