Re­gents ties char­ter re­newal at two schools to more data

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Jay Rey

New York’s top ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers want more ev­i­dence of academic progress at two Buf­falo char­ter schools be­fore they re­new their char­ters.

En­ter­prise and West­min­ster Com­mu­nity char­ter schools were rec­om­mended for three-year re­newals in Fe­bru­ary, but the state Board of Re­gents – which au­tho­rizes char­ter schools – is ex­press­ing con­cern about the academic suc­cess at the two schools. It punted the mat­ter back to the Buf­falo Board of Ed­u­ca­tion for re­con­sid­er­a­tion.

“A char­ter term no longer than two years should be con­sid­ered based on in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence of academic suc­cess by the ap­pli­cants,” ac­cord­ing to a let­ter from the Board of Re­gents to School Board Pres­i­dent Bar­bara Seals Nev­er­gold.

The state also ques­tioned the low per­cent­age of stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties and English lan­guage learn­ers at the two char­ters when com­pared to the Buf­falo school dis­trict.

En­ter­prise and West­min­ster are unique be­cause both were sponsored by Buf­falo Pub­lic Schools dur­ing the early years of the char­ter move­ment so the dis­trict gets to weigh in on their re­newals. In some­what of a sur­prise, the School Board – which has been crit­i­cal of the grow­ing num­ber of char­ters in Buf­falo – rec­om­mended an­other three years for both char­ters.

Now, the School Board is ex­pected to rec­om­mend two-year re­newals for both schools, in ad­di­tion to in­creased col­lab­o­ra­tion with the school dis­trict and pe­ri­odic vis­its from dis­trict staff.

The Board of Re­gents, how­ever, still will make the fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion when it con­sid­ers re­newal again in May, ex­plained Darren Brown-Hall, the dis­trict’s chief of staff.

The dis­cus­sion around En­ter­prise and West­min­ster comes at a time when there has been some volatil­ity among the lo­cal char­ters, which are pub­licly funded schools that are in­de­pen­dently op­er­ated.

The state closed Or­a­cle Char­ter School, a high school on Delaware Av­enue, last June based on its poor per­for­mance.

Then, the school year be­gan with the open­ing of Buf­falo Col­le­giate Char­ter on Jewett Av­enue and Per­sis­tence Prepara­tory Academy on Michi­gan Av­enue.

In Jan­uary, Aloma D. John­son Char­ter School, lo­cated in the city’s Park­side neigh­bor­hood, an­nounced it will close at the end of the school year, cit­ing fi­nan­cial strug­gles and the in­abil­ity to at­tract enough stu­dents.

En­ter­prise, which opened in Au­gust 2003 at 275 Oak St. has more than 400 stu­dents in kinder­garten through eighth grades. Once la­beled among the lower-per­form­ing schools in the state, En­ter­prise is now rec­og­nized as a school in “good stand­ing,” un­der the state’s new ac­count­abil­ity stan­dards, which con­sid­ers more than just stan­dard­ized test scores.

But stu­dents at En­ter­prise also per­form, on av­er­age, 9 per­cent be­low the dis­trict in math and 1 per­cent be­low in English lan­guage arts, ac­cord­ing to the state Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment.

West­min­ster, at 24 West­min­ster Ave., was once part of the city school sys­tem, be­fore be­ing con­verted to a char­ter school in the fall of 2004. The school, which has re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing over the years through a strong part­ner­ship with M&T Bank, has 553 stu­dents in kinder­garten through eighth grades.

West­min­ster, too, is con­sid­ered to be in good stand­ing by the state, but its stu­dents per­form 5 per­cent be­low the dis­trict in math and 4 per­cent be­low the dis­trict in English lan­guage arts, ac­cord­ing to the state.

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