Embattled Charter Commission Staff Uses Incomplete Data to Irrationally Target Schools
Data recently released by the State Department of Education, paints a much different picture than the embattled Public Charter Commission staff claims. It is in the data where the real story is told, as SBOE combines multiple measures, like test scores, challenging demographics, and growth, to show academic progress.
The Idaho Department of Education released the 2018-19 state reading, math, language arts and science results on Friday, August 16. The results confirm that during the illegal Charter Commission executive session in April, Commission staff members and Commissioners used inaccurate data to evaluate charter schools targeted for closure.
During the April executive session, which violated the state’s Open Meeting Law, the commissioners and staff can be heard gossiping and criticizing schools they consider low-performing. At one point, commission staff members Tamara Baysinger and Kirsten Pochop accused Jerome’s Heritage Academy Charter School of “malpractice,” claiming it should be shut down as soon as possible.
However, state assessment data for Heritage Academy shows otherwise. When examining factual information [available on the Idaho Report Card website https://idahoschools.org/] the story is very different. Heritage Academy actually made more growth -- with more challenging demographic characteristics -- than any other school in surrounding communities.
“This is more evidence that the commission staff decides to harass a charter school and then selects the set of data that makes the school look bad,” said Tom LeClaire. “The commission staff is the most unprofessional and biased group of employees in our state government” he added.
“The commission’s staff has a pattern of selectively choosing data to manipulate commissioners into believing a school they personally dislike is failing when it is not. These schools have difficult demographics and the efforts of the teachers, administrators, board members and parents should be supported, not attacked and harassed. The SBOE understands this, why does the charter school commission staff refuse to look at the whole picture?”
“Governor Brad Little needs to step in and reestablish the codified original mission, not allow this commission to be a rubber stamp for the staff’s petty personal biases.”
Commission staff members and Commissioners spent a great deal of the recording slamming Heritage Academy and its administrator, Dr. Christine Ivie. Commissioners said that Heritage students, along with Jerome School District students, would be better off if they were bused to one of the Commission’s favorite schools, North Valley Academy in Gooding.
However, the data released by the body that oversees the charter commission, the State Board of Education, paints a much different picture. It is in their data where the real story is told, as State Board of Education and the State Department of Education combine multiple measures, like test scores, challenging demographics, and growth, to show academic progress.
Here are the numbers:
At Heritage Academy, 96% of students qualify for free or reduced priced meals. The average for the state of Idaho: 45%. The average for schools the Commission labels “high performing”: 24%.
At Heritage, one out of every four (25%) of our students have disabilities. The average for the state of Idaho: 11%. The average for schools the Commission labels “high performing”: less than 3%
At Heritage, one out of every four (23%) of students is learning English as a new language. Compare this with 7% for the rest of the state, and 0% for the Commission’s “top performers”.
Many schools considered “low-performing” and targeted for closure by the Commission are similar to Heritage Academy: they serve students who have barriers to success or who are significantly behind when they start school in the fall.
Based on the illegal meeting and what it revealed about the Commission’s desire to close schools that serve diverse student populations, legislators and charter school advocates will be considering legislation that will significantly change the way charter schools are authorized and evaluated.