Last updated: February 20. 2013 3:40AM - 253 Views

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Same schools, same data, different results.

When the state announced in September which schools made Adequate Yearly Progress in math and reading proficiency, 77 of 156 charter schools were on the list. But after a federally mandated recalculation, that number dropped to 43. The recalculations did not impact Bear Creek Community Charter School on state Route 115, which kept its made AYP status.

The mandated recalculation was caused by the state's own actions. The state Department of Education decided to change the way it calculated AYP for charter schools and implemented the new system without federal approval.

States have leeway in the details, but AYP is part of the national No Child Left Behind law, and Washington has final say.

Specifically, the state had decided to calculate charter school AYP using a method already approved and used in judging Local Education Agencies – a term that refers, in most cases, to school districts – rather than judging them as individual schools. School districts as a whole must make AYP, but each school also must make it.

Technically, charter schools are LEAs. But most – including Bear Creek – are LEAs with only one school, unlike multi-school districts. The state argued comparing charters to other LEAs, rather than to individual schools, was fair.

When the state released AYP status for all schools in September, it did so using the new system while still awaiting federal approval. But the U.S. Department of Education rejected the change, ordering the recalculation.

Critics, including the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, argued that the change made charter schools appear more successful because the AYP goals for LEAs are less stringent than for individual schools.

The association dubbed the change an attempt to artificially inflate the number of charter schools regarded as making AYP, which served to mask deficiencies in charter schools and deny families the information necessary to make informed choices.

The association issued a press release this week noting 34 fewer charter schools made AYP after the recalculation, and that no cyber charter schools made AYP.

The press release quoted Interim Executive Director Stuart Knade: The most recent calculations again reinforce that charter and cyber charter schools are not performing as well as we would like. Each year millions of public dollars are being redirected to these institutions at the detriment of traditional schools, which continue to show better academic progress.

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