The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools — Amendment Request of Excel Academy Charter School (Enrollment)

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner
February 1, 2019

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, grades served, and districts served of Commonwealth and Horace Mann charter schools. As mentioned in a memorandum I provided you last month, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) has received requests from six existing schools to change their maximum enrollment, grades served, or chartered regions. This month, I recommend the Board approve an amendment request from Excel Academy Charter School (Excel) to increase its enrollment by 56 seats. This memorandum details the request from the board of trustees of Excel, a regional Commonwealth charter school serving grades 5–12 in Boston and Chelsea, and the basis for my recommendation.

The Department's assessment of Excel's request is described below in preparation for a discussion and vote at the Board's meeting on February 12. This memorandum addresses the school's request and plan for implementation, the Department's review, proven provider consideration, public comment, and my recommendation. Attached to this memorandum for your review are:

Excel Academy Charter School
Type of Charter
(Commonwealth or Horace Mann)
CommonwealthLocationBoston and Chelsea
Regional or Non-Regional?RegionalDistricts in RegionBoston and Chelsea
Year Opened2003Year(s) Renewed2008, 2013, 2018
Maximum Enrollment1,344 (limit of 748 Boston)Current Enrollment1,2971
Chartered Grade Span5–12Current Grade Span5–12
Students on Waitlist1,0892Current Age of School16 years
Mission Statement
The mission of Excel Academy Charter School is to prepare students to succeed in high school and college, apply their learning to solve relevant problems, and engage productively in their communities.

School's History, Request, and Plan for Implementation

The board of trustees of Excel requests approval of an amendment to increase its maximum enrollment by 56 students to reach a maximum enrollment of 1,400 students in grades 5–12. The school serves students on three middle school campuses, two in East Boston and one in Chelsea, and on one high school campus in East Boston. The school was chartered as a middle school in 2003 that served approximately 300 Boston and Chelsea students in grades 5–8 in East Boston. In 2011, the Board awarded the school's board of trustees two more charters for an additional middle school serving Chelsea and a 5–12 school serving Boston. In 2014, the Board granted the board of trustees' request to consolidate all three charters in order to permit all Excel students to enroll in the high school. The Board limited Boston enrollment to no more than 748 students based upon the charter awards in 2011 and a subsequent expansion in 2013. The current proposed increase in enrollment of 56 seats does not change the school's enrollment cap for Boston.

Excel proposes to increase the size of each grade-level cohort in grades 5–10 by 8–9 students over a five-year period.3 The school's waitlist demonstrates sufficient Chelsea demand to support the proposed increase in enrollment. Chelsea residents account for 10 percent, or 155 students, and 13 percent, or 204 students, of the school's waitlists in March 2017 and March 2018, respectively. Excel currently admits new students through grade 10, which exceeds statutory requirements for filling vacancies.

The school's request provides increased access to its educational program in response to significant demand without requiring substantial changes in staffing or facilities. With the additional funds, the school will enhance its strategies to recruit and retain high quality, diverse staff. In the 2016 and 2017 school years, the school reported a staff retention rate of approximately 72 and 78 percent, respectively.

The school formed a Board-Staff Working Group (BSWG), comprised of several school stakeholders, to develop recommendations on how to improve the school's ability to attract and retain high-quality staff who are representative of the students and communities that they serve. The Board-Staff Working Group's work resulted in the development of a number of strategies including a competitive compensation package to implement when additional resources are made available. The school will allocate additional funding to recruit and hire teachers who reflect the identities and experiences of Excel's students. The school also will create a compensation package to support work-life balance. The school proposes to offer on-site childcare to staff, standardized and broadened access to flexible work schedules and long-term leave options, and salary increases based on years of employment.

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 considers the following factors when reviewing amendment requests:

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

Proven Provider Consideration

Proven provider status5 is required to award additional seats to Excel. Excel's charter region includes Boston and Chelsea, public school districts that are identified as performing in the lowest 10 percent of all districts based on MCAS results from 2016 and 2017. The Department's enrollment projections indicate that Boston is at or near its net school spending (NSS) cap of 18 percent based on current and awarded enrollment. Based on the current enrollment of Chelsea residents in Commonwealth charter schools, approximately 215 seats are available under the 18 percent NSS cap.6

After evaluating the performance of Excel against the criteria for proven provider status, I identified the board of trustees of Excel as a proven provider for the purposes of the current amendment request. Included in your materials are the relevant student achievement, financial data, and other indicators used to determine that the board of trustees of Excel 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 successful student academic performance over a three-year period. This is measured by using proficiency/achievement levels and growth measures on the state assessment test or equivalent assessments for ELA and mathematics in comparable grades for all students and for one or more targeted subgroups. The Department compares the school's student performance data to statewide averages and to relevant district averages for the grades served by the charter school.

Public Comment

At the time of the school's submission to the Department, Excel also submitted copies of its request to Superintendent Mary Bourque of Chelsea Public Schools and Superintendent Laura Perille of Boston Public Schools, pursuant to 603 CMR 1.10(5). Superintendent Bourque submitted comment opposing the school's request, which is attached. No comment was received from Superintendent Perille. The Department received comment in support from family members of current students, including Chelsea City Council President Damali Vidot. Comment in support of the school's request is also attached.


I have reviewed the school's request, and it appears reasonable and consistent with the charter school statute and regulations. Overall, the submitted amendment request, the renewal of the school's charter in 2018, 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.

A motion for approval is attached for your consideration.

If you have any questions regarding this amendment or require additional information, please contact Alison Bagg, Director of the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign (781-338-3218); Cliff Chuang, Senior Associate Commissioner (781-338-3222); or me.



The following documents are public records and are available upon request.*

Correspondence from Excel Academy Charter School, including supplemental
evidence provided by the school
Excel Academy Charter School's Academic Performance Data, Student
Enrollment Demographics, Student Attrition Rates, and Five-Year Financial Summary
Public Comment
Motion for Board Action on Excel Academy Charter School

*Due to the volume of documents, limited web server space, and the Department's commitment to achieving meaningful accessibility to this online environment for all users, but most particularly for users with disabilities (we follow specific Commonwealth Enterprise Standards designed to meet the needs of our citizens with disabilities), we are unable to post this document on our webpage. Please send an email to to request the document and we will respond promptly. Thank you.



1 As reported in the Student Information System (SIMS) as of October 1, 2018.

2 As reported in the Massachusetts Charter School Waitlist Report Update for 2018-2019 from October 1, 2018.

3 In March 2018, I approved a modification of Excel's growth plan to slightly increase its cohort size within the school's current 1,344 maximum enrollment while this request was under review. I also approved a second version of the growth plan that would be implemented for the 2019-2020 school year if no change to the school's maximum enrollment of 1,344 occurred.

4 Proven providers must meet the performance criteria described in 603 CMR 1.04(4) ("evidence satisfactory to the Commissioner, to demonstrate a significant management or leadership role at a school or similar program that is an academic success, a viable organization, and relevant to the proposed charter school").

5 Proven providers must meet the performance criteria described in 603 CMR 1.04(4) ("evidence, satisfactory to the Commissioner, to demonstrate a significant management or leadership role at a school or similar program that is an academic success, a viable organization, and relevant to the proposed charter school").

6 Under the charter school law, generally no more than 9 percent of a district's net school spending may be allocated for charter school tuition. For the state's lowest performing districts, including Chelsea, the NSS cap is increased to 18 percent for charter school tuition.