Friday, July 27, 2012
Gulenist operated Sweetwater Branch Academy in Florida receives F GRADE to close?
Sweetwater Elementary could close after two consecutive F's
By Joey Flechas
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:42 p.m.
Charter school Sweetwater Branch Academy Elementary could be forced to close its doors after receiving an F grade for the second year in a row.
Under a new state law that went into effect July 1, a charter school that receives two consecutive F grades must be closed unless it qualifies for a few exceptions, like if a charter school was created to turn around the performance of a district public school.
Sweetwater Branch Academy Elementary, located at 1000 NE 16th Ave., does not qualify for this, so in order to avoid closure, Principal Ugur Baslanti said he is considering requesting a waiver from the state based on his students' learning gains, or improvements in test scores from the previous year.
According to a process approved last week by the State Board of Education, the board can waive termination for a charter school if the school shows "that the learning gains of its students on statewide assessments are comparable to or better than the learning gains of similarly situated students enrolled in nearby schools."
Last year the school received 288 points for learning gains. This year, that number jumped to 379 — a 91-point increase that makes it the second highest in the district.
"The increase shows that everything worked," Baslanti said. "It was just not enough, unfortunately."
Baslanti noted that the school missed the cutoff score for a D by 16 points. He also plans to appeal for a grade miscalculation, which, if the school gets bumped to a D, would eliminate the need for a waiver.
Talk of the charter school's performance has Superintendent Dan Boyd concerned. He said the School Board is worried about the quality of charter schools.
"I think the state needs to review their infatuation with charter schools," Boyd said.
According to Adam Miller, director of charter schools for the state Department of Education, the charter school system is designed to be a little different from the traditional public school system.
"The charter school system or structure is set up on an agreement for increased flexibility for increased accountability," he said.
The increased accountability could send the 200 elementary students at Sweetwater Branch to their zoned schools, which include Metcalfe, Duval and Rawlings elementaries.
Diana Lagotic, district director for elementary education, wrote in an email Wednesday that those schools would not have problems with the influx of students, as the majority of students would be going to schools that have the space.
If Sweetwater Branch were to close, Boyd suspected the process of shutting it down would take a year.