- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A lawyer for a Kansas City charter school that the state suspects of inflating attendance and other academic problems said Tuesday that the school isn’t giving up after losing its sponsor.

Attorney Dana Cutler said Hope Academy is considering its options, including finding a new sponsor. Her comments came one day after the State Board of Education upheld a decision by the University of Missouri-Kansas City to withdraw sponsorship from the school, which is focused on helping students who have dropped out or those at risk of doing so.

Without a sponsor, Hope Academy’s ability to continue operating after its current charter agreement expires in June is in jeopardy. State law requires charter schools to have a sponsor and a valid charter agreement.

Cutler said in addition to looking for a new sponsor, the school isn’t giving up on keeping UMKC as its sponsor. She said the university lacked a required performance agreement with the school spelling out what it must accomplish to be considered successful.

“We disagree with the notion that the school is a failing school,” she said. “We have hope.”

Problems came to a head after state officials conducted a surprise visit in October. Education department staff found that only 174 of the school’s 636 students - or 27.4 percent - were in attendance, although the school was reporting a 99.5 percent attendance rate. The state auditor’s office is currently conducting an audit.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education also said that more than 80 percent of students at Hope Academy are not scoring in the proficient range on state assessments in English language arts, and 90 percent of its students are not scoring proficient in mathematics.

Margie Vandeven, deputy commissioner of Learning Services, said in a written statement that the state shares the university’s concerns about low test scores.

“All students deserve to receive an education that will prepare them for life after high school graduation,” she said.

Phyllis Chase, director of the UMKC Charter School Center, didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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