Scoring High

A charter school's ups and downs

Spring 2002 test results gave a much-needed boost to defenders of the beleaguered Edison Charter Academy in San Francisco. Scores were up in every subject and in every grade, exceeding state targets by a large margin.

The school, long embroiled in a battle for survival with the San Francisco school board, had seen a dramatic drop in its 2001 scores after two years of steady improvement. When Edison took the school over in 1998, it was the lowest scoring elementary school in San Francisco.

According to Joanne Jacobs, a former San Jose Mercury News columnist who is writing a book on charter schools, "One graph [of the spring test results] follows the class of 2002: As second-graders, only 14 percent scored at or above grade level in reading, 26 percent in math; by the end of fifth grade, 43 percent were at or above grade level in reading, 48 percent in math. The spring 2002 scores for second-graders start where the older students ended: 45 percent of younger students [were] at grade level or above [in reading], 47 percent in math." (Jacobs' February Reason article on Edison, "Threatened by Success," is archived at www.reason.com.)

In contrast to Edison's rough treatment, public schools with years of failing scores remain open and continue to be rewarded with extra funding. Recently the Orlando Sentinel reported that teachers at one such school were teaching students that an F grade from the state was "fantastic": "For Jeremy Hunter, the F-grade given to Mollie E. Ray Elementary this past spring does not mean the school is failing. The 11-year-old fifth-grader said it stands for fantastic or fun....Teachers said they plan to reinforce that message throughout the year as they work to improve test scores."

The school is one of 10 in Florida that received failing grades for the second time in four years. So far no school board has moved to shut them down.

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