A year without testing data aids charter schools seeking longer renewal schedules

Some schools seeking charter renewals might benefit from the suspension of state testing that followed the 2019-20 academic year.

The tests were called off after the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close for in-person instruction. That means achievement data isn’t available for that year to determine whether schools met state academic requirements.

The Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) voted Tuesday to extend the charter renewal schedule for two schools from seven years to 10. If approved by the State Board of Education, Healthy Start Academy in Durham and Union Prep Academy at Indian Trail, a Union County charter, will move from a seven-year renewal schedule to a 10-year schedule.

Healthy Start is led by CSAB Chairman Alex Quigley who didn’t vote on that set of renewals.

Schools that are in compliance with state law, have sound financial audits and whose most recent available achievement data trends in the right direction shouldn’t be penalized because testing data from the 2019-2020 school year is not available, the board agreed.

“If there are no financial issues, if there’s no compliance issues, there’s this kind of spirit right now, which I think is appropriate, that we’re holding schools harmless,” said CSAB member Bruce Friend, noting that school districts were held harmless for enrollment declines due to the pandemic.

In all, the board recommended that eight schools receive 10-year renewals.

Source: Office of Charter Schools

The advisory board recommended five-year renewals for nine schools, including four of which Office of Charter School (OCS) officials said would ordinarily receive recommendations for three-year renewals based on their performances.

Those schools, however, would not have enough academic data in three years to measure whether students made academic progress. OCS officials also worry that testing data collected this year might not provide a valid measure of student achievement.

“This is the reason we’re aiming for five-year renewals to give them time to actually produce data for you to make a decision when they come before you again,” said Shaunda Cooper, an OCS consultant who oversees charter renewals. 

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