The SPCSA Board had the option to escalate the notices of concern to notices of breach, which would bring the schools a step closer to the possibility of being shuttered for underperformance, but staff recommended taking no action “due to pandemic disruptions to both learning and NSPF star rating availability.” (Getty Images)
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Two dozen charter schools have been flagged as academically underperforming after the state issued its first ratings since the onset of the pandemic.
The Nevada State Public Charter School Authority Board on Friday issued notices of concern for 11 schools; 13 additional schools are expected to be issued notices of concern at the board’s next meeting on Dec. 8.
Explore Academy’s middle school, Honors Academy of Literature’s elementary school, and Silver Sands Montessori’s elementary school all received a 1-star rating in the Nevada School Performance Framework (NSPF) and ‘Below Standard’ from the SPCSA’s Academic Performance Framework. Both are the lowest tiers in the respective rating systems.
The elementary grade levels at Battle Born Academy, Imagine Schools at Mountain View, Quest Academy Northwest, SLAM Nevada, and Somerset Academy North Las Vegas all received 1-star and ‘Does Not Meet Standard’ ratings.
Battle Born opened for the 2022-23 school year with K, 1st, 5th and 6th grades. Co-Principal Kathy Rudd told the board that for much of the state criteria the student assessment data came from just 21 students, meaning one student or a few students could skew total results significantly.
CIVICA Academy’s elementary and middle schools received 2-star and ‘Does Not Meet Standard’ ratings. The North Las Vegas charter school opened in 2021 in an area where comparable schools are similarly or lower rated, said Principal Bruno Espey.
“Are we where we want to be? Absolutely not, but we know that this is a stair step,” added JC Flowers, chair of Civica’s Board of Directors. “You don’t go from a 1-star to a 5-star in 18 months.”
Two online middle schools — Nevada Virtual and Pinecrest Academy Virtual — received 2-star and ‘Does Not Meet Standard’ ratings.
The 13 additional charter schools that are expected to be issued notices of concern next month are: Discovery Hillpointe, Doral Fire Mesa’s elementary school, Equipo Academy’s middle school, Learning Bridge’s elementary school, Legacy Cadence’s middle school, Legacy Traditional School North Valley’s elementary school, Nevada Rise, Signature Prep’s middle school, TEACH Las Vegas, and Young Women’s Leadership Academy of Las Vegas’s middle school. These schools generally performed better than the schools that were issued notices of concern on Friday but still below the threshold agreed upon by the board.
The 24 underperforming charter schools join four charter schools that remain under the notices of concern they received pre-pandemic. The elementary schools at Coral Academy Nellis, Democracy Prep, Discovery Sandhill, and Legacy Traditional Cadence all received 2-star ratings for the 2018-19 academic year and received 2-star ratings for the 2022-23 academic year.
The SPCSA Board had the option to escalate these notices of concern to notices of breach, which would bring the schools a step closer to the possibility of being shuttered for underperformance, but staff recommended taking no action “due to pandemic disruptions to both learning and NSPF star rating availability.”
Two charter schools — the elementary levels at Freedom Classical Academy and Legacy Traditional North Valley — remain under the notices of breach they received prior to the pandemic.
State law requires the mandatory termination of any charter school that receives three 1-star ratings in the NSPF in any five-year period.
During public comment, Equipo Academy Principal Ben Salkowe and others tied to the school pushed back on the notices of concern, arguing that a ‘growth data’ component used for the ratings was skewed because of the two years in which no testing occurred, as well as the one year in which testing wasn’t mandatory, which led to substantial nonparticipation within Clark County School District.
Because CCSD enrolls around two-thirds of all K-12 students within Nevada, it typically sets the average for the state.
The Nevada Department of Education in a memo shared by SPCSA staff contended that, despite the substantial non-participation in 2021, the growth scores “continue to provide an accurate picture.”
Katie Broughton, SPCSA director of authorizing, told the board members the growth measure issue was raised with the Nevada State Board of Education and that the data point is a “complicated measure that is part of a bigger picture.”
Board member Victor Salcido said he believed it was “unfair” that a significant portion of the growth metric component of the rating system was seemingly impacted by CCSD’s low testing rate.
“That’s something that’s out of our schools’ control,” he added.
But Salcido voted to issue the notices of concern, saying he believes the board needs to be consistent with its issuing of notices. He added that he also believes the corrective action plans implemented after the notices of concern will be of value.
Board member Jackson Olsen voted to issue notices of concern to 1-star charter schools but not those that received 2 stars. He said it was “not crystal clear” whether they were impacted by CCSD’s year of low participation and could have been a 3-star school.
Board member Sandra Kinne abstained from voting on any of the 11 notices of concern, saying she wanted clarification on the data issues. She expressed specific concern about the number of brand new schools, like Battle Born Academy, that were deemed underperforming.
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