Mass.gov
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Go to Selected Program Area
Massachusetts State Seal
Students & Families Educators & Administrators Teaching, Learning & Testing Data & Accountability Finance & Funding About the Department Education Board  
>
>
>
>
>
>
>

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Recommendations for New Charter Schools and Charter Amendments for 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

line

During the 2012-2013 charter school application cycle, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) received 22 prospectuses for new charter schools. I invited ten founding groups to submit final applications for 12 of these proposals, and 11 were submitted. In addition, the Department received 19 requests for major amendments to the charters of 23 schools. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) previously granted eight of the 19 requests submitted to increase maximum enrollment, to change grade span served, or to change districts served. Because of enrollment limits, this memorandum addresses both major charter amendments and new charters requested for Boston and New Bedford. Major charter amendments and new charters requested for other municipalities are addressed in a separate memorandum.

As discussed previously, we have more high quality charter applications and amendment requests for Boston from qualified applicants than we can accommodate under the statutory net school spending (NSS) cap. This year, charter applicants and existing schools requested 1,671 new seats in Boston. There are 881 seats requested via amendments with an additional 790 seats requested for new schools. Of the 11 final applications, three schools propose to locate in Boston and one school proposes to locate in New Bedford as part of a network of charter schools serving both Boston and New Bedford. Additionally, of the 11 remaining requests for major amendments, six requests are related to ten Boston charter schools.

I recommend that the Board grant two charters for Commonwealth charter schools in Boston and New Bedford (City on a Hill Charter Public School II and City on a Hill Charter Public School New Bedford), and a charter for a Horace Mann charter school in Boston (UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester). I also recommend that the Board grant expansion requests for the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School, Codman Academy Charter Public School, Conservatory Lab Charter School, Edward W. Brooke Charter School, Edward W. Brooke 2 Charter School, Edward W. Brooke 3 Charter School, Excel Academy Charter School, and Excel Academy Charter School-Chelsea.

18% NSS Cap for Boston

Under the 18% NSS cap for Boston, the Department estimates that approximately 1380 seats remain to be awarded. Subtracting the 5% holdback imposed to provide a buffer for the year-to-year variations, we estimate that approximately 801 seats remain. To accommodate requests and respect the integrity of the educational programs proposed, I recommend lowering the holdback buffer from 5% to 4.7%; this increases the estimate of seats available in Boston to 836. This allows for fluctuations in NSS estimates and allows us to award new charters and expand existing charters for high quality schools.

We will closely monitor seats already allocated and recommend modifications to charters if seats remain unused. I anticipate that we may not be able to accept applications or amendments seeking maximum enrollment increases for Commonwealth charter schools in Boston during upcoming application cycles, unless seats become available through school closures, downsizing, or legislative action.

In making these recommendations, my primary consideration was the proven provider criteria, the strength of proposals, the proposed timeline for opening and adding seats, and the statutory preference given to providers serving more than one municipality. While all charter applications and charter amendments have strengths and weaknesses, the proposals I am recommending meet the Department's criteria for approval. I have also reviewed these applications and amendments through the lens of our charter school accountability framework: the potential and past successes of academic programs; the potential and past viability of organizations; and the potential and past faithfulness to the terms of charters. The schools recommended have the potential to help close the achievement gap and to improve public education in Massachusetts.

My recommendations for new charter applications and major amendment requests associated with Boston and New Bedford are summarized in the table below.

Summary of Commissioner's Recommendations for Boston and New Bedford

Commonwealth Charter School Final ApplicationsTabDistrict or RegionOpening YearGrade SpanProposed EnrollmentCommissioner's RecommendationBoston Seats
Brooke 4 Charter SchoolGBoston2014K-8510Not Recommended0
City on a Hill Charter Public School IIBBoston20139-12280Recommended280
City on a Hill Charter Public School New BedfordBNew Bedford20149-12280RecommendedN/A
(280 other)
Horace Mann Charter School Final ApplicationDistrict or RegionOpening YearGrade SpanProposed Enrollment 
UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester (HMII)CBoston2013K1-8750RecommendedN/A1

Commonwealth Charter School AmendmentsTabDistrict or RegionCurrent Grade SpanCurrent Max. EnrollmentAmendmentCommissioner's RecommendationBoston Seats
Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter SchoolDBoston5-12500Enrollment increase (45)Recommended45
Boston Renaissance Charter Public SchoolN/ABostonK1-6944Enrollment increase (120)Not Recommended0
Codman Academy Charter Public SchoolEBoston9-12145Add K1-8 grades;
Enrollment increase (200)
Recommended200
Conservatory Lab Charter SchoolFBostonK1-6169Add 7-8 grades;
Enrollment increase (275)
Recommended275
E.W. Brooke Charter SchoolGBostonK-8475 Enrollment increase (35)Recommended35
E.W. Brooke 2 Charter SchoolGBostonK-8475 Enrollment increase (35)Recommended35
E.W. Brooke 3 Charter School (regional)GBoston;
Chelsea
K-8475 Enrollment increase (35)Recommended-135 (170 other)2
Excel Academy Charter School (regional)HBoston; Chelsea5-8300
(200 Boston; 100 other)
Add 9-12 grades;
Enrollment increase (Chelsea: 48 and Boston: 100)
Recommended100
(48 other)
Excel Academy Charter School-ChelseaHChelsea5-8224Add 9-12 grades;
Enrollment increase (224)
RecommendedN/A
(224 other)
Total Boston Seats Recommended:835

The Charter Application Review Process

The Department conducted a multi-step review of the final applications. The goal in this process is to identify those applicant groups that demonstrate the greatest potential for creating successful, high quality public schools. The review process included the following:

  • An advisory panel that included both Department staff and external reviewers reviewed each application. Panel members individually reviewed each application based on the published evaluation criteria, and then the entire panel met to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each application and suggest questions for the interview with the applicant group.

  • Eight public hearings were held in the districts where the proposed charter schools would be located. One or more members of the Board attended each hearing. All hearings were videotaped; the DVDs are available by contacting the Department at 781-338-3224.

  • Written comments from the public were solicited at each of the hearings and through the Department's website. The superintendent in each proposed district received the application from the relevant applicant, was informed by the Department of the application links on the Department's website, and was invited to comment. All written public comments have been compiled onto a compact disc, a copy of which is included with this briefing book.

  • Interviews were conducted with members of the founding groups and proposed boards of trustees, focusing on the concerns and questions raised in the panel review and public hearings. Audio recordings of these interviews are available by contacting the Department at 781-338-3224.

  • Department staff prepared a criteria-based summary of the primary strengths and weaknesses of each proposed application.

  • I held a series of meetings with Department staff to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each application when judged against the application criteria.

Enclosed with this memorandum under Tab A are the following materials:

  • a list of the public hearings held in November and December 2012;
  • a list of the external and internal reviewers who reviewed prospectuses and final applications;
  • an explanation of the metrics used to evaluate proven provider status;
  • a summary of graduation rates for selected schools and districts;
  • a summary of attrition rates for selected schools and districts;
  • a briefing paper on Commonwealth charter school tuition; and
  • a memorandum detailing the charter application review process and the criteria for review.

Tabs B through C 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.

View HTML Page
Full Applications

The Charter Amendment Review Process

The Department conducted a comprehensive review of the amendment requests for changes to the school's maximum enrollment and/or the grade span served. The amendment review process included the following:

  • Written comments were solicited from superintendents from districts affected by the proposed expansion.

  • Department staff reviewed each amendment request based upon the published evaluation criteria. Reviewers then met to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each amendment request and potential questions for school leaders and/or board members.

  • School leaders and board members were interviewed, if necessary, to address specific concerns or questions that arose during the amendment review.

  • Department staff prepared a criteria-based summary of the primary strengths and weaknesses of each amendment request.

  • I held a series of meetings with Department staff to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each amendment request when judged against the criteria outlined in the technical advisory on charter amendments.

For each amendment request submitted, the superintendents of the school's sending districts were invited to submit public comment on the school's request. Chelsea Superintendent Mary Bourque submitted comment opposing the high school expansion of the Excel Academy network. The letter is under Tab H. No comments were received from Boston.

Tabs D through H 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; and
  • for schools where I recommending amending a charter, a proposed motion for Board action.

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 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 board of trustees, an education management organization, and a school support organization.

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 B through H with the other information regarding the application or amendment request. Please refer to this information for the 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.

Commitment to High Quality Charter Applicants

I would like to reiterate my interest in seeing applications from potential proven providers that focus on cities other than Boston. I am encouraged by schools, such as City on a Hill, taking on this challenge and I hope to see more providers do so in the next application cycle. We will continue to encourage applicants to propose schools in cities that are currently underserved by high quality charter schools and where seats are available under the current caps. I would also like to express our strong commitment to quality programming by both proven providers and groups who have yet to establish a track record of success. Every existing high quality charter school in the Commonwealth did not open its original doors as a proven provider. I fully support the continued establishment of high quality charter school options by individuals and groups with a commitment to excellence and innovation in public education.

Commissioner's Charter Application Recommendations and Rationale

City on a Hill Charter Public School II (Tab B)
City on a Hill Charter Public School New Bedford

The board of trustees of the existing City on a Hill Charter Public School in Boston is proposing two additional Commonwealth charter schools, one in Boston (City on a Hill Charter Public School II) and one in New Bedford (City on a Hill Charter Public School New Bedford). Both of the proposed charter schools will use substantially the same model as the existing school. The existing school's academic performance is strong, qualifying it for the proven provider status required for the Boston proposal. City on a Hill Charter Public School is one of the few Commonwealth charter schools offering high school and a ninth grade entry point for students. As an applicant group proposing to build a network of schools serving more than one municipality, both City on a Hill proposals receive preference pursuant to G.L. c.71, § 89(i)(3).

I recommend that the Board grant charters for City on a Hill Charter Public School II and City on a Hill Charter Public School New Bedford.

UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester (Horace Mann) (Tab C)

This is a proposal for a Horace Mann III3 charter school in Boston, intended to replace the John Marshall Elementary School. Students at the existing school will have a preference in enrollment. The board of trustees of the existing UP Academy Charter School of Boston, in its second year of operation, submitted this proposal. The board proposes to utilize Unlocking Potential, an educational management organization, to support the management and operation of the proposed school. The proposal is supported by Superintendent Carol Johnson and the Boston school committee.

I recommend that the Board grant a charter for UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester.

Commissioner's Charter Amendment Recommendations and Rationale

Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School (Tab D)

The board of trustees of Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School (APR) submitted a request to increase its maximum enrollment by 45, from 500 to 545 students. Because of lower attrition in the upper grades and backfilling at lower grades, the school indicates that it needs to stabilize its enrollment pattern.

APR received a charter in 1995, which was most recently renewed in 2012 with one condition. The school has met this condition. The existing 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 approve the maximum enrollment increase requested by the school. Enclosed under Tab D 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.

Codman Academy Charter Public School (Tab E)

The board of trustees of Codman Academy Charter Public School (CACPS) has submitted an amendment request to change the grades served from 9-12 to K1-12, and to increase maximum enrollment from 145 to 345 students, an increase of 200 students. With a change in grade span and an increase in enrollment, the school indicates that it will be better able to meet the needs of their targeted student population starting at an earlier age. School leadership has elementary education experience to implement the proposed new grade span and will continue to implement the Expeditionary Learning program across the new grade span. The school is also committed to maintain an open entry point at the 9th grade to provide access to a quality high school option for Boston families.

CACPS was chartered in 2001, and that charter was most recently renewed in 2011. The existing 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 approve the grade span change and the maximum enrollment increase requested by the school. Enclosed under Tab E 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.

Conservatory Lab Charter School (Tab F)

The board of trustees of Conservatory Lab Charter School (CLCS) has submitted an expansion request to change the grades that it serves from K1-6 to K1-8, and to increase its maximum enrollment by 275, from 169 to 444 students. With a change in grade span and an increase in enrollment, the school indicates that it will increase access to the school's Learning through Music curriculum and will allow sixth graders access to the school's program through eighth grade. The school will implement the Expeditionary Learning program across the new grade span.

CLCS received a charter in 1999, which was most recently renewed in 2009 with conditions. The school met these conditions and the Board removed them in February 2011. 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 approve the grade span change and the maximum enrollment increase requested by the school. Enclosed under Tab F 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.

Edward W. Brooke Charter School (Tab G)
Edward W. Brooke 2 Charter School
Edward W. Brooke 3 Charter School

The board of trustees of the existing Edward W. Brooke Charter School (Brooke), Edward W. Brooke 2 Charter School (Brooke 2), and Edward W. Brooke 3 Charter School (Brooke 3) in Boston propose one additional Commonwealth charter school and requested amendments to the charters of its existing schools to increase the maximum enrollment of each school by 35 seats. The amendment request is in response to the decreasing attrition rate experienced by the flagship school; more students at the upper grades are choosing to remain in the program. The board of trustees also requests to consolidate the schools under a single charter; an amendment request that I do not recommend granting.

Brooke received a charter in 2002. The school's charter was recently renewed with a condition in 2012. The school quickly met the condition. Brooke 2 and Brooke 3 received charters in 2011 and are in their second and first year of operation, respectively. Brooke's academic performance continues to be strong, qualifying it for proven provider status again this year. Brooke 2 has evidence of positive outcomes in its first MCAS test results from 2011-2012. Both of the new schools have demonstrated progress in attracting English Language Learners in greater numbers than had been historically present at the Brooke.

Because of the limited number of seats available in Boston, I do not recommend approval for the Edward W. Brooke 4 Charter School. I do recommend, however, that the Board grant the requested amendment to increase the maximum enrollment at Brooke, Brooke 2, and Brooke 3 by 35, from 475 to 510 students, at each school. Because Edward W. Brooke 3 Charter School is a regional charter school serving Boston and Chelsea and because seats available in Boston are limited, I recommend limiting enrollment to 340 students from Boston and 170 students from Chelsea. This will open additional seats in Boston while preserving access to Chelsea students at the regional K-8 school. Enclosed under Tab G 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.

I do not recommend granting the consolidation request. Presently, the Department is investigating other avenues to address the specific challenges being experienced by developing networks of charter schools. Our goal is to address these concerns without requiring consolidation.

Excel Academy Charter School (Tab H)
Excel Academy Charter School-Chelsea
Excel Academy Charter School-Boston II

The board of trustees of Excel Academy Charter School (Excel Regional), Excel Academy Charter School-Chelsea (Excel-Chelsea), and Excel Academy Charter School-Boston II (Excel-Boston II) requests to expand the grade span at Excel Regional and Excel-Chelsea from 5-8 to 5-12, to mirror the grade span at Excel-Boston II. The board of trustees also requests to increase enrollment across all three schools by 372 students. Lastly, the board of trustees requests to consolidate the schools under a single charter, an amendment request that I do not recommend granting for the same reasons indicated for Brooke.

Excel Regional received a charter in 2003, which was most recently renewed in 2013. Excel-Chelsea and Excel-Boston II received charters in 2011 and are in their second and first year of operation, respectively. Excel Regional's academic performance continues to be strong, qualifying it for proven provider status. Excel-Chelsea has evidence of positive outcomes in its first MCAS English Language Art test results from 2011-2012. Both of the new schools have demonstrated progress in attracting special student populations, including students whose first language is not English and students with disabilities.

Given the schools' academic success, organizational viability, and compliance with applicable state, federal, and local laws, I recommend that the Board grant a modified version of the requested amendments. With respect to grade span, I recommend that the Board grant the requested grade span change for Excel Regional and for Excel-Chelsea from 5-8 to 5-12. This will make all three charter schools 5-12.

With respect to maximum enrollment, because of the limited number of seats available in Boston, I recommend that the Board increase the maximum enrollment at Excel Regional and Excel-Chelsea but limit the number of students from Boston that can enroll at each school. I recommend that the Board increase the maximum enrollment at Excel Regional by 148, from 300 to 448 students, and limit Boston enrollment to 300 students. I recommend that the Board increase the maximum enrollment at Excel-Chelsea by 224, from 224 to 448 students.

Enclosed under Tab H for your consideration are the schools' amendment requests, a summary of the Department's amendment review, the schools' demographic and academic performance data, and a motion for approval.

line

Finally, I am not recommending approval of the amendment request from Boston Renaissance Charter School (BRCS) to add 120 seats to their existing K1-6 school. As evidenced by my recommendation this month to impose probation, we have significant 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

City on a Hill Charter Public School II (Tab B)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Executive summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
City on a Hill New Bedford Executive Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
List of Founders and Proposed Board of Trustees
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Interview Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Final Application Review
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Proven Provider Status
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Proven Provider Status, Selected Populations
UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester (Tab C)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Executive summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Proposed Board of Trustees
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Interview Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Final Application Review
Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School (Tab D)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Amendment Request
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Proven Provider Status
Codman Academy Charter Public School (Tab E)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Amendment Request
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Proven Provider Status
Conservatory Lab Charter School (Tab F)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Amendment Request
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Proven Provider Status
Edward W. Brooke Charter School (Tab G )
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Amendment Request
 
Proven Provider Status
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 1
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 2
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 3
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Brooke 4 executive summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Brooke 4 Proposed Board of Trustees
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Interview Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Final Application Review
Excel Academy Charter School (Tab H)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Amendment Request
 
Proven Provider Status
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 1
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 2

line



Last Updated: February 25, 2013
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf  
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search·Public Records Requests · A-Z Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact ESE