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DOE and State Board issue decisions on charter schools up for renewal

DOE AND STATE BOARD ISSUE DECISIONS ON CHARTER SCHOOLS UP FOR RENEWAL


Five charters renewed; Reach Academy students and families given path forward with school closing at the end of this academic year


The State Board of Education, following recommendations by Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, agreed to renew the charters of Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, EastSide, Gateway Lab, ASPIRA, and Odyssey. Reach Academy for Girls will close at the end of this academic year, having remained one of the lowest-performing schools in the state, with students making only limited growth over their five-year history. The Board deferred on a decision on a seventh school, Family Foundations.

The Delaware Department of Education will meet with Reach students and families in the coming weeks to help them determine their best educational options for next school year. In addition to their district feeder pattern schools, students also may apply to attend other schools through the state’s Choice program. The Choice application deadline is Jan. 14, 2015.

The State also has set up an email address (infocso@doe.k12.de.us) and phone number (302-735-4020) to answer questions that families may have.

The Charter School Accountability Committee had recommended renewal of all of the charters except Gateway and Reach. Secretary Murphy concurred on all recommendations, except in the case of Gateway. He recommended renewal of Gateway’s charter with a condition. The State Board of Education agreed.

Murphy recommended renewal of Gateway’s charter with the condition that the school meet the state standard on the Alternative Academic Framework by the end of the 2015-16 school year. The Alternative Academic Framework, applicable to schools such as Gateway that serve special populations of students, provides different academic targets than that of the State’s Academic Framework for charters. Because the designation was not in place earlier, despite the fact that Gateway had been serving a predominantly special needs population, the Charter School Accountability Committee evaluated Gateway within the traditional charter school framework. Should the school not meet the standard under the Alternative Academic Framework by the end of the 2015-16 academic year, the Department will pursue State Board approval to revoke the school’s charter through the formal review process.

Murphy also recommended the Board defer a decision on Family Foundations’ charter renewal application due to additional information the Department  received since the close of the Charter School Accountability Committee’s review process. As a result of DOE monitoring and investigation, the Department obtained a report near the close of business on Wednesday that include serious allegations of financial mismanagement and requires inquiry by the Department. Family Foundations’ board has agreed to waive the 60-day time period for a decision on its renewal application.

In his recommendation for renewal, Murphy praised some of the schools for their strong performances. EastSide Charter School in Wilmington has demonstrated steady growth in its overall score on the Academic Framework over the past four years, starting with an overall score of 37.5 for 2010-11 school year and culminating with an overall score of 71.9 for the 2013-14 school year.  ASPIRA also improved from an overall rating on the Academic Framework that did not meet the standard in 2011-12 during its first year of operation to meeting the standard for the past two years.

Documents related to the seven schools’ charter renewals -- including committee reports, school responses, and public comments -- are available here.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4000