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.”
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.
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.
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.