The State Board of Education shut down the Academy of Lithonia Charter School in June for poor performance, revoking the charter it held for about eight years, a state official said.
The school on Evans Mill Road has served students in kindergarten through seventh grade since it was granted its charter in 2001, according to state documents. State data show students at the school performed dramatically below students countywide and statewide.
“In its initial charter term, [Academy of Lithonia] struggled academically, yet the charter school was eventually granted renewal in 2006 with a condition and expectation of improved students achievement,” a Georgia Department of Education recommendation to the state board said. “[Academy of Lithonia] has continued to struggle academically and has failed to meet many of the performance-based goals required under the charter.”
Academy officials could not be reached, and a woman at the school directed all calls to the school’s parent company, Academy of America, based in Michigan. Company officials were on vacation and unavailable for comment, she said.
To keep its charter, the state required the school’s students test above state averages. Averages were below the state in every grade save for one CRCT testing category last year, according to state documents: sixth grade English.
Failure rates on sections of the mandatory exam in each grade at the charter school were far greater than state and local averages. Some examples from the 2007-08 year:
About 60 percent of third-graders failed on the math section compared to about 29 percent statewide and 39 percent districtwide.
About 63 percent of fourth-graders failed on the math section compared with about 30 percent statewide and 40 percent districtwide.
About 51 percent of seventh-graders failed on the science section compared with about 25 percent statewide and 51 percent districtwide.
About 47 percent of third-graders failed on the science section compared with about 25 percent statewide and 36 percent districtwide.
While the academy improved in some areas from the previous year, it regressed in others. About 62 percent of fourth graders failed the science section in the 2006-07 year. The next year, about 49 percent failed–a significant improvement. But about 55 percent of sixth graders failed the math section in 2006-07. The next year, 61 percent failed.
“These regressions are inconsistent with AOL’s charter goals and requirements to increase math and reading achievement in every grade,” the state department recommendation said.
The state department also criticized the academy’s goals to improve student performance, claiming they were unrealistic and lacked rigor. Additionally, the department questioned the business relationships between the academy, Charter School Administrative Services and Academy of America, concerned about potential conflicts of interest, though the report did not go into detail.
Charter schools are expected to perform better than their state or county counterparts because they are given wider latitude to design their own educational programs, said Andrew Broy, a state associate superintendent for policy and charter schools.