Imagine Charter, closed for poor performance, outperforms many district schools
Imagine Charter School in St. Petersburg agreed to close its elementary school after years of poor academic performance. Two separate superintendents had pushed the School Board to close Imagine, saying it was performing worse than any other school in Pinellas County.
That argument was true last year, when Imagine had the worst FCAT scores of any public school. But charter officials, who originally fought the attempt to close Imagine, argued that their students were improving. They said if Imagine closed many of their students would be zoned for similarly struggling neighborhood schools.
Turns out they were right.
Imagine performed better on the FCAT this year than many other neighborhood schools. Keep in mind, the scores are still extremely low - among the worst in the state in many cases - but so, too, are the scores at the district schools.
For instance, only 17 percent of Imagine's third graders scored at grade level or better in reading. That was still better than scores at Lakewood Elementary, Sandy Lane Elementary, Hamilton Disston, Campbell Park Elementary, Maximo Elementary and Fairmount Park Elementary. In third-grade math, Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Maximo and Hamilton Disston scored worse than Imagine's 3 percent on grade level or better.
In fourth-grade reading, 17 percent of Imagine's students were on grade level or better. District schools with worse scores include: Campbell Park, Maximo, Lakewood, Fairmount Park, Melrose, Hamilton Disston and Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy. For fourth grade math, only Lakewood and Melrose scored worse than Imagine (3 percent on grade level or better.)
In the fifth grade, Imagine was worse than the district in almost every case. It was worst in the district for reading, with 4 percent of fifth graders earning grade level scores or better. In math, only drop-out prevention and alternative schools scored worse than Imagine.
It's hard to say where Imagine's students will go next year, but it is true that many of the students are zoned for the district schools they outperformed this year. A breakdown of student enrollment at Imagine shows that some of the biggest concentrations were from Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood and Maximo.
Imagine also had quite a few students zoned for Woodlawn, Gulfport and North Shores elementaries.
One point that should be made is that the data available to the School Board at the time of the vote to close Imagine indicated that, despite similar school grades, students at Imagine were making significantly fewer learning gains.
For example, at Imagine 30 percent of the lowest 25 percent made gains in reading, compared to 86 percent of the lowest 25 percent at Lakewood and 70 percent at Fairmount Park.