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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Approval of Charter Amendments
for Amesbury Academy Charter Public School, Martin Luther King, Jr., Charter School of Excellence, Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, Prospect Hill Academy Charter School, Sturgis Charter Public School, Academy of the Pacific Rim, Boston Preparatory Charter Public School, Codman Academy Charter Public School, and Edward W. Brooke Charter School

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:November 6, 2009

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Pursuant to the Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.11(1), the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) must approve major changes in the material terms of a school's charter. Each of the following schools has requested an amendment to increase its maximum enrollment and/or grades served. These are amendment request decisions that were not delegated to me at the Board's September 2009 meeting. These amendment requests meet the criteria defined in the regulations. If granted, all of these amendments would be implemented in fall 2010, with expansion taking place over multiple years.

As required by 603 CMR 1.11(5) for requests that seek an increase in maximum enrollment and/or grades served, comment was solicited from the superintendents in the school districts within each charter school's district or region, as well as from superintendents in districts from which the charter school draws a substantial number of students. We received letters from the superintendents in Provincetown and Boston as noted below. The letters are attached.

1. Non-Boston Enrollment Increase and Change in Grade Span Requests

Amesbury Academy Charter Public School - Grade Span

The board of trustees of Amesbury Academy Charter Public School (AACPS), a Horace Mann charter school, requests approval for a charter amendment to change its grade span from 7-12 to 9-12, beginning in fall 2010. Formerly known as Academy of Strategic Learning Horace Mann Charter School, the school opened in 2001, and was renewed in 2006. AAPCS serves at-risk students from Amesbury and is fully enrolled with 50 students. Pre-enrollment data indicates there is not a waiting list.

AAPCS has experienced a steady decline in demand for grades 7 and 8, with no students enrolled in either grade in 2009. The lack of enrollment has presented the opportunity for the school to focus its efforts on high school and eliminate grades 7 and 8 without interrupting the current educational program. AAPCS maintains that the academic and developmental needs of early and late adolescents are significantly different than those for high school students. Shifting to only high school students will enable the school to better serve this at-risk population. The Amesbury School Committee and the local teachers' union support the proposed change.

The school currently has an accountability status in English Language Arts (ELA) of Improvement Year 1 and no accountability status in Mathematics, although because of the small number of students in the school, adequate yearly progress (AYP) could not be calculated in 2009.

I recommend that the Board approve a change in grade span from 7-12 to 9-12, beginning in fall 2010, for Amesbury Academy Charter Public School.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Excellence - Maximum Enrollment

The board of trustees of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Excellence (MLK) requests approval for a temporary charter amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment from 360 to 380, a total increase of 20 students for school years 2010 and 2011. MLK opened in 2006 to serve students in grades K-5 from the city of Springfield. The school will reach its full grade span in fall 2011. Pre-enrollment data indicates a waiting list of 88 students.

The school is asking that its current request for an enrollment increase be considered as temporary. MLK originally planned to open in September 2006 with 60 children in kindergarten, first, and second grades. The school opened instead with 80 children in kindergarten, 60 children in first grade, and 40 children in second grade, because of limited demand for second grade and a strong demand for kindergarten. Based on this enrollment decision, the school will have 80 students in fourth grade in 2010-2011, and again in fifth grade in 2011-2012. The school has maintained an essentially constant number of enrolled students in each grade and has filled any available seats. The school intends, after the two-year period, to have 60 students in each grade, at which time maximum enrollment would revert to 360 students.

The school currently has an accountability status in ELA of Improvement Year 1 and no accountability status in Mathematics. The school did not make AYP in the aggregate in 2008 and did not make AYP in the aggregate and for subgroups in 2009. The school made AYP in the aggregate and for subgroups in Mathematics in 2009. The school's performance rating is Moderate in ELA and Very Low in Mathematics.

I recommend that the Board approve a temporary enrollment increase of 20 students for the school years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, for Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Excellence.

Mystic Valley Regional Charter School - Maximum Enrollment

The board of trustees of the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School (MVRCS) requests approval for an amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment from 1,400 to 1,500 students. MVRCS opened in 1998 and was renewed in 2003 and 2008. The school serves students from Everett, Malden, Melrose, Stoneham, and Wakefield. The school currently has 1,354 students. Pre-enrollment data indicates a waiting list of 1,738 students.

The school reports that it is experiencing significant retention of high school students and this amendment would accommodate that increased retention as students continue through each grade level. Since its inception, the school has operated with 120 students per grade in grades K-5, accepting students throughout those grades. The school proposes to continue this model, anticipating that the number of seats available in K-5 will need to be reduced, based on the number of high school students who remain, if the request is denied. MVRCS has a track record of academic achievement using the Direct Instruction literacy program, Core Knowledge, Saxon Math, and the International Baccalaureate as the primary components of the general K-12 curricular structure.

If approved, the maximum enrollment increase would take effect in fall 2010. As a regional school serving six districts, there are sufficient seats available across the region, although Malden is near the 9 percent net school spending cap.

The school currently has an accountability status of Corrective Action in both ELA and Mathematics for subgroups. The school made AYP in 2001-2009 in the aggregate in both ELA and Mathematics. The school did not make AYP for subgroups in ELA or Mathematics in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. The school's performance rating is high in both ELA and Mathematics.

I recommend that the Board approve an enrollment increase of 100 students in grades K-12, for Mystic Valley Regional Charter School.

Prospect Hill Academy Charter School - Grade Span

The board of trustees of Prospect Hill Academy Charter School (PHA) requests approval for a charter amendment to change the school's grade span from K-12 to K1-12, beginning in the fall of 2010. PHA opened in 1996, was renewed in 2001 and 2006, and is a regional school serving Cambridge and Somerville. The school currently enrolls 927 students with a maximum enrollment of 1,200 students. The PHA board has entered into a long-term lease for a building adjacent to its Cambridge facility, which is expected to open in summer 2010. The additional space will be sufficient to accommodate additional students, allowing the school to reach its maximum enrollment. Pre-enrollment data indicates a waiting list of 770 students.

PHA requests this amendment to allow enrollment for a two-year kindergarten sequence, beginning at age four instead of age five. The school cites research showing that the most effective mechanism to fully prepare students to succeed in school and narrow the achievement gap is admission to school at a younger age. The school proposes that adding K1 to the existing K-12 program would further its efforts to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap. The proposed plan adds four sections of 22 students each, recruiting and enrolling a total of 88 K1 students for fall 2010. The school has conducted a survey of education programs serving four-year-olds and determined that demand is strong.

PHA has a track record of academic achievement using a college preparatory model with a mission to inspire lifelong love of learning and foster responsible citizenship. The school also has a history of financial stability and sound financial management, and recognizes the financial implications of the proposed grade expansion to include K1. PHA would not receive funding for any K1 student enrolling from a district that does not provide K1 to its own students. The school has developed a budget that assumes not all K1 students will be funded, using assumptions from the current geographical breakdown of enrolled kindergarten students. The school provides information to show that it is committed and determined to implement the amendment educationally and financially.

The school currently has an accountability status of Improvement Year 1 in ELA for subgroups, but no accountability status for Mathematics, and has made AYP in the aggregate for both ELA and Mathematics in all years with the exception of 2008 in both ELA and Mathematics. Subgroup performance in both subjects has varied. The school's performance rating is High in ELA and Moderate in Mathematics.

I recommend that the Board approve a change in grade span from K-12 to K1-12, starting fall 2010, for Prospect Hill Academy Charter School.

Sturgis Charter Public School - Maximum Enrollment

The board of trustees of Sturgis Charter Public School (SCPS) requests approval for a charter amendment to increase enrollment from 425 to 800, an increase of 375 students, beginning in fall 2010. Sturgis opened in 1996 and was renewed in 2001 and 2006. Sturgis serves students from Barnstable, Bourne, Carver, Chatham, Falmouth, Harwich, Mashpee, Plymouth, Provincetown, Sandwich, Wareham, Dennis-Yarmouth, and Nauset. The school currently enrolls 402 students with a maximum enrollment of 425. Pre-enrollment data indicates there is a waiting list of 174 students.

The school proposes to add approximately 100 students per grade level in each grade. For the 2010-11 school year, the school plans to add an additional 200 students (100 in grade 9 and 100 in grade 10), with an additional grade added in each of the two subsequent years. The school is considering two viable sites near the current SCPS facilities in Hyannis and each is considered an option to accommodate the additional students, if this request for an increase in maximum enrollment is approved. Each facility would house grades 9-12. The school reports that staff for the second campus will be drawn from the current school faculty and administrative staff, who have a strong understanding of the International Baccalaureate Program, the Massachusetts frameworks, and the SCPS school culture.

SCPS has a demonstrated track record of academic achievement for students through its "International Baccalaureate (IB) for All" philosophy, with a mission to prepare high school students for higher education in a supportive learning environment. The school maintains that in addition to preparation for success on MCAS tests and IB assessments for all students, every student receives in-depth coursework and support from faculty in order to reach their individual potential. In 2009, 229 students applied for 100 seats at the school. In addition, the school has completed considerable work to disseminate its model and share best practices.

The school currently has no accountability status in either ELA or Mathematics and has made AYP in the aggregate and for subgroups in both ELA and Mathematics in all years. The school's performance rating is Very High in both ELA and Mathematics.

Superintendent's comment: We received comment from the superintendent of schools in Provincetown. She expressed support for the charter amendment for Sturgis Charter Public School.

I recommend that the Board approve an enrollment increase of 375 students in grades 9-12, starting fall 2010, for Sturgis Charter Public School.

2. Boston Enrollment Increase Requests

Due to uncertainty about the number of charter seats available under the 9 percent net school spending (NSS) cap for Boston, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) has not accepted applications for new charter schools in the past two years. However, the Department recently conducted another analysis of seats remaining in Boston under the 9 percent NSS cap because of the number of requests from existing school for additional seats. This analysis utilizes conservative fiscal assumptions and projects that approximately 650 seats in total are available in Boston, although similar projections have fluctuated considerably over the past ten years. Additionally, the Department routinely reserves approximately 25 percent of available seats to take into consideration the fluctuations in net school spending. There currently appear to be enough seats available to grant the following maximum enrollment requests, which total 125 seats.

As required by 603 CMR 1.11(5) for requests that seek an increase in maximum enrollment and/or grades served, we solicited comment from Carol Johnson, superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. We received a letter from the superintendent as noted below. A copy of the letter is attached.

Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School - Maximum Enrollment

The board of trustees of Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School (APR), requests approval for an amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment from 475 to 500 students. APR opened in 1997 and was renewed in 2002 and 2007. The school serves students in grades 5-12 from Boston. The school currently has 483 students enrolled. Pre-enrollment data indicates a waiting list of 339 students.

APR enrolls approximately 75 students in grade 5, and also has an entry point in grade 6 to fill open seats. The school reports that because it has been successful with MCAS and college placement results, a higher percentage of students have chosen to stay at APR through 12th grade. The increase in enrollment would allow APR to continue to serve an increasing number of high school age Boston students without forcing the school to reduce the number of students at the middle school level. APR has a track record of academic achievement using a college preparatory education founded on their particular blend of an "East meets West" mission and educational philosophy.

In 2009, 100% of 10th grade students were advanced and proficient in ELA; 91% of 10th grade students were advanced and proficient in Mathematics. The school currently has an accountability status of Improvement Year 1 in ELA for subgroups, but no accountability status for Mathematics, and has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in the aggregate in both ELA and Mathematics in all years, with the exception of 2008 in ELA. The school has made AYP in subgroups in all years but 2007 in ELA and 2008 in both ELA and Mathematics. The school's performance rating is Very High in ELA and High in Mathematics.

I recommend that the Board approve an enrollment increase of 25 students in grades 5-12, starting in fall 2010, for Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School.

Boston Preparatory Charter Public School - Maximum Enrollment

The board of trustees of the Boston Preparatory Charter Public School (BPCPS) requests approval for a charter amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment from 350 to 400. BPCPS opened in 2004 and was renewed in 2009. The school serves students in grades 6-12 in Boston. The school currently has 342 students enrolled. Pre-enrollment data indicates a waiting list of 168 students.

The original BPCPS application, submitted in the fall of 2002, requested a maximum enrollment of 400 students. At that time, in response to limits on Boston's projected charter enrollment, the Department and the Board were not able to grant the school a charter to serve 400. Students are accepted to BPCPS in the 6th grade and the school reports a dramatic decline in student attrition rates, causing a recalibration of enrollment patterns. Historically, the school recruited especially large classes of 6th graders, in an attempt to ensure robust class sizes over the entire 7-year grade span. If the school continues to operate with the 350-student cap, they anticipate a dramatic reduction in the school's 6th grade enrollment in the coming years, due to lower attrition rates. If approved, the maximum enrollment increase would take effect in fall 2010.

BPCPS has a track record of academic achievement using a college preparatory model that includes ethics classes and Latin in high school, a 190-day school year and an 8 ½ hour school day. The school reports that an ethos of college preparation permeates the school culture. The school has also done considerable work to disseminate its model and share best practices.

The school currently has no accountability status in either ELA or Mathematics and has made AYP in both the aggregate and in subgroups in Mathematics in all years. The school has made AYP in the aggregate in English each year, except for 2007, and it has made AYP in subgroups in English in 2006 and 2008, and not in 2007 and 2009. The school's performance rating is High in ELA and High in Mathematics.

I recommend that the Board approve an enrollment increase of 50 students in grades 6-12, beginning in fall 2010, for Boston Preparatory Charter Public School.

Codman Academy Charter Public School - Maximum Enrollment

The board of trustees of Codman Academy Charter Public School (CACPS) requests a reconsideration and approval for a charter amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment from 120 to 145 seats. CACPS opened in 2001, was renewed in 2006, and is one of only two grade 9-12 charter high schools in Boston. Current enrollment is 135 students and pre-enrollment data indicates a waiting list of 27. Codman is housed in and has a close relationship with the Codman Square Health Center and has relied on strong community ties to recruit students, without concern for maintaining an extensive wait list.

The request was originally submitted in July 2008. The school's primary reason for the amendment request was to accommodate the increasing number of students who are remaining with the school in grades 10 through 12 due to supports the school has put into place. At that time, the Commissioner deferred action on the request because of concerns about the school's graduation and attrition rates, and the school's ability to fill the requested seats. Codman was encouraged to request reconsideration once it could demonstrate additional success in supporting students to complete its academic program through graduation.

While historically there has been significant attrition, the school is trying to address these issues. The school reports that its standards are high and one of the reasons for attrition is that students would rather leave the school than be held back. Instead of lowering standards, the school has instituted a Repeaters Program to help students with time management and motivation. Also, beginning last year, every 9th and 10th grade student receives three hours of individual tutoring per week in the CACPS expanded tutorial program. The school also offers a summer credit recovery program for students who would have had to repeat a grade, but who can move to the next grade based on their successful summer credit recovery.

Last year, four 10th grade students were held back and all successfully completed the summer credit recovery program and went into 11th grade. Five 11th grader students were held back; four successfully completed the summer credit recovery program and went into 12th grade, and one has returned to 11th grade. Two seniors were held back; both successfully completed the summer credit recovery program. The school is also experiencing success in decreasing attrition rates for students who are beyond the support of the summer credit recovery program. Last year, fourteen 9th graders were held back; this year eleven of those have returned.

At this time, the school reports that the primary reason for the request is to "right size" the school; enlarging the maximum enrollment will allow for greater organizational stability and a balance of staff and students. CACPS has a track record of high standards for academic achievement using an Expeditionary Learning model, and works to provide sufficient structures and supports for students to meet those standards.

The school currently has no accountability status in either ELA or Mathematics and has made AYP in the aggregate in both ELA and Mathematics from 2003 to 2009. Due to the small number of students in the school, AYP is not calculated for subgroups. The school's performance rating is Very High in ELA and High in Mathematics.

I recommend that the Board approve an enrollment increase of 25 students in grades 9-12, beginning in fall 2010, for Codman Academy Charter Public School.

Edward W. Brooke Charter School - Maximum Enrollment

The board of trustees of the Edward W. Brooke Charter School (EWBCS) requests approval for a charter amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment from 450 to 475. EWBCS opened in 2002 and was renewed in 2007. The school serves students in grades K-8 in Boston and currently has 448 students enrolled. Pre-enrollment data indicates a waiting list of 1,023 students.

The school reports that it is experiencing much lower attrition than anticipated or projected. Consequently, the projected total enrollment at full size has increased from fewer than 450 students to 468 by the end of year five of this second charter term. The school is requesting the maximum enrollment increase to accommodate students and to have a small buffer in the event that student attrition is even lower than projected. If approved, the maximum enrollment increase would take effect in fall 2010.

EWBCS has a track record of academic achievement for students through its rigorous college preparatory education which provides a structured and orderly learning environment with high behavior standards. EWBCS also uses data to provide targeted individual support to students to ensure that all of the school's students succeed.

The school currently has no accountability status in either ELA or Mathematics and has made AYP in the aggregate and for subgroups in both ELA and Mathematics in all years, except for subgroups in ELA in 2009. The school's performance rating is Very High in both ELA and Mathematics.

Superintendent's comment: We received comment from the superintendent of schools in Boston. She expressed confidence that the Commonwealth will evaluate each of these charter amendment requests through a rigorous assessment of the school's demonstrated results to date and their ability to deliver strong results to an expanded student population in the future, should the amendments be approved.

She also stated that she did not believe the existence of a waitlist is, in and of itself, a justification for increasing the maximum enrollment at a school. Instead, she believes the decision should be based on the results that a school is achieving for its students and the school's ability to deliver a high quality education to all of its students, particularly limited English proficient and special needs students.

Commissioner's Recommendation

The Department has reviewed these requests and they appear reasonable and consistent with the charter school statute and regulations. I recommend that the Board approve the amendment requests as presented.

If you have any questions regarding these amendments or require additional information, please contact Jeff Wulfson, Associate Commissioner, at 781 338-6500, Mary Street, Director of Charter Schools, at 781 338-3200, or me.

Enclosures:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Table of Major Charter Amendment Requests - BESE Approval
Correspondence from Amesbury Academy Charter Public School
Correspondence from Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Excellence
Correspondence from Mystic Valley Regional Charter School
Correspondence from Prospect Hill Academy Charter School
Correspondence from Sturgis Charter Public School
Correspondence from Superintendent of Schools, Provincetown
Correspondence from Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School
Correspondence from Boston Preparatory Charter Public
Correspondence from Codman Academy Charter Public School
Correspondence from Edward W. Brooke Charter School
Correspondence from Superintendent of Schools, Boston


Last Updated: November 13, 2009
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