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At Shallcross, a glimpse at a discipline school operator’s contract compliance

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District’s latest round of contracts with discipline school and alternative school providers was designed to be performance-based to achieve greater accountability.

Here is a comparison between contract requirements for student attendance, progress, and achievement, and the data on those requirements reported by Shallcross Academy, which is run by Camelot.

Contract: “The contractor shall use its best efforts to ensure that each Student who has attendance of at least 85% and who has been enrolled in the Program for at least 120 School Days attains two grade levels advancement toward achieving the School District standards” in reading and math.

Shallcross: In 2008-09, the school had 88 students from grades 5-12 who attended more than 85 percent of the time over 120 days. On average, these students entered reading anywhere from three to seven levels below their grade. The one 12th grader who met the attendance requirement increased from a 3rd grade level to a 6th grade level. For students in all the other grades, the average improvement was less than one grade level.

In math, for these same 88 students, growth was slightly higher, an average of 1.3 grade levels. Again, students entering the school tested well below their age and grade level.

The data also reveal that of 165 students, only 88 attended at least 85 percent of the time.

Contract: Attendance benchmarks are unclear, but appear to include requirements for a minimum overall “average daily attendance” as well as significant improvements for individual students over their past records. For the most high-risk students, those who attended less than 60 percent of the time in their old schools, the contract calls for the provider to show that eight in ten of these students attend the discipline school at least 70 percent of the time.

Shallcross: Data indicates that students this year attend on average 77 percent of the time, compared to 75 percent in 2008-09.

Contract: “Eighty percent of students, other than those designated by the Parties to graduate from the Program, will be eligible to transition to the regular education school settings within 6-12 months of their entry dates.”

Shallcross: It is not clear if this exact measure is being taken, but of the 341 admissions in the 2008-9 school year, 296 (87 percent) were deemed eligible for restoration. Few students were suspended.

Contract: “Seventy percent of Students enrolled will be promoted to the next grade level by September of the following fiscal year.”

Shallcross: 89 percent of middle school students were promoted in 2008-9. Numbers were unclear for high school students.

Contract: “Eighty percent of the Students enrolled in the Program will earn 6 or more credits every 12 months until they graduate or will be promoted to the next grade every 12 months after their entry date."

Shallcross: These 2008-9 numbers were only available for high school students. All 15 seniors earned six credits, but other grades fell short: just 68 percent of the 9th graders, 74 percent of 10th graders, and 60 percent of 11th graders. All seniors enrolled for at least twelve months graduated.

Contract: “The Contractor shall ensure that any Special Education Student placed in the Program makes meaningful academic progress in accordance with his or her IEP (individual education plan).”

Shallcross: The school reports that all special education students, 100 percent, are making “meaningful academic progress” so far this school year. Last year, using the prior contract’s standard of “grade level advancement,” it reported a range of numbers for different grades, with the lowest being 58 percent for 14 seventh graders. Camelot officials said that “meaningful academic progress” and “grade level advancement” are the same thing, and attributes the improvement this year to higher achievement, not a different standard.

Contract: The contract says that the District will pay providers by capacity, not actual enrollment, and that both parties will do their best to ensure that the school is filled. However, the School District says that in fact it pays by actual enrollment, but interprets that to mean not the number of students attending at any given time, but the total number admitted during a year.

Shallcross: The school 440-seat school is chronically underenrolled. For 2008-9 year, the average enrollment was just 232 students.

Contract: “The Contractor shall at all times provide sufficient properly trained, duly certified, licensed and appropriately experienced professional staff for the teaching, supervision and support of Students in the Program.”

Shallcross: According to Camelot and the District, 100 percent of the teachers are certified now. Last year, the school reported that only 52 percent of teachers were fully certified.