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Short-term charter renewal for F-rated Hebrew Language Academy

Brooklyn’s Hebrew Language Academy charter school, which received a failing grade on its latest city report card, will stay open for at least another year and a half on city officials’ recommendation.

The recommendation, which state officials are set to approve this week, means the school will get a chance to boost its lackluster test scores instead of being closed. But it won’t be allowed to expand as quickly as it planned to.

This year is the last in Hebrew Language Academy’s first five-year charter. To win the right to remain open, charter schools must show that they are academically beneficial for students and fiscally sound.

There are no problems with the school’s finances or management operations, according to a report written last month by city reviewers. But the school has only “partially demonstrated academic achievement and progress,” meeting only about half of its 62 performance goals, according to the report.

“Despite performing above the citywide average in both years of operation, HLA students experienced relatively little performance growth,” the report concludes, citing the low test scores and low year-to-year student growth that factored into the city’s grade issued last fall.

School officials argued last fall that the grade did not accurately reflect the school’s quality because it was based largely on the test scores of only a small portion of students who were the first to enroll. “Our parents are devoted to it, we have a long waiting list every year, and our independent internal assessments show meaningful progress across the board,” the school’s network chair told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. (The school has no religious affiliation but teaches Hebrew as a foreign language and about Israeli and Jewish culture; a second network school opened in Harlem in 2013.)

The school will be assessed again next year and could be closed then if it does not improve academically. A former state charter schools official who is now a local advocate for the schools told Chalkbeat in 2012, “The idea when we established short-term renewals was that thereafter it was a full five years or nothing.”

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