3 Cleveland charter schools’ students earn good state report cards
State report cards released last week showed mixed results for charter schools, which enrolled about 88,000 Ohio children last year.
Much like the eight big-city districts from which they draw most of their students, charters overall still had low test scores, though many of their students learned more than expected over the school year.
But there were also some dazzling bright spots, including the performance of three Cleveland charters: Citizens Academy, Cleveland Entrepreneurship Preparatory School and the Intergenerational School.
Their 800 students, largely poor and black, tested better than the state average for white students by an average of 11 percentage points, according to the schools’ analysis.
That’s “powerful proof” that the achievement gap can be closed, said Perry White, executive director of Citizens Academy, which was rated excellent by the state.
Like all Ohio charters, the three receive state money, but their boards are not elected. And since their teachers generally are not unionized, charter school leaders have more flexibility to fire people who aren’t working out or to try new things such as longer school days and school years.
They can even carve out a niche for themselves, such as the Intergenerational School’s approach of pairing students and adults of various ages.
Brooke King, the school’s executive director, said students move at their own pace, so classes may have a range of ages, with older children often serving as role models. Senior citizens from the community regularly participate in activities in which they can both teach and learn from the children.
The approach seems to be working. Intergenerational earned an excellent rating from the state, the fifth time that’s been achieved in the past six years. And all the grades have waiting lists except for kindergarten, which has a few open slots.
“We’re happy, but we still have a lot of work to do and a lot to learn — that’s what keeps us good,” King said. “Until every child is able to compete at a global level, we’re not going to consider ourselves excellent.”
The Constellation group of charters — with schools on Cleveland’s West Side, and in Parma, Elyria, Lorain and Mansfield — also celebrated good report cards.
Four of the 15 schools were ranked excellent. The one that landed in academic watch now has a new principal, said Constellation’s president, Richard Lukich.
The key has been figuring out which methods and materials work and then quickly replicating them in the rest of the schools, he said. Tutoring starts at the beginning of the year so children who need extra help get it early on.
“To think of what we do with so much less money — it’s amazing,” Lukich said, echoing the lament of charter operators who receive thousands of dollars per student less than the Cleveland district.
Hardly all charters are making the grade, however. An analysis commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that 65 percent of Cleveland charter students were in schools ranked in academic emergency or academic watch — mostly because of low test scores — compared with 71 percent of district students.
“Performance has flatlined for the past three or four years for both,” said Terry Ryan, Fordham Ohio vice president for programs and policy. “It’s that way nationally, too.”
At the same time, 80 percent of elementary charter students in Cleveland met or exceeded the state’s expectation for academic growth over a year, compared with 91 percent of their district counterparts.
The academic growth recorded in Ohio’s big-city schools is encouraging, Ryan said, “but it’s in the context of these children being so far behind — two, three, four years or more.”
Statewide, charter performance has gotten a boost from seven online schools that draw students from across Ohio. Collectively, they have almost 24,000 students, more than a quarter of the state’s charter enrollment.
Five of the seven have a ranking of continuous improvement, the equivalent of a C grade. Among them is the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the state’s largest charter with close to 9,000 students last school year.
“Parents choose ECOT because it works, and our academic ratings prove that,” said William Lager, who founded the school in 2000.
At the other end of the spectrum, 16 charters are slated to be shut down by the state at the end of this school year because of continuing poor performance.
Three Cleveland schools on the list — Academy of Cleveland, Greater Achievement Community School and Greater Heights Academy — have already suspended operations.
Other local charters on the closing list are Lion of Judah Academy and New Day Academy Boarding and Day School.
To find information about individual charter schools, go to cleveland.com/datacentral and look for the school building database under the category of “new school report cards.”
Lorain, it seems there are no more excuses, it can be done! If it isn’t working do something different.