Charter schools for 'at-risk' kids: What are fair standards?
The school is one of about 25 charter high schools in Minnesota that serve academically at-risk students.
".....The Minnesota Legislature laid the groundwork for alternative education programs more than two decades ago, leading to the establishment of district alternative schools known as area learning centers or ALCs. These have been evaluated differently than traditional public schools based on the understanding that the student populations they serve face significant academic challenges.
“These kids, because they’re making up many more credits, and they’ve come back into the system at age 17 or 18 — they can’t graduate on time,” said veteran educator Wayne Jennings.
So-called credit-recovery charter schools like Recording Arts, that serve a similarly at-risk population, do not benefit from the same exceptions.
While ALCs do not receive a graduation rating, credit-recovery charters do, said Keith Hovis, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Education.
That is not the only way in which ALCs are treated differently. “Here’s been the rub: some of these… ALC-like charter schools by law have to take the traditional tests, because there is currently no designated ALC for the charter world,” said Brian Sweeney, director of business excellence at Charter School Partners.
Anderson at Recording Arts said that the way credit-recovery charters are currently assessed does not provide an accurate picture of what each school is achieving.
“You just can’t differentiate between good and bad drop-out recovery charters if you don’t develop measurement tools that are specifically designed to measure those programs,” Anderson said. “It’s frustrating, because what’s in the paper is a snapshot of what this year’s tenth graders are doing on the reading test. What it doesn’t show is the story of how you really got someone from…a third grade up to a seventh grade level…. It doesn’t show the story of growth and the tremendous effort that our teachers have put in.” "