Struggling Florida charter schools could face automatic termination
Eleven charter schools across Florida, including one in Pinellas County and another in Hillsborough County, may close if they receive another failing school grade this summer, according to new guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education.
The state on Friday released a memo to school district superintendents and charter school leaders to explain which schools would be affected by a new law that automatically terminates charter schools with "Double-F" grades after all school grade appeals are final. The memo attempts to provide clarity after the state said it would not give any sanctions or penalties if a school received an F grade for the 2014-15 because of the transition between state standardized testing exams.
So last year, charters that failed for the second time got a break and had another year to improve. That's not the case for 2016.
Schools that received an F grade in 2013-14 and received either another F grade, an incomplete grade or no grade in 2014-15 will be subject to automatic termination if they receive an F grade for the 2015-16 school year. State grades are expected to be released this summer.
Here are the 11 schools that fall into that scenario:
- Imagine Schools at West Melbourne in Brevard County
- Emma Jewel Charter Academy in Brevard County
- Somerset Academy Hollywood in Broward County
- Richard Allen Leadership Academy in Miami-Dade County
- Alpha Charter of Excellence in Miami-Dade County
- Somerset Eagle High School (also known as Somerset Preparatory Academy High) in Duval County
- Community Charter School of Excellence in Hillsborough County
- Just For Girls Academy in Manatee County
- Aspire Academy Charter in Orange County
- Pinecrest Creek Charter in Orange County
- University Preparatory Academy Charter School in Pinellas County.
Exceptions still apply to charter schools established to turn around the performance of a district public school and to charter schools that serve "a student population the majority of which resides in a school zone served by a district public school that earned a grade of F in the year before the charter school opened and the charter school earns at least a grade of D in its third year of operation."
That second exception could apply to University Prep in St. Petersburg, a Kindergarten through eighth grade school with an enrollment of 445 that draws many of its students from five of the lowest-performing elementary schools in the state. But when the Florida Standards Assessment results were released earlier this month, the charter school performed worse on the exams than the neighborhood schools with some proficiency rates as low as 4 percent.
University Prep's principal, Darius Adamson, said many of his students come to the school behind grade level, and any gains made are not reflected in the test results. He said the statute discourages charter schools from setting up shop in neighborhoods with low-performing schools.
"It takes away the incentive from organizations who want to serve the most neediest kids from organizations who want to serve the most neediest neighborhoods," he said. "Research says it takes about five years to turn around schools, and so the state statute works against that.”
All eleven schools listed above are Title I schools, which means that those schools are given additional funding because a high percentage of students come from low-income families. That includes Community Charter School of Excellence in Tampa, a Kindergarten through eighth grade school where a third of its 201 students are identified as economically disadvantaged.