GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Letters/My View

December 14, 2012

It's time to pull charter school plug

To the editor:

Coincidence is not causality, and for proponents, including the mayor, to erroneously give credit to the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School for spurring improvements in the Gloucester Public School District is disingenuous at best and ignores the dedication, hard work and collaboration that has taken place over the years by parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders.

If anything, the GCACS has attempted unsuccessfully to adopt innovation that is already ingrained in the district. For instance, the Responsive Classroom has been a staple in district schools for years, yet, despite being part of their framework from the outset, Charter School Office reviewers could not find “any pervasive evidence” that it was being utilized effectively in GCACS classrooms.

Supporters continue to complain that they’re being judged “too early,” but the fact remains that the charter was granted almost four years ago. Four years to achieve what Commissioner Mitchell Chester refers to as “pre-enrollment” or first-year status.

Basic things — having a defined curriculum, an accountability plan, and staff stability — should all be solidly in place at this point. GCACS is attempting to start with a “clean slate” in hopes of convincing the state Board of Secondary and Elementary Education that given just one more chance, it’s sure to get it right this time.

When the GCACS chairman, James Caviston, complains that Commissioner Chester’s recommendation is “unprecedented and unwarranted,” he is in fact not accurate. Failing charter schools have been closed less than five years after they opened. If anything is “unprecedented and unwarranted,” it’s the number of second and third chances that the BESE has given this school in hopes that it might finally begin to succeed.

There is a point when even the most forgiving of supporters has to accept that success just isn’t in the picture.

The history and the facts are clear; another chance is not going to fix what ails them. The commissioner is right on target to recommend revocation.

Jason Grow

Marble Road, Gloucester

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