Sunday, July 25, 2010


By John Fensterwald in The Educated Guess

July 22nd, 2010 -- The State Board of Education moved closer to adoption but has not yet passed new rules for revoking poorly performing charter schools.

At their meeting last week, members appeared to agree with using API scores to determine which charters should be annually reviewed for possible revocation. However, they also want alternatives to the proposal to consider revoking charters of schools in the lowest 10 percent of API scores and whose scores ranked in the lowest 20 percent of schools with similar student populations.

The Academic Performance Index is a single number, ranging from 200 to 1000, that measures a school’s performance based on a combination of annual standardized tests in math, English language arts, history, science and, where appropriate, the high school exit exam. It’s an imperfect measure of a school’s overall achievement, but is one that the public readily understands and has come to identify with.

Other options raised during public testimony include using a three-year average of API scores and looking at improvement in students’ test scores. A charter middle or high school whose mission is to admit low-performing, at risk students will always have API scores weighed down by initial years’ test scores. However, the schools must be able to show substantial gain by the time  students reach seventh or eighth grades in middle school or their junior and senior years in high school.

State Board President Ted Mitchell said that he and other members have been frustrated over their inability to intervene when districts have renewed the five-year charters of clearly underperforming schools. The board needs tools to step in when appropriate, he said.

The board would have the option of  ordering specific improvements, which it would oversee, instead of revocation.

Board member Ben Austin has said that he considered the proposal to revoke charters in the lowest decile just the first step. Since they are given freedom from restrictions binding district schools, the public should expect charters to be held to a higher standard, he said.

The board is expected to adopt the regulations at either its special Aug. 2 meeting or at its September session.

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