Thursday, February 16, 2012

Somerville Charter School Not Recommended by Education Commissioner

Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester today announced that he will not recommend that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education grant a new charter to a proposed charter school in Somerville.

While recommending charters for four other applications in Boston, Holyoke, Lowell and Springfield, Commissioner Chester withheld his recommendation from the Somerville Progressive Charter School as well as a second charter school proposed for Springfield, the Springfield Preparatory Charter School. According to a press release from the Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, "The founders of those two groups will receive feedback on their application and are invited to reapply during future application cycles."

The Board will vote on the Commissioner’s recommendations at its February 28, 2012 regular meeting.

The full press release is below:

MALDEN – Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester today announced he will recommend that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education grant four new charters this month to groups seeking to open schools in Boston, Holyoke, Lowell and Springfield.

The Commissioner’s recommendation includes three Commonwealth charter schools and one Horace Mann charter school. Commonwealth charter schools are fully autonomous and operate independently of the local school district. Horace Mann charter schools are developed and operated in close cooperation with the host school district, and require approval by the local school committee.

“Massachusetts has a strong charter school accountability system that requires new applicant groups to clearly articulate how they will demonstrate academic success and organizational viability,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. “Each of the final applications contains strengths and weaknesses. The four groups that I am recommending developed compelling proposals, and if they are granted a charter by the Board later this month, I am confident they will be well positioned to improve student outcomes and become successful charter schools.”

Commissioner Chester will recommend approval of Commonwealth charters for the following 3 schools:

• Baystate Academy Charter School (Springfield)
• Collegiate Charter School of Lowell (Lowell)
• Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School (Holyoke)

The Commissioner will also recommend approval of a Horace Mann charter for the following school:

• Dudley Street Neighborhood School (Boston)

The Patrick-Murray Administration’s Achievement Gap Act of 2010 raised the charter school cap in the lowest performing school districts and made a number of changes to the charter authorizing process. The cap on district net school spending under the Achievement Gap Act is being raised from 9 percent to a maximum of 18 percent through incremental steps. The cap lift only applies to districts with academic performance in the lowest 10 percent as measured by MCAS, and applicants under the cap lift must have a proven track record of success in increasing academic attainment and commit to working with a diverse population of students. Sixteen charter schools were approved last year after the cap was raised, bringing the total number of charter schools across the state to 79.

A total of seven prospectuses were submitted during the 2011-12 cycle last August. Applicants for all seven prospectuses were invited to submit final proposals for consideration in September 2011. After one group withdrew its application, a total of six final applications were submitted in November 2011. Finalists were taken through a multi-step process that included public hearings in the areas where the schools would be located with at least two Board members present for each hearing, a panel review of the final application by a team of Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and external reviewers, a lengthy public comment process and in-person interviews.

The Board will vote on the Commissioner’s recommendations at its February 28, 2012 regular meeting.

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