Blackfoot charter faces annual academic oversight

Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center’s low academic performance concerned the charter commission, but the agency ultimately approved a five-year renewal agreement requiring the school to show yearly improvements.

Charter schools authorized by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission are under a five-year renewal process. After the commission evaluates financial and academic performance, it determines whether or not to renew, conditionally renew or not renew.

Of the 16 schools up for renewal this year, Blackfoot charter was the only one required to demonstrate improving academic performance. The school’s renewal certification expires in 2030 with two conditions that must be met:

  • Achieve a minimum 2% year-over-year increase in all academic outcomes.
  • Achieve a “meets standard” rating for two consecutive years.

“We’re not closing the gap and that’s the area that I believe that we need to focus on,” said Craig Gerard, the school’s executive director.

The academic turnaround, according to Gerard, will be driven by increased student interventions, focused professional development, curriculum reviews, added remedial programs, increasing family engagement and developing better communication with staff.

“We’re making progress,” Gerard told the commission last month. 

The charter underperformed both the state and Blackfoot School District in five academic measures — math proficiency and growth, English language proficiency and growth, and literacy proficiency.

Gerard outlined the school’s areas of challenge:

  • Special education population is 19%, which is 7% higher than the state average.
  • Students receiving free and reduced meals (economically disadvantage) is 55%.
  • About 5% of students are English learners.
  • An overall increase in student apathy after Covid.
  • Several unfilled staff positions this school year.
  • New kindergarten students on average are 19% less proficient than the state average.

Will the new Accelerating Public Charter Schools Act help schools like Blackfoot? Jacob Smith, the commission’s director, said there will be “an increase in outreach and support from the commission staff.”

Charters can find support through the State Department of Education’s Building Capacity Program, Smith said.

“One of the focus areas of the new laws is to provide more autonomy to high-performing charters schools which will allow staff to focus on schools who are experiencing challenges,” he said.

Three more charters with poor academic performance

Idaho Education News found three additional charter schools with academic concerns.

The IPCSC uses an annual report to assess governance, financial and academic performance. Boise’s Peace Valley, Gooding’s North Valley Academy and Hayden Canyon Charter reported concerning academic performance last year.

EdNews looked into their Idaho Standards Achievement Test and Idaho Reading Indicator scores. The schools fell short of state and district performance — charters measure performance against the school district where they’re located. The IRI measures reading proficiency while the ISAT assesses both English language arts and math skills.

Peace Valley’s IRI and ISAT scores trail both the district and state by double-digits. For example, in math it scored 46 points below Boise school district and 23 points behind the state average. For the past three years, the school has not met any academic performance standard required in its charter agreement. The school will be evaluated for renewal in 2028.

North Valley also falls short in ELA, math and reading. The school’s reading score is 10 points lower than both Gooding School District and the state average. Around 43% of its students are proficient in ELA and 35% in math. The school will be evaluated for renewal in 2028.

Three years ago, Hayden Canyon outperformed its comparison school district and the state in all but one category. This year, the school trailed in every category except for one — it outperformed the state in ELA. The school will be evaluated for renewal in 2025.

Schools approved in 2024 without financial or academic conditions

There were 15 schools approved to new five-year charter agreements last month:

  • Connor Academy
  • Alturas International Academy
  • Xavier Charter School
  • Gem Prep: Pocatello
  • Compass Public Charter School
  • White Pine Charter School 
  • Taylor Crossing Public Charter School
  • Sage International Boise
  • Sage International Middleton
  • Treasure Valley Classical Academy
  • Vision Charter School
  • Liberty Charter School
  • Victory Charter School
  • Anser Charter School
  • Elevate Caldwell
Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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