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District releases new Annual Charter Evaluations

This year, the ACEs include more information, comparisons and data

Emma Lee/for NewsWorks

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

The School District’s charter office on Wednesday posted individual evaluations for 2015-16 that provide parents, educators and others detailed information on how the schools are performing. The 2015-16 Annual Charter Evaluations, or ACEs, are for 54 schools — those in operation last year that are not in the renewal process. They include information on academics, organizational stability and compliance, and financial health and sustainability. The ACEs, which started in 2016, have been revised this year to include an executive summary that includes a three-year trend on key indicators and a section that focuses on issues relating to equity, such as average teacher experience and suspension rates of different ethnic groups. The changes are "due to feedback received from stakeholders including the charter sector itself," said DawnLynne Kacer, director of the charter office. Charter operators, she said, wanted the information more closely tied into the District’s renewal criteria so that the individual schools could get a sense of whether they were on the "road to renewal." The new ACE includes an "executive" summary that shows three-year trends, and a section highlighting equity issues, including such data as average teacher experience and suspension rates broken out by gender and ethnic group. Some data is also broken out by grade level. The reports also have data on student mobility and results of student surveys on how they view their experience at the school. "We wanted to make sure we tackled the different dimensions of equity," said Julian Thompson, the charter office’s manager for policy and quality. Overall, there is also new information on whether application materials are in languages other than English and whether daily instruction is offered in English as a second language. The reports also track whether bylaws are being implemented and whether the school is being run by someone with the proper certification and has properly credentialed special education teachers. It also tracks whether it meets city food safety standards in serving meals to students. Much of the academic information for each school is compared to a peer group, charters as a whole, and the District. Information on attendance rates, suspension rates, and mobility rates are als broken down based on grade level and can be compared to students in the same grade in peer schools, charter schools, and District schools, Kacer said. In a statement, School Reform Commission chair Joyce Wilkerson said that the revised ACEs "continues our work of bringing national best practices to improve our charter schools and better inform our authorizing." There are 86 brick-and-mortar charter schools in Philadelphia authorized by the District. Cyber charters are authorized by the state and are not evaluated by the charter office. Kacer said that later in the spring, the charter office will release a charter sector analysis that will include such information as how many charters are meeting or exceeding statewide academic standards, in both proficiency levels and growth; how many are financially healthy based on both short term and long term metrics, and what percentage meet the guidelines for fair and open enrollment procedures, English language instruction and other key indicators. This analysis "will do deeper dives based on subgroups," Kacer said, compared to last year’s analyis. The ACEs are in addition to School Performance Reports, which the District produces for all schools including charters. And charters also get separate renewal reports when they come up for renewal. There are 26 charters up for renewal this year. About 70,000 students attend charter schools in Philadelphia.

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