Tuesday, March 01, 2005
SUNY Trustees Vote to Not Renew Three Charter Schools

Charter Schools Institute
State University of New York

The State University of New York Board of Trustees has voted to close at the end of the current school year three charters schools that had applied for charter renewal:

Central New York Charter School for Math and Science (Syracuse)
Charter School of Science and Technology (Rochester)
Rochester Leadership Academy

“Today the State University Trustees renewed ten charter schools that used their regulatory flexibility and freedom to guide their students toward academic success,” said Secretary of State and Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Randy A. Daniels, who also co-chairs the Trustees Charter School Committee. “Unfortunately these three charter schools were unable to demonstrate they offered their students the chance for a better education. We do no child a favor by renewing a charter school that is not preparing its students to succeed.”

“The process resulting in today’s votes was exhaustive and the decision to close the schools a very difficult one,” said Trustee and Charter Schools Committee Co-Chair Ed Cox. “However, as members of the SUNY Board of Trustees, we have a duty to hold charter schools responsible for the promises they make to parents. If we close unsuccessful charter schools, parents can be confident a SUNY-authorized charter school will be held strictly accountable for educating their children.”

As a result of the Trustees’ decision students currently attending the three schools must now enroll in other schools for the 2005-06 school year.

Charter schools are independently operated public schools of choice created by parents, educators, and community leaders, open to all students and designed to improve learning and provide public school choice. Operating initially under a five-year performance contract, these schools are freed from red tape and top-down educational bureaucracy in exchange for rigorous accountability for student achievement. Public charter schools must adhere to all health, safety and civil rights laws.

“To ensure the smoothest possible transition of students to new schools, the SUNY Trustees have extended the charters, which expire this spring, until the end of the school year,” said James D. Merriman. “Doing so ensures the schools’ operators will be available to assist parents in placing students in other schools and provide for the transfer of student records.”

The Board of Trustee’s vote follows the release of the Charter Schools Institute’s renewal reports, which found the schools were not academic successes and had significant shortcomings in their management and organization.

At a meeting held on February 23, the Charter Schools Committee voted to recommend the Board of Trustees grant Rochester Leadership Academy’s petition to present testimony responding to the Institute’s recommendation that the renewal application be rejected. Though the Committee voted at the time to recommend the Board of Trustees not renew the charters of the Central New York Charter School for Math and Science and Charter School of Science and Technology and denied their petitions to present documentary evidence, it later also invited them to respond.

At a meeting held on March 1, the Committee considered the documents presented by the schools and reviewed the Institute’s reports and recommendations. The Committee voted to recommend the Board of Trustees not renew the charter of the Rochester Leadership Academy and stood by their previous actions on the other two charter schools.

Prior to the expiration of its charter, a charter school has the right to apply for a renewal of its charter to the entity that approved the original charter application, no later than six months before the end of the charter.

The Institute’s Renewal Application is built around four basic questions:
1. Is the school an academic success?
2. Is the school and effective, viable organization?
3. Is the school fiscally sound?
4. If the school’s charter is renewed, what are its plans for the term of the next charter?

Upon submission of the renewal application the Institute reviewed its records and conducted extensive and comprehensive school visits during which parents, students, teachers, administrators and board members were interviewed. The Institute also solicited comment from the general public, including the New York City School District.

The Institute then prepared a report of its findings and recommendations which were forwarded to the charter school for review of accuracy. The report was then transmitted to the State University Board of Trustees Committee on Charter Schools.

The Institute’s renewal reports are available at: http://nycharters.logical.net/charterny/renewalreports.html

The following are excerpts from those reports:
Central New York Charter School for Math and Science
“At the end of its fourth year of operation, CNYCS continues to fall far short of the academic outcome objectives set forth in its Accountability Plan, which called for 75% of students enrolled for two or more years to perform at or above Level 3 on NYS math assessment. In actuality, in the 2003 administration of the test, only 40% of such students enrolled performed at Level 3, and none performed at Level 4. The Plan also called for a greater percentage of CNYCS students enrolled in the school for two or more years to perform at or above Level 3 than students in the Syracuse School District; in actuality, significantly more students scored at Level 3 or above in the district than in CNYCS. In English Language Arts, the Plan called for 75% of students enrolled to perform at Level 3 or above on the NYS English Language Arts assessment. In 2003, a remarkably low 19% of such students performed at Level 3 or 4. The school also failed to meet its comparative measure of ELA performance; 39% of students in the Syracuse school district performed at Levels 3 and 4 in 2003, compared to the school’s 19%.”

Charter School of Science and Technology
“CSST has met almost none of the key academic outcomes in English Language Arts and mathematics. Over the four years of the charter, the school has generally performed substantially below its comparison schools in the Rochester City School District on the 4th grade state examinations and about the same or slightly better than those schools on the 8th grade exams. For example, in the school’s fourth year, less than 1 of 5 4th graders was at or above the proficient level in ELA, whereas in the district, double that proportion reached proficiency. In math, 2 of 5 4th graders were proficient, while the district managed to bring 3 of 5 students to proficient levels. In the 8th grade, both the district and the school had proficiency levels below 20 % .... Overall, the results indicate that most CSST students are not being prepared for high school by virtue of the small proportion of them who are scoring proficient on the 4th and 8th grade state examinations.”

Rochester Leadership Academy Charter School
“At the end of the fourth year, the school is far from achieving its absolute outcomes on the state’s 4th and 8th grade examinations. Only 9.1 % of the 8th grade students who have been at the school for 3 years or longer were proficient as measured by the 8th grade ELA assessment; the figure for 4th grade is 27.9%. From a comparative perspective, the school has generally trailed behind the Rochester City School District, which was used as the school’s comparative yardstick. Taking all 4th and 8th grade ELA and math scores for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004, the district performed better than the school on 9 of 12 of those assessments. Overall, the results indicate that most RLA students are not being prepared for high school by virtue of the small proportion who are scoring proficient on the 4th and 8th grade state examinations.”

The Charter Schools Institute was created by the University Trustees to administer their responsibilities under the Charter Schools Act of 1998, including the review of applications, assisting in the development of charter school accountability plans, and considering charters for renewal. The Institute has become recognized as a national leader in the public charter school movement, providing extensive experience in charter schools and all aspects of public education, including curriculum, school operations, accountability, fiscal oversight and program development.