In the end-of-the-year holiday dash, it sure looks like the Colorado League of Charter Schools has been busy. Busy standing up against the anti-charter actions of a couple local school boards.
Two cases in point. The first is an op-ed League president Jim Griffin penned for the Greeley Tribune. It came out a couple days ago as the Greeley school board contemplated denying an expansion of the successful Union Colony charter school on the basis of student demographics. (The board since has officially rejected it.)
But Griffin provided the skeptical Board and the Tribune itself with some clarifying insights:
First, in any discussion about charter school demographics on the west side of town, it’s worth noting that there are district-run schools on the same side of town with similar demographics to the three charters currently operating in the city. Location is the most obvious driver of student demographics, and the most recent CDE data on the relevant schools underscores that point.
That said, however, the assertion is still out there that the three existing charter schools do not serve enough low-income/minority kids in Greeley. What that statement says in turn is that there are too many underserved low-income/minority children in Greeley — and too few high-quality public school options available to them.
Griffin then proceeded to show clearly how Greeley could go about solving this problem, using Denver Public Schools’ proactive approach as an example. Failure to feed his advice would indicate the Board is more threatened by competition than concerned about serving needy students.
As the second half of the League’s one-two punch, Griffin and director of research and evaluation Jody Ernst both were quoted in yesterday’s Pueblo Chieftain article about the Pueblo City Schools board’s apparently unfair non-renewal of the area Youth and Family Academy (YAFA) charter school. The school board cited low academic achievement as a major reason for shutting down a school serving 95 percent at-risk or special needs students, even though YAFA has demonstrated a good job of improving test scores:
From 2009-10, Ernst reported the percentile growth of YAFA students was 55 percent in reading, 66 percent in math and 54 percent in writing.
“While the Youth and Family Academy may not have the proficiency rates equal to that of other Pueblo 60 schools, they have displayed terrific gains in student academic achievements as evidenced by the Colorado Growth Model, for the past two years,” Ernst said.
So let me follow the reasoning of these two school boards. Charter schools have to serve more at-risk students to get accepted. But if they serve a lot of at-risk students and do a good job of improving student outcomes, though their absolute scores are still a little bit behind, they get closed down. Darned if you do; darned if you don’t. (Hey, I’m a little kid. All right?)
The good news is that both the Greeley and Pueblo schools have the opportunity to appeal their respective cases to the State Board of Education. I’m interested to see how things end up shaking out for the kids of the two cities and for these two schools in 2011.