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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Amendment Request of South Shore Charter Public School (Enrollment)

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
January 15, 2016

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Pursuant to the Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.10(1), the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) must approve changes to the maximum enrollment and grades served of charter schools. This year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) received requests from nineteen schools and networks of schools to change their maximum enrollment and grades served. An overview of the nineteen amendment requests and the Department's amendment process can be found under separate cover as an informational item in your materials for your meeting on January 26, 2016. I anticipate presenting most of the charter amendment requests at your February meeting. This month, I recommend that the Board approve amendments requested by two schools, Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School (see separate memo) and South Shore Charter Public School (SSCPS).

The board of trustees of SSCPS requests approval to increase its maximum enrollment by 465 students to reach a maximum enrollment of 1,075 students by the 2018-2019 school year. The Department's assessment of the school's request is described below, in preparation for a discussion and vote at the Board's meeting on January 26, 2016.

The following information is also attached to this memorandum for your review:

  • the original amendment request and additional materials subsequently submitted by the school;
  • a summary of the school's academic performance, student demographics, attrition rates, and a five-year financial summary;
  • a summary of the school's credentials as a proven provider; and
  • public comment received by the Department.

An overview of the terms of the school's charter and the elements of its school design follows.

South Shore Charter Public School
Type of Charter
(Commonwealth or Horace Mann)
CommonwealthLocationNorwell
Regional or Non-Regional?RegionalDistricts in RegionAbington, Braintree, Brockton, Cohasset, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Halifax, Hanover, Hingham, Holbrook, Hull, Kingston, Marshfield, Norwell, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Quincy, Randolph, Rockland, Scituate, Weymouth, Whitman-Hanson
Year Opened1995Year(s) Renewed2000, 2005, 2010, 2015
Maximum Enrollment610Current Enrollment597
Chartered Grade SpanK-12Current Grade SpanK-12
Students on Waitlist823Current Age of School20 years
Prior AmendmentsIncrease from 540 to 610 students awarded by Board in 2012
Mission Statement
Inspiring every student to excel in academics, service, and life.
Key Design Elements (source: Accountability Plan 2015-2020)
  • Rigorous academics in major subject areas including the arts, sciences, foreign language, and social sciences; combined with project-based learning
  • K-12 requirement of community service
  • Supporting the academic and social emotional needs of students in an inclusion model
  • Internship program and college course completion to support college and career readiness
  • Integrated K-12 academic program within a nurturing K-12 school culture

Overall, the Department's records indicate that SSCPS's academic program is a success, that the school is a viable organization, and that it is faithful to the terms of its charter.

  • In 2013, SSCPS achieved Level 1 status, a school percentile of 83 and a PPI of 95 in the aggregate and 87 for the school's high needs subgroup. Subsequently, in 2014, the school was assigned Level 2 status for not meeting gap narrowing goals with a school percentile of 84, and a PPI of 79 in the aggregate and 70 for the school's high needs subgroup.

  • The school administered PARCC in 2015 and maintained its Level 2 status for not meeting gap narrowing goals with a school percentile of 61, a PPI of 62 in the aggregate, and a PPI of 60 for the high needs subgroup. PARCC scores are designated by Levels, with Levels 4 and 5 meeting and exceeding expectations respectively. In 2015, 61 percent of SSCPS students received a Level 4 or 5 in English language arts (ELA), above the state average of 49 percent. Forty-five percent of students received a Level 4 or 5 in mathematics, above the state average of 43 percent.

  • SSCPS operates in a financially sound and publicly accountable manner. The school has maintained a sound and stable financial condition over the charter term. As noted in its 2015 renewal and evidenced by the fiscal dashboard, SSCPS has received unqualified audits for the last five fiscal years. All audits have been free of findings. The majority of indicators on the school's financial dashboard are low risk.

  • The school has undergone four successful charter renewals, and at the time of its most recent renewal in February 2015, the Department recognized the school for its exemplary work in dissemination, supports for diverse learners, and family engagement with a rating of Exceeds in these three areas of the Charter School Performance Criteria. The school received a rating of Meets in all other areas of performance with one exception, Student Performance. At the time of the school's renewal, the Department parameters for a Meets rating required Level 1 status in the state's accountability system. SSCPS had achieved Level 2 status and received a Partially Meets rating at the time of renewal.

Overview of School's Request

SSCPS is seeking to expand from 610 students to 1,075 students over a three year period.1 The growth plan takes into account admitting new students across the K-12 grade span from the school's waitlist. The grade level cohort size would increase to 75 students in grades K-8, and to 100 students in grades 9-12. The current cohort size is approximately 45 students on average across the K-12 grade span, with a slightly larger cohort size in grades 9-12 to allow for a greater diversity of academic options.

The school has consistently demonstrated significant demand in its charter region. In both fiscal year 2015 and 2016, the number of children on the waitlist for admission exceeded 800. It is also important to note that the school does not roll over its waitlist year-to-year and accepts applications for admission at all grade levels. In November 2015, the school reported that it had approximately 186 students on the waitlist for kindergarten entry and approximately 69 students on the waitlist for ninth grade entry.

In addition to demand for the school's educational program, the school has demonstrated success in enrolling high needs students. The school has made significant progress in enrolling English language learners and students with disabilities at levels comparable to schools within its charter region. The majority of students come from four districts within the school's charter region. All four of these districts perform in the lowest 20 percent of all districts based upon the Department's 2015 district rankings Download PDF Document  Download MS EXCEL Document. In the current school year, 57 percent of SSCPS students reside in Brockton (55 students), Randolph (93 students), Rockland (students 83), and Weymouth (101 students).

The school's staffing model provides infrastructure to support growth in enrollment and opportunities for teacher leadership. In addition to the executive director, the principal of grades K-6, and the principal of grades 7-12, staffing includes coordinator positions for the school's multi-grade learning communities2 and teacher mentor positions. The school has also implemented K-4 curriculum coordinator positions for mathematics and science this year, and plans to add a K-4 curriculum coordinator for humanities next year.

The school leases its current facility from its associated foundation, South Shore Charter Educational Foundation, Inc. The school is considering real estate opportunities in close proximity to the current facility in Norwell to create a multi-school campus with additional athletic fields and parking. While regional charter schools are not required to provide transportation to all residents of their charter regions, the school has committed to continue developing and expanding transportation options for families. Current transportation options for families residing outside of Norwell3 include parent transportation, carpooling, and private busses serving Randolph and Brockton.

Department's Review

Section 1.10 of the Charter School Regulations contains several criteria to consider in determining whether to grant a school's request to amend its charter. The Department's comprehensive review was based upon these criteria.

The Department's review included the following considerations:

  • the charter school's compliance with applicable state, federal, and local law;
  • affirmative evidence regarding the faithfulness of the school to the terms of its charter, including the extent to which the school has followed its recruitment and retention plan and has disseminated best practices;
  • affirmative evidence regarding the success of the school's academic program;
  • affirmative evidence regarding the viability of the school as an organization;
  • the merits of the school's amendment request when judged against the criteria outlined in the Department's Charter Amendment and Notification Guidelines Download MS WORD Document and the Charter School Performance Criteria Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document;
  • the eligibility of the board of trustees of SSCPS for proven provider status based upon the criteria described in 603 CMR 1.04(4); and
  • the submission of public comment regarding the request.

School leaders and members of the SSCPS board of trustees were interviewed by the Department on November 6, 2015 to address specific concerns that arose during the review of the original amendment request to grow from 610 to 1,500 students. During the interview, both board and school leadership explained the reasons for the request. The Department asked the SSCPS board of trustees to consider a smaller expansion to address concerns regarding the size and pace of the expansion. The Department also requested additional information regarding the planning for staffing and transportation under the proposed expansion.

The school submitted additional materials in response to the Department's requests. The additional materials included a revised growth plan, staffing plan, and budget for an enrollment increase from 610 to 1,075 students. These materials are attached for your review.

Proven Provider Consideration

Proven provider status is required to award additional seats to SSCPS for two reasons. First, the school's charter region includes Randolph Public Schools (RPS), which has been identified as performing in the lowest 10 percent of all districts based on MCAS scores in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. Second, the nine percent net school spending cap for RPS would be exceeded if the amendment request for SSCPS and a pending charter application4 were both granted.

After evaluating the performance of SSCPS against the criteria for proven provider status, I identified the board of trustees of SSCPS as a proven provider for the purposes of the current amendment request. We would reassess eligibility for proven provider status for any future request for additional seats.

Included in your materials are the relevant student achievement and indicator data used to determine that the board of trustees of SSCPS is eligible for proven provider status. Pursuant to 603 CMR 1.04(4)(b), the award of proven provider status to an existing board of trustees must include the demonstration of success in student academic performance over a three-year period as measured by proficiency levels and growth measures on the MCAS or equivalent assessments that are similar to statewide averages in English language arts and mathematics in comparable grades for all students and for one or more targeted subgroups. The graphs of student achievement data permit a comparison of the school's performance relative to statewide averages and the relevant district averages for the same grades served by the charter school.

Public Comment

At the time of the school's submission to the Department, SSCPS also submitted copies of its request to all districts within its charter region, pursuant to 603 CMR 1.10(5). The Department subsequently solicited written comments from the superintendents of the affected school districts. The Department received comment in opposition to the expansion from Superintendent Ruth C. Gilbert-Whitner of the Whitman-Hanson Regional School District. Based on the school's report to the Department in October, SSCPS currently enrolls 22 students who are residents of Whitman (8 students) and Hanson (14 students). The superintendent's comment is attached for your review. The Department also received two letters of support from the school's former executive director and the parent of a recent graduate. No other comment was received.

Recommendation for Moderate Growth

As noted in the request submitted in August 2015, the board of trustees of SSCPS originally requested an expansion from 610 to 1,500 students. During the Department's review, concerns were identified regarding the evidence of sufficient demand to support a high school enrollment of 600 students and the pace of growth proposed. In response to the Department's concerns, the school submitted a modified growth plan that will permit the school to grow at a reasonable pace and support successful implementation of the school's educational model.

I have reviewed the school's final request, and it appears reasonable and consistent with the charter school statute and regulations. Overall, the submitted amendment request, the school's 2015 renewal, and the Department's accountability records indicate that the school's academic program is a success, that the school is a viable organization, and that it has been faithful to the terms of its charter. I recommend that the Board approve the request as amended by the school. A motion for approval is attached for your consideration.

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If you have any questions regarding these amendments or require additional information, please contact Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner (781-338-3222); Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner (781-338-6500); or me.

Attachments:

  • Motion for Board Action on South Shore Public Charter School
  • Correspondence from South Shore Public Charter School
  • South Shore Public Charter School Academic Performance Data, Student Enrollment Demographics, Student Attrition Rates, and Five Year Financial Summary
  • South Shore Public Charter School Proven Provider Analysis Summary
  • Correspondence from Superintendent of Whitman-Hanson Public Schools

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Last Updated: January 25, 2016
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