- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware’s state board of education voted unanimously Thursday to close a struggling charter school that serves mostly low-income black children in Wilmington.

Board members voted with no debate to revoke the charter of Maurice J. Moyer Academic Institute after Education Secretary Mark Murphy said he agreed with a review panel that Moyer be closed at the end of the school year because of poor academic performance and failure to adequately serve special-education students.

“I recognize that this is a difficult decision for the school community,” Murphy said after the vote, adding that state officials would designate a specific email address and phone number to answer questions from Moyer parents and help smooth the transition of students to other schools.

Moyer head of school Keenan Dorsey said the school, which serves students in grades 6-12, will challenge the board’s decision in court, with financial backing from the NAACP.

“All I asked for was time and support. … It’s time for Plan B,” said Dorsey, who joined Moyer this past summer.

Officials put Moyer on formal review in July after the school, formerly known as Moyer Academy, turned in some of the lowest standardized test scores in the state last year.

Murphy noted that only 10 percent of Moyer students demonstrated grade-level proficiency in math, and only 23 percent were proficient in reading. Six percent were proficient in science.

“Not a single student was proficient in social studies,” Murphy said, noting that student scores were even lower than the previous year’s scores, which also were far below state averages.

Moyer officials argued that they have taken steps to improve the school and that new management should be given time to implement the needed changes.

But Murphy said the school’s academic performance and trends were “cause for action.”

“My decision must be based on evidence, and not intentions,” he said.

Moyer has struggled since it opened in 2006, and its charter was first revoked in 2010 after years of poor academic performance. But after protests, state officials persuaded lawmakers to include a budget provision allowing the state to continue operating the school under contract with Virginia-based K12 Inc., a private for-profit company. Local residents formed a new nonprofit corporation later that year to govern the school in conjunction with K12. That group received a new charter, with several conditions, in 2011.

The latest decision to revoke Moyer’s charter comes amid continuing debate over the role of charter schools in Delaware, where the percentage of public school students attending charters is among the highest in the nation. Supporters say charter schools allow greater flexibility for educators and more options for families unhappy with traditional public schools, while some critics complain that charter schools are segregating students by race, class and ability.

Lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill directing the Department of Education to establish regulations regarding how officials must consider the impact on the surrounding community and other schools when reviewing applications for new charter schools or expansion of existing charters.

On Thursday, the state board initially voted not to approve the new DOE regulations, apparently because of confusion and concern about how “impact” was defined. After chairwoman Teri Gray met with the board attorney behind closed doors and reminded the board about an Oct. 31 deadline for approving the regulations, a majority of members agreed to rescind the earlier vote and approve the regulations, although with some hesitation.

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