After two Fs, Imagine Middle asks state for waiver to stay open
After earning its second F, Imagine Middle School in St. Petersburg has asked the state Board of Education for a waiver to stay open this year. The charter school is arguing that its students made more progress than students at nearby middle schools in Pinellas County who were serving a similar population.
The state board will consider Imagine's request next Tuesday.
Imagine's elementary school, which was on the same campus, closed this year after chronic low performance. The Pinellas County School District had moved to close it several times. Eventually the charter agreed to drop its appeal of the closure. Interestingly, though, the elementary school outperformed several of the district's neighborhood schools on the FCAT.
The middle school, which only serves about 112 students, had only 25 percent of its students earn reading scores that were proficient or better. Its math scores were even lower, with 10 percent proficient or better.
The school acknowledges in its waiver request that it faces "significant challenges" to improve its F. But it argues that its learning gains are the same or better than other district schools in the area. For example, Imagine had 56 percent of its lowest 25 percent of students make reading gains. That's a bit better than John Hopkins Middle, which had 54 percent reading gains. (Flip through their waiver, linked to above, to see others.)
For overall performance, however, Imagine fared worse than other middle schools in the area. At Bay Point Middle, 43 percent of students were proficient or better in reading, while 40 percent were in math. At John Hopkins, 36 percent were on grade level or above in reading, while 30 percent were in math.
If the state grants Imagine a waiver, it will be good for one year. Unlike the elementary school, Pinellas hasn't moved yet to close the middle school. State law says that a sponsor, in this case the district, must close a charter after two Fs unless it does one of a few things. The waiver is one of those.