Charter School Report: Challenges Remain, but Progress Made
A presentation of the State Public Charter School Commission’s annual report was made Tuesday to the State Board of Education.
The most recent report is the fourth compiled by the commission since 2012 and includes information from the 2014-2015 school year.
Each year, the report is completed to include information on all 33 of the state charter school’s results and overall performance.
“The 2014-2015 school year definitely was a challenging one for Hawai’i’s charter sector,” said Commission Executive Director Tom Hutton, “but the people of Hawai’i should know that their charter school system continues to make good progress.”
Academically, four of Hawai’i’s ten highest-performing public high schools, based on the State’s Strive HI Performance System, were charter schools. This includes Big Island charter school Hawai’i Academy of Arts & Science. Myron B. Thompson Academy, University Laboratory, and Ke Kula ‘o Samuel M. Kamakau were also among the list.
In addition, two of Hawai’i’s top ten middle schools, based on the Strive HI Performance System, were charter schools Voyager and Innovations Public Charter School.
MBTA and Voyager were each the highest-performing school in their prospective grade-levels in the entire state.
A total of six charter schools performed in the top 20 percent of their respective grade divisions under Strive HI, while another 10 were in the bottom 20 percent.
Charter schools saw a collective achievement when it came to reading and English Language Arts over the past three years, which was equal to the statewide averages for students at public schools. Science averages were slightly under the public school average, as were math scores.
Students classified as “high needs students,” including those who qualify for free and reduced lunch, special education students, and English Language learners, as well as non-high needs students in charter schools, collectively achieved lower proficiency than the statewide averages for these two groups. Across public schools, the achievement gap between the groups were about the same.
Eighth grade charter school students outperformed statewide averages on the ACT EXPLORE and 11th grade ACT Exams. Charter school students’ college-going rates were also above state-wide public school averages, however, overall high school graduation rates were lower than public school counterparts and a higher overall rate of chronic absenteeism was noted.
Big Island charter schools West Hawai’i Explorations Academy and Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School were classified as “Focus” schools under Strive HI, but were able to exit the status as a result of their 2014-2015 performances.
Financially, the Commission reports that data shows charter schools operating in fair financial positions, with a slight deterioration on some indicators and improvement on others.
Short-term financial indicators reportedly improved or held steady over the past year. Longer-term indicators raise sustainability concerns if charter school funding doesn’t increase and charter schools are unable to increase cost savings.
The Commission outlined charter school organization by focusing on key compliance priorities, including admissions policies and practices. Many of the charter schools policies and practices were revised to ensure that the fundamental promise of public education – open enrollment – was fulfilled.
“Our charter school system continues to experience growing pains as we move forward together with the very difficult work of making sure our charter schools can reach their potential for public education in Hawai’i,” said Commission Chairperson Catherine Payne. “This thorough report provides policymakers, parents, and the public a rich picture of the challenges but also of the real progress that is being made.”
The Commission is the lead in authorizing and overseeing Hawai’i’s charter schools. Charter schools in the state operate as public schools under a three-year charter contract that includes academic, financial, and organizational performance measures.