JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ten of Duval County’s 40 charter schools are now working to improve their operations after receiving “D” or “F” grades from the state.
- BridgePrep Academy - D
- Duval Charter Scholars Academy - D
- Global Outreach Charter Academy - D
- Global Outreach Charter Academy High School - D
- KIPP VOICE - D
- San Jose Primary School - D
- Somerset Academy – Elementary - F
- Somerset Academy – Middle - D
- Tiger Academy - D
- Wayman Academy of the Arts – F
When charter schools get low grades, state law dictates they turn in a plan to their sponsor, – in this case, Duval County Public Schools, – with a roadmap of how to get the school performing well again.
Along with the school’s mission statement and the last 3 years of academic data, school improvement plans have to include what objectives the school plans to hit, a detailed list of what’s wrong, the person or group responsible for fixing each problem, the resources needed to fix them, and a timeline for when each problem will be fixed.
Gene Hays, with DCPS’ school choice office, emphasized that charter schools aren’t run the same as traditional schools.
“The governing board for the charter school is established by the bylaws,” Hays said. “That’s the group that ultimately has the control and the responsibility for the financial management, for the academic outcomes. The district itself does not actually manage any of that because we are required by law to rely on the charter schools governing board to manage those operations.”
Right now, there are 40 charter schools operating in Duval County with at least ten others vying to open in the coming years.
School board member Lori Hershey said Florida law sets a different standard for student achievement at charter schools.
“When a traditional school gets a grade of a D or an F, there are specific steps that they have to take in order to turn that school around,” Hershey said. “Whereas, a charter school can earn a grade of D, and just stay there. There is no timeline for that to move to a C.”
The Duval County School board does have the ability to suspend a school’s charter, but only for very limited, specific reasons.
“The only grounds for termination at this point would be a low performance on a persistent basis, multiple F’s, a school that maybe falls behind financially and is in what the state determines is a financial deterioration or material violation of the law,” Hays said.
While the goals and benchmarks are largely the same, there are fewer rules and methods of accountability for charter schools than traditional schools, which Hershey said presents a fundamental problem.
“I do think that when it comes to student achievement, accountability for charter schools needs to be as stringent as it is for traditional schools because if we are really concerned about students, then we’ll need to be concerned about all school grades,” Hershey said.
Charters are currently only granted by local school districts – through those districts have limited power to reject a proposal to open one.
In August, state lawmakers created a “Charter School Review Commission” which will be able to green-light charter schools anywhere in the state without approval from the local school board.
The commission hasn’t been formed, because it wasn’t granted funding in the last legislative session but that could change when state lawmakers return to Tallahassee.