Trenton Community Charter vs. Grace Dunn

The NJ Department of Education is closing Trenton Community Charter School, reports the Trenton Times. The pre-k – 8, founded in 1997, has 540 kids who will now return to traditional district schools.

The charter school is closing because it is “plagued by low test scores.” That’s a good reason for closure; in fact, according to the 2010 DOE database, 55.6% of 8th graders at Trenton Community Charter failed the standardized test in language arts, 72.7% of them failed the math portion, and 40% of them failed the state science test.

So now those kids will most likely attend Grace Dunn Middle School, where 60.2% of 8th graders failed the language arts portion of the standardized test, 71.9% failed the math portion, and 58.7% failed the state science test.

There’s much discussion about the lack of accountability of charter schools. (Here’s a piece from NEA that enjoins states to increase oversight.) But what happens when a traditional public schools fails despite increased funding and attention? Can't close it down, but the odds of ramping up performance seems illusory at best. Grace Dunn Middle School, the depository for those kids at the Trenton charter school, for example, is in its 8th year as a School In Need of Improvement. But no one can close it down, and middle schoolers in Trenton now have no alternative placement.

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