The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Charter Renewal - Initial Discussion of Lowell Community Charter Public School
|To:||Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education|
|From:||Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner|
|Date:||December 14, 2009|
With considerable regret, I am recommending that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) not renew the charter for Lowell Community Charter Public School (LCCPS). This recommendation is based on the school's failure, as a ten-year-old school, to make sufficient academic progress to support a positive renewal recommendation. The school has failed to carry out the component of its mission statement which asserts that the "school's highest priority is the promotion of academic achievement."
Student performance on the MCAS has been persistently low and has shown minimal improvement since the school's first renewal in 2005. In addition, in comparisons of MCAS performance to the district of Lowell, LCCPS did not, in the aggregate, in any instances, perform at a statistically significantly higher level than the district. The student performance data provide grounds for non-renewal of the charter, and a review of the school's growth data further validates the concern. In fact, in the aggregate and for virtually every student group, year-to-year achievement as well as growth for LCCPS trails that of the Lowell Public Schools and the state by a substantial margin. In short, most LCCPS students are losing ground compared to their counterparts in the Lowell Public Schools and their counterparts statewide. In addition, the school has not yet put in place the necessary structures and systems to support academic progress, and the school's board has failed to take sufficient action to address this urgent situation.
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 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 the current charter term. The Summary of Review, prepared by the Charter School Office, compiles the school's record for the term of this charter and is attached. This month, the Board will have an initial discussion of the charter renewal application. The Board will vote on the school's charter renewal at its meeting on January 26, 2010. The school will be given an opportunity to present at the January meeting, prior to the Board's final vote.
Lowell Community Charter Public School
LCCPS is a Commonwealth charter school. The school opened in 2000. In March 2005, the Board renewed the school's charter for a second five-year term. LCCPS is chartered to serve students from Lowell in kindergarten through grade eight. The school is chartered to serve 900 students, but reports that it enrolled 947 students in September 2009 because it expects enrollment to drop during the school year.
The school's mission statement reads: "The purpose of the Lowell Community Charter Public School is to prepare a cross section of Lowell children for success as students, citizens, and workers by providing them with a comprehensive curriculum in a supportive, challenging, multicultural learning environment. The school's highest priority is the promotion of academic achievement for all students in each of the areas addressed by the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks, including: English, reading and language arts, writing, mathematics, science, health and fitness, world languages, art, and music, as well as character and ethics. The Lowell Community Charter Public School will place special emphasis on the contributions that immigrants have made to American life and to Lowell's development over the years, and on the culture, language, and history of the Southeast Asian and Latino peoples who comprise a substantial portion of Lowell's present day population. The school will actively promote the joy of discovery and creativity in the learning process, and will integrate the use of technology into aspects of instruction. The opportunity for learning will be enhanced through a longer school day and an extended year. Student achievement will be demonstrated in measurable terms to parents, students, and the community at large."
The superintendent of the Lowell public schools, the local district from which LCCPS draws students, 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 attached Summary of Review provides detailed information about the factors that have led me to recommend that the school's charter school should not be renewed. 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.