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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Requests for Major Amendments

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
November 18, 2011

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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. This year we received requests from eleven existing schools for increases in their maximum enrollment and, in some cases, expansions in the grades served.

Section 1.11 of 603 CMR contains several criteria that the Commissioner and the Board may consider in reaching a determination regarding a school's request to amend its charter. First, "the Commissioner and the Board may consider a charter school's compliance with applicable state, federal, and local law." Second, the Commissioner and the Board may consider the 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. Third, a board of trustees in some districts must qualify as a "proven provider" based on the existing school and meet the performance criteria described in 603 CMR 1.05(2). Fourth, schools applying to amend their maximum enrollment and grades served must address additional criteria as outlined in the technical advisory on amendments.

As required 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 Hatfield, Revere, and Salem, and a letter from the Mayor of Salem as noted below. The letters are attached.

I am recommending approval of requests from two charter schools. I am recommending approval of the expansion requests from the Hill View Montessori Charter Public School, and the Salem Academy Charter School. These requests are described in detail below, in preparation for a discussion and vote at the Board's November meeting.

I am not recommending approval of expansion requests from eight other charter schools. These requests came from the Pioneer Charter School of Science, Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School, Community Charter School of Cambridge, Conservatory Lab Charter School, Excel Academy Charter School, Innovation Academy Charter School, and Mystic Valley Regional Charter School. The reasons for not recommending approval of these requests vary from school to school and include, but are not limited to, the age of the school, lack of clarity in the requests regarding how the amendment meets the criteria as outlined in the technical advisory on amendments, and failure to comply with certain legal requirements. No Board action is required on the requests at this time. The non-approved amendment requests may be appealed to the Board by the schools.

Hill View Montessori Charter Public School

The board of trustees of the Hill View Montessori Charter Public School (HVMCPS) requests approval for a charter amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment by 10 students, from 296 to 306 for the current grades K-8, beginning in FY13. HVMCPS is a Commonwealth charter school that was chartered in 2003, opened in 2004, and was renewed without conditions in 2009. The school serves students from Haverhill.

The school's board requests an amendment because they report that the original enrollment plan was designed to allow for some attrition in the upper grades. The school, however, is not seeing that attrition and is successfully retaining a larger percentage of students. This has required the school to admit fewer students than planned in kindergarten and other lower grades in order to keep within their maximum enrollment limit.

A copy of the school's request is attached.

HVMCPS - Accountability Status:

2011 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Data - Summary
NCLB Accountability StatusImprovement Rating
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTSNo StatusOn Target
MATHEMATICS ImprovementYear 1No Change

Adequate Yearly Progress History
 20042005200620072008200920102011
ELAAggregate-YesNoYesNoYesYesYes
All Subgroups---YesNoYesYesYes
MATHAggregate--NoYesNoYesNoNo
All Subgroups---YesNoYesNoNo
2011 MCAS Student Performance Report:
2011 MCAS Student
Growth Report:
CPIMedian SGP% At/Above ProficientIncluded in SGP
ALL GRADES - ENGLISH
LANGUAGE ARTS
86.956.069157
ALL GRADES - MATHEMATICS79.557.054157

The superintendent of the Haverhill Public Schools was invited to submit comments on the school's request. No comments were received.

A sufficient number of seats are available in Haverhill under the original 9 percent spending cap, so a proven provider determination is not needed.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) has reviewed this request and it appears reasonable and consistent with the charter school statute and regulations. Given the school's solid academic performance; size; the fact that the school provides a small alternative Montessori option for the students of Haverhill; evidence of greater student retention; and the charter school's compliance with applicable state, federal, and local law, I recommend that the Board approve an enrollment increase of 10 students for Hill View Montessori Public Charter School. This request demonstrates a thoughtful consideration of enrollment patterns and responding to the needs of students and families. A motion for approval is attached for your consideration.

Salem Academy Charter School

The board of trustees of Salem Academy Charter School (SACS) requests approval for a charter amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment by 64 students, from 308 to 372 with the current grades 6-12, beginning in FY13. SACS is a Commonwealth charter school that was chartered in 2003, opened in 2004 and was renewed without conditions in 2009. The school serves students from Salem as well as enrolls additional students from surrounding districts. A copy of the school's request is attached.

SACS - Accountability Status:

2011 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Data - Summary
NCLB Accountability StatusImprovement Rating
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTSNo StatusOn Target
MATHEMATICSRestructuring Year 1 - SubgroupsImproved Below Target

Adequate Yearly Progress History
 20042005200620072008200920102011
ELAAggregate-YesYesYesYesYesYesYes
All Subgroups---YesNoYesNoYes
MATHAggregate-NoNoYesNoYesYesYes
All Subgroups---YesYesYesNoNo
2011 MCAS Student Performance Report:
2011 MCAS Student
Growth Report:
CPIMedian SGP% At/Above ProficientIncluded in SGP
ALL GRADES - ENGLISH
LANGUAGE ARTS
92.361.579185
ALL GRADES - MATHEMATICS81.56762185

The superintendent of the Salem Public Schools was invited to submit comments on the school's request. Her comments are attached, along with comments from the Mayor of Salem.

SACS has a solid record of academic achievement, particularly as indicated by the Student Growth Percentile. The school's board requested a charter amendment last year after the school's tuition revenue decreased in 2010, due to an accounting error by the primary sending district.

The more recent request builds on the idea that increasing the size of the school would better enable the school to support the breadth of offerings necessary to serve students, particularly in high school. The amendment request reflects faithfulness to the terms of their charter by maintaining small class sizes, a focus on individual students' needs, while offering a variety of curricular and extra-curricular options.

A sufficient number of seats are available in Salem under the original 9 percent spending cap, so a proven provider determination is not needed.

The Department has reviewed this request and it appears reasonable and consistent with the charter school statute and regulations. Given the school's size; the fact that the school provides a small alternative educational option for Salem students with primary entry points in both sixth and ninth grade; and the charter school's compliance with applicable state, federal, and local law, I recommend that the Board approve an enrollment increase of 64 students for the Salem Academy Charter School. A motion for approval is attached for your consideration.

If you have any questions regarding these amendments or require additional information, please contact me, Jeff Wulfson, Acting Deputy Commissioner, or Marlon Davis, Director of Charter Schools, Innovation, and Redesign.

Attachments:
Correspondence from Hill View Montessori Charter Public School
Motion for Board action on Hill View Montessori Charter Public School Correspondence from Salem Academy Charter School
Correspondence from Salem Superintendent of Schools and Mayor
Motion for Board action on Salem Academy Charter School

Last Updated: November 21, 2011
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