Thursday, January 24, 2008

Charter School Crackdown

What in the heck is going on with the Chesapeake Science Point charter school? It's been an extremely tough month for the charter school, a rare breed in Anne Arundel County. First, the principal, Fatih Kandil, was re-assigned by the school system. Then, a popular physics teacher, Ali Tuna, was re-assigned.

Now, the "school needs to hire a certified special education teacher, get a lease and site plan for a building for next year, and submit a three-year budget that will project their financial needs" in the next month or face closure.

This, despite the fact that the County school system currently has vacancies for 8 certified special education teachers.

These deficiencies are all topics that merit some concern, but that needs to be considered carefully, given the fact that the institution is only 2 1/2 years old. More important questions, to my mind, are what is the engagement of the student body, and how are the students doing?

On the first count, 150 students and parents wielding a 1,000 signature petition turned up at the recent school board meeting to support keeping the school open. Given that parental involvement is one of the best indicators of student achievement, this is a very encouraging sign. Granted, parents who put their children in a charter school are a self-selected group, but still, this level of engagement is impressive.

But how are the test scores? In 2006, Chesapeake Science Point students scored higher than the students of 15 other middle schools in the County on the Maryland School Assessment. Their 2006-2007 reading scores put them at better than all but five County middle schools [pdf] (there are 23 total). The math scores aren't as impressive, but put the school right in the middle of the pack [pdf].

The Superintendent insists he isn't out to shut down the charter school, but this is one experiment that I hope he will keep alive, as long as the parents are involved and the students are excelling.



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