|For Immediate Release|
|Wednesday, January 15, 1997|
Massachusetts Department of Education Releases First Report on Charter Schools
Malden - The Massachusetts Department of Education today released the first official report on the state's charter schools, concluding that "while this initiative has yet to reach its full potential, it has already fulfilled many of the purposes outlined in the 1993 Education Reform Act, such as promoting innovation, providing more public school options, and spurring much-needed reforms."
The Massachusetts Charter School Initiative 1996 Report is a summary of information collected from the annual reports and other data charter schools have submitted to the state.
According to the report, the Commonwealth's 22 charter schools currently enroll 5,400 students, 44 percent of whom are racial or ethnic minorities, 12 percent of whom have Individualized Educational Plans, and 15 percent of whom are language minorities. Nearly 4,000 children are on charter school waiting lists statewide.
"This report tells the remarkable story of what has been accomplished by hundreds of teachers, parents and others who have worked hard to turn their dreams into reality," said Robert V. Antonucci, Commissioner of Education. "While charter schools ultimately will be judged on academic results --which will come in the months ahead--the evidence so far suggests that the Commonwealth has already reaped many benefits from this small but dynamic initiative."
These new independent public schools, half of which serve urban areas, do not fit a particular mold but rather range from progressive to traditional. While one school focuses on the arts, another's emphasis is on character. Eight of the schools require uniforms, 12 are open longer than the 180-day state minimum, and 19 have extended an academic day. The average enrollment is 238 students. The average teacher-student ratio is 13:1.
The report also notes that charter schools have faced many challenges in their first year, including access to capital and issues about facilities and governance.
The latest challenge to charter schools is the limit on their growth. Charter schools will soon be prevented from growing due to the cap on enrollment that prohibits more than 6,500 students statewide from attending charter schools. Last November, the Board of Education filed legislation to increase the cap on charter schools from 25 to 75, and to increase the enrollment cap to nearly 100,000.
A supplementary report on standardized test results from charter schools, as well as regular updates of this report, will be released in the months ahead.