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City charter school flunks accreditation

Jeremy Lazarus | 2/18/2016, 7:33 a.m.
A Richmond charter school has been denied accreditation, providing fresh ammunition to foes of a Republican push to open the ...

A Richmond charter school has been denied accreditation, providing fresh ammunition to foes of a Republican push to open the floodgates to create such schools.

The state Board of Education essentially flunked Patrick Henry School of Arts and Sciences in determining that the public charter school on the city’s South Side is not on trajectory to achieve full accreditation within three years.

Accreditation is largely based on student results on state Standards of Learning tests.

Patrick Henry saw student pass rates on English and math remain below state standards. Opened in 2010 on Semmes Avenue, the school has about 330 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

In the most recent round of testing, 64 percent of students passed the English test in reading, well below the 75 percent pass rate required for accreditation.

Also, 62 percent of students passed the mathematics tests, which is below the 70 percent pass rate required for accreditation.

The charter school is not alone. It was one of eight Virginia schools whose request for reconstituted status and partial accreditation was denied. The list also includes Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Richmond’s East End, where students also did poorly on state SOL tests.

However, there is a greater focus on Patrick Henry because of supporters’ claims that charter schools are better than typical public schools.

A charter school is a hybrid type of public school that has a charter or agreement that allows it to operate more independently and with fewer strings than regular schools.

At the Virginia General Assembly, consideration is being given to passing and sending for the approval of state voters a constitutional amendment that would allow the state Board of Education to authorize charter schools anywhere in the state without the OK of a local school board.

Charter schools so far have gained little traction in Virginia. Currently, only a handful operate in the commonwealth, in large measure because they must apply and gain the support of school boards.