Arizona joins Ohio in value-added push to close weak charters

Arizona charter-school operators are moving to cleanse their ranks of weak schools by seeking tougher state charter-school standards based on value-added test scores. The proposal is similar to language proposed in Ohio's current biennial budget and could lead to the closing of weak schools that, as in Ohio, taint the entire charter-school movement.

The Arizona Republic reports that about a dozen charter-school operators have taken over the Arizona Charter Schools Association and are pushing for testing reforms such as tougher state standards and stricter accountability for that state's 475 charter schools.

In a description that would also fit Ohio, reporter Pat Kossan points out that Arizona charter-schools have been tarnished for years by an image of poor performance and shoddy financial practices, even though some charters perform significantly better than district schools (see here).

The solution, some Arizonians now argue, is to purge the state of poor performers. The revamped Arizona charter-school association has created a value-added achievement model to measure how the state's district and charter schools are doing. The achievement data will help the state determine which schools deserve to have their contracts renewed and which should close. Association leaders believe charter schools must shift the movement's goals from growth to quality, an idea that has gained momentum in Ohio over the years. (See Turning the Corner to Quality here.)

Central to the effort in Arizona is the use of value-added achievement data (how much have student's grown in knowledge over the course of the year?). Ohio has been at the forefront in the generation and use of value-added data, and this is a richer a more sophisticated way to track student and school performance. For more information, see here.

In Arizona, Kossen reports, the state is now debating how to use such value-added data to determine which schools should close. Ohio is in the midst of the same debate and HB1, as passed by the House, would ratchet up this state's academic death penalty for charter schools. For schools serving grades K-3 and high school grades they face the death penalty if they have been rated academic emergency for three of the last four years. For schools serving grades 4-8, they face the academic death penalty if they are rated Academic Emergency for 2 of the 3 last years and, for any 2 of those 3 years, showed less than 1 standard year of academic growth in reading or math using the state's value-added indicators.

Ohio is not alone in seeking to purge itself of weak performing charter schools. Arizona's efforts are further evidence that the country's charter school supporters are no longer tolerating weak performing schools that tarnish the image of all charters.

More By Author

January 16, 2009
February 17, 2009