Low-performing charter given green light to expand

Low-performing charter given green light to expand

(Calif.) Following through with a promise to hold underperforming charters to the same accountability standards as other schools, the California Charter Schools Association has challenged a decision by a San Jose district to allow a struggling charter to expand further.

The Latino College Prep Academy, which serves about 370 high school students drawn from the hardscrabble neighborhoods of east San Jose, falls into the lowest 20 percent of performing schools in California and has consistently under-performed when compared to other schools serving similar student demographics.

“Accountability means supporting the growth of high-performing schools and illuminating those charter schools that are not providing a high-quality education,” Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the Charter Schools Association, said in a statement criticizing the Eastside Union High School District for agreeing to allow the charter to replicate two new sites.

“We cannot have an honest discussion about education reform and increasing accountability and then continue to allow chronically low-performing charters to replicate,” said Wallace. “(Latino College Prep Academy) has missed the minimum performance benchmarks that CCSA members created to identify persistently under-performing charter schools. As a result, replicating a failing model is not in the best interest of the students and the communities they wish to serve.”

Although a national survey conducted two years ago found the charter closure rate had jumped from 6.2 percent in 2010 to 12.9 percent in 2012, accountability remains a major issue for alternative education providers.

California charter officials developed their own framework in 2009 using a multi-dimensional model that values academic rigor but also gives schools credit for growth improvements as well as the challenge of servicing educationally disadvantaged students.

The system provides minimum criteria for renewal that authorizing agencies are offered to consider as part of their evaluation process. According to the CCSA’s website, charter schools should meet the following benchmarks:

  • Academic Performance Index (API) score of at least 744 in 2012-13 (representing higher than the bottom 25th percentile of all California public schools)
  • Three-year cumulative API growth of at least 50 points (2012-13 growth + 2011-12 growth + 2010-11 growth)
  • Within range of or exceeding predicted performance based on similar student populations statewide, for at least two out of the last three years, based on CCSA's metric, the Similar Students Measure.

According to the CCSA, the Latino College Prep Academy continues to struggle with closing an achievement gap that other schools have reduced: the average Latino and low-income students at the academy perform 175 points behind the state average of white students. That’s more than four times the achievement gap of other schools in the San Jose area that serve a similar demographic.

Perhaps most damaging – the academy graduates only about half as many Latino students as competing schools, according to the charter association.

The criticism of Eastside comes after the association announced in December its position that five other charters should be closed because of poor academic performance.

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