/Charter schools struggle in first year of state tests

Charter schools struggle in first year of state tests

Tommie Cardin, Charter School Authorizer Board Chair, says Mississippi’s charter schools did not perform well on state student assessment tests. Sixth graders at Midtown Public Charter School struggled most with the majority not passing their state exams. Cardin and supporters of charter schools said that despite the low scores, they recognized students were moving to a new test this school year and that it was too early to make a judgement. Cardin stated that making judgments about charter school performance at this stage would be premature and unfair to students, schools, and their families. He also noted that the board will consider data showing the growth of students in order to evaluate the schools. The Mississippi Assessment Program measures student progress from grades 3-8 with annual math and English language arts tests. It has five categories that students can be classified in. There are five levels: basic, intermediate, passable, proficient, and advanced. In the state of Connecticut, 32.6 percent scored proficient (or levels 4, and 5) in English Language Arts. This is up from 32.2 percent last year. Nearly 31 percent of students were proficient in math. Many public schools and districts failed the more difficult test. Ten school districts were identified by the Mississippi Department of Education as having poor results in English and math. Holmes County School District is on the list. Only 25% of students passed their English exam and 39% scored “pass” on the math test. There are many other Delta schools districts on this list. Only 36.8% of students in Yazoo City Municipal Schools District scored at levels 3, 4 and 5 in English Language Arts while 35.2 percent achieved “pass” or better in math. A little over 70% of sixth-graders at Midtown scored “minimal”, “basic” or “high” on the math test, compared with 33 percent in the state. The English Language Arts test result was comparable with 35.2 percent scoring a Level 1 or minimal and 33.3 percent scoring a Level 2 or basic. These numbers were 16.3 percent and 24 percent respectively, across the state. ReImagine Prep’s fifth-graders did better on the math test. However, 46.9% of the 113 ReImagine Prep students who took the English Language Arts exam failed to score below “pass.” This is in contrast to Jackson Public Schools, which had 45.3 percent fail to achieve a Level 3 English score, and nearly half of those in math. The 6th graders at Jackson Public Schools scored in the Levels 1 and 2, in math, while only 60 percent of those in English achieved that score. Education officials warned students and their families that scores could drop due to the Mississippi Assessment Program’s increased rigor and the fact that it was being administered for the first time last spring. Gov. Phil Bryant, a supporter charter schools, stated in an emailed message that he was concerned about the scores of all Mississippi students in every school. Bryant stated that any conclusion based solely on one charter school’s operation for a year is unjust and reinforces the false narrative of the education bureaucracy being the only one who knows best for schoolchildren. Midtown was plagued by high staff turnover, which led to the departure of its principal in the first half of the school year. Josalyn FILkins, Midtown Partners’ principal, didn’t speak out about the reasons for the school’s poor performance, but stated that the school had a solid vision and plan for moving its students forward. Filkins stated in an email that the scores “provide a baseline for our students’ educational strengths and weaknesses so we can work with their individual needs.” “We are grateful for the data and the insights it provides so that we can work with our students to move them toward and beyond the local and state averages.” Filkins said in an emailed statement. The plan also includes an hour of intervention and a portion of each week for teacher professional development. Filkins stated that we are working to maximize every instructional hour with engaging and enriching lesson plans. RePublic Schools parent organization Kate Cooper is the director of growth & advancement. Kate Cooper attributes ReImagine Prep’s strong math scores to professional development for teachers, more time spent on math, and a well-written curriculum. Cooper stated that there are two math classes per day so the children get a lot of math each week. Cooper said that the school offers specialized professional development to math teachers, which includes training in classroom management and coaching by a network team of math teachers about how to introduce math concepts and content. However, Cooper pointed out that literacy is a key focus at the school. On average, students read at a level 3rd grade. Cooper said that 20% of students were reading below the 2nd grade level. ReImagine students showed “low literacy performance” when they arrived at school. And 13% of our students have IEPs, Individualized Education Programs. These are written plans for students who meet the requirements for special education. Cooper also highlighted what she called “nonacademic indicators”, such as the school’s retention rate. ReImagine was home to ninety-three per cent of the students. Rest of the students moved to or transferred to private schools. Cardin listed the factors that the school’s performance would be evaluated by the board. Cardin stated that if a fifth-grader comes in at a second-grade reading level and is able to get to a fourth grade level (reading level) within one year, that’s growth. “On the other side, if they arrive at a fourth grade level and haven’t grown much, or haven’t even reached the fifth grade level, that’s going to be critical (the board’s) overall calculation.” Mississippi Department of Education will release school accountability scores. These include data on student growth. The high school students are also tested in English II and Algebra I. However, neither charter school operates at the high-school level at this moment. Although charter schools are run by private organizations, they receive state and local tax dollars. They must also take the same state exams as public school students. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today. 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