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Charter Renewal - Discussion of and Vote on Boston Renaissance Charter Public School

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:December 4, 2009

At the September 2009 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board), the Board voted to authorize the Commissioner to act on its behalf in "(a) granting charter renewals that do not involve conditions or probation; and (b) approving charter amendments that do not involve changes in grade span, maximum enrollment, or districts served," provided that the Commissioner shall report to the Board on all such approvals and, provided further, "that the Commissioner shall notify the Board in advance of all such intended actions, and a Board member may request that the Commissioner place the charter matter(s) on the agenda of the Board for discussion and action."

The charter of Boston Renaissance Charter Public School is currently under consideration for renewal. Because I am recommending that the extension of a probationary condition into the school's next charter term, this decision will be put to a vote of the Board. This month, the Board will discuss and vote on the charter renewal application.

Boston Renaissance Charter Public School

Boston Renaissance Charter Public School (BRCPS) is a Commonwealth charter school. The school opened in 1995, and the Board renewed the school's charter for a second five-year term in 2000 and a third five-year term in 2005. BRCPS currently enrolls 1,178 students from Boston in kindergarten through grade six.

In 2005, the BRCPS charter was renewed with conditions regarding academic achievement and a reduction in grade span from pre-kindergarten through grade twelve to pre-kindergarten through grade six. The conditions also required the school to consider reducing its enrollment. When the school did not voluntarily do so, the Board voted to reduce the school's enrollment from 1,479 students to 1,240 students in September 2006. In February 2007, the school was placed on probation for failing to meet the academic achievement conditions of renewal. The probationary conditions were again focused on improvement of the school's academic performance, and added a requirement for the school to relocate and further reduce enrollment from 1,240 to 880 students by September 2009.

On November 18, 2008, the Board granted the school's request to extend the deadline for relocation of the school and reduction of enrollment to September 2011 under the following terms: no more than 1,178 students in September 2009, 1,100 students in September 2010, and 880 students in September 2011. The extension also required that, should the school anticipate relocation at the beginning of a school year prior to September 2011, enrollment must be reduced to 880 students and that enrollment must be reduced without terminating the enrollment of any student currently attending the school. The school's probationary status was extended until the Board determined whether the school's charter was to be renewed, by February 2010.

In August 2009, in its Application for Charter Renewal, BRCPS confirmed its commitment to relocate to a new building beginning in September 2010, but requested an extension of the timeframe for reducing enrollment to 880 students.

The school's mission statement reads: "The mission of the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School is to nurture and develop academic, social, and emotional competence while building confidence, character, and citizenship among its students."

Basis of Recommendations Regarding the Renewal of Charters

The charter school regulations state that "[t]he decision by the Board to renew a charter shall be based upon the presentation of affirmative evidence regarding the success of the school's academic program; the viability of the school as an organization; and the faithfulness of the school to the terms of its charter" 603 CMR 1.12. Consistent with the regulations, recommendations regarding renewal are based on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (Department) evaluation of the school's performance in these areas. In its review, the Department has considered both the school's absolute performance at the time of the application for renewal and progress the school has made during the first four years of its charter.

The superintendent of the Boston public schools, the local district that send students to BRCPS, was invited to submit written comment to the Department regarding the renewal of the school's charter. No written comment was received from the superintendent.

The accountability process for charter schools recognizes that in exchange for increased freedom, a school must demonstrate results within the term of its five-year charter or risk non-renewal. The summary document that follows this memorandum compiles the school's record for the term of this charter.

Recommendation for Renewal

Based on the evidence gathered in the attached Summary of Review, summarized below, I recommend that the Board renew the charter of BRCPS. BRCPS is currently in compliance with all of the conditions of its probation, but the school has requested an extension of the timeframe to further reduce enrollment. I recommend that the Board grant the school this extension of the timeframe, until the 2012-13 school year, for reducing its enrollment to 880. I recommend that the school be allowed to further reduce enrollment according to the timetable it has proposed: 1,178 students for the 2009-2010 school year, 1,051 for the 2010-11 school year, 944 for the 2011-2012 school year, and 880 for the 2012-2013 school year.

Areas of Charter School Accountability

  1. Faithfulness to Charter

    • BRCPS operates in a manner consistent with its mission statement.

    • BRCPS operates in a manner consistent with the material terms of the school's charter and approved charter amendments, and BRCPS has fulfilled the conditions of the 2007 probation imposed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

  2. Academic Program

    • Student MCAS performance has improved over the term of the charter. The school has substantially met the academic performance conditions imposed with probation.

    • In 2009, BRCPS made AYP in the aggregate and for all statistically significant subgroups. It has an NCLB status of Corrective Action for subgroups in ELA. It has no status under NCLB in mathematics.

    • BRCPS has a well-articulated formative and summative assessment program that employs both commercial and internally developed measures.

    • Internal assessment results indicate improved student performance in ELA. Assessment results in mathematics are mixed.

    • The BRCPS core curriculum is documented and aligned to state standards.

    • For the past two years, BRCPS has been working on the implementation of a new and more focused writing program to respond to students' learning needs, as indicated by MCAS results.

    • The school has established an academic program that enables all students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, to fully participate in and benefit from the educational goals and mission of the school.

    • BRCPS has implemented a three-tiered model of instruction that meets students' learning needs and ensures that they are achieving the standards in the state curriculum frameworks.

    • BRCPS has developed a process for extensive analysis of MCAS data to improve teaching and learning.

    • BRCPS uses data effectively to evaluate the quality of its academic program and to institute and modify programs and services.

    • Over the term of the charter, teachers have demonstrated increasingly clear and consistent behavioral expectations. A consistent and effective discipline system is now in place.

    • Over the term of the charter, instructional practices have been found to be increasingly congruent with the school's expectations stated in its school design, mission, and vision.

    • BRCPS has implemented an effective, standards-based teacher evaluation process.

    • Over the term of the charter, instructional delivery has been found to be increasingly clear, consistent, and purposeful, providing students with meaningful content and learning.

    • BRCPS provides a physically safe environment. The school has clear policies in place that prohibit harassment and discrimination.

  3. Organizational Viability

    • BRCPS is currently a fiscally viable organization.

    • Over the term of the charter, the BRCPS board of trustees has become actively engaged in overseeing and assisting the school.

    • A significant administrative reorganization, conducted after the 2006-07 school year, has resulted in increased administrative capacity and clarity about roles and responsibilities.

    • The school has developed a highly collaborative, collegial environment that supports professional growth.

    • BRCPS plans and implements professional development that is aligned with the goals in its school improvement plan.

    • School leaders and board members have engaged in an extensive planning process to prepare for the next charter term.

    • In its Application for Charter Renewal, BRCPS proposes a plan to reduce its enrollment to 880 students by the 2012-13 school year, requesting an extension of a condition imposed when the school was placed on probation.

    • Parents and students interviewed by site visit teams and the renewal inspection team have been very satisfied with the school.

    • The BRCPS has completed property acquisition and fundraising to permit relocation of the school no later than September 2011.

    • BRCPS is in compliance with the requirements of the Coordinated Program Review.

    • BRCPS has disseminated models for replication and best practices to other public schools.

  4. Accountability Plans and Objectives

    • BRCPS has met the measure in its accountability plan related to faithfulness to charter.

    • BRCPS has met all four measures of academic program success in its accountability plan.

    • BRCPS has met the six measures in its accountability plan related to organizational viability.

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

Last Updated: December 8, 2009
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