Advisory Commission on Charter Schools
An Advisory Body to the State Board of Education
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Room 4401
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
PRINCIPAL STAFF TO THE ADVISORY COMMISSION:
Call to Order
Chair Bauer called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m.
Commissioner Ravare led the pledge.
Introductions – Chair: Brian Bauer; welcomes Yvonne Chan as SBE liaison; Trish Williams is other liaison
Minutes: Commissioner Barber moves approval, Commissioner Washington seconds; unanimous approval
Reorder of agenda: None
Public Comment: None
Item 1: Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District: Consideration of Petition to Renew Districtwide Charter.
Ms. Zachry provides background information on the all-charter district, including that three out of four charters meet the target to be approved. Need to achieve a similar schools ranking. Three out of four schools have earned similar school ranks of 4 or higher. Only extension school has not achieved the criteria. For district wide charter, the COE reviews budget and there have been positive certifications of budgets continuously. Recommend for renewal as the district reflects a district-wide program that is taking advantage of a charter program. Ms. Zachry introduces Superintendent Mark Ford.
Chair Bauer calls for questions from the Commission.
Commissioner Kushner compliments Carolyn on good work.
Chair Bauer asks how many charter districts exist in the state? There are currently eight districts.
Commissioner Barber asks for clarification on the recommendation of the CDE.
In order for any district-wide charter to be approved, joint action from the SBE and the SSPI are required. A decision from the SSPI will be forthcoming.
Commissioner Hunkapiller clarifies that the ACCS meeting schedule has not allowed for the SSPI to take a position and that there must be an effort to give state board staff proper time and analysis for the state board. No recommendation is more a result of timeline than actual information. The CDE does not have an official position.
Commissioner Kushner asks if Commissioner Hunkapiller will abstain. She reserves the right to decide later.
Chair Bauer asks about the eight charter districts in CA that have been approved. What are the reasons a district would seek charter status? Is it for flexibility in programming, to operate differently, be innovative incubators of research and design, try innovative ideas to spread out to neighboring districts. Superintendent Ford will speak on being able to go out into neighboring districts. Does funding have anything to do with it?
Commissioner Kushner explains that high schools would get more funding but not lower grade spans. In LA, many schools have converted as a result and are considered affiliated charter schools.
Superintendent Ford explains that he has been the Superintendent for 10 years and in the district for 15 years. He finds it exciting to be an experiment, except for the renewal process. He thanks Ms. Zachry and the staff. Ford indicates that the district tries to live by the charter. The staff keeps administration abreast of any changes and are grateful for charter status because it is an integral part of their development as a district. The charter has bold and broad language for independence from the state. However, legislation has curbed the independence and independence is part of the culture. The charter concept is part of community of 10,000. School board members are elected based on their support of charter. 100 % of parents sign the charter compact. 100% of employees support our status.
Superintendent Ford speaks to what the district can do as a charter district that they can’t do as a traditional district, including having flexibility in funding, text books, curriculum, etc. As the accountability model became more dominant, by the district’s need to be successful in system, they’ve had to restructure. In the initial years, the district believed they could do anything and they did. 85% of kids are on grade level in reading. The district had a science program when the state had no curriculum. The district did a lot of things in those initial years. Once mandates of NCLB came into effect, the district was able to move forward with incredible speed.
The charter district has worked with other school districts. It is a remarkably flat organization. Superintendent Ford introduces Lori Goodman, Director of Curriculum and principal and Stephen Powers, Assistant Superintendent and principal to demonstrate that it is a flat organization and each wears a lot of hats. The Superintendent position is the only solely district office position.
Speaking more broadly, all eight all-charter districts in the state are unique except for the fact that they serve grades K-8. The Kingsburg district takes every resident in town. It has open enrollment, and has accepted students outside the district. It does not displace a resident from its classrooms. Admission is not based on grade level, or achievement, but on grade level and openings. There are 100 -200 students on wait list and may be able to accommodate 30 kids during the school year.
As far as the funding model, charters enjoyed flexibility for years. The district was able to demonstrated the use of funding to get things accomplished and still be fiscally solvent. The eight experimental charter districts can be exemplary models for other districts.
The district is encouraged by what it has done and looks forward to the next five.
Chair Bauer thanks the Superintendent for the emphasis on the importance of ownership. The chair asks, hypothetically, what would happen in the district if it were a traditional school district. For example, the state still allows charter schools to access independent study the very first day the child is absent.
Superintendent Ford responds that with the use of independent study, the district gives classroom assignments with it, contact parents, keep students up to speed. They see the opportunity to engage the child academically. Kids get sick. Parents pull kids outside of school. Their goal with independent study is to give not necessarily 100% attendance in the seat, but 100% academic involvement. The district would continue to do it if it were traditional, but it helps.
It would cost us culturally to lose charter status. When it is mentioned among the staff there is a collective groan. Ultimately, it is up to the SSPI and the SBE. Teachers feel that they cannot lose that independence from being charter status. The city put it before the voters to be a charter city. There was 85% voter approval to be a charter city. It identifies Kingsburg.
Chair Bauer asks where the district is innovative where it could not be. It is not required that charters do things different, but what does it do specifically that it could not do as a district.
In 2001, the conversation would be very different. At that time the state did not have the curriculum. Today, the creativity is in how the district gets into the curriculum, and professional learning communities. Teachers believe the district can do anything, because it does everything. The curriculum once developed no longer exists. Once the standards were introduced, the teachers were trying to adapt the original curriculum. The district ended up wasting more time, so it worked through the blueprints, and formative testing. In many classrooms, one will see a wide variety of presentations. It is not lock step to the pacing guides, but by the end everything will be covered. Many successful districts are having to do it lock step to pacing guides. The district feels successful with its special education students, but has not been creative enough to get them all. Districts can do the same thing, but not having waivers is freedom. The district does it on its own and with independence. People turn to it because it is charter. It gives the district an opportunity. It is not about the students the district educate, but every student in the tri county. That is why the district engages in common staff development with neighboring districts.
Commissioner Barber asks about Community Charter Extension School, which is a school that is lagging behind in statewide accountability measures.
Superintendent Ford indicates that it is an independent study school, an experimental school used to engage students not engaged in public education. As background, in 1996-97, during the heyday of whole language and new math, parents kept their kids out of school. One of the ways the district set out to draw kids back into system was to offer something for parents who truly want to home school their kids. Maybe they want to be the teacher but need supports. The model reaches out to parents who are not engaged in public school systems. The mobility rate is 30%. The district holds parents to a high criteria and standard. Studies show that when child finishes grade eight, they are going to public high school. So the goal is to get them ready for public high school. In the program, a credentialed teacher is assigned to meet with them rather than once every three months, but once every 20 days. Teachers help parents to lesson plan. Since the parent is the ultimate intermediary, they are also the ultimate unknown. We are making progress. We used the school as an opportunity to help other entities. One example is a group of families in Hume Lake, where the bus drive for K-6 was 1.5 hours one way. HS students had to travel 2.5 hours one way because the HS was in Reedley. They approached the district to start a charter, but they could not because not enough teachers would support
Commissioner Barber focuses back on the school and that it has a trend line of negative growth. It has a similar school ranking of one and it was a three. Is it the population?
Superintendent Ford explains that it is about 165-175 students and that the teachers see the pupils at least once every 20 days, and in most cases more often than that.
Commissioner Barber emphasizes a concern that for kids not doing well, once in 20 days is not enough. She asks if any changes are being made to the program.
Superintendent Ford explains that they are in the process of redefining themselves and use more professional learning communities. Some parents live 2 hours away but they are in the county. They are maintaining logs to demonstrate they are on the phone with parents and students once or twice a week. They will use ongoing formative assessments and checks. They have developed and implemented Standards Based report cards so that students have feedback. There are nine teachers and one principal in the school and it is restructuring next year.
Chair Bauer asks that as the district maintains its attendance boundary, how many opt out of the district.
Superintendent Ford explains that it is 32 annually—the same 32 that the district would lose regardless. A single school district draws those students. We lose 30 to 35 students every year.
Chair Bauer asks about the 100 to 200 students on the waitlist.
Superintendent Ford explains that they all live outside the district boundary. Most have parents that work in the area. The district does not deny anyone that lives in the district.
Chair Bauer asks about the mechanism to take students from another district. Do they need an intradistrict transfer?
Superintendent Ford explains that charter law does not require it, but the charter district maintains a good relationship by notifying the district. We work hard not take students from them.
Commissioner Washington asks if the teachers in collective bargaining, and if they are, how it affects the program and teacher turnover.
Superintendent Ford confirms that they are and that most relationships are fairly comfortable. What is required is an ongoing walk to integrity—being able to explain this is what it is, and this is what it could be. We have a sounding board with our classified and certificated employees. We are open. Here is the money we have, what we thing we can do, what we think will not break the district right now. Our ongoing relationship is built on absolute trust. There recently has been created a classified union with 32 members. It is completely fiscally driven. They are concerned about the budget. The district honors what the EC says about their rights.
Commissioner Washington commends Superintendent Ford for having 100 % teacher buy in. Teachers work more effectively when the leadership is there. Then the strong leader allows them to bring innovation and passion to the school. One of the important things about being a charter is when you find something that is working, you go and let others know about it.
Superintendent Ford addresses teacher turnover, indicating that the district does not lose more than two a year.
Liaison Chan introduces Camille Esche from New American Foundation as an exemplary policy person. She believes that if it were not a charter district, the Superintendent probably would not be still in place. Chan comments on the unique organizational structure. She asks if the charter status affects leadership retention, PTA retention. Chan also asks about the effect of two PI schools on an all-charter district. Is it like the rest of the world, and the district is being held accountable? She asks if there are any lessons learned from having 2000 students. Is it scalable? Can larger districts convert?
Superintendent Ford explains that the organizational structure preexisted the charter. There were signs in the state that we saw would not allow us to do that. Students in their area have an 80 percent chance of going from K and graduating from high school. They maintained that structure to keep the kids together. We are successful with special education kids because we see them. It’s not special. If the district gets too big, then the work is harder. If the district gets bigger, it needs to make a new site and maybe do a magnet program. As far as leadership, two leaders are leaving this year. Currently, nobody leaves unless for retirement or promotional opportunity. Our turnover is virtually nonexistent. As far as PI schools, we don’t plan to be in PI Year 3. We are making stringent changes at Abraham Lincoln. It looks like it might be going into PI Year 2. A leadership change needs to happen. Lincoln is in the beginning stages of professional learning communities. Reagan has gone from an API of 799 to 840 in two years with professional learning communities. Rafer Johnson has a strong algebra program and they received a math grant for a math coach to work with the department and in algebra. It is a joint project with Fresno State to work on verticality and the holes. Yes it is scalable. All the districts are K-8. Part of that may be the funding model. San Lorenzo Unified was trying to convert to an all-charter district in 1988. It was denied because there was going to be a fiscal benefit. Since then, the funding model has come into place. It is the last unified to try.
Liaison Chan examines the slow growth of all-charter districts because there are many K-8 small districts throughout the state. Rather than falling into trusteeship under the SBE, what are other possibilities? If nothing else worked, maybe something like this will work. All of them are within 45 miles of Kingsburg. Fresno is the highest poverty county in the US, higher than in Appalachia. Districts are desperate to educate their children. Now they are just looking for answers to do some things. The seventh one is in Modesto. Great dissertation for somebody to see what is unique about us. We have a hard time finding a way to brag about ourselves.
Gary Davis steps out at 10:44 am.
Commissioner Hunkapiller expresses that there is a great interest for investment in in independent study students and asks if the district invests as much in independent study programs as they do in classroom-based students.
Superintendent Ford states that spending is probably within $150 per student. At one time, this was not the case and there was a loss. They needed to reinvest those resources again.
Chair Bauer asks if the district had done the calculation from year to year, what is the next fiscal advantage to it?
Superintendent Ford indicates that the district decided to be part of the general funded. The district was growing that it would not have been in safe place to use the funding model. Charters do have the choice.
Chair Bauer reemphasizes sharing the ideas. Innovation is not just doing new things, but also taking what works and doing it better and drilling down.
Commissioner Kushner echoes what Chair Bauer is saying and points to a change in climate where charter developers have to make the case more than they have in the past. The restrictions have increased and it is important to keep in mind historical context. It would be educationally successful for the board and for the school to present that context.
Chair Bauer calls for public comment.
Eric Premack, with the Charter Schools Development Center (CSDC) speaks in support of the renewal. The district was groundbreaking, implementing standards before the state had standards. It’s really kind of become like the secret decoder ring. You can rally your staff and community, but when you peel back the layers, there is not a whole lot there any more. He makes a third point to be careful of pressing real hard on the schools that are trying to engage unengaged parents. Are we better off by not engaging them? There is very little fiscal advantage as evidenced by the six or seven that have elected not to use the funding model because the categorical block grant is severely underfunded.
Commissioner Kushner comments that even with narrowing charter freedom, districts can still use whatever standards, they just must do well on tests.
Mr. Premack responds that the new common core standards are a mile wide and inch deep. They encourage not digging deep. There is freedom, but schools are held accountable in such a way that you do not benefit from going deep.
Colin Miller, from the California Charter Schools Association continues to support the all charter district. These all-charter districts are still governed by a locally elected school boards. Oversight is different than with SBE authorized schools. It is higher level and there is a different relationship because they are locally elected. We continue to support.
Action: Commissioner Barber moves to recommend to the SBE to hold a public hearing and approve the Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District for renewal. Commissioner Kushner seconds the motion.
Brian clarifies that the renewal would be for a five year renewal.
Point of clarification—Liaison Chan asks if the ACCS can require a position from the CDE.
Commissioner Barber accepts the friendly amendment and moves to recommend to the SBE to hold a public hearing and approve the Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District and to the CDE/SSPI to support the recommendation.
The motion was approved by a unanimous vote of the commissioners present (6-0). Commissioner Davis was absent for the vote.
Working lunchbreak for five minutes
Item Two: Petition for Establishment of a Charter School Under the Oversight of the State Board of Education: Consideration of the SOCRATES Academy Charter School Petition, Which Was Denied by the Visalia Unified School District and Tulare County Office of Education.
Socrates Academy Allowed for 10 minutes for Socrates. Mr. Frisby is with Socrates.
Bonnie Galloway presents item two, indicating that the Visalia Unified School District denied the petition on January 11, 2011, and the Tulare County Office of Education denied the petition on March 9, 2011. The summaries of findings are found in attachments four and five. Socrates proposed a hybrid independent study program to serve grades 9-12. Socrates combines IS, online, and site based instruction. The curriculum focuses on career readiness and understanding of Adobe software programs, and multimedia publishing. The petition proposes to serve students not successful in traditional settings. This is needed in Fresno county, where the dropout rate is higher than the state average. If approved, Socrates provides an alternative program. The petition indicates a likelihood of serving students in the county, and likely to carry out charter. Technical amendments are needed and Socrates has agreed. The CDE recommends the ACCS recommend the SBE hold a public hearing and approve the petition.
Chair Bauer calls for questions. Commissioner Barber thanks staff for the detailed work and asks about the likelihood of grant funding.
Ms. Galloway indicates that the school, if approved appears to have met grant criteria.
Commissioner Barber asks for clarification in the discrepancy in how the district calculated revenue and how the CDE calculated the revenue.
Ms. Galloway indicates that the district explains their calculation on page four of seven of the district findings. According to the district, the school will not meet the 40% or 80% or 25 to 1. The CDE determined that the district had miscalculated.
Jay Harris comments that when the petition was submitted to him for review, he had determined that the petition was adequate and met the requirements of SB 740. The budgeted and projected items sufficed and nothing specific about it stuck out.
Commissioner Barber indicates that the petition proposes 85 students, with 35 that have already communicated interest. She comments that if the figure that the district is putting $86K for teachers for 85 students 3 or 4 teachers, the salaries are very low.
Mr. Harris indicates that the regulation focuses that new schools receive serious consideration for full funding. The statute is deferential to the school for full funding.
Commissioner Barber indicates that reasonableness needs to be met. For a school of that size, one would have to do have at least three teachers.
Julie Briggs clarifies that the budget identifies 2 FTE teachers for $86K and 2 FTE administrators, for a total of $196K for certificated. The administrators are picking up on the student load and account for $110K.
Ms. Galloway indicates that Ed Tec responds to the district analysis point by point on page four of attachment six.
Commissioner Barber asks why the denying LEAs believe the petition does not contain the required amount of signatures.
Ms. Galloway indicates that the California Education Code says one or the other. Responding to no more questions, she introduces David Frisby, lead petitioner.
Socrates stands for School of Career Research, Ethics, and Social Responsibility. The school will integrate technology. Adobe has many learning solutions for independent study and classroom instruction. Mr. Frisby has an MBA, is a business owner, and part of an SBO certificate program. He presents sixteen slides that cover the founding team, include statements of support, and covers the silent epidemic that one in four students drop out of high school. The Gates Foundation conducted a study of 467 students who dropped out and found out that these students want smaller classes with more individualized instruction. The school will partner with KVLP, the local radio station and have a radio station on site. The plan is to integrate broadcasting into the standard curriculum through project-based learning. Mr. Frisby speaks abou the Adobe Education Exchange, which contains full year curriculums for project based learning. The idea is that there is always a way to integrate what one is learning in the classroom to be put into a project. He also speaks about the PeaPod academy, which is a Black Eyed Pease collaboration with Adobe. Mr. Frisby indicates that his desire comes from working in independent study for past two years and the problem is that students are not coming to school enough. A third day for intervention would make a difference. Mr. Frisby introduces the costs savings experienced at Loraine City schools, which distributed a laptop for every student. He indicates that students are interested in IS. They are full in Visalia and the kids need IS. They are not learning because they are not getting instruction. Socrates will make sure they are getting instruction.
Chair Bauer asks for questions from commissioners.
Commissioner Kushner indicates that there are a number of criteria we are looking at, including a sound educational program and how to fulfill other functions like back office services.
Mr. Frisby responds that Socrates is looking at contracting with EdTec or CSMC. The goal is to run efficient and maximize what we are doing for the kids.
Commissioner Kushner asks if there is anybody that can advise on state tests?
Mr. Frisby responds that his experience and the experience of the English teachers will allow the school to hold everyone accountable.
Commissioner Ravare asks if the Commission had actually seen the petition, because the district questions seemed legitimate.
Bobby Roy clarifies that the petition was available upon request, but was not accessible and therefore could not be posted to the CDE Web site. A copy was provided to the Commission at the meeting.
Commissioner Barber appreciates the innovation and appreciates the hybrid model as it is a nice blend in terms of giving kids options. She asks what support will be available for special education staffing?
Mr. Frisby explains that the original plan was to work with the District. With the assumption that the SBE would approve, the school would consider the El Dorado SELPA. Students on IEP need to look and assess if independent study is the right fit for them. It has to be in their IEP.
Commissioner Barber questions if the founders have special education in their background.
Mr. Frisby indicates that the school will have to move funds from encroachment to pay for a special education teacher.
Commissioner Barber notes that Peter Laub states that they are relying on published rates from School Services in terms of assumption in the budget. The current deficit rate is 19%.
Mr. Frisby acknowledges that like at any school, the budget will have to be revised, as the budget was originally submitted in November.
Commissioner Barber points out that for budget projections, everyone should indicate a cut and that the SBE will ask if you are viable. You can either project that you get flat funding, and keep reserves, or account for the cut.
Liaison Chan clarifies that so many small schools are having financial troubles and can not borrow any more with all the deferrals. Putting up another small school with no big bankers behind you is risky and nobody wants to set you up to fail. Grant funding and SB 740 funding is not timely due to deferrals. A conservative three year budget must be prepared.
Commissioner Davis recommends that Ed Tec also be able to testify.
Commissioner Washington indicates that the ultimate hope is that when you propose this, that there is support from the area, or the community so that there is approval from the local boards. Acknowledging that timing is an issue here, but since you have to rerun your budget, would it be possible to send the petition back to the district or county.
Commissioner Kushner asks about the timeline to open the school.
Mr. Frisby responds that the plan is to open in 2012-13.
Commissioner Kushner reminds that it is important to note that funding is not available. He also warns that no matter what the ACCS does, the SBE will be more critical. Kushner advises that based on the current status of the paperwork, the petitioner may want to bring it back.
Chair Bauer clarifies that any discussion on the revenue flow and source for 2012-13 should be conservative, and every conservative estimates includes a plan for reductions. This includes the May revise information. The hottest issue is SB 740, and not all the commission’s recommendations have been approved by the State Board of Education. Therefore, the petition needs to be ready to go at the commission level.
Commissioner Hunkapiller asks about the impact on the budget if the school were to revise the budget right now and include a reduction of $350 per student.
Briggs notes that the cut would equate to $28,000 in reduction. Despite this, the fund balance after year one was $52,000. Additionally, the grant is underfunded by about $75,000. She notes that the encroachment is budgeted at $10K, or $190 per ADA, but as noted, there will have to be an additional $37K to be spent on special education.
Commissioner Barber notes that the commission is not an advocate to the SBE unless it is a high quality charter. She notes her hesitancy and although she appreciates further information on the financial side, and there being more resources, she has concern with infrastructure. As a superintendent over 85 students, the expectation would be that the superintendent could quote the numbers for them. Also, in terms of standards, there it is unclear if the founding group and staff understands assessment and how it works. She would like to see additional resources bolstering the school.
Mr. Frisby indicates that he is broadening his skill set.
Commissioner Barber asks if Mr. Frisby is in the FCMAT or CASBO program.
Mr. Frisby confirms that he is in the program through USC, which is sponsored by FCMAT. There are a total of 20 in the program.
Commissioner Barber asks about the skill sets of the other three faculty.
Mr. Frisby responds that they have experience in instruction and technology and bilingual education. One member has their ESL certificate, teaches Spanish, and has built Web sites.
Commissioner Barber asks if all the core classes are covered content wise.
Mr. Frisby responds affirmatively.
Commissioner Barber notes that in terms of the need for special education expertise identified, it can be done through contract. The district may still be able to budget with them. According to statewide averages, the school is expected to have eight students, most likely with speech and language disabilities. Therefore, it is important to have speech and language disability support.
Liaison Chan asks if the school is required to complete a cash flow analysis.
Briggs responds affirmatively.
Liaison Chan emphasizes the importance of having cash and recounts that in 1993, teachers and custodians at her school took IOUs because the school could not meet cash flow. She notes that while she and Trish Williams are board liaisons, there are 11 board members total and the liaisons do not make all the decisions. She advises to cover all grounds, make sure all the ducks are lined up, to come with a sense of comfort, and to not give up.
Commissioner Davis explains that he is putting forth a charter in his community and with no resource available, they are figuring out how to do it. He realizes that unless the charter is financially and programmatically solid, they are not going to see the light. Davis recommends jumping into the numbers and not treating the petition as a document that has to be approved so one can go teach kids. If the petition were approved today, there may or may not be the money to run the program.
Chair Bauer encourages Socrates and to tackle the budget head on and to place more emphasis in the presentation on instructional program, especially covering the virtual and alternative instruction areas and how the four content qualified teachers will cover those areas.
Commissioner Kushner adds that advice can also be sought from those who are not paid staff. He recommends creating an advisory board. If they come with you and they are informed they can assist. Additionally, he recommends answering the question on whether the team can deliver. Finally, he asks if the petitioner would like the commission to vote today, or if the petitioner would like to pull it back.
Mr. Frisby confirms his desire to bring the petition back at a subsequent meeting.
Chair Bauer recommends working with CDE staff, noting that it is the desire of the commission to have a revised budget, to cover special education, and to cover the multiple areas of instruction. He also recommends that it would be useful to hear from one of the teachers, students, and parents of students. This can be live or recorded.
Commissioner Washington comments that although the district and county have denied the petition, as it moves forward, it would be good keep them in the loop as they are part of your community. Also, the district’s finding out about improvement may inform everyone.
Liaison Chan asks whether or not with one more year to outreach, to communicate with parents, and to recruit, if it is possible for the petitioner to come back with 150 kids in the second year.
Commissioner Hunkapiller clarifies that the CDE must review the petition as denied.
The SBE can do a material revision at that time of approval.
Discussion on the item ceases and Chair Bauer recommends that the petition be in communication with Charter Schools Division staff for corrections.
There is a short recess at 12:47 pm.
Meeting recommences at 12:56 pm.
Item 4: Consideration of Requests for Determination of Funding Rates as Required for Nonclassroom-based Charter Schools for Ecademy California, Shenandoah Charter, William Finch Charter, and Innovations Academy.
Jay Harris presents the staff recommendations for various schools.
Chair Bauer requests a summary of what happened the last couple of months with regard to recommendations and how they have been received or not received by the State Board of Education.
Harris recounts that at the May meeting, there was a recommendation by the commission for five years for about four schools. Those schools did not meet the API of six or greater. The State Board reduced determination from the recommended five years to four years.
Chair Bauer surmises that to the SBE, if the school does not have a six, they should be reduced to four years.
Harris recalls that discussion was if the six had to be for the statewide ranking or the similar schools ranking.
Liaison Chan clarifies that there were a number of issues. First, the State Board of Education hopes there can be an open discussion and look at statute or regulations, historically, and ultimately, a decision on what should be right. Is it a statewide ranking of six and/or similar. The board is having a hard with a six statewide and then a 1 for similar. The second issue has to do with the individual schools, since they are not exactly the same—ASAM status, number of ears of operation, etc. Schools with an API score at low level (400 APIs) and many years. In those cases, how can we look at them individually, and differentiate when they should come back for you to look at. Nowhere did we say we have to link performance to funding. Just how soon should the school check back. The board want anchor points for schools to look at. What is an optimal time to check back. Chan believes the board only made two or three changes. President Kirst also asked legal counsel to look at the situation as well.
Commissioner Kushner asks for a feedback loop, or a summary of what the board is doing. A chart could be helpful.
Liaison Chan reminds the commission that the board is maturing.
Commissioner Kushner believes it would be enough to excerpt the minutes.
Commissioner Hunkapiller reminds that the commission knows academic performance is not part of the determinations and that funding determinations have stretched out to be as long as possible because of a desire to help schools have stable funding and to reduce workload.
Liaison Chan shares that there is no value to a chart of decisions because the board is maturing and learning from each other. Once the Board has an ongoing working relationship, after a few months, and everybody understands the process and be able, under the leadership of the president, and has some unifying beliefs, then it will be more useful. Everyone has heard the last board was charter friendly. What we are now trying to find out is how we individually think and how the board collectively thinks.
Commissioner Kushner emphasizes that he likes to have the information to go with and that a chart would allow him to be able to assess the temperature of the SBE.
LeeAngela Reid, from the Senate Office of Research, commented that she has personally observed that this board is a different board with a lot of folks from the field. The board really wants to understand why something is the way it is. They have asked the Department to break down issues.
Chair Bauer notes that the commission worked through the process at the last meeting. In April, and in February, the SBE had kicked back a lot of the SB 740 funding determinations and the ACCS reviewed the process and history. We spoke about the two and five year determinations and asked that the information be forwarded to the SBE. Even with that information, the SBE has disagreed. What is helpful for me to recall, is that we are a commission of the SBE, we serve at their will. We are to advise them. We need to look to them as much as they look to us. There is an interest in knowing what decisions we make here and what the SBE finds objectionable. The fact is the climate is changed on SB 740 and on other items. We do not operate in a vacuum. All of us like to see our recommendations taken seriously. Emphasis on being able to make a more informed decision.
Commissioner Hunkapiller notes that she does not think legal counsel is following up because there was clarity that the ACCS should discuss the API rank of six.
Commissioner Kushner asks for the language.
Commissioner Hunkapiller, Liaison Chan, and Chair Bauer all recall that all the law says is API rank of six.
Commissioner Kushner recalls, six years ago, the ACCS was clear that it was a six in either one.
Commissioner Hunkapiller notes, in the ensuing years, this became less visual and the staff just reported they got a six.
Commissioner Barber reminds the commission that it is on the verge of losing quorum and emphasizes that that having information of SBE action is important. In April, ask to bring San Diego to SBE.
Chair Bauer pulls Shenandoah and asks, between Finch and Ecademy, why there was a change in requested amount.
Harris clarifies that Finch did not have a six or greater on its API rankings and has been in operation for more than three years. Ecademy has been in operation for two years.
Chair Bauer points out that the State Board of Education may ask the same question and calls for a motion.
ACTION: Commissioner Barber moves to recommend the SBE to approve the funding determinations of Ecademy California, William Finch Charter, and Innovations Academy. Commissioner Kushner seconds the motion.
The motion was approved by a unanimous vote of the commissioners present (7-0).
Discussion on Shenandoah High School, from which Commissioner Barber recuses herself from the discussion. Commissioner Washington moves to recommend the SBE approve the funding determination of Shenandoah HS. Commissioner Davis seconds the motion.
The motion was approved by unanimous vote of the commissioners present (6-0). Commissioner Barber recused herself from the vote.
Item 5: Consideration of Requests From Nonclassroom-based Charter Schools for “Reasonable Basis”/Mitigating Circumstances Changes in Funding Determinations Based on the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11963.4(e) for Academy of Personalized Learning, Golden Valley Virtual Charter, California Virtual Academy Los Angeles, Mark West Charter, Merced Scholars Charter, Mountain Peak Charter, Independence Charter, Sherman Thomas Charter, Options for Youth Hermosa Beach, Options for Youth San Bernardino, Options for Youth Upland, Options for Youth Victorville, Opportunities for Learning Baldwin Park, Opportunities for Learning Baldwin Park II, Opportunities for Learning Hermosa Beach, and Opportunities for Learning Santa Clarita.
Jay Harris presents that while 16 charter schools are originally presented, one school, Options For Youth has asked not to be considered. Therefore, 15 charter schools are requesting mitigating circumstances. Each provided individual documentation to inform the basis of their request. The CDE’s recommendation and rationale are included and points out that new charter schools that do not have funding determination are Sherman Thomas Charter High and Independence Charter.
Commissioner Barber asks that if mitigating circumstances are provided, the schools would qualify for funding.
Chair Bauer asks is there were mitigating circumstance feedback from the last SBE meting.
Harris responds that no feedback was provided.
Commissioner Hunkapiller clarifies that the schools submitted letters unique to each school and substantiated the request for mitigation. The communication the division sent to the field indicated that when the schools make a request, they only need to do it in the year that the funding determination is due. They do not need to come back for mitigation in between.
Chair Bauer calls for a motion.
ACTION: Commissioner Barber moves to recommend the SBE to approve the funding determinations of Sherman Thomas Charter and Independence Charter. Commissioner Kushner seconds the motion.
The motion was approved by a unanimous vote of the commissioners present (7-0).
Discussion on a second group of schools, Academy of Personalized Learning, Golden Valley Virtual Charter, California Virtual Academy Los Angeles, and Mountain Peak Charter, all recommended for 100 percent funding for three years from 2010-11 to 2011-12. These schools did not meet one of the required targets, 40 percent of certificated salaries or 80 for instructional costs. Three are in the 700s with respect for API scores and Golden Valley does not have data because it is in its second year of operation.
Commissioner Barber asks why Mountain Peak and another has accountability, emphasizing that the API is not linked to funding.
Liaison Chan recommends that API information be added to the table.
Commissioner Hunkapiller disagrees and that the API information, to be included should be sought through the regulatory process. She emphasizes that the real place to spend time and effort is around revocation. We may lose the grant, but we need to meet 3A and 3B.
Commissioner Kushner adds that SB 740 was not designed to be an accountability measure on API scores. This is a funding determination to stop excess profiteering and financial abuse. He worries about individual maturing board members asking for data that is not appropriate and apologizes for having such frustration. It will be misused if the information is there. He believes the regulations may be implemented in a way they were not meant to be.
Chair Bauer calls for public comment.
Eric Premack from the Charter Schools Development Center cites a breakdown in charter branding and oversight process. He notes the SBE last year fast tracked a 10 year statute through illegal regulation processes. As a result, there will be a couple dozen revocations next year. The SBE is only going to do academic for how long. Should we give mitigation on API today. There is a bill introducing a new minimum renewal threshold of 7/7, but the state does not have good assessment data. He asks the commission to be very firm and to deal with fiscal crisis and cash flow stuff. There needs to be direct, blunt, and honest feedback to the State Board. Fill the empty seats with the folks that are running the schools that deal with the tough populations. There is no voice on either body that knows how to run the program. Everybody really look at the problems.
Terry Adams, with Golden Valley Virtual Charter School, testifies that after making comparisons between Golden Valley and their other charter school, the students are performing the same with perfect scores on math and ELA.
Liaison Chan responds that as the board matures and learns the ins and outs of many items, we will have to spend the time now than later. Later on, we can come to a uniform approach and decision making can be more efficient.
Commissioner Kushner asks if it would make sense to do a joint session with the State Board.
Chair Bauer calls for a motion.
ACTION: Commissioner Barber moves to recommend the SBE to approve the funding determinations of the Academy of Personalized Learning, Golden Valley Virtual Charter, California Virtual Academy Los Angeles, and Mountain Peak Charter. Commissioner Kushner seconds the motion.
The motion was approved by a unanimous vote of the commissioners present (7-0).
The next group of schools taken up are Mark West Charter and Merced Scholars Charter, each of which have a six or greater API and have recommendations of 100 percent funding for five years.
ACTION: Commissioner Barber moves to recommend the SBE to approve the funding determinations of Mark West Charter and Merced Scholars Charter. Commissioner Davis seconds the motion.
The motion was approved by a unanimous vote of the commissioners present (7-0).
The last group of schools to be discussed is the Opportunities for Learning and Options for Youth schools, which have a recommendation of 85 percent funding for two years, from 2011-12 to 2012-13.
Commissioner Barber finds it interesting that all the individual charters have data listed as if it were aggregated.
Harris explains that each school provides unique information.
Bill Toomey, with Opportunities for Learning explains that the mitigation requests are the same across the board, but the financials are different.
Discussion ensued as to what methodology was used to complete the table and that the strategy had changed. Rather than using actual data the targets had been entered for the OFL and OFY schools.
Commissioner Washington expresses concern that what is toward the top of the table is a request because the school did not meet a target, and below is the target and no information on what they really did. The actual truth is being held back.
Chair Bauer explains that the presentation, from the commission’s perspective, is not consistent. In the future, please do tighten that up as well as address any audit issues that are brought forth.
Commissioner Barber asks whether the letters are all the same.
Harris comments that they are substantially the same, but do include some information for each school as well. He also expresses that OFL and OFY are comfortable with the 85 percent and meet their growth targets.
Chair Bauer calls for a motion.
ACTION: Commissioner Davis moves to accept staff recommendation and recommend the SBE to accept mitigating circumstances in the determination of funding rates for OFY-Hermosa Beach, OFY-San Bernardino, OFY-Upland, OFY Victorville, OFL-Baldwin Park, OFL-Baldwin Park II, OFL-Hermosa Beach, and OFL-Santa Clarita. Commissioner Kushner seconds the motion.
Discussion—Commissioner Barber has continuing questions and concerns regarding the claim the schools met pupil teacher ratio because of the uncertainty of how counts are being made.
Liaison Chan clarified that the audit was brought forth by ACCS. Teachers were counted at 190 percent and that area of concern is not resolved.
Commissioner Barber recommends that the commission make sure there is an understanding of continuing legal issues and that questions continue to persist.
Commissioner Davis agrees that the questions be reflected or that there is no recommendation.
Commissioner Barber does not want it to be taken as a full support.
Commissioner Kushner recommends that the CDE to check on the status.
Liaison Chan advocates for some sort of recommendation.
Commissioner Kushner proposes a friendly amendment that the commission acknowledge an understanding of legal issues and questions that need to be answered through legal challenges of which the commission is not in a position to weigh in on.
Commissioner Davis accepts the amendment and moves moves to accept staff recommendation and recommend the SBE to accept mitigating circumstances in the determination of funding rates for OFY-Hermosa Beach, OFY-San Bernardino, OFY-Upland, OFY Victorville, OFL-Baldwin Park, OFL-Baldwin Park II, OFL-Hermosa Beach, and OFL-Santa Clarita, with an understanding that there are legal issues, and questions that need to be answered through the legal challenges, of wich the commission is not in a position to weigh in on.
The motion was approved by a vote of 6-0. Commissioner Hunkapiller abstains from the vote.
Commissioners Washington and Kushner leave at 2:13 pm
Commissioner Hunkapiller comments that CDE staff have interpreted the API rank of six issue, not the ACCS.
Chair Bauer comments that some would conclude that there is creep here or at the State Board. He questions whether the practice of giving the State Board discretion to allocate three or five years is also considered creep.
Commissioner Hunkapiller indicates that commission has latitude to make case by case decisions, but cannot standardize its actions.
Liaison Chan comments that this is common discussion among practitioners. The notion behind latitude and judgment, the members are here to put that kind of judgment using reasonable evidence to come to a decision. We do not want to write everything black and white to make life easy. In deciding on a case by case basis, and using professional judgment level, staying within legal boundaries, hopefully the issue can be vetted and tackled with a more unified approach.
Commissioner Barber comments that the most difficult thing for the field is not having predictability. It is important for the field to have some sense of what they can rely upon and expect. We are in such a different time, so that we don’t want to just look at al the SB 740 provisions. There will still be a role with respect to revocation and appeals, and the overarching 740. This is a different time, so it is important to revisit not only the details but the concept and determine if there are still pertinent facts today.
LeeAngela Reid, from the Senate Office of Research, comments that there needs to be a strong discussion of what 3 and 4 years is. Part of what will be discussion will be what, from your perspective, equates with the board, which has new members, new perspectives, and no history. There should also be a question on the legislative intent of the six. There is some confusion. Commissioner Hunkapiller can be a bridge and Liaison Chan is helpful in explaining the issues, but her role on the board is to be a voting member.
Chair Bauer comments that how these items were presented to the board may need to be reviewed.
Ms. Reid comments that there is a need for cross information. The Board is taking apart every single issue and want to break everything down. They do not have the background.
Liaison Chan mentions, as we build trust, we have to align with one another. In the meantime, most of the Board wants the ACCS to be much more of a filter and take part way in advance regarding SB 740, renewals, balancing accountability, the grant, revocation, etc.
Jeff Rice, of APlus, echoes Commissioner Barber’s comments and believes the Commission should step back and ask the right questions for the time. The field is facing unprecedented climate where our systems are obsolete. He appreciates that the SBE has to ask questions as part of its maturation process, but are they asking the right questions. Regarding the API rank of six, the law and regulations does not explicitly restrict the rank to one or the other. Where status is not explicitly restrictive, it is permissive. This has been the precedent for many years, so why are we assuming it is not permissive and restrictive. The measurement tool is not appropriate anyway. When one asks the original designers of the API if they designed them to be used for high stakes academic accountability, they respond it was a convenient way to organize schools. The State us using these systems and tools in ways that may not even be appropriate to measure how these schools had it. Individualized and personalized learning models serve the students that are being underserved by the traditional system. Why make it hard on the very schools we are relying on to serve those underserved?
Colin Miller, from the California Charter Schools Association, states that aside from the two small things in statute, there is no guidance. You are being accused of being arbitrary or doing underground regulations. Go through the regulatory process to guide that out. Every time a school has to come to Sacramento is a huge expense. Also, timeline. Any consideration that drives more five year funding determinations is good for the school, the staff, and the work load because it provides routine funding determinations. The other issues of mitigating circumstances are going to be the reality. Those are all things that are creations of things ten years ago before the current fiscal situation. Regualations and criteria must be created in this fiscal environment. We’d love to continue down that path. We’d be happy to share information on the ad hoc meeting held by Commissioners Cartas and Kushner.
Chair Bauer asks for a future items include a discussion on mitigating circumstances. He also asks if it makes sense that the Commission ask to bring up the data, apart from academic accountability, and verify that new schools have always received two years, that for schools open for two years, three year determinations are made, and then for fiscally okay schools that four year determinations, and quite a lot of the time, five year determinations are made. As long as we are not talking academic, and we talk about it in this way, it is not underground regulations. We should be consistent. We should not treat them unexpectedly. We do what we’ve done historically. If you want to insert academic consideration, the consideration should be what we’ve done historically.
Liaison Chan comments that doing what has been done traditionally and historically, can be met with challenge. Rather, it should be framed as this is what has been done in the past and this is why. Have a discussion. The entire accountability does not have to be punitive. She argues that every matrix has an API column for some linkage, that it’s just data for connecting points—not good nor bad.
Commissioner Hunkapiller states that with the mix of experienced commissioners and new commissioners, it would be hard for the commission to create a recommendation for the SBE on this issue. The SBE needs to come up with how to introduce the academic consideration.
Liaison Chan indicates that SB 740 is only a small part of the issues. The SBE needs the commission to do more of the charter work to be more efficient.
Commissioner Hunkapiller believes that the Commission duties need to be redefined. Maybe a dialogue with the charter community about whether the work needs to be redistributed. The question to be answered is where do we get the policies for the betterment of the community.
Chair Bauer comments that part of the issue is how the information to the board is bundled. For example, explain why it is important for a school to have a certain amount of years versus another. I did hear though, schools that are not ASAM, and they can earn this designation on accountability. In spite of that, a number of schools have come forward with API of 400 and the board has been very focused on that. A number of board members were not versed in ASAM status. We can not make these decisions in a vaccuum. It creates a perspective for the board that we are not interested in quality.
Commissioner Barber states that Liaison Chan has acknowledged that maybe the role needs to be changed. Maybe there can be a small committee from the commission to carry the message, get feedback, and endorsements. The Board can frame what they think expectations should be. I laugh that others think the former board was charter friendly. They held everybody accountable.
Liaison Chan notes that the Proposition 39 decision took nine years and the charter SELPA took five years. People pay attention because it is valuable. If a decision is not not getting 75 or 80 percent support, then it is not ready. Do not bring it to the board otherwise. It takes time and the hope is that with the ACCS and the Board, both groups will stay for a good number of years and mature together. As complex as it is, one must work toward getting more buy-in so that we can get to a place where there is a wider path.
Chair Bauer adjourns the meeting at 2:57 pm