Regents ties charter renewal at two schools to more data
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.