A Bermuda Triangle for Charter Schools?
I'm not sure when or how this happened, but it seems that Anne Arundel is the place to come if you want to close charter schools.
Last summer, KIPP Harbor Academy closed. The charter school in Edgewater was part of a highly touted national network for raising scores among minority and low-income students. It has survived (and succeeded) in some of the toughest urban environments -- Philadelphia, Houston, the Bronx, not to mention Baltimore. But not here in Anne Arundel County. The school, which was beginning to register gains among its troubled student population, closed because it could not get the district's help finding a larger space to house its growing enrollment.
And this week, I've learned that another charter school, Chesapeake Science Point in Hanover, has scrapped its plans to add high school grades. The move has sent families of about 60 students scrambling to find other schools for next fall. Officials at the school said they abandoned plans for an expansion after continued probation of the school derailed negotiations with the landlord of a new space. Without a new space, the school won't be able to get a lease and budget documents related to the move in the district's hands by Feb. 23, a strict deadline set by Supt. Kevin M. Maxwell. Without those documents, Maxwell has been clear he would consider closing the school. Rather than risk closure, Chesapeake Science Point has chosen to remain a grades 6-8 school, much to the chagrin of the rising ninth and tenth graders at the school who thought they would finish their high school careers there. The school has some of the top state test scores in the district. The middle schoolers work two and three years ahead of their peers in other public and private schools. They have a 100 percent pass rate on the state algebra test. And yet, Chesapeake Science Point is struggling to stay alive.
I continue to be perplexed by the struggles faced by Anne Arundel charter schools. School district officials say KIPP and now Chesapeake Science Point are troubled because they're run by inexperienced educators who are often unaware of the academic and financial expertise it takes to run a school. Others have pointed to a weak state law that confines charter schools' autonomy. But the officials at KIPP and now at the one remaining charter school here, say they have been victims of a district that sees them as competition and is looking for ways to keep them from succeeding. What do you think is going on here?