ON MONDAY, the pioneering Boston Renaissance Charter School faces the likelihood of being placed on probation by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. It’s a serious step for an institution that has been consistently ambitious since its founding in 1995 but erratic in its academic performance. Strict accountability must be part of the charter-school experiment in Massachusetts, and the state board must determine the cause of Renaissance’s recent troubles. Even so, there are enough mitigating factors that putting the school on the path to being shuttered seems premature.
The state clearly has grounds for concern. Achievement at the K-6 school has slipped considerably since 2009, when 54 percent of students scored advanced or proficient on the math MCAS exam. Last spring, that figure fell to 36 percent. Much is expected of schools that are allowed to operate free of union work rules and central administration interference. Still more is expected of a school that has the advantages of 18 years of operating experience, a charismatic CEO, a new facility, and fruitful partnerships with medical and social service providers.