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Published: Thursday, 8/27/2009

3 charter schools to be shut down; 3 cited for excellence

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo School for the Arts science teacher Jason Thomas prepares for the start of school. The school was rated as excellent. Toledo School for the Arts science teacher Jason Thomas prepares for the start of school. The school was rated as excellent.
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Three Toledo charter schools will be forced to close their doors at the end of the school year for poor performance on the state report cards.

Academy of Business and Technology, 2436 Parkwood Ave.; Paul Laurence Dunbar Academy, 3248 Warsaw St., and Englewood Peace Academy, 1120 Horace St. all received academic emergency designations - the state's failing grade - on the 2008-09 report cards released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Education.

New rules require schools to close if they have failed several recent years. Before, the school needed to fail consecutive years.

But there was good news in the Toledo area too.

Toledo School for the Arts and M.O.D.E.L. Community School, which teaches autistic children who take an alternative assessment, remained in the excellent category where they regularly rank.

And Horizon Science Academy Toledo moved up from continuous improvement to join them in the state's A grade of excellent.

The three Toledo charter schools forced to close are among 16 in the state that will be shuttered at the end of the 2009-10 school year.

House Bill 1, which was approved this summer, requires charter schools that teach kindergarten through third grade or any grade 10 through 12, to close if the school is in academic emergency for three of the last four years.

<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/jpg/TO66067417.JPG> <b><font color=red>VIEW: </b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/pdf/TO68325827.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Report card for local charter schools</b></a> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/jpg/TO66067417.JPG> <b><font color=red>VIEW: </b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/pdf/TO68325827.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Report card for local charter schools</b></a>
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Schools that offer any grades four through eight, but not higher than nine, are required to close if they are in academic emergency for two of the last three school years and fail to show academic progress in reading and math for two of the three years.

The previous law, which went into effect in 2007, required the schools to have the failing grade for three consecutive years and show no progress for two of those years. The Toledo Academy of Learning was forced to close at the end of last school year under that law.

Only Paul Laurence Dunbar Academy would have been forced to close if the consecutive years rule were still in effect.

Allison Perz, executive director of the Ohio Council of Community Schools that sponsors Dunbar and Eagle Heights Academy in

Youngstown, which is also closing, said the schools made "quantum leaps" toward improvement.

"The changes that were made were just made too late," she said.

She recommended students stay in their schools for this year to allow more time to investigate the most appropriate school for them to attend next year.

Ashe Culture Center in Cleveland sponsors six of the 16 schools that will be forced to close, including the Academy of Business and Technology in Toledo.

Kwa David Whitaker, co-chairman of the center's community school sponsorship committee, said it's unfortunate the schools will have to close, but they will uphold the law.

"I think it will absolutely be a loss because there aren't a lot of schools that focus on entrepreneurial programming," Mr. Whitaker said of the Toledo school closing.

Mark Sholl, director of Englewood Peace Academy, released a statement to students, parents, and staff yesterday letting them know the school would close in June and assured students and parents they will provide quality education this year.

"Our governing board has decided to explore options to fight this closing, including challenging the law in court," he wrote.

Mr. Sholl declined to comment beyond the statement.

Failing traditional public schools have alternatives to closure that are not open to charter schools, which some charter school leaders say is not equitable.

"We don't believe the closure rules are a bad thing. If schools can't perform, they ought to close," said Martin Porter, director of the Toledo School for the Arts. "I find it ironic it's only charter schools that have to close."

He said charter schools have different missions and target specific groups of students.

Toledo School for the Arts, which teaches grades six through 12, has been a successful charter school example in the state and recognized on the national level for its achievement.

"Arts-based learning is a good vehicle to reach creative kids," Mr. Porter said. "Our teachers work very hard to bring the arts into the classroom."

The director of Horizon Science Academy, Engin Blackstone, said he is pleased to rank in the excellent category.

He said the school was able to move up two categories from continuous improvement by providing individual attention to its students in grades nine through 12 to make sure they were prepared for the Ohio Graduation Test.

"It doesn't happen just in one year. We have a strong system and each year we improve," he said. "Now our job is more difficult because we need to keep it up there. Now all eyes are on us and we need to do better even. Excellent doesn't mean there's nothing else to do."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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