Metro

Plan for Brockton charter school gets second chance

A proposal to open Brockton’s first independent charter school is getting a second chance, after the state’s education commissioner recommended reinstating it as a finalist for consideration, officials announced Monday.

The move means that state education officials probably will consider two proposals for independent charter schools this year — the Brockton proposal as well as another for the Fitchburg area. It ends concerns that emerged this fall that Massachusetts might not approve any new charter schools for the first time in 15 years after the state abruptly withdrew both proposals.

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Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said the New Heights Charter School of Brockton deserved a second shot because of a “confluence of events” beyond the control of the applicants, according to a waiver recommendation made public on Monday.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the commissioner’s recommendation to grant New Heights a waiver from the rules that caused the state to pull its application.

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“I want to emphasize that in recommending this waiver, I am not expressing any opinion on whether the New Heights application meets the board’s criteria for award of a charter,” Chester wrote in the memo. “The full application . . . will undergo extensive review by staff in the department’s charter school office and by expert reviewers from outside the department.”

The applicant group for the Brockton charter applauded the commissioner’s recommendation on its website Monday, calling it “a step forward.”

In blocking the two proposals in October, the state cited a provision of state law that requires at least two proposals in any given year be located in districts with MCAS performance in the bottom 10 percent in the state.

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Both Brockton and Fitchburg were bumped out of the bottom 10 percent in late September after the state enacted a new calculation for determining the lowest-performing districts.

Instead of basing the calculations strictly on raw MCAS scores, the state now also gives districts credit for improving scores rapidly even if the scores remain low.

The applicants for the Academy for the Whole Child Charter School for the Fitchburg area were able to comply with the rule by reconfiguring the districts the school would serve.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.
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