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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Recommendations for New Charter Schools and Charter Amendments in Districts other than Boston and New Bedford

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
February 15, 2013

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As described in more detail in my memorandum addressing charter schools in Boston and New Bedford, during the 2012-2013 charter school application cycle, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) received 11 final applications. Of the 11 final applications, seven schools proposed to locate outside of Boston and New Bedford. Additionally, of the 11 requests for major amendments that have not yet been decided, five requests are from schools located outside of Boston.

For schools located, or proposed to be located, outside of Boston and New Bedford, I recommend that the Board grant two charters for Commonwealth charter schools, Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, Springfield1 and Pioneer Charter School of Science II. I also recommend that the Board grant three of the five expansion requests from existing schools: Community Day Charter Public School-Prospect, Four Rivers Charter Public School, and Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School.

My recommendations for new charters and for major amendments outside of Boston and New Bedford are summarized in the table below.

Summary of Commissioner's Recommendations other than Boston and New Bedford

Commonwealth Charter School Final ApplicationsTabDistrict or RegionOpening YearGrade SpanMaximum EnrollmentCommissioner's Recommendation
Argosy Collegiate Charter SchoolNFall River20145-12585Not Recommended
International Charter School of BrocktonOBrockton2014K-121,200Not Recommended
Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, SpringfieldISpringfield, Holyoke, Chicopee20149-12250Recommended
Pioneer Charter School of Science IIJSaugus, Peabody, Lynn, Danvers, Salem20137-12360Recommended
Pioneer Charter School of Science IVJWoburn, Stoneham, Medford, Melrose, Wakefield, Saugus20147-12360Not Recommended
Springfield Collegiate Charter SchoolPSpringfield2014K-8465Not Recommended
YouthBuild Academy Charter SchoolQLawrence20139-12173Not Recommended

Commonwealth Charter School AmendmentsTabDistrict or RegionCurrent Grade SpanCurrent Max. EnrollmentAmendmentCommissioner's Recommendation
Community Day Charter Public SchoolKLawrenceK1-8331Enrollment increase (69)Recommended
Four Rivers Charter Public SchoolLFrontier Regional, Greenfield, Gill-Montague Regional, Mohawk Trail Regional, Pioneer Valley Regional, and Ralph C. Mahar Regional7-12212Enrollment increase (8)Recommended
Mystic Valley Regional Charter SchoolN/AEverett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham, and WakefieldK-121500Enrollment increase
(400)
Not Recommended
Pioneer Charter School of ScienceN/AChelsea, Everett, Revere7-12360Add K-8 grades; Enrollment increase (420)Not Recommended
Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter SchoolM39 districts in western Massachusetts2 K-8300Add 9-12 grades; Enrollment increase (284)Recommended with Modifications

Charter Application Review Process

A summary of the review process for charter applications can be found in the memorandum under Tab A in the Board materials for the special meeting on February 25, 2013. Attached to the memorandum for the special meeting under Tab A are general materials relating to the review process for charter applications.

Tabs I-J and N-Q, attached to this memorandum, contain the following information specific to each final application:

  • an executive summary of the proposal, written by the founding group;
  • a list of the proposed members of the school's board of trustees;
  • a summary of the interview with the founding group;
  • a summary of the final application review, including the application's primary strengths and weaknesses;
  • where required, a summary of the applicant's credentials as a proven provider; and
  • for schools that I am recommending the Board award a charter, a proposed motion for Board action.

Where an applicant group has proposed a network of two or more schools, we have consolidated the evaluation process and summary materials.

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Full Applications

Charter Amendment Review Process

A summary of the review process for major charter amendments can be found in the memorandum under Tab A in the Board materials for the special meeting on February 25, 2013.

Tabs K through M, attached to this memorandum, contain the following information specific to each amendment:

  • the amendment request submitted by the school;
  • a summary of the amendment request review, including the amendment's primary strengths and weaknesses;
  • a summary of the school's credentials as a proven provider, if required; and
  • for schools where I am recommending amending a charter, a proposed motion for Board action.

As required for amendment requests that seek an increase in maximum enrollment, grades served, or districts served, comment was solicited from the superintendents in the school districts within each charter school's district or region. As noted below, we received comment from Superintendent John D. Barry of the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District in opposition to Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School's charter amendment request. The letter is under Tab M. No other comments were received.

Proven Provider Review

The charter school statute requires that applicants and existing schools are "proven providers" when seeking a charter or an expansion in districts where the net school spending (NSS) cap has been lifted. As discussed in an attachment to my January 18, 2013 memorandum to the Board, applicants for proven provider status this year included existing boards of trustees, an education management organization, and a school support organization. As indicated in the summaries below, four of the five amendment requests described in this memorandum must meet the proven provider requirement.

In evaluating academic performance, I looked at proficiency levels and student growth percentiles in the aggregate and for subgroups based on MCAS test results; graduation and dropout rates in the case of high schools; and student mobility data. As required by our regulations, we continue to set a high standard by comparing past performance with the state as a whole and not just with the host district. Proven provider analysis, including data for both academic performance and demographic composition, is at Tabs I through Q with the other information regarding the application or amendment request. Please refer to these review sheets for the specific data reviewed and discussed in determining proven provider status.

Determining that an entity meets the requirements of a proven provider, however, does not automatically mean that the applicant group and the application have demonstrated the capacity to create a successful, high quality charter school. In considering the Department's criteria for approval, the capacity of a proposed board of trustees and proposed school leader to effectively manage and operate a high quality charter school is judged separately from proven provider status.

Focus on Special Populations

The charter school statute encourages charter schools to better serve under-represented populations, including low income students, English language learners, and students receiving special education services. In reviewing applications for new schools, we assess the capacity of the applicant group to address the particular needs of these students. In reviewing amendments from schools and proven provider qualifications as needed for certain applicants and amendment requests, we look to the applicant's past performance in serving these special populations. Consistent with decisions from last year's discussion of proven providers, we do not rule out applicants whose track record is based on schools with smaller proportions of special populations than the target proportion in the proposed district or region.

Commissioner's Charter Application Recommendations and Rationale

Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, Springfield (Tab I)

The board of trustees of the existing Phoenix Charter Academy, a high school serving Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, and Revere, is proposing an additional Commonwealth charter high school to serve Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee. The proposed high school is a replication of the existing model. The existing school's academic performance is strong, qualifying it for proven provider status. Phoenix Charter Academy provides a unique charter option, re-engaging at-risk populations in pursuing a high school diploma and experiencing academic success. The superintendents of the proposed school's sending districts were invited to submit public comment on the application. No comments were received.

I recommend approval for Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, Springfield.

Pioneer Charter School of Science II (Tab J)

The board of trustees of the existing Pioneer Charter School of Science (PCSS) serving Chelsea, Everett, and Revere, is proposing two additional regional Commonwealth charter schools, both using substantially the same model as the existing school. Pioneer Charter School of Science II (PCSS II) proposes to locate in Saugus and serve students from Saugus, Lynn, Salem, Peabody, and Danvers. Pioneer Charter School of Science IV (PCSS IV) proposes to locate in Woburn and serve students from Woburn, Stoneham, Medford, Melrose, Wakefield, and Saugus. A proposal for a Pioneer Charter School of Science III (PCSS III) was submitted during the prospectus stage but was subsequently withdrawn prior to the final application deadline. Additionally, the existing PCSS has submitted an amendment request to change its grades served from 7-12 to K-12 and to increase its maximum enrollment by 420, from 360 to 780 students. The existing school's academic performance is strong, qualifying it for proven provider status.

The superintendents of the existing and proposed school's sending districts were invited to submit public comment on the schools' applications and amendment request. Comments in opposition to the applications were received from Mark Donovan, Woburn superintendent; Cyndy Taymore, Melrose superintendent; and members of the Lynn and Saugus school committees. For additional details, see the attached review analysis and the public comment provided on the compact disc included with your briefing book.

PCSS received a charter in 2007, which was renewed in 2012. In reviewing the scope of the requests made by PCSS and the capacity demonstrated by the board of trustees and school leadership to undertake both expansion and replication, I am not at this time recommending approval of the expansion of PCSS.

I do recommend, however, that the Board grant one of the new charters requested, a charter for PCSS II. PCSS II demonstrates the greatest potential for creating a successful, high quality public school that serves areas where demand and need are evident.

Commissioner's Charter Amendment Recommendations and Rationale

Community Day Charter Public School-Prospect (Tab K)

The board of trustees of Community Day Charter Public School-Prospect (CDCPS-Prospect) submitted a request to increase the maximum enrollment at CDCPS-Prospect by 69, from 331 to 400 students. With an increase in enrollment, the school indicates that it will be able to meet the demand for its program and align its enrollment pattern with the other two charter schools that it governs.

Lawrence Superintendent, Receiver Jeffrey Riley, was invited to submit public comment on the school's request. No comments were received.

CDCPS-Prospect received a charter in 1995, which most recently was renewed in 2010. The board of trustees received charters in 2011 for two additional schools, Community Day Charter Public School-Gateway, and Community Day Charter Public School-R. Kingman Webster. These schools are in their first year of operation. The academic performance of CDCPS-Prospect continues to be strong, qualifying it for proven provider status. Given the school's academic success, organizational viability, and compliance with applicable state, federal, and local laws, I recommend that the Board approve the enrollment increase requested by the school. Enclosed under Tab K for your consideration are the school's amendment request, a summary of the Department's amendment review, the school's demographic and academic performance data, and a motion for approval.

Four Rivers Charter Public School (Tab L)

The board of trustees of Four Rivers Charter Public School (FRCPS) has submitted an expansion request to increase maximum enrollment from 212 to 220 students, an increase of 8 students. With an increase in enrollment, the school indicates that it will support the present enrollment pattern and allow for consistent enrollment of 36 students in each grade level.

The superintendents of the school's sending districts were invited to submit public comment on the school's request. No comments were received.

FRCPS was chartered in 2002 and most recently renewed earlier this month under my delegated authority. The school does not need to qualify for proven provider status with sufficient seats still available under the 9% NSS cap in Greenfield, and Gill-Montague. Given the school's academic performance, organizational viability, and compliance with applicable state, federal, and local laws, I recommend that the Board approve the limited maximum enrollment increase requested by the school. Enclosed under Tab L for your consideration are the Department's amendment review, the school's demographic and academic performance data, the school's amendment request, and a motion for approval.

Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (Tab M)

The board of trustees of Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (PVCICS) submitted an expansion request to change the grades that it serves from K-8 to K-12 and to increase maximum enrollment by 384, from 300 to 684 students. With a change in grade span and an increase in enrollment, the school indicates that it will be able to increase access to its Chinese immersion curriculum and allow access to the program through high school.

The superintendents of the school's sending districts were invited to submit public comment on the school's requests. No comments were received.

PVCICS received a charter in 2007, which was renewed in 2012 with conditions. The school has substantially met these conditions. The school's academic performance is strong, qualifying it for proven provider status. Given the school's academic success, organizational viability, and compliance with applicable state, federal, and local laws, I recommend that the Board grant the requested change in grade span.

I also recommend that the Board grant an increase in maximum enrollment, but I recommend granting an increase of only 284 seats rather than the 384 seats requested. This increase will allow the school to implement the growth plan described in its amendment request. I will consider any future requests to increase maximum enrollment at the school's next renewal in 2017, once the grade span expansion has been successfully completed and the demand for the size proposed can be supported. Enclosed under Tab M for your consideration are the school's amendment request, a summary of the Department's amendment review, the school's demographic and academic performance data, and a motion for approval.

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With respect to applications for charter schools, I determined that the following four proposals need further development with respect to the charter school approval criteria:

  • Argosy Collegiate Charter School, grades 5-12 in Fall River (Tab N)
  • International Charter School of Brockton, grades K-12 in Brockton (Tab O)
  • Springfield Collegiate Charter School, grades K-8 in Springfield (Tab P)
  • YouthBuild Academy Charter School, grades 9-12 in Lawrence (Tab Q)

With respect to other amendment requests, I do not recommend approval of the amendment request from Mystic Valley Regional Charter School (MVRCS) to add 400 seats to their existing K-12 school. As evidenced by the renewal of its charter with conditions earlier this month, we have governance concerns that the school needs to address prior to consideration of any expansion request.

Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner; Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner; Alison Bagg, Coordinator of Accountability; and Alyssa Hopkins, Coordinator of New School Development, will be at the February 25 and 26 meetings to assist with the discussion. In the meantime, if you need any additional information, please contact Jeff (781-338-6500), Cliff (781-338-3222), or me.

Enclosures

Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, Springfield (Tab I)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Executive summary
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Proposed Board of Trustees
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Interview Summary
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Final Application Review
 
Proven Provider Status
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Attachment 1
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Attachment 2
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Attachment 3
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Attachment 4
Pioneer Charter School of Science II (Tab J)
 
Executive summary
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Pioneer Charter School of Science II
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Pioneer Valley School of Science IV
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Proposed Board of Trustees
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Interview Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Final Application Review
 
Proven Provider Status
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 1
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 2
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Attachment 3
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Attachment 4
Community Day Charter Public School - Prospect (Tab K )
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Amendment Request
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Proven Provider Status
Four Rivers Charter Public School (Tab L )
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Amendment Request and Proven Provider Status
Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (Tab M)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Amendment Request
 
Proven Provider Status
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Attachment 1
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Attachment 2
Argosy Collegiate Charter School Executive Summary (Tab N)
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Executive Summary
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Proposed Board of Trustees
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Interview Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Final Application Review
 
Proven Provider Status
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 1
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 2
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Attachment 3
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Attachment 4
International Charter School of Brockton (Tab O )
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Executive Summary
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Proposed Board of Trustees
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Interview Summary
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Final Application Review
Springfield Collegiate Charter School (Tab P)
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Executive Summary
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Proposed Board of Trustees
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Interview Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Final Application Review
 
Proven Provider Status
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 1
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 2
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Attachment 3
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Attachment 4
YouthBuild Academy Charter School (Tab Q)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Executive Summary
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Proposed Board of Trustees
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Interview Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Final Application Review
 
Proven Provider Status
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 1
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Attachment 2
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Attachment 3

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Last Updated: February 25, 2013
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