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Los Angeles charter school doesn’t cut it, advocacy group says in call for non-renewal of 6 California charters

Sarah Favot | November 17, 2016



(Courtesy: Academy of Science and Engineering's website, asehigh.org)

(Courtesy: Academy of Science and Engineering’s website, asehigh.org)

The California Charter Schools Association on Thursday called on the LA Unified school board not to renew the charter of Academy of Science and Engineering when it comes up for review this year and made the same call for non-renewal for five other charter schools in the state.

The charter high school in Baldwin Hills enrolled 228 students in the 2015-16 school year, according to district data.

Since 2011, CCSA, the state’s leading advocacy organization for charter schools, has issued its “Public Call for Non-Renewal” for charter schools that it has determined are not meeting minimum criteria when it comes to students’ academic performance and other factors.

The high school’s charter was approved by the LA Unified school board in February 2012, district records show. The school opened in August 2012 with 159 students. Charters must be renewed by the authorizing district every five years.

Charter school renewals have been a hot topic in recent months at LA Unified school board meetings. Last month, the school district recommended a record number of denials of charter school petitions (nine); the school board ended up voting to deny five charters. The CCSA vehemently argued those schools should have been renewed.

In response to the contentious debate at that meeting, at least one school board member is considering a third-party authorizer for charter school petitions.

Elizabeth Robitaille, CCSA’s senior vice president for achievement and performance management, said CCSA will work with schools that have either fallen behind or are in danger of falling behind the minimum requirements for at least a year or more prior to when a school’s charter is up for renewal. 

If a school is not performing well in terms of student test score results, Robitaille said they will try to find other areas where a school is succeeding.

“Despite that effort and despite that process, we were not able to quantify a compelling impact that they were able to achieve,” Robitaille said of the schools recommended for closure.

Robitaille said some schools will choose to close themselves without petitioning for renewal.

The principal of Academy of Science and Engineering did not return a request for comment. The school is up for renewal this school year.

Student standardized test results as part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) show just 25 percent of students met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts and just 8 percent met the standard in math, according to 2016 results.

According to rankings that CCSA recently published based on standardized test scores and other data, the school was ranked 1, on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest possible rank. In a measure that compares test scores to other schools with similar demographics, the Academy of Science and Engineering was ranked 1, the lowest ranking, in 2016, a decrease from its 2 ranking in 2015.

CCSA officials say that given that charter schools have some freedoms and autonomies compared to traditional schools, they should be held accountable when they are underperforming.

“When charter schools do not provide a high-quality education to their students, they should close,” CCSA’s statement reads.

But ultimately, it is the authorizing agencies, either local or county school boards or the state, which have the authority to renew or not renew a school’s charter.

The five other schools that CCSA identified are in Tulare, Merced, San Diego, Sonoma and Yolo counties.

The schools did not meet the following criteria: above the 40th percentile on Smarter Balanced Assessment scores, growth over time for elementary and middle schools or at least 75 percent of graduating high school students met ‘”A to G” requirements, and scored within expected levels based on comparisons to schools with similar demographics.

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