Renaissance Academy in Phoenixville meets federal standards for 10th straight year

The Renaissance Academy in Phoenixville. Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury
The Renaissance Academy in Phoenixville. Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury

PHOENIXVILLE — Although many charter schools lost their Adequate Yearly Progress status after the federal government nixed the special method they used to calculate it, Phoenixville’s Renaissance Academy met its requirements once again by any measure.

The charter school has made Adequate Yearly Progress since the standards were introduced in 2003 as a part of the nationwide No Child Left Behind program.

Gina Guarino Buli, CEO of Renaissance Academy, said attaining AYP status is not the school’s ultimate goal, though.

“It is obviously not the end-all, be-all goal. It’s a minimum,” Guarino said. “We absolutely keep our eye on that, but we’re shooting for above that always.”


Renaissance Academy received the high marks in all measures in its AYP report card on a Pennsylvania Department of Education website set up specifically to report AYP.

(Click here for The Mercury’s searchable database of the AYP status of all public and charter schools in Southeast Pennsylvania)

When asked what might separate Renaissance Academy from other charter schools that needed a special formula to make AYP, Guarino Buli said close evaluation of individual students is key.

“We use tools within the school so there won’t be any surprises when they take the PSSAs (or Keystones, now),” she said.

MAP assessments, a computer-based program, are issued for math, science, reading and language in the fall, winter and spring to all students. The tests feature progressively harder questions.

“It says, ‘This is where you are right now,’ and gives teachers indications for each student,” Guarino Buli said.

Just 43 charter schools made AYP with the same calculations used for public school districts, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mary Niederberger and Alex Zimmerman. This number drops even further from the 77 originally announced to have made AYP.

With 144 brick-and-mortar charters eligible for AYP status in 2011-12, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, that means 70 percent didn’t make the cut.

There is some indication that a few of those schools may not have been eligible to take the AYP tests, but that was unclear.

No cyber charter schools made AYP.

Guarino Buli said she understood there might be a little blowback against her institution due to the failure of so many other charter institutions.

“I think it’s like any industry,” she said. “When a particular business, when someone, doesn’t do well, it hurts the perception a little bit.”

Such a perception particularly could hurt schools like Renaissance Academy.

“Our best marketing tool is our word of mouth and making sure families know what we’re about and what we’re not about,” Guarino Buli said.

Phoenixville Area Middle School actually was issued a warning for AYP, causing the entire district to fall under the AYP warning status. That warning stemmed from missing one point in their assessments in mathematics for students with IEPs or in special education.

Guarino Buli said the perception that all charters are cut from the same cloth isn’t correct.

“Everything’s not going to be perfect everywhere and it’s not all going to be roses,” she said. “But we do very well. We just want to make sure the community knows we’re doing well.”

This version of the story updates the number of charter schools eligible for AYP status.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.