Two local charter schools recommended for probation

April 30, 2018

State education officials are recommending shorter leashes for all four charter schools up for renewal this week.

Two, New Beginnings Family Academy in Bridgeport and Stamford Academy are being recommended for probation when the state Board of Education meets Wednesday in Hartford.

In addition, Explorations Charter School in Winchester will also be recommended for a three year renewal and a corrective action plan. Brass City Charter School in Waterbury is being recommended for a four year renewal.

Areas of concern were cited with all four of the state-funded schools that run independent of local school board control. Under state law, charters may be renewed for up to five years.

The harshest critique was leveled against Stamford Academy that has been in operation 14 years.

“The pervasiveness of poor student achievement and high chronic absenteeism raises serious concerns about the school’s ability to positively impact the skill deficits of the student body,” Robert Kelly, the state’s charter school program manager wrote in a report to the state board.

On average, 42.3 percent of Stamford Academy students are not in attendance at school on any given day and nearly all meet the definition of chronically absent — out more than 10 percent of the time. The state is recommending a one year renewal and a number of steps the school must take.

At New Beginnings, an elementary school that opened in the Fall of 2002, the chief concern were math and reading test scores that have declined over the past two years. In some instances they are lower than the Bridgeport Public Schools, according to the report.

“The turnaround office will work with (New Beginnings) to develop a corrective plan focusing on student achievement,” Kelly wrote in a report that recommended a three year renewal and probation.

Ronelle Swagerty, chief executive officer of New Beginnings, said she the state has come up with a systematic way of assessing and holding charter schools accountable for student outcomes and she has no problem with it.

“The rubric is thorough and fair,” Swagerty said. “Schools that receive less than five years - NBFA included - have issues to address. The state wants to make sure they collaborate with the charters to ensure any issues are ameliorated and children are being served optimally. That’s only fair.”

New Beginnings serves 497 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade. It has a experience-based curriculum and two adults in each classroom. It’s suspension rate is below the state average and its attendance rate near the state average.

There are 24 charter schools in Connecticut, including two are already on probation: The Bridge Academy in Bridgeport and Path Academy in Windham

In 2003 the state shut down Brooklawn Academy on the Bridgeport/Fairfield border when it failed to demonstrate sufficient student progress.

Yam Menon, state director for the New England Charter School Network said his organization believes strongly in the importance of a strong charter policy environment inclusive of transparency and accountability.

“We have seen charters undergo similar measures and plans over the years and have witnessed them answer the call and successfully turn things around,” Menon said.