Advisory Commission on Charter Schools
An Advisory Body to the State Board of Education
1500 Capitol Mall
East End Complex Auditorium
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Vicki Barber (Absent)
PRINCIPAL STAFF TO THE ADVISORY COMMISSION
Julie Briggs, Education Fiscal Services Consultant, Charter Schools Division
James Harris, Consultant, Charter Schools Division
Bonnie Galloway, Education Administrator, Charter Schools Division
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION REPRESENTATIVES
Call to Order
Chair Bauer called the meeting to order at 10:03 a.m.
Salute to the Flag
The commission was led in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Approval of Meeting Notes
Chair Bauer called for a motion to approve the meeting notes from July 28, 2011.
- ACTION: Commissioner Ryan moved that the notes of the meeting held on July 28, 2011, be approved as presented. Commissioner Davis seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously, by a vote of 8-0.
Review/Reordering of the Meeting Agenda
Chair Bauer announced a reordering of the agenda. He called presentations to be held in the following order: Item 2, Item 1, Item 3, and Item 5. Item 4 was withdrawn by the petitioner.
Item 2: Senate Bill (SB) 740 Training and Background Information
- NO ACTION TAKEN
Jill Rice, California Department of Education (CDE) Legal Counsel, provided an overview of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act (Bagley-Keene Act) to the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools (ACCS) members. The following provisions of the Bagley-Keene Act were presented:
- The Bagley-Keene Act requires all state boards and commissions to publicly notice their meetings, prepare agendas, accept public testimony and conduct their meetings in public unless specifically authorized by the Bagley-Keene Act to meet in closed session.
- Meeting notices and agendas must be posted 10 days prior to the meeting date; the agenda should contain a brief description of each item to be transacted or discussed at the meeting; and attachments are not required to be posted; however, attachments that are posted may not be altered.
- A member who is unable to attend a meeting in person may participate via audio or audio and visual teleconference as long as the meeting notice indicates their physical location and is accessible to the public to observe the proceedings or address the members by electronic means.
- The public are afforded the opportunity to speak or otherwise participate at meetings, either before or during the consideration of each agenda item.
- If sign-in sheets are provided at a meeting, public notice must be clearly given that signing-in is voluntary and not a pre-requisite to either attending or speaking at the meeting. In addition, it is prohibited to charge the public admission to attend meetings.
- Consensus decisions on agenda items cannot be made without a quorum of five members for the ACCS.
- Materials provided to and used by the ACCS before or during the meeting must also be made available to the public at the meeting. Further, the materials provided at meetings are also subject to the California Public Records Act.
James Harris presented information to the ACCS regarding funding determinations for non-classroom-based charter schools (SB 740). Mr. Harris provided a handout of the current portfolio of non-classroom-based charter schools with funding determinations, a portfolio numbering over 200 schools. The handout contained background information, including Academic Performance Index (API), Adequate Yearly Progress, statewide ranking, and grade levels up to 2009–10 data, with 2011 data being available soon.
Mr. Harris stated that schools must meet or exceed certain expenditure targets to receive a funding determination. In addition to expenditure targets, the length of the funding determination is dependent on the school achieving an API of six or higher on the statewide ranking. Schools that achieve an API decile ranking of six or higher are recommended for five-year funding; schools with more than three years of operational experience are recommended for four-year funding; schools with less than three years of operational experience are recommended for three-year funding; and new schools must be awarded two-year funding.
Commissioner Thomsen asked if the simple criterion had been reviewed and if it was known that if the 80/40 rule is a strong indicator of success and if there is a linkage between spending targets and performance.
Commissioner Hunkapiller discussed how performance measures were not to be considered for funding determinations. She indicated that permitted spending on instruction and certificated salaries would produce outcomes and warrant more than 70 percent spending. She further commented that when class sizes increase and spending less than 80/40, 70/40, or less are in place, there are serious questions whether or not students can achieve in this setting. Commissioner Hunkapiller stated that the State Board of Education (SBE) believes that mitigation is where performance indicators enter in. There continues to be a series of inquiries into where performance data should enter into the discussion.
Chair Bauer requested that the information presented by Mr. Harris be provided in written form in the future.
Mr. Harris stated that mitigating circumstances requests allow the ACCS to find other reasonable bases to make a recommendation other than that made in the funding determination request. The requests also serve as an exemption from the regulatory requirements based on the individual circumstances of the charter school.
Mr. Harris also noted that non-classroom-based funding determination requests are submitted for approval through the CDE, the SBE, and the ACCS. Non-classroom-funding determination requests for new charter schools are due to the CDE on December 1. Requests arrive from new schools that opened in the fall, which do not have prior year financial data, so they make estimates and project average daily attendance (ADA). The CDE determines the appropriate funding percentages based on the school’s projections.
Chair Bauer asked if schools receive 100 percent funding until the determinations come in.
Mr. Harris responded that schools receive an advanced apportionment based on 20-day enrollment. This process is handled by the School Fiscal Services Division. He also stated that the Charter Schools Division reviews the documents and consults with the charter school, with the goal of presenting the documents for review at the February ACCS meeting.
Julie Briggs stated that for first-year charter funding, ADA data is collected in July and in October. A school’s advance apportionment is based on that without respect to a funding determination. The school must also submit P-1, which does not include the funding determination. Ms. Briggs noted that if a funding determination is not in place at P-2, the funding rate goes to zero, which means that there is required action by the SBE prior to P-2.
Mr. Harris stated that existing charter schools have a different time frame, where funding determination forms must be submitted by February 1 to the CDE. In 2011, existing charter schools must have a funding determination in place because their current funding determination will expire in June 2012. The new funding determinations at this time will commence with the 2012–13 year. He noted that once the funding determinations are processed, they are presented at the April ACCS meeting as well as the May SBE meeting.
Chair Bauer asked if there is a rate difference between classroom-based and non-classroom-based schools per student.
Ms. Briggs responded that funding rates are the same for classroom-based and non-classroom-based schools. The funding determination factor is applied [to non-classroom-based ADA] and funding is calculated at the same rate.
Chair Bauer asked if one is operating a non-classroom-based high school, is the funding rate the same as a brick and mortar rate.
Chair Bauer called for public comment.
Colin Miller, of the California Charter Schools Association, provided comment regarding the definition of a non-classroom-based charter school per SB 740; the funding determination requirements per Assembly Bill 1137 as well as the SBE’s role in reviewing these requests; and how the ACCS’ work largely revolves around regulations governing charter schools.
Jeff Rice, of the Association for Personalized Learning, provided comment regarding the original intent of SB 740, which he indicated was fiscal accountability, not academic accountability. Mr. Rice encouraged that non-classroom-based charter schools should be made eligible for facility subsidies as well. He noted that the facilities mitigation formula only allows a small portion of facilities to be included in instructional formulas and suggests the ACCS revisit that and provide the opportunity. He stated that it would be beneficial to streamline the process and provide greater flexibility.
Eric Premack, of the Charter Schools Development Center, provided comment regarding issues with funding formulas set forth in SB 740. Mr. Premack indicated that the original formulas do not have a rational basis in the quality of the program. He noted that the original signing message from Governor Davis indicated that the bill would impose funding restrictions only where funding was not spent on instruction. He also noted that key terms of the legislation are unclear, especially for programs that look like nonclassroom, but have elements that are classroom-based.
Mr. Premack also concurred with Ms. Briggs’ indication that non-classroom-based funding schools are funded at the same rates; however, he noted that there are many programs that these schools are not eligible for, such as kindergarten through grade three class size reduction, the facility program, and in the planning and implementation grants they are funded at lower levels. With cash flow deferrals, it is hard for these schools to spend money when 30 percent of their money does not show up until after the school year is over. Mr. Premack encouraged a long term, comprehensive rewrite of laws, and urged the SBE and the Legislature to take action.
Paul Keefer, of the Pacific Charter Institute, provided comment regarding unequal funding across classroom- and non-classroom-based schools. He indicated that classroom-based schools that receive Proposition 39 funding have seven percent more money than non-classroom-based schools that do not receive Proposition 39 funding.
Cheryl Townsend, of the Westwood Charter School, provided comment regarding the need for additional money for charter school facilities as one of several means to adequately serve students.
SBE Liaison Williams asked what it means to decouple nonclassroom-based from independent study laws.
Mr. Premack commented that there is a definitional issue for independent study as there currently is not a good definition, which further breaks down in the charter sector. For example, Mr. Premack stated that if you have a student who shows up in the morning and goes off to a pharmaceutical company for an internship, is that a day of attendance or not? For charter schools, this has been through separate but regulatory process, where the Education Audit Appeals Panel tied the definition of independent study to the definition of nonclassroom-based. Because the definitions are so broad and slippery, schools turn into independent study programs, which forces brick and mortar schools to comply with independent study laws.
SBE Liaison Williams asked if home schooling is considered independent study.
Mr. Premack indicated that home study is one type of independent study. Previously, there was five-day brick and mortar or home-based 24/7. Currently, there are several independent study programs, including home-based hybrid, online, some programs that incorporate all three, internships and projects.
SBE Liaison Williams asked if Governor Davis’ signing message for SB 740 is documented and available.
Mr. Premack stated that the signing message is available on the Legislative Counsel Web site.
Commissioner Porter commented on the need to create instructional environments that exceed traditional classroom environments. In addition, he indicated that the commission should not recommend legislation, rather work within the purview of the ACCS and streamline where possible.
Commissioner Ryan recommended the creation of a working group that will focus on gathering experts, make it publicly available, and give input.
Commissioner Davis asked if the ACCS is ready to go in the direction of forming a broad-based coalition and if the ACCS is charged with making this recommendation.
Chair Bauer indicated that the ACCS can and has a responsibility to recommend the formation of a coalition.
SBE Liaison Williams commented that in terms of next steps, it seems that there is a time-consuming process to look at regulations and provide input. He asked Judy Cias, SBE Legal Counsel, if it would be appropriate to ask that question of the SBE in November.
Judy Cias, SBE Legal Counsel, indicated that rulemaking must come from the SBE.
Chair Bauer stated that the ACCS will collate the input and present it to the SBE for its consideration on whether it should look at it more formally.
Commissioner Hunkapiller commented that former Commissioners Mark Kushner and Paul Cartas, along with others who have presented, were part of a work group that met to recommend revised regulations. She indicated that the ACCS should see the products of their work. She suggested that these recommendations could be carried through SBE Liaison Williams to the SBE.
Commissioner Davis noted that much work could be done by many people that may not necessarily go beyond the individuals who put forth the effort.
Commissioner Ryan asked if the ACCS could formally request the SBE for guidance on the possibilities for revising regulations and in the process, take advantage of the work that has already been completed.
Commissioner Hunkapiller reminded the ACCS that Item 2 is a discussion item and no formal decision can be made; however, the discussion could be carried forward through the SBE liaison. She further stated that there has been work done by the ACCS and field members, and the ACCS could frame the situation in order to solicit SBE input on how to move forward.
Mr. Miller commented that the work group generated correspondence that the ACCS addressed formally.
Chair Bauer indicated that the correspondence was not discussed at the table and will have to be brought forth again.
Item 1: Public comment
- NO ACTION TAKEN
Several Commissioners and members of the public expressed their gratitude for Commissioner Hunkapiller’s service as the Charter Schools Division Director and service as a Commissioner to the ACCS.
Chair Bauer called for a lunch break at 11:55 am.
Chair Bauer reconvened the meeting at 12:55 pm.
Item 3: Petition for the Establishment of a Charter School Under the Oversight of the State Board of Education: Consideration of the Synergy Charter School Charter Petition, Which Was Denied by the Pittsburg Unified School District and Contra Costa County Office of Education.
Chair Bauer noted that the ACCS was to review Item 3 again because it was unclear whether or not the revisions were technical or material revisions. The CDE would review that matter and bring back specific recommendation to it.
Bonnie Galloway presented Item 3. She indicated that originally there were two separate petition appeals, Synergy Charter School and Synergy Independent Study Charter School, which was withdrawn by the petitioner.
Ms. Galloway also indicated that in regards to technical versus material revisions, because there is no statute or regulation that defines these terms, the CDE has to review each potential revision on a case-by-case basis. She explained that revisions are considered on a spectrum, with revisions that are clearly technical on one end, and revisions that are clearly material on the other. To illustrate these extremes, a change that would be likely considered clearly technical in nature can include a description of changes that are required due to a change in authorizer. A change that would likely be considered clearly material in nature might be a change in response to a district or county finding.
Commissioner Ryan asked if the reason for the recommendation for denial was a substantive change. The reason is that the district and the county should be able to review the new information.
Ms. Galloway responded affirmatively. She stated that had the district had all of the new information, they may not have had the same conclusion. Therefore, the new information would allow the local authorizer to reconsider the charter.
Chair Bauer called upon the Synergy Charter School petitioners to present.
Cheryl Townsend, Program Director of Synergy Charter Schools, indicated that the budget was created 18-20 months prior. The budget was created under a certain set of circumstances and belief that the budgets were sound. She stated that the disagreement pertains to the ability to respond to a budget. She also noted that someone is making a determination whether the submissions Synergy provided are substantive in nature and that Synergy should be able to respond to changes in the budget.
Commissioner Porter asked what data is being used to justify the enrollment. He indicated that the plans are good; however, there are issues regarding special education.
Ms. Townsend clarified that Synergy looked at available alternative education quality in the district and surrounding districts that touch Pittsburg and found no opportunities. She stated that there is a substantial need for alternative education as the three local charter schools in Antioch, which primarily serve kindergarten through grade eight students, have waitlists ranging from 800 to 1,000 students. In regards to special education, Ms. Townsend indicated that the school prefers to become its own local educational agency and administering its own special education. Further, the school plans to apply for membership at a charter Special Education Local Plan Area.
In regards to specific observations on the budget, Ms. Townsend stated that detailed information was not included, so information was added, which she indicated was completely technical. She further noted that for English learner and free and reduced price meal projections, the petitioners used Pittsburg’s total enrollment and singled out for middle and high school. With state apportionment deferrals, Synergy used the new budget template provided by the Charter Schools Association. In regards to expenditures, Synergy clarified the budget narrative, with no substantial changes. Ms. Townsend further stated that the adjusted budgets were not questioned at the county level, and now that they are working with Delta Managed Solutions, they have to change budgets again with respect to encroachment.
Bill Scheutz, of Fagen, Friedman, and Fulfrost, representing the Pittsburgh USD, shared the district’s concerns with the budget. He indicated that the one thing that changed was that the petitioners withdrew the Independent Study petition. He stated that the original plan was to open one school with both components; however, they were split up for fiscal reasons. Further, additional funding increased Synergy’s eligibility for other grant funding. The sharing of staff, facilities, and other resources were utilized to help with the bottom line. Now that the petitioners have withdrawn the Independent Study petition, it calls into question the ability to run a site-based program if Synergy is unable to get other funding.
Chair Bauer asked if anything was found linking the two.
Mr. Scheutz indicated that the concern of having two at the same time may have risked it completely, which seems as double-dipping of funding.
Chair Bauer asked if there was a line item that linked the two schools.
Mr. Scheutz indicated that he was not aware, as it was the concern of the Chief Business Officer.
Jane Shimeya, of the Contra Costa County Office of Education, addressed some of the budget concerns, specifically, the dependence on the revolving loan fund. As of October 2010, Synergy was anticipating $250,000 for the loan. In their contact with the CDE in October 2010, only $100,000 was available, which limited the schools. Ms. Shimeya stated that there was also a concern with special education encroachment fees, where special education costs for the current charter school are much higher than $24,000. Special education costs could be for one-on-one aide, where the amount could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. Ms. Shimeya stated that the petitioner was confused with the Public Charter School Grant Program, which indicated that they were going to receive funding because Pittsburg USD is in Program Improvement status; however, they did not completely understand the grant.
Chair Bauer called for public comment.
Colin Miller, of the California Charter Schools Association, asked if the concerns regarding the budget indicate that the entire charter is unlikely to succeed. He stated that the budget is a dynamic document that will continue to change throughout the process. Mr. Miller stated that it does not make sense to prohibit Synergy from submitting budget information. He questioned if it is truly material, as many authorizers consider these issues as they change, recognizing the dynamic issues within the state.
Commissioner Ryan asked if the petitioner had included the grant in their petition.
Julie Briggs commented that it is typical for a new charter school to include the grant. She stated that serious issues can surround eligibility and/or award amounts.
Eric Premack, of the Charter Schools Development Center, indicated that when budgets are submitted, many of the schools would often go through at least a dozen or 20 to 30 revisions of their budget over the course of the many months. He stated that the $5M augment to the revolving loan fund has created monetary issues for schools.
Karl Yoder, of Delta Managed Solutions, commented that none of the schools that they serve in Antioch or in the Shasta County Charter School Special Education Consortium have had issues.
Chair Bauer opened the floor to public comment.
Commissioner Porter asked if this revision is material. He also asked that if things have changed, could the petition be approved locally.
Chair Bauer asked what constitutes a material revision. He stated that it would be material if the educational program changed. Based on the CDE’s review and comments around the table, there is agreement that the educational program is good. He further stated that he will continue to look for the threshold to be met by the district, county, and the CDE on what is a material revision.
Commissioner Kovacic asked why the budget revision was viewed as material.
Ms. Briggs indicated that the CDE could not draw a sound conclusion from the information provided. She stated that there were no good budget assumptions and it was undetermined how Synergy acquired the numbers provided. If there were shared costs with the independent study school, they were undetermined. The business and administrative services have worked out, but the narrative was unclear in the original budget. In the most recent information provided, Ms. Briggs stated that the finance director was going to do all the back office, and funded at 0.5. Inconsistencies were addressed in additional detail. Out of the eight district fiscal findings, five were addressed by new information, and out of three county findings, two were addressed by the new information. Ms. Briggs indicated that the new detail would have allowed the district and county to draw a different conclusion.
Commissioner Thomsen asked if the district had the opportunity to raise similar questions.
Commissioner Kovacic asked that if these were material changes, did staff look at the information.
Ms. Galloway indicated that the CDE considers the same information that the district and county considered.
Commissioner Hunkapiller stated that at the last meeting, the direction to the CDE was to look at material versus technical, but not do further work around the petition.
Commissioner Porter asked the county and district how many charters they have authorized.
Mr. Scheutz indicated that he was not sure how many the district has authorized, perhaps even none at the time; however, the same legal obligation is to review against the legal standard, either fiscal or otherwise.
Ms. Shimeya indicated that Contra Costa County Office of Education has had five to six petitions presented in the last few years, and two have been approved.
Commissioner Thomsen asked if the staff could have looked at new material and provided guidance. He stated that budgets do evolve, and this budget has improved with additional information.
Commissioner Hunkapiller stated that there were issues with the petition that were not fixed at the district and county level. The petitioners needed to provide specific information to fix the problems. She stated that what was material is the number and accumulated collection of changes. It not only shows the weakness of the budget, but the collective, the need for specificity, that it is not permissible to fix the petition through the process. She stated that what is material are the weaknesses that made Synergy’s budget unworkable, which tied back to the capacity of their ability to operate the school. Commissioner Hunkapiller asked if the SBE/ACCS is the last resort and, if so, should the SBE/ACCS be obligated to “charter the charters.”
Chair Bauer stated that it is not for the ACCS to say what is correct and what is not correct. He also stated that there are some charters and districts that do not currently work together at the local level. Mr. Bauer further stated that when he hears that budget assumptions were not clear, it is not material to clarify what is or is not an assumption.
- MOTION: Commissioner Ryan moved for approval of a recommendation of the Synergy Charter School Charter Petition, incorporating the provisions in attachments 1 and 2. Commissioner Davis seconded.
SBE Liaison Williams asked if it was within the purview of the ACCS and the SBE to request the local district to review the revised proposal and justify whether or not the district would approve.
Judy Cias, SBE Legal Counsel, indicated that the SBE may request but cannot make the district review the revised proposal, as there is no authority.
Chair Bauer indicated that the item could be tabled with permission of the petitioner, or approved for a short term.
Commissioner Porter requested to friendly amend the motion for a one year authorization to buy time for the district and charter to find a way to work together. He strongly encouraged for the petitioner to go back to the local level and work it out. Commissioner Kovacic seconded.
Commissioner Davis expressed concern that one year is not long enough for the school to demonstrate success.
Ms. Townsend asked, in terms of funding sources, if Synergy would be at risk of not opening in year two if the district is unable to work with them.
Chair Bauer indicated that Synergy would open in 2012–13, and sound counsel would be, before opening, to begin the process of renewing the charter petition, so that by July 15, it is submitted again, so that enough time exists to make it happen.
Ms. Townsend asked if it would be inappropriate to request a two year authorization.
Commissioner Davis asked what the implications were for the school’s ability to secure a facility.
Commissioner Ryan stated that he has not accepted the friendly amendment. He indicated that the original motion had no time limit and expressed to SBE Liaison Williams his wish that she talk to the SBE to articulate Synergy’s situation and the discussion that took place at the ACCS meeting.
Mr. Miller expressed the concern that a one year authorization will be challenging for the school as well as raise concerns for parents. He stated that the CCSA encourages a five-year term and would support the original motion.
Commissioner Kovacic and Porter withdrew the friendly amendment.
- ACTION: Chair Bauer called for final discussion on the motion to recommend approval to the SBE for a five-year term with conditions one and two. The motion was approved by a vote of 5 to 3, with Commissioners Hunkapiller, Porter, and Washington opposed.
Commissioner Thomsen exited.
Item 5: Discussion and Public Testimony Regarding the Measurement of Pupil Academic Achievement in the Authorization, Renewal, and Revocation of California Charter Schools.
Bonnie Galloway indicated that Item 5 is a discussion about authorization, renewal, and revocation prompted by assurances 3A and 3B, which require that all charter schools demonstrate academic achievement, which is the most important factor in renewal. She stated that this will be an opportunity to collect information on how to ensure the creation of high quality charter schools. She also referred to Attachment 2, a PowerPoint presentation from the United States Department of Education, for questions that will help guide discussion.
Chair Bauer stated that Item 5 is on the ACCS agenda for discussion purposes, including discussion at the SBE meeting regarding alternatives around academic and nonacademic performance. He stated that this is an opportunity to collect for the public a brainstorm that includes current ways to engage academic and nonacademic measures in addition to the state Academic Performance Index (API), which looks at California Standards Test (CST) scores, California High School Exit Examination scores, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and other measures, or metrics.
Commissioner Porter stated that because of vouchers and competitiveness, the accountability system designed under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 was not developed the way it had been intended. He stated that we need to, with the CCSS; design an assessment system for all schools that everybody can buy into. He stated that Victoria, Australia; Ontario, Canada; Scotland, and other countries have come up with wonderful designs that hold schools accountable, focusing on the child, growth, and meaningful assessments at the right time. He indicated that none of the 38 countries that the United States has benchmarked with test students every year. He stated that the API is the best of the bad thing we have from NCLB, although, we must keep that as a transition, until we have performance-based assessments. It is important to get a snapshot of the whole school and its entire performance, which could even be embedded into the charter. The difference will be the delivery system.
Chair Bauer discussed the importance of the high school experience. He stated that what informs us is college readiness. He stated that we cannot simply focus on graduation rates and a-g pass rates, because anecdotally and empirically, we see and hear from students and colleagues at the university level that students are woefully prepared for college English and mathematics. He stated that approximately 50,000 students in the California State University system are not prepared for college English and/or mathematics even though they have completed all of the requirements in high school. He stated that we are already utilizing a variety of instruments to evaluate a student’s college readiness, such as the Early Assessment Program, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, etc.
Commissioner Ryan stated that there is value in common assessments; however, they should not be the end all/be all of how to evaluate a school. He stated that NCLB requirements provide the ability to evaluate student progress at one school based on what they are required to learn vis-à-vis student progress at other schools. He stated that we have this accountability structure so parents know whether or not the instruction their children receive is truly preparing them for the next level in school, college, and beyond. He stated that schools are not just about teaching core subjects but also are about developing the whole child. He stated that whatever we do uniquely, we ought to be thinking of ways to prove that we are achieving those expected schoolwide results. It is also important to note that results will be different at each school as each school articulates a slightly different vision on what is going to be emphasized.
Commissioner Kovacic indicated that as a teacher, what she appreciates about NCLB is that it brought attention to the urgency that every child has access to an equitable education. She stated that there is a huge implementation gap between the goal and what is actually happening. She stated that it is critical that as we have discussions and policies to include the teachers so that we hear from them how we can help students reach their stated potential. She stated that when she thinks of assessment, she thinks of what she would want students to be able to do when they leave high school, such as critical and analytical thinkers, and being creative and original. She indicated that CST scores alone do not measure the dispositions that students embody. Ms. Kovacic asked as we develop assessments and implement the CCSS, how do we measure growth, dispositions, and the whole child. She stated that there needs to be thoughtful ways to engage, not act out of a punitive nature. When the latter occurs, schools are not living up to their potential, and are not giving supports and resources or building capacity.
Commissioner Washington stated that we have to realize that our children are very successful. They are successful at the games they are asked to play. The students are going to college and are not ready. It is an indictment on the system that we have. They will be successful at whatever they see the game as. He stated that at his school, there are students willing to bend the rules and cheat to get the right score and get the right grade. The students know the game, and that is the game they play. He stated that he agrees with what people are saying about NCLB and that in the long run, we have done some things that have taken away from what has made us successful.
Chair Bauer called for public comment.
Mary Bixby, of the Altus Institute Network of Charter Schools, asked that unique programs be taken into consideration. Further, she asked what about schools that change its population completely every 18 months. She stated that these schools take in students from every single high school and middle school across the district. She stated that her schools cannot use a drop-out rate as they do not have the same students, but have a whole range of students. These students are not just students who are unable to function, but gifted students as well. She asked that there be the allowance for intervention programs. She stated that Altus’ mission is to redirect those students to another setting. She indicated that soft skills, motivation, and any criteria named in the charter governance document should be measured.
Eric Premack, of the Charter Schools Development Center, recommended looking at assessments through a charter lens. He stated that the whole concept of the state setting standards and then picking assessment is orthogonal to charter schools. He stated that children are not standardized and do not need standards across the board. He noted that we have confined ourselves as a state and a nation, and particularly as charters. Now with federally mandated standards, California already meets the requirements.
Colin Miller, of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), noted that the work that the CCSA did on charter school performance should be looked at. Mr. Miller stated that the discussion about changes across all levels is narrow when talking about a whole child and a whole system. He stated that the CCSA is concerned with the charter piece for flexibility for accountability trade-off. He noted that the authorizer may not be taking it as seriously as well. He stated that renewal standards for lower performing charter schools need to be reviewed. He asked how to currently assess charter schools. He stated that the systems we are looking at, adequate yearly progress and NCLB, are geared toward assessing schools for policy and informing instruction. They are not made for high stakes decisions that charters have to go through. He indicated that charters have an additional burden of having to perform or risk closure. He stated that there should be exemptions for schools in the Alternative Schools Accountability Model or consideration for the longevity of schools (four to five years). He also indicated that the metrics should be in the charter itself. Mr. Miller further stated that setting standards and measurable pupil outcomes are an important aspect of renewal. He stated that the CCSA advocates for a more nuanced look for every school. As far as the federal assurances, the CCSA believe that they meet the standards. Mr. Miller stated that the CCSA would be willing to work with the CDE.
Paul Keefer, of the Pacific Charter Institute, stated that the API is a blunt instrument and is not discrete. He indicated that out of 1300 students, 900 of them might have scored far below basic on the CSTs; however, his schools work those same students and approximately 40 percent finish A-G, 30 to 40 drop out.
Louise Bay Waters, of Leadership Public Schools (LPS), commented that the current regulations have disincentives to the current purposes of charters, where they serve the highest need, like high school students coming in with elementary level skills. She stated that LPS is looking to charters to show models of turnaround and not just closure. She indicated that when capturing three years of accountability, we should look at where that is in terms of intervention. She stated that the time of intervention and intervention formula should be taken into account as well as looking at soft leading indicators and change profile.
Jeff Rice, of the Association for Personalized Learning, stated that the overreaching issue is the need to recognize that every child’s journey is unique to that child. He stated that the current system makes every child small, where they learn the same way, at the same pace, and with the same curriculum. He stated that until the system is set up to address the needs of the students, we will continue to see more students fall through the cracks. He stated that there is a need to set up 21st century service oriented structures, with flexibility to accommodate the needs of its customers. Further, he stated that education needs to play a leading role in being flexible in meeting the needs of its customers, noting that the customers are its students. In addition, Mr. Rice stated that the assessments need to be longitudinal and individualized to follow each student; to help each student to prepare for that postsecondary journey; and whatever that preparation is, it is going to be unique to each student. Further, it is up to the school and teacher to know the student well enough through meaningful relationships to guide that student in being prepared for whatever that step may be.
Commissioner Ryan asked what to do with, how to identify, and at what point do we take action with failing public, charter, and private schools. Commissioner Ryan stated that there needs to be a mechanism to identify those schools and have a way to fix them, whether it be turnaround, closure, etc. if the school is not meeting its own measurable pupil objectives.
Kerry Mazzoni, of Government Strategies, Inc., shared that the SBE is very interested in discussing metrics in renewing charter schools and the Legislature will design the new accountability system, although she doubted that we will get away from common assessment for all students. Ms. Mazzoni encouraged the review of metrics that impact renewal of charter schools.
Chair Bauer closed public comment.
SBE Liaison Williams shared that she appreciated the comments made and has an interest in hearing more input from the ACCS and the public, with the opportunity to explore the issues or reaching a conclusion or consensus.
Commissioner Porter indicated that the SBE should look at what academic content accountability systems that other countries have as well as how to get the student to be part of the solution. Commissioner Porter suggested perhaps a qualification system or even a placement test at the end of high school may be appropriate.
Chair Bauer indicated that the ACCS can refine the topic even further at the next meeting.