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Annual charter school report to be presented to Board of Education

Hawaii’s public charter schools are making “continued progress” overall but still have room to improve financially and academically.

That’s according to the 2016 State Public Charter School Commission Annual Report, a yearly, self-compiled snapshot of Hawaii’s charter school commission and how well its schools are performing.

The more than 300-page report is slated to be presented to the state Board of Education during its regular meeting today. The BOE oversees the commission. At least 15 of the state’s 34 charter schools are located on Hawaii Island.

The report says charter schools generally outperformed public schools statewide in “college readiness measures” such as ACT scores and college enrollment rates. But charter schools continue to perform below statewide averages in English Language Arts, math and science.

Most charter schools were in “fair” financial health at the end of the last fiscal year, according to the report. However, data indicates “challenges” previously raised for some schools because of “issues … reaching standards for long term sustainability” continue to be a risk.

Charter schools are slated to get about $7,089 per pupil in state funding this year, the report states, up from $6,840 in 2015-16 and $6,315 in 2014-15. Per-pupil spending among traditional state public school students was last reported at $14,434, according to data posted on the state Department of Education’s website.

Charter schools could need even more per-pupil funding in the future, however, “in order to meet the cost obligations of schools, especially when it comes to facilities,” the report states.

The commission conducted for the first time last school year a “comprehensive assessment” to help determine schools’ organizational performance, which included a site visit at each school. All but two schools sufficiently met organizational performance standards, indicating most schools “have been earnest in the effort to fulfill their compliance requirements,” the report says.

Some points include:

• Just 13 of the 34 charter schools performed at or above statewide averages on the statewide standardized test in English Language Arts or Hawaiian Language Arts. Twelve schools — 35 percent statewide — scored at or above the statewide average in math. Just 11 performed at or above the statewide science proficiency rate.

• Chronic absenteeism (missing 15 days or more in a year) among elementary and middle school students lagged slightly behind state averages.

• About 48 percent of 11th-graders enrolled in charter schools achieved a composite score of 19 or higher on the ACT, outperforming peers statewide. Research shows students who score at least a 19 are considered “likely to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses locally,” the report says.

• The four-year graduation rate among charter students was 73 percent, down from 82 percent statewide. The college-going rate among charter students was 64 percent, up slightly from 62 percent statewide.

• Schools overall improved from last year in their ability to meet their current financial obligations and scored higher overall in having sufficient “unrestricted days of cash on hand” — meaning they have a minimum of 60 days of unrestricted cash at the end of the year or 30-60 days with a positive trend when compared to the prior year.

• Cash flow overall was positive, indicating most schools are “able to build reserves to mitigate any uncertainty” in future funding or expenses. However, “some schools had a negative cash flow for the year” indicating “some schools are doing very well while others are not.”

• Ninety-one percent of charter school teachers were licensed, which is required by law unless the teacher is brought on as an emergency hire, the report states. Eighty-two percent of teachers were considered “highly qualified,” meaning they meet certain requirements including having a bachelor’s degree or higher and having full licensure.

The commission also currently is undergoing a performance review by the BOE following a series of past complaints from charter school leaders. That review is slated to wrap up in early 2017.

The full commission report can be found at tinyurl.com/CharterAnnualReport2016

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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