State tests mean ‘do or die’ time for local charter schools


BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — ‘Tis the season for those ever-important New York State assessment tests, and the annual assessments are a matter of survival for local charter schools.

At REACH Academy Charter School on Ash Street, the third and fourth graders wore special T-shirts promising to slam dunk the English Language Assessment test on Tuesday.

“It was amazing overall. The feeling in the school was just all of the teachers supporting the third and fourth grade students,” said Anna Chiavaroli, an instructional coach at REACH Academy.
“We do live by the scores because last year because of the pandemic we were unable to take the test because of the pandemic so this was our first take at what the state test will truly look like.”

The school will find out in a few weeks how they performed and their charter is up for renewal next year. Just last month, two other local charter schools lost their charters for having low state test scores. Critics say charter schools are not as equipped to educate students with disabilities or ESL learners.

“You know when you’re not at the school and you’re not watching the magic happen in person, one looks at charter schools or parochial schools with a broad brush,” said Lee Pierce, director of strategic planning at REACH.

Unlike Buffalo Public Schools, REACH Academy has had students in class four days a week since last August and administrators say that should be considered just as much as state test scores.

”These tests are very hard,” said Chiavaroli. “They’re set up to trick kids and the questions can be very similar.”

Pierce says there is more to school education than dispensing academics and subject matter. ”So if we are going to look at the living and dying of any charter school based on a couple snapshots in time of whether they exist or don’t exist, I truly in my humble opinion think that that’s a travesty. “

NY State Assembly Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is pushing legislation for the 3 year charter moratorium to temporarily hit the pause button. It’s meant as a way of determining how to ultimately separate funding streams, as charters are siphon away resources from public schools.

A previous bill to accelerate the Buffalo Public School District reimbursement process (it normally takes 1yr) was vetoed by Governor Cuomo. His justification was that it needed to be done as part of the state budget process.

“All students deserve a quality education, whether they’re special needs or English as a second language. They deserve to be educated by teachers and administrators that believe in cultural competency and believe that students can learn and are prepared to succeed on the next level. Any school that can accomplish that, whether public, private, or charter, has my support,” commented Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

George Richert is an award-winning reporter who first joined the News 4 team in 1998, later returning in 2018. See more of his work here.


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