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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Amendment Request of UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester, a Horace Mann Charter School (Enrollment)

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
February 17, 2017

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Pursuant to the Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.10(1), the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) must approve changes in the maximum enrollment of Commonwealth and Horace Mann charter schools. This year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) received requests from fifteen charter schools to increase enrollment. This month, I recommend that the Board approve amendment requests from three Commonwealth charter schools and one Horace Mann charter school. Each recommendation is outlined in a separate memorandum for your review. This memorandum details the request from the board of trustees of UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester (UAD), a PK-8 Horace Mann charter school in Boston1, and my recommendation.

The Department's assessment of UAD's request is described below, in preparation for a discussion and vote at the Board's meeting in February. The memorandum is organized into the following sections: (1) the school's request and plan for implementation; (2) the Department's review; and (3) a recommendation for growth. The following information is attached to this memorandum for your review:

  • the original amendment request and additional materials subsequently submitted by the school, as applicable; and
  • a summary of the school's track record of performance, including a summary of the school's academic performance, student demographics, attrition rates, and five-year financial summary.

An overview of the terms of the school's charter follows.

UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester (UAD)
Type of Charter
(Commonwealth or Horace Mann)
Horace Mann LocationBoston
Regional or Non-Regional?N/A Districts in RegionN/A
Year Opened2013 Year(s) RenewedN/A
Maximum Enrollment750 Current Enrollment744
Chartered Grade SpanPK-8 Current Grade SpanPK-8
Students on Waitlist1,1732 Current Age of School3 years
Mission Statement

UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester will ensure that its students, who previously attended the Marshall Elementary School, acquire the knowledge, skills, and strength of character necessary to succeed on the path to college and to achieve their full potential.

School's Request and Plan for Implementation

The board of trustees of UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester (UAD) requests approval of an amendment to temporarily increase its maximum enrollment by 70 students over three years to 820 students in grades PK-8. As a Horace Mann (HM) charter school, the school's request was submitted with the approval of the Boston School Committee and Boston Teachers Union. The school received my approval to submit this request after the administrative deadline of August 1 based upon the support of the school's partner district, Boston Public Schools (BPS). I recommend approval of this request.

At the time of the charter award in 2013, the board of trustees of UAD entered into an agreement with BPS to transform an existing elementary school within the BPS system, the John Marshall Elementary School3 (Marshall School) in the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood of Dorchester. UAD reports that approval of its request would permit the school to continue to honor its commitment to serve students who were previously enrolled at the former Marshall School and their siblings while complying with its maximum enrollment. Pursuant to the charter school statute, the HM charter school provided first preference for enrollment to former students of the Marshall and their siblings.4 UAD has consistently exceeded annual enrollment as projected in its growth plan at the time of application. Without a temporary increase to its maximum enrollment, the school is projected to exceed its current maximum starting in the 2017-2018 school year.

In addition, the school seeks a temporary increase in its maximum enrollment to ensure the school can fill vacancies in PK-3, as required by the charter school statute, and maintain class size in its entry grades. UAD anticipates enrollment increasing to approximately 790 students in the 2017-2018 school year. The school reported that student enrollment will stabilize in 2022-2023 to approximately 650 students as the larger cohort sizes attributed to enrollment from Marshall complete their course of study at the school. Based upon the enrollment projections provided by the school, the school indicates that a temporary increase to its maximum enrollment for three years would be sufficient to address the school's projected overenrollment in FY2018 and FY2019 and any unanticipated overenrollment in FY2020.

Department Review

Section 1.10 of the Charter School Regulations contains several criteria to consider in determining whether to grant a school's request to amend its charter. The Department's comprehensive review was based upon these criteria.

The Department's review included the following considerations:

  • the charter school's compliance with applicable state, federal, and local law;
  • affirmative, credible evidence regarding the faithfulness of the school to the terms of its charter, including the extent to which the school has followed its recruitment and retention plan and has disseminated best practices;
  • affirmative, credible evidence regarding the success of the school's academic program;
  • affirmative, credible evidence regarding the viability of the school as an organization;
  • the merits of the school's amendment request when judged against the criteria outlined in the Department's Charter Amendment and Notification Guidelines Download MS WORD Document and the Charter School Performance Criteria Download PDF Document; and
  • the public comment received regarding the request.

Overall, the Department's records indicate that UAD's academic program is a success, that the school is a viable organization, and that it is faithful to the terms of its charter.

  • Because of the enrollment preference given to Marshall students, the Marshall's academic data are attributed to UAD, resulting in a Level 3 status in its first year of operation. UAD was assigned Level 1 status beginning in its second year of operation. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, UAD has maintained its Level 1 status and exceeded the Progress and Performance Index (PPI) target for all students and for the high needs subgroup.

  • UAD administered MCAS in 2014 and 2015. MCAS scores are designated by levels of proficiency, with proficient and advanced levels meeting or exceeding performance standards, respectively. The percent of UAD students identified as proficient or advanced in English language arts (ELA) was 40 percent in 2014 and 44 percent in 2015. The percent of UAD students identified as proficient or advanced in mathematics was 60 percent in 2014 and 51 percent in 2015.

  • UAD administered PARCC in 2016. PARCC scores are designated by Levels, with Levels 4 and 5 meeting or exceeding expectations, respectively. In 2016, 47 percent of UAD students received a Level 4 or 5 in ELA and 40 percent of students received a Level 4 or 5 in mathematics.

  • Overall, UAD has demonstrated success in the recruitment of a student population reflective of a similar student population to Boston Public Schools. The school has exceeded its comparison index5 as it relates to students identified as economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities. During the current 2016-2017 school year, 40 percent of the school's kindergarten students are identified as English learners and 66 percent of UAD's current kindergarten students are identified as economically disadvantaged.

  • The school has demonstrated low rates of attrition during its first charter term. The school's overall rate of attrition has remained approximately 4 percent in 2015 and 2016 for all students and the high needs student subgroup.

  • The school has also seen a general decline in its rate of out-of-school suspensions during its first charter term from 17.6 percent in 2014 to 13.7 percent in 2016. In 2016, in-school suspension rates increased to 19.4 percent from 7.9 percent in 2015 and 9.0 percent in 2014. The school reports ongoing efforts to implement systems that support strong school culture and address student needs while minimizing exclusions from class. The school is also participating in the Department's rethinking discipline professional learning network in response to its disproportionate use of suspension for multi-race, non-Hispanic/Latino students in the 2014-2015 school year. The school reports additional efforts in the areas of teacher professional development, use of social and emotional learning curriculum, and the use of alternative approaches to suspension, such as restorative justice conferences including family members of the student.

  • UAD is in its fourth year of operation. During the Department's most recent site visit to the school in May 2016, site visitors identified a strong pattern of performance during its first charter term based upon the Charter School Performance Criteria. The school received a rating of meets in all areas of faithfulness to charter, academic program success, and organizational viability with the exception of a partially meets rating in two areas, Governance and the Instruction sub-indicator within Program Delivery. The site visitors identified areas where the board was still working to establish certain structures to provide effective oversight and noted inconsistent implementation of instructional priorities that had been identified by the school leader.

  • As evidenced by the current fiscal dashboard, UAD has developed sound and stable financial conditions and demonstrated improved performance on key financial metrics since its first year of operation in 2013-2014. The school received unqualified audit opinions for all three years of its first charter term with all audits free of findings and instances of non-compliance.

Recommendation for Growth

I have reviewed the school's request, and it appears reasonable and consistent with the charter school statute and regulations. Overall, the amendment request and the Department's accountability records indicate that the school's academic program is a success, that the school is a viable organization, and that it has been faithful to the terms of its charter. In light of the temporary nature of the enrollment increase anticipated by the Horace Mann charter school, as well as approval from both BPS and the teachers union, I recommend that the Board approve a temporary increase in enrollment for a period of no more than three years. A motion for approval is attached for your consideration.

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If you have any questions regarding this amendment or require additional information, please contact Alison Bagg, Director of the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign (781-338-3218); Cliff Chuang, Senior Associate Commissioner (781-338-3222); or me.

Attachments:

 
Correspondence from UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester, including certifications from Boston School Committee and Boston Teachers Union
Download MS EXCEL Document
UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester's Academic Performance Data, Student Enrollment Demographics, Student Attrition Rates, and Five Year Financial Summary
 
Motion for Board Action on UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester

Note:

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Last Updated: February 24, 2017
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