Charter Schools' Test Results May Aid 3 Urban Districts
December 05, 2008
As academic goals for public schools continue to increase under federal guidelines, three urban districts in Connecticut might be helped this year by being able to include achievement test results of charter schools in their own results.
A new pilot program, approved by the state legislature in 2007, allows Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven to combine their own schools' test results with those of charter schools in the cities. Typically, a charter school is considered to be its own district and its test scores are evaluated separately from the public schools'.
How much the program, implemented this school year, will help districts that continually fail to make "adequate yearly progress" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act remains to be seen.
The program is optional. Participation requires the city to have a contract with each charter school that chooses to participate. Each contract will need approval from the state Department of Education, which will also assess the overall program in 2013.
No contracts have come before the state board for approval yet, according to spokesman Thomas Murphy. But three charter schools in Hartford are in discussions with the city to participate.
"It looks pretty positive at this time," said Michael Sharpe, the CEO of Jumoke Academy in Hartford, a charter school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade that opened in 1997. "I think it's kind of a win-win situation. The majority of our kids are Hartford children anyway, so it's logical that Hartford can claim their scores."
Two new charter schools in Hartford — the Charter School for Young Children on Asylum Hill and Achievement First Academy — have reached agreements with the city.
But those two schools would have minimal impact on the district's scores right away, because students begin taking the Connecticut Mastery Test in third grade. Achievement First opened this year with kindergarten, first and fifth grades, with plans to expand to a K-8 school. The Charter School for Young Children serves children up to age 5, with plans to expand up to third grade.
Nancy Benben, a Hartford schools spokeswoman, said the charter school pilot program wouldn't on its own bring Hartford's achievement up to federal standards, but could make an impact along with other changes the district is implementing.
"I believe it will help close the gap," said Benben. "The way we're going to get to those levels is through all the facets of the reform strategy."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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