Over the past three years, five schools chartered by the State Board of Education have run into significant problems.
Maurice J. Moyer Academy, Positive Outcomes Charter School and Campus Community School were cited for subpar academic performance, Reach Academy for Girls for management issues and Pencader Charter Business and Finance High School for financial issues.
Had the new performance framework for charter schools been in place, would these problems have been nipped in the bud?
Maybe, and maybe not, according to Teri Quinn Gray, president of the State Board of Education.
“The template is not designed to be predictive,” Gray said. In other words, while it can show how a school has fared from year to year against specific measuring sticks, it is looking at the past, not the future.
However, Gray said, having the framework “will align expectations and will give us a chance to deal with issues earlier,” rather than waiting until the year a school’s charter is up for renewal, or for complaints from parents or others associated with a school to surface.
Gray urges parents “to be vigilant” in learning about a charter school before they enroll in one and to keep abreast of what’s going on after they are enrolled — just as they would with any public school.
“The promise of what public education offers, and a parent’s vigilance — in both traditional and charter schools, it is the same,” she said.
Charter school parents do not necessarily expect their schools to be better than traditional public schools, she said, but they expect them to be different. “That’s the whole power or choice,” she said.
Delaware’s charter schools, like those in other parts of the country, show significant differences in outcomes. “We have very high-performing schools, some that are right there in the middle, and some that are struggling,” Gray said.
As for the charters that have had performance issues:
• Moyer Academy is under new management.
• Positive Outcomes has become a Partnership Zone school under the federally-funded Race to the Top school reform program.
• Campus Community School has phased out its high school program.
• Reach Academy was reorganized with a new board of directors.
• Pencader restructured its finances and paid down most of its debt, but new concerns have developed over the composition of its board of directors.