Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- Trustees and administrators of Buffalo’s Pinnacle Charter School vowed to continue fighting to keep the school open, despite Tuesday's vote by the New York State Board of Regents to not renew the school’s charter beyond the current school year.
According to a news release from Pinnacle:
The regents voted in favor of a non-renewal recommendation from the state Department of Education during their monthly meeting in Albany on Tuesday afternoon. The non-renewal was based on below average scores on state-mandated language and math tests.
Pinnacle officials have strenuously argued that they took several steps at the start of the 2011-12 school year, including hiring of a new chief academic officer and establishment of an intervention team as part of a powerful turnaround strategy. The regents made their decision without seeing results of tests which are still being administered this week.
“Nothing we have done over the past seven months was taken into account. Based on preliminary tests our students will show dramatic improvement when the current state tests are scored, but the state education department and regents rushed to judgment based on prior year results,” said Pinnacle Chief Academic Officer Linda Marszalek.
“We will explore all options to have our charter renewal revisited, but in the meantime we will work with our students and their families to help them cope with this difficult situation.”
Broderick Cason, vice chairman of Pinnacle’s board of trustees, confirmed school officials met with a Buffalo law firm this afternoon for a preliminary discussion regarding legal recourse.
“We have opened that dialogue and will have more to say in coming days. But we do intend to pursue whatever legal avenues are available to us to fight the regents’ decision,” Mr. Cason said.
Pinnacle Charter School officials were informed April 21 that the State Board of Regents had scheduled a vote on non-renewal of the school’s certification at today’s session in Albany.
At the heart of the non-renewal decision was performance by students in Grades 3-8 on state-mandated tests during the 2010-11 school year. The tests were administered during a tumultuous period at Pinnacle when there was a change of administration. These changes were very upsetting to students and directly affected ELA and Math test scores, particularly among 8th graders, several of whom used the tests as a way to express their frustration.
“There is no argument that the scores failed to meet Pinnacle’s stated goal of 75 percent proficiency, however, those scores do not represent the strong body of work achieved by students and teachers since the charter school debuted in 2003,” said Pinnacle School Board President Dr. Fenice Boyd.
Mrs. Marszalek, who was hired to head Pinnacle at the start of the current school year, said she was given assurances from education officials in Albany that Pinnacle's renewal evaluation would be based on its entire eight years of accomplishments, in addition to turnaround strategies and outcomes in the 2011-12 school year.
“All of our interactions with education department staffers have been encouraging. We've made significant progress and the atmosphere among teachers, students and parents has been extremely positive,” Mrs. Marszalek said.
A review team from the state Department of Education visited the school Dec. 1-2, 2011 and issued a largely positive report on Feb. 21, 2012. All indications, verbal and otherwise, were that Pinnacle’s charter would be renewed.
“We agree that we need to have high standards for student success. We are just asking the state to allow us the time to show the results. Practice exams using previous state tests demonstrate strong predictive indicators that we are being successful in the turn-around this year,” she added.
Pinnacle’s position is that the state’s action is unfair and unwarranted and ignores all of the progress that the charter school has made in improving academic performance.
Pinnacle’s administration and board also said the non-renewal recommendation, which is predicated on poor student performance, is based on faulty data, most notably inaccurate student demographic information. The socio-economic data led to unfair test score comparisons against schools with lower poverty rates.
In the eight years since Pinnacle opened its doors, the school was cited twice by the state for its academic improvements.