A San Francisco high school is among 10 charter schools that the California Charter Schools Association recommended for closure Thursday, citing low scores on statewide tests.
Leadership High School, near Balboa Park, is up for review by the San Francisco Board of Education this spring. Charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently managed, must be reauthorized every five years.
“While we have phenomenally positive things happening with charter schools in California, we do have too many persistently underperforming charter schools,” said association President Jed Wallace.
The association recommended schools for nonrenewal based on their Academic Performance Index, a state metric based primarily on test scores. All of the schools on the list had an API below 700 on a 1,000-point scale. The association also looked at whether a school’s API had improved by at least 50 points over three years and compared schools to others with similar demographics.
Although Leadership High and the other nine schools recommended for closure are members of his statewide advocacy group, Wallace said in an interview that it would be better for charter schools generally, and for the students who attend them, if the ten schools were not reauthorized.
“We receive our freedom and flexibility in exchange for embracing higher levels of accountability,” Wallace said. “School closure is a natural part of the charter movement.”
At Leadership High, which is housed on the third floor of James Denman Middle School, students and faculty were surprised and dismayed by the association’s
“I think that’s cold,” said senior Kevin Holloway, 18. “This is a small school. We’re like a family. I can always come here and get the support I need, the extra one-on-one help.”
School principal Anita Sufi said test scores don’t tell the whole story.
“I think if you’re looking at numbers, you’re not seeing the diversity of our population,” Sufi said. “Most of our students are African-American and brown students, and we’re doing very well at getting them into college.”
Sufi said the sting was even greater because the school had just paid its $1,300 annual dues to the association.
“We’d like to get that money back,” she said.
Elizabeth Rood, the school’s director, noted that Leadership’s API is comparable to nearby San Francisco Unified School District high schools, and that its black and Hispanic students do better than minorities at several of those schools.
“We’re operating in a city that has an enormous achievement gap,” she said.
The school’s fate rests with the Board of Education. Board member Jill Wynns said she would not base her vote on the charter association’s recommendation, but she was concerned about Leadership’s record.
“To just say, they’re not going to exist anymore, I don’t think I would,” Wynns said. “I do think they need help.”
Leadership High School
Percent black or Hispanic: 77
2011 graduation rate: 92%
Percent of graduates going to college in 2011: 96%
2011 API: 653
2008 API: 641