State Charter School Authority votes to shut down Argent Preparatory Academy formerly Silver State Charter School
March 23, 2018
The State Charter School Authority voted unanimously on Friday to close the Argent Preparatory Academy — formerly Silver State Charter School.
The court-appointed receiver Joshua Kern recommended closure after two years of trying to fix perennially low graduation rates, high student turnover and falling enrollment. He told the authority board there are only 143 students in the school as of February and "the number of students and families with real commitment to Argent is small."
The decision came despite the pleas from about two dozen students and parents who said Argent had turned those students around, providing them with a safe, nurturing environment that has enabled them to learn and prosper both intellectually and socially.
"We simply cannot run a school for approximately 20 families," said Kern. He said later those 20 families were represented by the people who turned out Friday and testified.
Kern said of the 219 students who enrolled this school year, 76 had withdrawn by Feb. 9. He said half the school's seniors had left by that date this school year and the ninth grade enrollees are the smallest group with just 14 students at that point.
He said with the high rate of transient students, "it's less of a school and more of a way station for students who seek a refuge."
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He said it has become "a revolving door for students."
But he asked the board to extend his original recommendation to shutter Argent at the end of the school year through Aug. 17 to give a small group of students who can get the classes needed to graduate the chance to do so during the summer.
Kern said the fundamental problem is Argent's distance learning model,
"Even with various options for onsite support — it's the wrong model for the students it serves who are largely low-performing with socio-emotional and/or family support and stability challenges."
A distance learning model, Kern said, is designed to serve motivated and high performing students — the pupils the school was originally designed for when it was first chartered.
"Distance learning is poorly suited to under-performing students," he said. "The problem is the model doesn't work for this student population."
Kern, however, praised the teachers and administrators who he said have worked hard to engage their students, help them in every way possible and teach them. He said those teachers and administrators have developed strong relationships with the students and parents.
But Kern said his plan won't drop those students with no support. He called for meetings beginning in the first week of April to review programs offered in the district with parents and ongoing parent meetings on Fridays with teachers to try to work out where to place students by June 2.
He said the goal is to help students identify and transfer to new schools.
He said he wants Argent staff to visit students at their new schools in the first three months of the next school year, providing social and emotional help. He said liaison staff should meet with students, parents and officials at the new schools through the school year, advocating for them when bullying and other issues arise.
When Argent was given the chance to fix its long-standing issues two years ago, it was charged with raising graduation rates to 60 percent within a couple of years. That has proven out of reach in large part because of the high transient rate of students entering and then leaving the school.
"Argent created a model to serve a population of students and families who prefer a more flexible, non-communal and less demanding educational experience, not a model based on sound educational practices," Kern told the board. "The model has been unable to sustain enrollment at viable levels and has created a revolving door of students with high failure rates."
The decision must still be approved by the court, which created the receivership two years ago.