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Report critical of charter school performance

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Most charter schools in Missouri aren’t meeting state proficiency standards and lack both adequate state funding and monitoring, a national watchdog group has concluded in a new report commissioned by Kansas City’s Kauffman Foundation.

The report suggests that some charter schools with exceptionally poor performance should be closed, though the state has no authority to do that.

Charter school enrollment in Kansas City is at 8,800, compared with about 4,000 when charter schools first opened in 2000 as an alternative to public schools that were turning out poor test scores and low graduation rates.

The Kauffman Foundation plans to open Kansas City’s 28th charter school in the fall. It will join sponsors such as the University of Central Missouri, Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley and University of Missouri-Kansas City, whose performance with charter schools needs to be more closely monitored by the state, the report suggested.

“I would say that this report gives a good historic perspective of where we have been,” said Cheri Shannon, executive director of Missouri Charter Public School Association. “I think it represents a call to action for more evaluation and holding all schools to high standards.”

Of 26 charter schools measured in the study, only two met the standard for math proficiency, and the same number met the standard for communication arts.

“Very few Missouri charters currently reach state proficiency standards,” the report said. “There are clusters of strong performances, especially in Kansas City where charters represent six of the state’s top 11 public schools in communication art and six of the top 12 in math.”

Legislation has been introduced in Jefferson City to expand the number of charter schools and increase both funding and accountability.

The report cites a May 2010 study by Ball State University that showed a 25 percent funding gap between charters and other public schools in Kansas City. In St. Louis, that gap is 35 percent.

As more students enroll in charter schools, those funding gaps get even larger, the report said.

Sponsors have closed a few schools in Kansas City and St. Louis in the past decade for low performance, fiscal and management problems, but the state doesn’t keep a list of schools currently in danger of closing.

“We were really pleased to see the report,” said Chris Nicastro, state commissioner of education. “I think some of the things in the report confirm what we have known, such as that there is a need for greater oversight and accountability.”

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