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Meeting of the Board of Regents | March 2008

Saturday, March 1, 2008 - 11:20pm

sed letterhead                                                                                                 

 

 

signature of Johanna Duncan-PoitierTHE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

 

TO:

FROM:

Johanna Duncan-Poitier

SUBJECT:

Charter Schools:  Proposed Revision to the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls Charter

 

DATE:

March 7,  2008

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issues for Decision

 

Should the Regents approve the staff’s recommendations concerning the proposed revisions to the charter of the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls (Albany)? 

 

Reason(s) for Consideration

 

              Required by State statute, Education Law §2852.

 

Proposed Handling

 

This question will come before the EMSC Committee on March 17, 2008 for action.  It will then come before the full Board for final action on March 18, 2008.

 

Procedural History

 

The New York Charter Schools Act of 1998 requires the Board of Regents (“Board”) to review applications for both new charter schools and the renewal of existing charter schools that are submitted to it in accordance with the standards set forth in subdivision two of New York State Education Law §2852.  After review, the Board may either (a) approve an application and issue a charter or a renewal charter for a term of up to five years, or (b) deny the application.

 

In addition, New York Education Law §2852(7) provides that revisions of charter school charters shall be made only upon approval of the charter entity and the Board of Regents in accordance with the provisions of the law applicable to the issuance of charters themselves.  With respect to charter schools directly chartered by the Board, it may either approve a proposed revision or deny it.  

 

Background Information

 

Since 1999, a total of nine charter schools have been created within the Albany City School District (“the District”), of which eight are currently in operation.  The ninth charter school will open for instruction in September 2009.  As a charter entity, the Board of Regents has authorized two of those nine charter schools the Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys and the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls.  We received a request from both of these schools to revise their existing charters. 

 

The Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls (“the School”) was granted its initial charter in January 2001, and it received a five-year first renewal on January 10, 2006.  The School currently serves 175 students in grades K-4. The School seeks to amend its charter to:

1)           move to year round schooling by adding four additional weeks of instruction during July and August (a total of 224 days of instruction per year);

2)           reduce class sizes in Kindergarten;

3)           expand to include grade 5 beginning in the 2010-2011 school year; and

4)           add a reserve fund.

 

              The District held a required public hearing on the matter on November 20, 2007 and submitted a transcript along with written statements from three individual district teachers. All those who spoke at the hearing were Albany City School District teachers who opposed the application from Brighter Choice.  The Department received a letter dated December 17, 2007 from the Superintendent of the Albany City School District, and a letter dated January 7, 2008 from the New York State United Teachers (“NYSUT”) objecting to the proposed revisions. The letter from the Albany City School District cited frequent requests for reductions in enrollments from charter schools in Albany, poor student retention, and improvements in middle school results in the Albany School District among the reasons for its objections to the application.  The Brighter Choice Charter Schools submitted a January 22, 2008 letter in response to the issues raised by both the District and NYSUT and comparing achievement of students at Brighter Choice with that of students in the District.   

 

Required Findings (§ 2852 (2) of the Education Law)


 

Prior to approval of an application to establish a charter school or to renew or revise an existing charter, the charter entity must find that: 

 

  • the charter school described in the application (or a proposed revision, together with the other terms of a school’s charter) meets the requirements set out in Article 56 of the Education Law (i.e., the New York Charter Schools Act of 1998) and all other applicable laws, rules and regulations;

 

  • the applicant can demonstrate the ability to operate the school (or a proposed revision, together with the other terms of a school’s charter, would permit the school to operate)  in an educationally and fiscally sound manner;

 

  • granting the application (or revision) is likely to improve student learning and achievement and materially further the purposes set out in subdivision two of section twenty-eight hundred fifty of Article 56 of the Education Law; and

 

  • in a school district where the total enrollment of resident students attending charter schools in the base year is greater than five percent of the total public school enrollment of the school district in the base year (i) granting the application (or revision) would have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the proposed charter school or (ii) the school district in which the charter school will be located consents to such application. 

 

Charter Entity Findings

 

a.           Does the charter school described in the application for revision meet the requirements set out in this article and all other appropriate laws, rules and regulations?

 

Yes. The proposed revisions comport with the requirements of Article 56 and other applicable laws, Regents Rules, and regulations. 

 

b.           Has the School demonstrated the ability to operate the school in an        educationally and fiscally sound manner?

 

              1. Educational Soundness

 

Yes. The Department finds that the School has demonstrated the ability to operate in an educationally sound manner.  In addition, the Department also finds that the proposed revisions will permit the School to operate in an educationally sound manner for reasons that include, but are not limited to

 

  • the proposed grade 5 curriculum is fully aligned with and fully addresses all 28 learning standards;
  • the proposed revision to lower the class size in kindergarten to 15 – 17 students in each of three sections per grade, beginning with kindergarten (current class size per grade is 25 in each of two classes per grade) will allow for more individual instruction for students; 
  • the proposed revision to expand the school calendar to offer year-round schooling for students in grades 2 and higher will provide more instructional time for students.  This is not “summer school” but is an extension of the School’s academic instruction for all students; and,
  • the proposed revision to add a reserve fund for technology, library books, and future facility costs will enable the School to provide necessary educational resources for its students and a building that is safe, attractive, and conducive to teaching and learning.

 


  • Fiscal Soundness

 

Yes. Among other things, the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls submits its annual report to the Department in a timely manner and includes the financial statements, annual audits, and proposed budgets for the coming school year.  The audits reveal that the proper internal controls are in place and adequate, and that the School is financially secure.  In addition staff review of the annual reports and audits indicates that the School is operating in a fiscally sound manner, and that the school will continue to so operate after the proposed revisions go into effect. 

 


c.           Will granting the revisions


likely improve student learning and achievement and materially further the purposes set out in subdivision two of Section 2850 of this article?

 

              Yes.  Based upon the percentage of students enrolled in the School who are already scoring at proficient levels on the New York State Assessments in grade 3 and 4 ELA and Math (see (d)(1)(a) below), the expansion to include a 5th grade will provide these students with continuity and consistency in teaching and learning. The addition of a 5th grade, along with the reduction in class size and the addition of year-round schooling, will improve student learning and achievement and materially advance the purposes (i.e., increase learning opportunities for at-risk students, provide parents with expanded choices, etc.) set out in subdivision two of Section 2850 of Article 56.

 


d.          


If the total enrollment of resident students attending charter schools in the base year is greater than five percent of the total public school enrollment of the Albany City School District in the base year, would the proposed revisions have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the charter school, or did the Albany City School District  consent to such application?

 


1

Is the total enrollment of resident students attending charter schools in the base year greater that 5 percent of total public school enrollment in the base year?


 

       Yes.           

 


1a. If yes, does the school district in which the charter school will be located consent to such application?

 

No.  The Albany City School District has not consented to the application and has expressed objections to the application.

 


1b. If yes, would granting the application have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the proposed charter school? 

 

Yes. In a school district where the total enrollment of resident students attending charter schools in the base year exceeds five percent of the total public school enrollment of the school district in the base year, §2852(2)(d) of the Education Law requires that a charter entity make a finding that granting an application “would have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the proposed charter school.”  Granting the application to revise the School’s existing charter to include a grade 5, to reduce class size in kindergarten, to expand the school calendar to include year-round schooling and to add a reserve fund for library books, technology, and future facility needs would have a significant benefit to the students expected to attend.  A comparison of the School’s student achievement results with those of the District are provided below.

 

According to Department data, the performance of students enrolled in the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls on the State ELA and Math Assessments is quite strong and consistent over the last two years.  The Department considers comparisons between a charter school and its district of location (as opposed to comparisons with selected district schools only) to be the most meaningful comparison, since charter schools provide for open enrollment and resident students may come from all across the district. 

 

Grade 3 ELA Performance

 

  • In 2005-06, 62 percent of the grade 3 students scored as proficient (i.e., at or above Level 3) on the State ELA Assessment in comparison to 51 percent of the grade 3 students in the District on the same assessment.

 

  • In 2006-07, 58 percent of the School’s grade 3 students scored as proficient on the State ELA Assessment in comparison to 50 percent of the grade 3 students in the District on this same assessment.

 

Grade 3 Math Performance

 

  • In 2005-06, 84 percent of the School’s grade 3 students scored as proficient on the State Math Assessment in comparison to 67 percent of the grade 3 students in the District on this same assessment.

 

  • In 2006-07, 89 percent of the School’s grade 3 students scored as proficient on the State Math Assessment in comparison to 65 percent of the grade 3 students in the District on this same assessment.

 

Grade 4 ELA Performance

 

  • In 2005-06, 56 percent of the School’s grade 4 students scored as proficient on the State ELA Assessment in comparison to 47 percent of the grade 4 students in the District on this same assessment.

 

  • In 2006-07, 65 percent of the School’s grade 4 students scored as proficient on the State ELA Assessment in comparison to 50 percent of the grade 4 students in the District on this same assessment.

 

Grade 4 Math Performance

 

  • In 2005-06, 77 percent of the School’s grade 4 students scored proficient on the State Math Assessment in comparison to 55 percent of the grade 4 students in the District on this same assessment.

 

  • In 2006-07, 80 percent of the School’s grade 4 students scored as proficient on the State Math Assessment in comparison to 63 percent of the grade 4 students in the District on this same assessment.

 

An issue has been raised concerning the appropriateness of comparisons between the student achievement at Brighter Choice, which has a very small number of Limited English Proficient (LEP) and special education students, and the student performance in the Albany City School District.  To address this issue, we have compared achievement data for all students at Brighter Choice with the general education students in the Albany City School District for 2005-06 (in 2005-06 Brighter Choice did not have any LEP or special education students who took the Grades 3 or 4 state assessments).     The Albany general education student data does not include special education students but does include LEP students.  We are not able at this time to separate out the LEP data from the general education data, however only 3% of Albany’s total student population (300 students) were Limited English Proficient in 2005-06. 

 

The data show that in 2005-06, 56% of Albany general education students in grades 3-4 were proficient (scoring at level 3 and 4) in ELA on the 2005-2006 state assessment. The data for the Brighter Choice for Girls is 60% proficient.

 

In 2005-06, 65% of Albany general education students in grades 3-4 were proficient (scoring at level 3 and 4) in Math on the 2005-2006 state assessment. The data for the Brighter Choice for Girls is 84% proficient.

 

 

Student Retention

 

The Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls reports a high retention rate.  According to student records at the school, sixty-three percent of the 2003-04 kindergarten cohort stayed and are now 4th-graders (15 of 24). This translates to an annual student turnover rate of nine percent. 

 



Fiscal Impact

 

The fiscal impact of these proposed revisions is expected to be minimal.  First, the addition of a 5th grade will not occur until the 2010-2011 school year, giving the District time to plan.  Second, the School’s maximum enrollment will increase only by 75 students, to a maximum overall enrollment of 300 students.  Third, as shown in Table 2 below, the maximum projected fiscal impact of this school with the proposed revision will be 1.59 percent (or $3,764,060) of the District’s projected 2010 budget of $236,733,338. 

 

Conclusions

 

The data show that the School operates in an educationally and fiscally sound manner, has a strong student retention rate, and has a history of strong student achievement results; when the performance of Brighter Choice’s students is compared to the District’s on State assessments. In particular, Brighter Choice students in both Grades 3 and 4 had very high achievement in Math.  

 

The addition of the 5th Grade will provide continuity of instruction for students who have attended the school through the 4th Grade and the class size reduction and year-round schooling will increase learning opportunities for students at the school.

 

Thus, the Department staff concludes that, pursuant to §2852(2) of the Education Law, granting the proposed revisions to the School’s first renewal charter will have a significant educational benefit to the students who are expected to attend the School. 

 

Recommendation

 

              VOTED: That the Board of Regents approves the revisions to the first renewal charter of the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls, and the provisional charter is amended accordingly.

 

Reasons for Recommendations

 

              The proposed revisions to the school’s charter, along with the other terms of the charter: (1) meet the requirements set out in Article 56 of the Education Law, and all other applicable laws, rules and regulations; (2) will permit the charter school to operate in an educationally and fiscally sound manner;  (3) are likely to improve student learning and achievement and materially further the purposes set out in subdivision two of section twenty-eight hundred fifty of Article 56 of the Education Law; and (4) would have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the charter school.

 

Timetable for Implementation

 

The Regents action for the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls is effective immediately.  


Table 1: Percent of Students Scoring

At Levels 1- 4 on State Assessments in

ELA and Math

 

 

ELA

 

Math

2005-06

2005-06

 

Grade 3

Grade 4

 

Grade 3

Grade 4

 

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

 

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

Brighter Choice - Girls

8

29

58

4

19

25

56

0

 

8

8

60

24

0

24

71

6

Albany CSD

16

33

47

4

20

32

43

4

 

14

23

49

18

20

26

43

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2006-07

 

2006-07

 

Grade 3

Grade 4

 

Grade 3

Grade 4

 

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

 

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

Brighter Choice - Girls

4

39

58

0

0

35

65

0

 

0

12

85

4

0

21

69

11

Albany CSD

16

35

45

5

15

35

45

5

 

9

26

52

13

12

25

49

14

 

 

 

 


Table 2: Projected*
Fiscal Impact

Of All Charter Schools

In Albany for 2010

 


School



Projected


Enrollment



Projected




% of District’s budget


Achievement Academy CS

300

1.59

Albany Community CS

338

1.79

Albany Preparatory CS

250

1.32


Brighter Choice CS for Boys


300


1.59


Brighter Choice CS for Girls


300


1.59

Green Tech High CS

275

1.46

Henry Johnson CS

275

1.46

KIPP Tech Valley CS

360

1.91

New Covenant CS

625

3.31



Projected

Totals


3,023


16.02

 

 

*Assumes a District budget of approximately $236,733,338 for 2010-11, and an average expense per pupil of $12,541.  Projections are subject to fluctuation in actual enrollments, FTE enrollments, AEP, and district budgets.  Further assumes all students will come from the district of location, and that all other current charter schools will still be in operation in 2010.