Harpswell charter school gets positive end-of-year state review

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HARPSWELL — Members of the Maine Charter School Commission have commended Harpswell Coastal Academy, a little more than a month after issuing a formal warning to the school for its failure to administer standardized tests.

Commissioners toured HCA earlier this month as part of the school’s annual end-of-year review and returned with a “very, very positive” impression of the program, according to Commission Director Bob Kautz.

HCA also met its June 5 deadline to administer standardized testing to its students, set by commissioners in early May.

HCA opened last September with 60 sixth- and ninth-grade students. It is expected to enroll 130 students next year, adding grades seven and 10. 

Interviews conducted by touring commissioners will be added to testing data provided to the board by school officials to complete an end-of-year report, due for release in August, Kautz said. 

In early May, commissioners sent HCA officials a formal notice of non-compliance with its charter, expressing concern that it had chosen an inappropriate alternate testing format to replace the state-required New England Common Assessment it mistakenly failed to administer last fall.

At the time, HCA administrators admitted the mix-up was an oversight on their part and pledged to correct the mistake. 

The commission’s response to HCA was harsh, but necessary for both sides to reach a positive outcome and make sure a similar mix-up doesn’t occur in the future, Chairwoman Jana Lapoint said.

“It was a win-win all the way around,” Lapoint added.

The school ended up choosing the Northwest Educational Assessment model and testing was completed two weeks ago, HCA Headmaster John D’Anieri said. 

It’s too early to draw an conclusions from the data, but nothing about the scores struck commissioners as negative, Kautz said.

Commissioners were impressed with the “very positive and forthright manner” with which HCA addressed their concerns, he said. 

HCA will probably have to continue to use NWEA to measure results from its current sixth- and ninth-grade students, D’Anieri said, but it is uncertain if students will also have to take the statewide Smarter Balance test, which the Maine Department of Education hopes to roll out next year. 

The monitoring visit to the school helped give some outside perspective and provided valuable feedback as the school winds up its first year, he noted.

“They just asked really good questions and asked questions of a lot of different people in a lot of different ways,” D’Anieri said. “I think our faculty felt rewarded and our kids felt kind of important.”

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @mcguiremidcoast.

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