PHILADELPHIA — Federal education officials have denied Pennsylvania's request to evaluate charter school achievement using more lenient criteria, saying they must be assessed by the same standard as traditional schools.
The rejection means Pennsylvania cannot substitute a less stringent method for measuring adequate yearly progress, the federal benchmark known as AYP. Critics said the formula artificially inflated charter schools' performance for political reasons.
I cannot approve this ... because it's not aligned with the statute and regulations, U.S. Assistant Education Secretary Deborah Delisle wrote in a letter released by the state Wednesday.
The issue surfaced in September when Pennsylvania's latest standardized test scores were reported. For the first time — and without approval from federal officials — state Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis treated charter schools as districts, not individual schools.
Schools must hit certain targets at every tested grade level to make AYP. But for a district to meet the benchmark, it needs only to hit targets in one of three grade spans: grades 3-5, 4-6 or 9-12.
Under Pennsylvania law, every charter school is considered its own district. So by using the grade span methodology, about 59 percent of charters made AYP — a figure that supporters touted, comparing it with the 50 percent of traditional schools that hit the target.