N.J. shuts down 4 charter schools for poor performance

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 01, 2017

 

 

TRENTON -- The state has ordered three low-performing charter schools in Newark and one in Camden to close at the end of this school year, bringing the total number of failed charter schools to 20 under the Christie administration. 

The three Newark schools -- Newark Prep Charter School, Paulo Friere Charter School and Merit Prep Charter School -- had all been on probation for academic problems. Upon further review, the state Department of Education decided to close the schools, it announced Wednesday. 

The fourth school, Camden Community Charter School, was slated to have its charter renewed this year. It was the only one of 22 renewal applications that got rejected and was denied because of poor academic performance, according to the state.

"All New Jersey public schools, which include charter schools, must be held to a high standard in order to ensure that all of our children receive the quality educational experiences they deserve," Acting Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington said. "These decisions reflect this Administration's continued commitment to hold low-performing charter schools accountable.

Jeff Kwitowski, a spokesman for K12 Inc., which provides curriculum and school programs for Newark Prep, said the school had already fixed some problems highlighted by the state and was working to correct others. 

"School officials had multiple conversations and several site visits with department officials over the past couple months, and no indication was given that the department was planning to close the school," Kwitowski said. "This has come as quite a shock."

Amanda Vega-Malinowski, communications director for the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, said the group would support the schools slated for closure. 

"While it is disheartening to see any child's education be disrupted, charter schools are opened to provide a high-quality, performance-based education to every student," Vega-Malinowski said. "Closure is the ultimate test of accountability."

The closures were announced along with the rejection of all four applications for new charter schools that had made it to the final round of consideration. However, the Christie administration also approved the expansion of 22 existing charter schools, adding hundreds of new charter school seats across the state. 

A school choice advocate, Christie has described charter schools, which are public but operate separately from traditional school districts, as "salvation for families," especially those in urban districts. He's set goals for expanding charter school enrollment and proposed a charter school deregulation plan currently pending before the state Board of Education. 

Though Christie often praises charter schools for outperforming public schools, his administration had already closed 16 charter schools prior to Wednesday. New Jersey began this school year with 88 charter schools. 

The expansions approved Wednesday came after many charter schools made a push to win approval before Christie leaves office.

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