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LAUSD agrees to more consistency when tacking on additional requirements to charter renewals

Mike Szymanski | December 7, 2017

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Parent Yvette Fields talks about her twins attending Executive Prep.

LA Unified’s charter division agreed this week to be more consistent when making additional requirements of independent charter schools during their renewal process.

School board vice president Nick Melvoin requested the change at Tuesday’s board meeting because he said the added requirements, known as benchmarks, were being applied unfairly to some schools that were showing improvements while others that had lower test scores had none.

Benchmarks are extra requirements with deadlines that are added to charter petitions, sometimes written into the petitions by district staff and sometimes added by board members. If the schools don’t provide a plan to meet those added requirements, they could lose their charters. Benchmarks are common when certain subgroups, such as for specific minorities or students requiring special education, have performed poorly on state tests. Most often, the benchmarks are suggested by board members representing the district of the school. Board member Richard Vladovic always asks for a benchmark and a plan from the school if its English language learner reclassification rate is lower than the district’s average.

“I see a lot of close calls,” Melvoin said. “And I think there needs to be some consistency. Schools need to be aware of this, and there should be an accountability system.”

Melvoin suggested that a uniform and equitable system of benchmarks be applied to traditional district schools as well as charters.

No other board members objected to the changes, and charter division chief José Cole-Gutiérrez agreed to make them. He said, “We try to be as consistent as possible. All benchmarks are for the board’s deliberations, and the board can add their own. We want the schools to make sure that the staff is paying attention, and let the board and public know that we are keeping a close watch.”

After expressing his concerns, Melvoin asked that the benchmarks that district staff had written into the charter petition for Extera Public School 2 be made less burdensome. He asked that a written benchmark that was to apply to “all students” be amended to “English learners.”

On Tuesday, the board approved the renewal of nine charter schools and approved two new charter schools for nearly 1,000 students, while denying a petition for one new school.

One existing charter school was unanimously rejected by the board.

Executive Prep’s principal Monique Woodley asks the board to renew her school.

After some passionate discussion from administrators, students, and a parent from Executive Preparatory Academy of Finance, the board rejected the renewal of the school in Gardena, which serves 203 students and was started in 2013. Charter division staff cited concerns that the school, which was approved for 400 students, did not have the financial capability to continue operations and that students’ scores on state standardized tests continued to be low. This year, 24 percent of tested students were proficient in English language arts, and 5 percent were proficient in math. The district averages this year were 40 percent in English and 30 percent in math.

Executive Prep’s principal, Monique Woodley, said she blamed the charter division for the denial, because it had previously suggested that the school take away support classes the school had been offering their students so they could get more familiar with the Common Core curriculum. After they did so, test scores fell. Omar McGee, the school’s founder and chief executive officer, expressed frustration over the denial even after school leaders had carried out charter division suggestions and removed a founding member from the school’s board of directors and cut all business relationships the school had with Celerity Global, a charter organization under federal investigation.

“I need my twins, a son and daughter, to go somewhere where they need love on them, and make sure they continue to build upon my children, and this is it,” said parent Yvette Fields.

The school board also:

  • renewed charter petitions for five years for Citizens of the World 3, Crenshaw Arts Technology Charter High, Extera Public School 2, High Tech LA, Metro Charter, PREPA TEC, Stella Middle Charter Academy, Valor Academy High, and ICEF View Park Preparatory High, as well as  revisions to the charter for Community Preparatory Academy
  • approved a new charter school, Rise Kohyang Elementary, to serve up to 569 students in District 2
  • approved a new charter, Valley International Preparatory High, to serve up to 400 students for District 3 or 6
  • denied a new charter for Acumen Academy to serve up to 440 students in District 5
  • noted the withdrawal of a proposal for a new school by iLEAD Encino Charter for 885 students in District 3.

At the next special school board meeting for charter schools, the board will consider renewals for Goethe International Charter, Ocean Charter, Pathways Community School, TEACH Preparatory, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, and a new school for 225 students called Los Feliz Charter Middle School for the Arts.

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