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 - Amendment Request from Community Charter School of Cambridge

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
February 17, 2017

line

Pursuant to the Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.10(1), the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) must approve changes in the maximum enrollment of Commonwealth and Horace Mann charter schools. This year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) received requests from fifteen charter schools to increase enrollment. This month, I recommend that the Board approve amendment requests from three Commonwealth charter schools and one Horace Mann charter school. Each recommendation is outlined in a separate memorandum for your review. This memorandum details the request from the board of trustees of Community Charter School of Cambridge (CCSC), a 6-12 school located in Cambridge, and my recommendation.

Community Charter School of Cambridge
Type of Charter
(Commonwealth or Horace Mann)
Commonwealth LocationCambridge
Regional or Non-Regional?Non-Regional Districts in Region
(if applicable)
N/A
Year Opened2005 Year(s) Renewed2010, 2015
Maximum Enrollment360 (with no more than 300 students from Cambridge) Current Enrollment3741
Chartered Grade Span6-12 Current Grade Span6-12
Students on Waitlist3112 Current Age of School11
Mission Statement

Community Charter School of Cambridge combines challenging academics with creative use of technology and real-world experience to prepare a diverse student body, grades 6-12, for post-secondary success and productive citizenship. CCSC students are excellent problem solvers and communicators who contribute to their community through internships and other field experiences.

Amendment Request

The board of trustees of CCSC requests approval to increase its maximum enrollment by 60 students to an enrollment total of 420 students by the 2018-2019 school year. Pursuant to the Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.10(1), the Board must approve changes in maximum enrollment of charter schools. I recommend that the Board approve the amendment requested by CCSC and remove the condition on the school's charter that limits Cambridge enrollment to no more than 300 students. This enrollment condition was placed on the school's charter when it was first awarded by the Board in 2004 because of a limited number of seats available in Cambridge at the time. I also recommend that the Board attach a condition to the enrollment increase, as explained on page 4, below.

The following information related to the amendment is attached to this memorandum for your review:

  • the original amendment request and additional materials subsequently submitted by the school; and
  • a summary of the school's academic performance, student demographics, attrition rates, and a five-year financial summary.

CCSC is seeking to expand from 360 students to 420 students over a two-year period with implementation beginning in 2017-2018. The school plans to admit new students in grades 6-9. The school reports that additional seats will permit the school to maintain three sections, approximately 18-23 students each, across the majority of grades and allow increased placement options for students and support for effective teaching teams.

Department 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, credible 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, credible evidence regarding the success of the school's academic program;
  • affirmative, credible 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; and
  • the public comment received regarding the request.

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

  • CCSC has achieved Level 1 status every year since the designation was put into effect in 2012. In 2015, the school was recognized as one of 45 Commendation Schools commended for exemplary progress. Since 2012, as measured by the cumulative Performance and Progress Index (PPI), the school has consistently exceeded targets for all students and for student subgroups of high needs and low income/economically disadvantaged. Additionally, in 2015 and 2016, the subgroup for students with disabilities exceeded targets with PPIs of 100.

  • The school administered PARCC in 2015 and 2016. PARCC scores are designated by Levels, with Level 4 meeting and Level 5 exceeding expectations. In both years, the majority of students received a Level 4 or 5 in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. In 2015, the performance of CCSC students exceeded statewide averages.

  • Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Department identified CCSC in June 2016 for the disproportional use of suspensions with students with disabilities. CCSC is participating in the Rethinking Discipline Professional Learning Network this year. Over the past three years, CCSC has made substantial progress to reduce the rates of student suspensions. The rates of in-school suspension for all students declined from 21.7 percent to 3.6 percent. Out-of-school suspension declined from 18.6 percent to 4.6 percent. Similarly, the rates of in-school suspension for students with disabilities declined from 40.2 percent to 5.9 percent. Out-of-school suspension for students with disabilities declined from 26.3 percent to 8.2 percent. The school has instituted a number of shifts in practice including changes to the code of conduct; the use of individualized interventions to maximize student time in class; professional development for faculty on de-escalation techniques, cultural competency, and responsiveness; individual coaching for classroom teachers by instructional leaders to support effective practice; and the establishment of two leadership positions, the Dean of Students and Director of Student and Family Engagement, to support students and staff and to engage and support families.

  • CCSC has demonstrated the ability to retain and graduate its students. The school's attrition rate for all students has declined from 20.8 percent in 2011-2012 to 2.6 percent in 2016-2017. During the same time period, the attrition rate for the high needs student population declined from 20.3 percent to 1.7 percent. In addition, the school's four-year and five-year graduation rates generally met or exceeded the state graduation rate. In 2015-2016, the school's four-year graduation rate was 94 percent.

  • CCSC operates in a financially sound and publicly accountable manner. The school has maintained a sound and stable financial condition. As evidenced by the fiscal dashboard, CCSC 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 two 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 professional climate, earning a rating of Exceeds in this area of the Charter School Performance Criteria. The school received a rating of Meets in all other areas of performance.

At the time of the school's submission to the Department, CCSC also provided its request to Cambridge Public Schools, pursuant to 603 CMR 1.10(5). The Department subsequently requested written comment from the district's superintendent. No comment was received.

Enrollment Demand

CCSC previously submitted a similar request in 2013 that did not establish sufficient demand for enrollment in Cambridge to support the additional seats. I did not bring that request forward for Board approval. In this current request, CCSC has provided evidence of demand to support an increase in enrollment. As required by the charter school statute, G.L. c. 71, § 89(n), CCSC must enroll at least 80 percent of its students from Cambridge by 2020.3

Students who live in Cambridge and attend CCSC have increased to approximately 41 percent of current students. In addition to increased Cambridge demand, CCSC has an increase in the number of students admitted from communities outside of Cambridge and Boston.

CCSC has also provided evidence of a clear shift in enrollment based on its waitlist. The school reported 45 residents of Cambridge on its most recent waitlist report on October 1, 2016, an increase of 16 students from the March 2016 report.

The school has also reported preliminarily on applications for the 2017-18 school year. While January and February typically provide the highest volume of applications, the school reports receiving a total of 116 applications for admission as of December 22, 2016, with 47 percent of those applications coming from Cambridge residents. At this same time last year, the school received 52 applications, with 25 percent coming from Cambridge residents.

Recommendation

I have reviewed the school's request, and it appears reasonable and consistent with the charter school statute and regulations. I recommend that the Board approve the amendment request and impose a condition to require the school to limit the admission of new students to Cambridge residents, except for siblings of currently enrolled students, until the percentage of Cambridge residents attending the school meets or exceeds 80 percent of the school's enrollment. When CCSC submits its next renewal application in 2019, the school must review its patterns of enrollment. At the time of a decision on renewing the school's charter in 2020, I will examine the school's pattern of Cambridge enrollment. If Cambridge enrollment has not reached 80 percent, I will consider recommending that the school become a regional charter school.

Overall, the submitted amendment request, the school's successful 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 generally faithful to the terms of its charter. I recommend that the Board approve the request as submitted by the school, remove the condition on the school's charter limiting Cambridge enrollment to no more than 300 students, and limit new enrollment to Cambridge residents, except for siblings of currently enrolled students. By approving the new maximum enrollment of 420 students for CCSC, the Board will also eliminate the previous condition that no more than 300 students shall be Cambridge residents. A motion is attached for your consideration.

line

If you have any questions regarding this matter or require additional information, please contact Alison Bagg, Director (781-338-3218); Cliff Chuang, Senior Associate Commissioner (781-338-3222); or me.

Attachments:

 
Correspondence from Community Charter School of Cambridge
Download MS EXCEL Document
Community Charter School of Cambridge Academic Performance Data, Student Enrollment Demographics, Student Attrition Rates, and Five Year Financial Summary
 
Motion for Board Action on Community Charter School of Cambridge

Note:

line



Last Updated: February 24, 2017
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