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New Hope Acad. Charter Sch. v. School District of the City of York

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

April 8, 2014

New Hope Academy Charter School, Petitioner
v.
School District of the City of York, Respondent

Argued March 10, 2014

As Amended April 8, 2014

Appealed from No. 2012-13. State Agency: Pennsylvania Department of Education, State Charter School Appeal Board.

Robert W. O'Donnell and Jeffrey R. Stacey, Philadelphia, for petitioner.

Allison S. Petersen, Huntingdon Valley, for respondent School District of the City of York.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge. OPINION BY SENIOR JUDGE COLINS. Judge Simpson concurs in the result only.

OPINION

Page 732

JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge

This matter is a petition for review filed by New Hope Academy Charter School (New Hope) appealing an order of the State Charter School Appeal Board (Board) that upheld the decision of the School District of the City of York's School Board (School Board) denying renewal of New Hope's charter. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that renewal of New Hope's charter was properly denied for failure to meet state academic performance

Page 733

requirements. We therefore affirm the Board.

Facts and Procedural History

In 2007, the School District of the City of York (School District) granted New Hope a five-year charter under the Charter School Law.[1] New Hope's charter provided that it was to be a middle school and high school encompassing grades 7 through 12, with approximately 84 students per grade. In accordance with its charter, New Hope began operations with grades 7 and 8 in the 2007-2008 school year and added grades 9 and 10 in the 2008-2009 school year. New Hope's charter originally provided that it would add grades 11 and 12 in the 2009-2010 school year. As a result of charter amendments requested by New Hope and granted by School District expanding New Hope to include grades 5 and 6, New Hope added grades 6 and 11 in 2009-2010, added grade 12 in 2010-2011, and added grade 5 in 2011-2012.

New Hope's charter included in its " measurable academic goals and objectives" that " [t]he student will meet the proficient level in language arts and mathematics." (New Hope Charter and Charter Application at 15, Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 3a, 616a.) New Hope's charter also provided that achievement of its goals and objectives would be measured by the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), stating that " [s]cores from the PSSA will be used to measure the student progress in regards to the State Standards." ( Id. at 92, R.R. at 694a.)

The percentages of New Hope's students scoring proficient or better on the PSSA in the five years of its charter were as follows:

Reading

Math

2008

36.6%

19.9%

2009

32.6%

22.4%

2010

32.5%

31.5%

2011

34.7%

32.2%

2012

37%

35%

(Board Opinion Finding of Fact (F.F.) ¶ 28 and Discussion at 27-28; School Board Certified Record (C.R.) Ex. J SD-14, SD-15, SD-16; Board C.R. SD Supplemental Ex. C.) The increases in math proficiency correspond in part to higher proficiency rates in new 7th grade and 6th grade classes, not solely to increased proficiency levels in existing students from one year to the next. ( See, e.g., School Board C.R. Ex. J SD-14 (showing 2009 math proficiency rates of 37% for 7th grade vs. 14.8% for 8th grade, and 2010 math proficiency rates of 33% for 6th grade and 40.4% for 7th grade vs. 31.3% for 8th grade).) For 11th graders, the group that would have been at New Hope the longest, the percentage of New Hope students scoring proficient or better was only 26.6% in reading and 17.7% in math in 2011 and 25% in reading and 14% in math in 2012. (Board Opinion F.F. ¶ 30; School Board C.R. Ex. J SD-14; Board C.R. SD Supplemental Ex. C.) New Hope's percentages of students scoring proficient on the PSSA have been lower than the percentages of students scoring proficient in School District's schools in all years that it has been in existence. (Board Opinion F.F. ¶ 29 and Discussion at 28-29; School Board C.R. Ex. J SD-14; School Board C.R. February 29, 2012 Hearing Transcript (H.T.) at 94, R.R. at 306a.)

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) set the following Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards under

Page 734

the No Child Left Behind Act[2] for the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the PSSA: 63% in reading and 56% in math for 2008-2010, 72% in reading and 67% in math for 2011, and 81% in reading and 78% in math for 2012. (Board Opinion at 27; Pennsylvania Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook at 31-32, R.R. at 572a-573a.) Even if a school does not satisfy those AYP proficiency thresholds, AYP can also be achieved through other safe harbor and growth methods based on reductions in the percentage of non-proficient students and improvements in scores toward proficiency. (Pennsylvania Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook at 25-26, R.R. at 566a-567a; School Board C.R. February 23, 2012 H.T. at 115-23, R.R. at 165a-171a.) New Hope did not make AYP under any of the methods permitted by Pennsylvania for achieving AYP in any of the years it has been in existence and has now been placed in Corrective Action II by PDE. (Board Opinion F.F. ¶ 26 and Discussion at 27; School Board C.R. March 8, 2012 H.T. at 36-37, R.R. at 386a-387a; School Board C.R. February 23, 2012 H.T. at 124-25, 130-31, R.R. at 173a, 177a-178a.)

In the fall of 2011, the final year of its original charter term, New Hope hired an education consultant, Dr. Michael Clemens, to help it improve its academic performance. (Board Opinion at 29; School Board C.R. February 29, 2012 H.T. at 72-74, 81-82, R.R. at 284a-286a, 293a-294a.) Dr. Clemens concluded that New Hope was weak in the areas of " curriculum, instruction, and assessments aligned with state standards," " the frequent monitoring of learning and teaching," and " focused professional development." (Board Opinion at 29; School Board C.R. February 29, 2012 H.T. at 86-87, R.R. at 298a--299a.) In Dr. Clemens' opinion, New Hope's curriculum, at the time of his review in late 2011, was not aligned with Pennsylvania ...


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