Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Proponents of Fitchburg charter school
plead their case to state board
Read more: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/news/ci_26776208/proponents-fitchburg-charter-school-plead-their-case-state#ixzz3GuoAXV1F
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
MESSAGE FROM MARC KENEN, MASSACHUSETTS CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION
Dear Charter friends,
The Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester today announced that he would be making a recommendation concerning the Brockton & Fitchburg charter school applications for the Board to vote onat their regularly scheduled monthly meeting.
The Chair of the Board Margaret McKenna announced further that the Board of Ed would hold a special public hearing on this issue sometime beforeon a date/time/location TBD.
During the Commissioner's remarks he indicated he was closely reviewing the Department of Education's interpretation of the state law that prioritizes applications in the lowest 10% and has been cited by the department as their justification to disqualify the applicants.
The MCPSA and the Brockton and Fitchburg founding groups have argued to the Department of Education that they misinterpreted this law and mistakenly used it to disqualify the candidates.
Following the Chair and Commissioner's remarks, public comment turned to three speakers arguing against the applications including the Brockton and Fitchburg Superintendents and MTA President Barbara Madeloni.
Then supporters of the charter school applications were given the final three speaking slots: Beth Anderson, MCPSA Vice President and Phoenix Academy Charter School leader; Michael Sullivan from the Brockton founding group and Jennifer Jones from the Fitchburg Charter School. All three speakers did a wonderful job explaining the situation from their particular perspectives. I observed the Board of Ed. members listening quite attentively to all three of our speakers!
A big thank you to the many parents, leaders and supporters who came today! It was great turning the corner onto Pleasant Street and seeing a big crowd in front of the Department!
As soon as we know the date for the special public hearing, we'll be sure to pass it on!
Saturday, October 18, 2014
BROCKTON AND FITCHBURG CHARTER SCHOOL APPLICANTS REQUEST WAIVER FROM STATE TO CONTINUE THROUGH APPLICATION PROCESS
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Ed officials: Hands tied on charter rulings
By Matt Murphy, State House News Service
UPDATED: 10/15/2014 08:59:11 AM EDT0 COMMENTS
BOSTON - A top state education official on Tuesday said the department's hands were tied over the disqualification of two new charter school applicants despite both leading candidates for governor urging reconsideration of proposed charters in Fitchburg and Brockton. With three weeks remaining before the election, Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker and Democrat Martha Coakley on Tuesday seized on a report that state education officials are not likely to green-light any new charter schools this year. Charter schools pitched for Brockton and the Fitchburg area were dropped from consideration because they are not located in districts that are among the lowest-performing in the state.
"This isn't a judgment call on our part. This is a state law that we are tasked with enforcing whether we agree with it or not. We could reconsider, but the state law is pretty clear," said Deputy Education Commission Jeff Wulfson. Baker urged the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to reconsider its decision, and called on Coakley to join him in calling for expanded access to charter schools in Massachusetts.
"As Governor, I will fight any attempts to put politics ahead of children in the Commonwealth's cities and I hope the Department of Education will reconsider their decision to limit access to quality schools," Baker said in a statement. A little over an hour later, Coakley responded with a statement doing just that: "Today's news that all new charter school proposals were rejected is disappointing, and I am calling on the Department of Education to reconsider the decision.
Families and children in Brockton and Fitchburg deserved better. We shouldn't let a technicality get in the way of offering increased opportunities to our children in school districts across the state."
Charter advocates say the denial of applications for new charters this year will hinder development in cities where they say charters are most needed and where children are on waiting lists to attend the alternative public schools.
A push on Beacon Hill this year for legislation to provide a controlled lift of the cap on charter schools failed amid continuing division between charter advocates and proponents of traditional public schools, including teachers unions.
Coakley has said during the campaign that she supports lifting the cap on charter schools, and in her primary night acceptance speech said the state must learn from successful charters. Baker has been a more vocal advocate for charter expansion, strongly backing the failed legislation and proposing to not only increase the number of charter schools, but remove "arbitrary restrictions" on the number of students who can attend in the lowest performing districts.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in late September invited New Heights Charter School, of Brockton, and Academy for the Whole Child Charter School, serving the Fitchburg region, to proceed to the final stage of the licensing process and submit full applications.
That decision was subsequently reversed when educations officials realized that Fitchburg and Brockton are no longer among the state's lowest 10 percent performing school districts, disqualifying the applications based on a 2010 education reform law. While both cities were among the 29 lowest performing school districts in 2013, spring MCAS scores and a new formula adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in June elevated both districts out of the lowest 10 percent.
The change to the formula, which was adopted two days before aspiring charter operators were required to submit letters of intent to the board, gave districts credit for improved student performance from one year to the next in addition to raw MCAS scores. The new formula helped move eight districts out of the lowest tier, including Fitchburg and Brockton.
"Although that was the final board vote, everyone was well aware of what the proposals were," Wulfson said. "That didn't come as a surprise, but even if the board had not changed any of the calculations, because they are based on the spring MCAS there's always the issues of having to start working before we've published our list and they're told that."
Wulfson said the department has extended by over a week until Nov. 14 the deadline for final charter school applications to be submitted in order to give both applicants time to consider changing locations for their charter schools. The operators may also appeal to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for a waiver from state regulations, though Wulfson said it's unclear what regulation could be waived. The department this fall and winter will also weigh three applications for new Horace Mann charters in Salem, Springfield and Boston. Horace Mann charter schools operate in cooperation with host districts and require the approval of the local school committee.
Dear Charter friends, a great editorial in the Boston Herald calling attention to the state Board of Education policy that has resulted in no new charter schools being awarded by the state this year and the reversal on the Brockton and Fitchburg applications.
Boston Herald Editorial: Slowly killing charters
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Making those schools disappear
Proponents of a new charter public school for northern Worcester County had barely had time to absorb the good news from state education officials — they had passed a preliminary screening and were welcome to submit a final application— when they received word that there had been a mistake.
It turns out the Academy for the Whole Child Charter School is ineligible because a 2010 charter school law says the first two commonwealth charters approved in any year must be in districts among the lowest 10 percent statewide. Some towns in the proposed district are in the lowest 10 percent, but Fitchburg is not. Thus, the school, and another proposed for Brockton, cannot proceed as originally planned.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said there had been an "oversight."
So, we have a Legislature that rewrites the rules so that districts that surely could use additional school choices —
Fitchburg and Brockton are improving, but far from great — can't easily get them. And we have educational bureaucrats who can't even interpret the rules correctly.
Forcing all communities to move at the speed of the slowest performers kills innovation and denies many children a better education. And raising false hopes doesn't help, either.
What are parents with children in under-performing schools to do?
For starters, seek a better school, even if it costs them money. But in the long run, they need to go to the polls and vote for new leaders willing to overturn a state education bureaucracy that simply isn't putting children first.
Copyright 2014 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp