Charter schools — the trendy alternative to the traditional brick-and-mortar public school offerings — may not be living up to their academic hype, as a recalculation of Pennsylvania’s charter school Adequate Yearly Progress grades found that roughly half of the charter schools that originally made AYP actually had not.
According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, The U.S. Department of Education required the Pennsylvania Department of Education to recalculate the results, and found that only 28 percent of charter schools statewide made AYP, not the 49 percent first reported.
This recalculation affects 144 brick-and-mortar charter schools and 12 cyber charter schools.
As of the January recalculation, of those 156 schools, three made AYP, eight were deemed as “making progress,” and 61 received a “warning” designation. An additional 26 schools were in one of two phases of “corrective action.”
The PSBA, PDE and USDOE didn’t name the specific charter schools, and calls seeking comment from local charter school organizers haven’t been returned as of Tribune press time.
“Last fall, PDE implemented a new way of determining whether charter schools have met student achievement milestones for AYP under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The new method was less stringent that the standards that must be met by traditional public schools, which until last fall were also applied to charter schools. Use of the more lenient method made it appear that more charter school schools made AYP last year than was actually the case,” read, in part, PSBA’s summary. “PSBA has tracked the basis of the new approach to a very subtle change in the wording of Pennsylvania’s Accountability Workbook, the plan outlining the state’s No Child Left Behind accountability system that must be submitted to and approved by the U.S. DOE.
“A request by the PDE to calculate charter school AYP by the same method used for districts instead of traditional schools was submitted by the department to the U.S. DOE in late summer,” the summary continued, “but PDE went ahead with the calculation change without federal approval when it released 2012 AYP results in September.”
What this means for the effected charter schools remains cloudy. Public charter schools statewide are funded by the PDE and the school districts in which the schools reside. For example, the School District of Philadelphia pours in nearly $400 million a year into the charter school system, according to the district’s budget for the 2012–2013 school year.
“PSBA had expressed concerned that this attempt to artificially inflate the number of charter schools regarded as making AYP served to mask deficiencies in charter schools and deny families the information necessary to make informed choices, misleading them about the charter schools they are considering choosing, or that they already attend,” read a statement from the PSBA. “It also had the effect of delaying crucial improvement and corrective action measures for a failing charter school, or prematurely ending those measures for a charter school that was already in improvement or corrective status.
“These academic achievement issues should be critical considerations in the charter school renewal process.”