Board Revokes Southeast School's Charter

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The D.C. Public Charter School Board has revoked the charter of a 700-student school in Southeast Washington, saying it failed to meet its academic targets for five years and did not collect some of the data needed to monitor student achievement.

Board members took the action Monday night against SouthEast Academy of Scholastic Excellence. Although the school was recognized for business savvy when it acquired and moved into a renovated Safeway supermarket, it had been cited by the board in recent years for poor teacher quality and curriculum.

SouthEast Academy, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, is one of 48 charter schools in the District. It is the ninth D.C. charter school to lose its charter since 1996, when the first such schools opened in the city. Seven of those nine charters were issued by the D.C. Board of Education, the city's other chartering agency.

Although charter schools are independently run, the public agency that approves a school's application is responsible for monitoring its performance and can decide to close it if it fails to meet benchmarks.

On its Web site, the six-year-old academy touts a "rigorous age- and grade-appropriate academic program." But according to the Public Charter School Board, the school fell short of the standards contained in its accountability plan.

In a March letter notifying SouthEast Academy of a vote to begin the charter revocation process, the board said the school had failed to meet or document nearly 20 goals. Those included moving 10 percent of students from the basic level to proficient in reading and math on the Stanford 9 test; moving 10 percent of students from proficient to advanced; ensuring that 100 percent of special-needs students received all designated services; and ensuring that 90 percent of students achieved proficiency in technology.

According to the school's Web site, 34 percent of students were at the below-basic level in reading in 2004 and 49 percent were below basic in math.

"The program was intended to promote academic excellence in Ward 8. They were supposed to be on the cutting edge," board Chairman Thomas A. Nida said yesterday.

"But the academic results are uneven at best. There was an inability or unwillingness of the [SouthEast Academy] board to resolve the problems. Frankly, if you fail to perform, you breach the contract and we have the right to terminate. And that's what's happened here."

SouthEast Academy Principal Debra Goggins did not return telephone messages left at the school and at her home seeking comment yesterday.

Nida said the school has been operated by three education management companies, most recently by Edison Schools Inc.

In a report last year, the charter board said the school had made "considerable progress" in implementing the Edison curriculum. But the report said the school did not have data "for five of its accountability targets." Moreover, the school was placed on probation for failing to submit a financial audit on time.

Nida said June 30 will be the school's last day of operation. He said he was uncertain whether the school would close or seek to become private.

A telephone recording at the school last night said, "We are making every effort to remain open and serve our students, families and community." The recording said open enrollment for the 2005-06 school year is from May 2 to July 1.

Charter board officials, Nida said, will help students find other schools. The board, he added, will ensure that students' records are properly retrieved.


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