Charter school students perform well on CRCT

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Charter school students outperformed many of their peers in Gwinnett on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, according to data released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Education.

While the majority of Gwinnett County Public Schools students did well on the CRCT, only a few had 100 percent passing rates at some grade levels. Those schools include Sugar Hill Elementary (first-grade reading), Level Creek Elementary (first-grade reading), Camp Creek Elementary (first-grade reading), Head Elementary (second-grade math), Woodward Mill Elementary (third-grade reading), Parsons Elementary (third-grade reading) and Suwanee Elementary (fifth-grade reading).

At the charter schools, students at multiple grade levels had 100 percent passing rates in several subjects.

In grades 3 through 7, all of the students at New Life Academy of Excellence and Ivy Preparatory Academy passed the reading and language arts sections of the CRCT.

At New Life Academy, every students also met or exceeded standards in fourth-grade science and social studies and in fifth-grade math, science and social studies.

"These results show that when parents and children have the opportunity to be sent to a school of their choice and that better fits the needs of the kids, the kids excel," said BJ Van Gundy, a Gwinnett resident who was recently appointed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.

The Charter Schools Commission is a state agency that serves as an alternate authorizer of charter schools. If a charter school application is rejected by a local school board, the petitioner can seek approval from the Commission.

Charter schools are public schools designed to operate independent of federal, state and local regulation in exchange for increased accountability in student achievement.

A recent national report showed that charter schools on average don't perform any better than traditional public schools. But in Georgia, charter schools typically perform better than traditional public schools and have higher graduation rates at the high school level, said Tony Roberts, the president of the Georgia Charter Schools Association.

"These schools are examples of what charter schools are able to do," Roberts said. "They're able to take students that might not necessarily fit into a traditional school and help them to excel."

Charter schools aren't just for a small segment of the population, Roberts said. They can be a laboratory for learning and a place to try out teaching methods and innovation that can be shared with every school.

New Life Academy of Excellence was created to teach children Chinese. It was approved by the Gwinnett County Board of Education and opened in 2007.

Ivy Preparatory Academy is an all-girls middle school that offers a college preparatory curriculum. It initially opened as a state-approved special school after the Gwinnett school board denied its charter, and it later earned approval from the Charter Schools Commission.

The Commission's approval allowed Ivy Prep to get a greater share of state funding -- an amount equal to the local funding it would have received if it had been approved by the Gwinnett school board.

That prompted Gwinnett County Public Schools to file a lawsuit against the Commission and Ivy Prep. A Superior Court judge rejected the school system's argument that the Commission was unconstitutional.

"The results of the CRCT ... show the ridiculousness of the initial opposition and the lawsuit against Ivy Prep," Van Gundy said. "This is a high-performing school that should be embraced by the educational community."