Return Charter to its rightful throne

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Interpretation of a well-meaning state privacy law has kicked Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy into an educational ditch of anonymity. Yet it’s the state that got muddy.

The uber-achieving college prep public school, which had consistently been ranked as the best high school in Idaho and among the very best in the nation, vanished from all rankings after 2014.

In last Sunday’s Press, reporter Judd Wilson tackled the mystery of Charter’s disappearance by likening it to a tremendous team who did nothing wrong, yet whose record doesn’t count. Among the culprits is a law meant to protect the identification of students who might be underperforming or who could in some other way have the blanket of privacy yanked from them.

Now that local legislators are aware of the issue, pledges have been made to address the law’s wording in the next legislative session. Charter Academy, a shining example of excellence in a state ridiculed for low educational support and tepid aspirations, must be allowed to have its test scores included in any comparatives that measure equal assessments, a responsibility that falls to the State Department of Education.

Skeptics believe the Charter omission is more a deliberate snub than an unintended consequence. They note that if you’re competing with Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy, chances are you’re not going to look very good.

Consider:

In the 2017-18 school year, 100 percent of Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy’s 56 sophomores tested proficient in English language arts, with 66 percent testing at the highest level possible. That stands in sharp contrast to the 40 percent of sophomores statewide who failed to achieve proficiency, with 17 percent scoring the lowest level possible.

In math, 89 percent of Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy’s sophomores achieved proficiency this year, with 56 percent testing at the highest level possible. Only 2 percent of its 55 sophomores tested at the lowest possible level in math, whereas 39 percent of the entire state’s sophomores tested at the lowest level and 67 percent failed to achieve proficiency.

Perhaps lost in this discussion are some facts about Charter that bear repeating. Charter is a public school because it receives state funding, but it is outside Coeur d’Alene School District’s vast array of resources and revenue generators. Charter in many cases must fend for itself, lacking the facilities other schools enjoy but prioritizing paying faculty well and striving for the highest levels of academic achievement.

Charter does not pick and choose from a pool of the academic elite. It uses a lottery system that virtually any local family can tap into. The fact that Charter students exceed their peers in many areas of academic excellence is likely a reflection not just of dedicated instruction, but strong family support. Oh — and far more hard work than most kids are willing to put in.

At Charter, all students wear uniforms. At Charter, smartphones aren’t student appendages. In fact, they’re outlawed during the school day.

Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy isn’t just a bragging point for its students, families and staff. It’s the kind of institution that makes the Coeur d’Alene area more attractive to people who value strong educational institutions in a community, including those who own or manage good companies.

Charter’s omission from rankings is unfair and, frankly, unforgivable. Give these students and teachers their due.

Let ‘em play, and when they win, make it count.

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