State Public Charter School Commission (ʻAha Kula Hoʻāmana) 2013-2014 Annual Report
November 18, 2014
...This Annual Report is the third to be issued by the Commission since its creation in 2012 and primarily provides information on Hawaii’s charter school system from the 2013-2014 school year. All of Hawaii’s 34 public charter schools currently operate under the auspices of the three-year Charter Contract developed and executed during that school year. The Charter Contract incorporates a Performance Framework under which charter schools are evaluated in three areas: Academic, Financial, and Organizational.
In the Academic area, this is the first Annual Report to include results from the Commission’s Academic Performance Framework, which was finalized during the 2013-2014 school year. The Academic Performance Framework is based mostly on data provided by the State’s Strive HI Performance System for all public schools, but it applies that data in some ways that depart significantly from Strive HI. This means that the respective school results under Strive HI and the Academic Performance Framework generally tend to be aligned but in some instances differ significantly. As with last year’s results, important data caveats should be borne in mind when evaluating results.
In this first run of the Academic Performance Framework, 36% of charter schools met or exceeded the overall standard, while 63% did not meet or fell far below the standard. The framework’s added emphasis on High Needs Students, and the reality that charter schools currently are underperforming relative to statewide averages on some outcomes for High Needs Students, appears to have been a significant factor in these results. As measured under Strive HI, charter schools in 2013-2014 collectively improved, on average, on every measure except two: Reading proficiency and, in elementary schools, chronic absenteeism, which both remained essentially flat. The rate by which charter schools collectively reduced the achievement gap between High Needs Students and their Non-High Needs Students showed particularly impressive progress. Notably, five of the eleven highest performing public high schools in the state and two of the four highest-performing middle schools, as measured by Strive HI, are charter schools.
In the Financial area, charter schools generally were in good financial positions as of June 30, 2014, and appear to have exercised sound stewardship of public funds, but there was a slight deterioration in their positions from last fiscal year. The 2013-2014 results suggest that the financial prediction in last year’s Annual Report still holds true: that sustainability challenges lie ahead if funding levels remain essentially flat and/or schools cannot realize cost savings. While there was overall improvement this year in some near-term indicators, schools are starting to struggle to meet the near term targets, and more are having difficulty meeting standards for the long-term sustainability indicators.
In the Organizational area, most schools met all expectations under the Commission’s Preliminary Organizational Performance Assessment, which in 2013-2014 primarily addressed timely submittal of fairly basic public school policies and practices in five areas. This incremental approach was deliberately formative rather than qualitative in nature and reflects the minimal expectations formerly placed on Hawaii charter schools and the challenges confronting schools that tend to be lightly staffed administratively, stretched financially, and still transitioning from a previous model of governance that was primarily constituency- and community-based. The results nonetheless highlight some areas that will require additional attention from schools and the Commission.
In all three areas, Hawaii’s charter sector shows promising sign of improvement, but clearly much work remains to be done. The strains of systemic improvement efforts on schools with multifaceted resource and capacity challenges—however necessary and overdue these efforts are in the interests of Hawaii’s children—are evident. This Annual Report helps detail both the progress and the challenges for consideration by policymakers, parents, schools, and other stakeholders....
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