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For Immediate Release
Friday, February 14, 2014
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Chester to Recommend Two New Charter Schools in Fall River and Springfield

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will also vote on recommendations to expand an existing Fall River charter school and open the state's second virtual school

MALDEN - Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester today announced he will recommend that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education vote to grant two new Commonwealth charters to groups seeking to open schools in Fall River and Springfield and approve one expansion request from an existing Fall River charter school seeking to add seats to its current enrollment. If the Board were to approve the Commissioner's recommendations, a total of 1,713 new charter school seats would become available to students in those two cities.

The Commissioner will also recommend that the Board approve the Commonwealth's second virtual school, based on a proposal submitted by The Education Cooperative in Dedham for a school that would serve up to 2,000 students statewide in grades K-12.

At the Board's February 25, 2014 meeting, Commissioner Chester will recommend approval for the Argosy Collegiate Charter School, a new school in Fall River that would focus on college and career readiness for 644 students in grades 6-12, and the Springfield Preparatory Charter School, a new school for 486 students in grades K-8 focused on literacy development and character education within a structured and rigorous learning environment. The Commissioner will also recommend that the Board vote to add 583 new seats to Atlantis Charter School, which currently serves 795 students in grades K-8 in Fall River.

"Massachusetts is known for having some of the finest, strongest performing charter schools anywhere in the nation," said Commissioner Chester. "We hold charter schools to a very high standard of excellence. The two new schools that I am recommending today have met our criteria for new applicants and are well positioned to open on time and succeed in delivering a high quality program of instruction to students."

As part of the 2013-14 charter school application cycle, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received 10 prospectuses from groups seeking to receive approval to open new charter schools in Massachusetts. Commissioner Chester invited the founders of six of those groups to submit final applications. Both schools that the Commissioner will recommend approval of – Argosy Collegiate and Springfield Preparatory – participated in last year's charter school application process. However, neither group received a favorable recommendation from the Commissioner last year. But with feedback from last year's cycle, the founders of both schools significantly enhanced their leadership capacity and strengthened their overall applications.

The four other finalists in this year's application cycle did not receive a favorable recommendation. Those proposed schools are the Academy for the Whole Child Charter School in Fitchburg, Fenix Charter School in Lynn, New Heights Charter School of Fall River, and STEAM Studio Charter School in Andover. The founders of those groups will receive feedback from the Department on their applications and are invited to reapply during future application cycles.

The recommendation to allow Atlantis Charter School to add seats will permit the school to implement the original proposed K-12 grade span of its charter. Atlantis achieved an accountability status of Level 1 in both 2012 and 2013, and exceeded proficiency gap narrowing targets both years in the aggregate and in the high needs student subgroup.

In 2012, the Legislature authorized the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to grant certificates to operate a virtual school. The law states that the Board shall grant not more than three Commonwealth virtual school certificates for the 2013-2016 school years. One virtual school, the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School, is currently operating in Massachusetts.

Commissioner Chester will recommend that the Board grant a virtual school certificate to this year's lone applicant, The Education Cooperative (TEC) in Dedham, to open the TEC Connections Academy (TECCA) Commonwealth Virtual School. However, the Commissioner will also recommend that the Board impose a number of conditions on the certificate to assist the school in opening successfully and meeting the state's high standards for virtual schools. Those conditions include enhancing the capacity of the school's board of trustees, establishing programs for special education students and English language learners prior to opening that are consistent with applicable state and federal laws and regulations, submitting specific and measurable achievement and college readiness goals, aligning the school's curriculum to the state's curriculum frameworks, and complying with the state's proposed regulations related to virtual schools.

The Commissioner will recommend several terms of the certificate that differ from TEC's proposal, including: (1) Length of certificate – a three-year certificate, rather than the five years that TEC proposed, due to the newness of the state's virtual school initiative and need to assess the performance of the school earlier in its first years of operation; (2) Maximum student enrollment – 2,000 students, rather than TEC's proposed 6,000 students, to limit the number of students allowed to enroll at a single virtual school while also allowing for potential future applicants; and (3) Per pupil tuition - $6,700, rather than TEC's request for $7,000.

For more information on charter schools, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/. For more information on virtual schools, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/odl/cmvs/.



Last Updated: February 14, 2014
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