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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Recommendations for New Charter Schools

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
February 14, 2014

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For the 2013-2014 charter school application cycle, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) received ten prospectuses for new charter schools in July 2013. Following a review of these prospectuses by Department staff and external reviewers, I invited six applicant groups to submit charter applications this past fall. Below is a summary of the six charter applications that were submitted.

Proposed School NameDistricts to be ServedOpening YearGrade SpanMax Enrollment
Academy for the Whole Child Charter SchoolFitchburg2014K-4278
Argosy Collegiate Charter SchoolFall River20146-12644
Fenix Charter SchoolLynn20145-12600
New Heights Charter School of Fall River Fall River20146-13800
Springfield Preparatory Charter SchoolSpringfield2015K-8486
STEAM Studio Charter SchoolAndover20149-12450

I recommend that the Board grant two charters for Commonwealth charter schools: Argosy Collegiate Charter School and Springfield Preparatory Charter School. Both of the recommended applicants participated in the 2012-2013 application cycle, and I did not recommend either group to the Board for a charter last year. The quality of the Argosy Collegiate Charter School and the Springfield Preparatory Charter School applications and the capacities of their associated applicant groups have improved significantly since last year. The applicant groups of Argosy Collegiate Charter School and Springfield Preparatory Charter School have sufficiently addressed the Department's previous concerns and substantially met the Department's criteria for approval. This memorandum summarizes the charter application review process and my recommendations with respect to the charter applications.

The Charter Application Review Process

The Department conducted a multi-step review of the charter 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.

  • Five public hearings were held in the districts where the proposed charter schools would be located. One or more members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (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 comments have been compiled onto a compact disc, a copy of which is included with this briefing book.

  • The Department conducted interviews with members of the applicant groups and proposed boards of trustees, focusing on the concerns and questions raised in the panel review and public hearings. Interviews are summarized for each applicant group; a copy is included with this briefing book. 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 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 2013;
  • a list of the external and internal reviewers who reviewed prospectuses and charter applications;
  • an explanation of the metrics used to evaluate proven provider status; and
  • a memorandum detailing the charter application review process and the criteria for review.

Tabs B through G contain the following information for each charter application:

  • an executive summary of the proposal, written by the applicant 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;
  • for schools that I am recommending the Board award a charter, a summary of the applicant's credentials as a proven provider; and
  • a proposed motion for Board action.

The full charter applications can be accessed on the Department's website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=7830.

Commissioner's Charter Application Recommendations and Rationale

While all applications have strengths and weaknesses, the proposals I am recommending meet the criteria for approval as set forth in the statute and the Board's regulations. I have reviewed these applications through the lens of our charter school accountability framework: the potential success of the academic program, the potential viability of the organization, and the potential faithfulness to the terms of the charter. The schools I am recommending for a charter have a strong likelihood of success in closing the achievement gap and in improving public education in Massachusetts.

Argosy Collegiate Charter School (Tab B)

This is a proposal for a new Commonwealth charter school, to be located in Fall River, focused on college and career readiness for students in grades 6-12. The proposed charter school incorporates specific strategies to address the needs of the anticipated student population, including twice the typical time for instruction in literacy and mathematics and academic support periods for all students in grades 6-8, financial literacy curriculum for all students in grades 6-12, and college skills programming for all students in grades 9-12. The applicant group includes the proposed school leader, a former fellow of Building Excellent Schools.

The superintendent of the proposed school's sending district, Fall River, was invited to submit public comment on the application. No comment was received.

I recommend approval for Argosy Collegiate Charter School.

Springfield Preparatory Charter School (Tab C)

This is a proposal for a new Commonwealth charter school, to be located in Springfield, focused on literacy development and character education within a structured and rigorous learning environment for students in grades K-8. The proposed charter school aims to prepare all students for future success-in high school, college, and beyond. The applicant group includes the proposed school leader, a former fellow of Building Excellent Schools.

The superintendent of the proposed school's sending district, Springfield, was invited to submit public comment on the school's application. No comment was received.

I recommend approval for Springfield Preparatory Charter School.

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I am not recommending the Academy for the Whole Child Charter School, Fenix Charter School, New Heights Charter School of Fall River, and STEAM Studio Charter School for new charters. As a result of the review process, I determined that these proposals need further development and revision with respect to the charter school approval criteria. These applicant groups will be invited to participate in a debriefing session with the Department to receive detailed feedback on their applications. Included in the attachments are an executive summary of each proposal, written by the applicant group, and a summary of the final application review, including the application's primary strengths and weaknesses. Other documentation is available upon request.

  • Academy for the Whole Child Charter School, grades K-4 in Fitchburg (Tab D)
  • Fenix Charter School, grades 5-12 in Lynn (Tab E )
  • New Heights Charter School of Fall River, grades 6-13 in Fall River (Tab F)
  • STEAM Studio Charter School, grades 9-12 in Andover (Tab G)

Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner; and Alyssa Hopkins, Coordinator of New School Development, will be at your meeting on February 25, 2014 to assist with the discussion. In the meantime, if you need any additional information, please contact Cliff (781-338-3222), Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson (781-338-6500) or me.

Enclosures

The Charter Application Review Process (Tab A)

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Public hearings
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Prospectuses and charter application reviewers
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Metrics used to evaluate proven provider status
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Charter application review process and criteria for review

Argosy Collegiate Charter School (Tab B)

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Executive Summary
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List of Proposed Board of Trustees
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Interview Summary
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Final Application Review
 
Proven Provider Status
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Student Data, Boston Preparatory Charter School
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Student Data, Excel Academy Charter School
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Enrollment Demographic, Boston Preparatory Charter School
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Enrollment Demographics, Excel Academy Charter School


Springfield Preparatory Charter School (Tab C)

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Executive Summary
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List of Proposed Board of Trustees
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Interview Summary
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Final Application Review
 
Proven Provider Status
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Student Data, Boston Preparatory Charter School
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Student Data, Excel Academy Charter School
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Enrollment Demographic, Boston Preparatory Charter School
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Enrollment Demographics, Excel Academy Charter School


Academy for the Whole Child Charter School (Tab D)

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Executive Summary
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Final Application Review

Fenix Charter School, (Tab E)

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Executive Summary
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Final Application Review

New Heights Charter School of Fall River (Tab F)

Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Executive Summary
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Final Application Review

STEAM Studio Charter School (Tab G)

Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Executive Summary
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Final Application Review


Last Updated: February 24, 2014
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