HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time, Hawaii's public charter schools must make the grade or risk possibly not having their contract renewed. Preliminary numbers based on the first year of data show that some campuses could face closure if changes aren't made. Members of the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission briefed the joint Senate and House Committees on Education on Tuesday about proposed charter school renewal criteria.
"There are a handful of schools in that very top bracket. There's a sizable number of schools in the middle two brackets, and there's about eight schools in that bottom bracket," explained Tom Hutton, executive director of the commission.
26 of the state's 34 charter schools will need to renew their contract in June of 2017. The commission is scheduled to adopt criteria in October regarding eligibility and the length of the new contract. The proposal calls for contracts ranging from five years for top schools to a one-year probationary period for any schools that fall in the bottom bracket.
"For a school to come in and try to move the needle in language arts and math, when they're really serving a population of students who happen to be homeless, parents with great socioeconomic need, it's not surprising that many are not performing where they would like to be," said Kapono Ciotti, chief educational officer at Waialae Elementary Public Charter School, one of the state's high-performing schools.
Annual ratings are calculated based primarily on academics, as well as organizational and financial performance. Although the state's Strive HI performance system applies to all charter schools, the commission is allowing campuses to propose different school-specific measures that will count for up to 25% of the academic score.
"For many charters, it's about serving community-based needs that aren't captured in the Strive HI measures, and to have so much of our scores based in that is the wrong target," said Ciotti.
This is the first time that charter schools face the possibility of non-renewal for poor performance. In May, Halau Lokahi shut down after the commission revoked the school's charter contract due to severe financial and legal problems.
"I think this is criteria that is needed so that we have no surprises and don't have more future Halau Lokahi situations, that at least they know where they stand, what their ratings are, what their performances are," said State Sen. Michelle Kidani, chair of the Senate Committee on Education.
The contracts for six Hawaiian language immersion schools, the new Ka'u Learning Academy, and Malama Honua Public Charter School in Waimanalo will be reviewed separately, according to Hutton.