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Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy has begun the process of applying for a state charter renewal to continue serving students.

Parent information sessions on the renewal process will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, and at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in the Kirkwood school cafeteria at 1807 Memorial Drive SE Atlanta.

YMLA’s state charter expires at the end of the 2015-16 school year. The single-gender charter school has been educating boys in DeKalb County since it opened in August 2011.

YMLA administrators applied to the state commission in December for a charter renewal. The state commission has begun to review the application and analyze performance data posted by the school for the past two years. A decision on the renewal application is expected by early March.

Ivy Prep school officials told the state commission last week that YMLA has launched an aggressive plan to turn around student achievement that includes the hiring of a new administrative team and the overhaul of school operations. YMLA was placed on a state list of struggling schools in 2015 after standardized test scores fell below state benchmarks for student achievement.

Alisha T. Morgan, Ivy Prep’s new executive director, told state commission members and their staff that administrators responsible for academic instruction during the period of declines have left the charter school network.

“We have experienced a transformation this school year,” she said. “We believe in continuous improvement, not only at YMLA but across the network. We are focused on academic accountability and high quality teaching and learning. Our teachers are receiving a high level of support in the classroom.”

Improvements have been made to the curriculum to help catch up students struggling below grade level in reading and math. YMLA received a three-year Reading Mentor Program grant from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement that pairs state reading coaches with classrooms to improve the development of language and literacy skills.

Among other changes, teachers now have common planning time and more professional development. For the first time, the school is using MAP assessment tools every six to eight weeks to collect achievement data on students to monitor individual achievement and drive instruction.

Morgan said YMLA needs more time with students to continue the work of turning around the school.

“We appreciate the support of the commission,” she said. “They have truly been our partners along the way. We hope that they see that the changes we have made will have a positive impact on our scholars.”

Charter Renewal Process FAQs

Why do we have to go through a charter renewal process? YMLA operates under the authority of a state charter granted by the State Charter Schools Commission. The state charter was awarded for a two-year time period. We are nearing the end of that two-year time period and must appeal to the state to renew or extend our charter so that we can continue to operate in the 2016-17 school year. YMLA’s state charter contract gives it flexibility to get creative to improve student achievement. That flexibility includes the waiver of several state mandates on education that are placed on traditional schools. Those waivers allow YMLA to operate as a single-gender school with extended school hours and an extended calendar year.

How does the State Charter Schools Commission make its renewal decision? YMLA is contractually bound to produce results in student achievement that out-perform neighborhood schools on state standardized tests. Commission members and their support staff will review YMLA’s student performance data, parent satisfaction surveys, audit reports, operations protocol, and charter goals set forth in its current state contract. Next, state commission staff will analyze our student achievement data and compare those results to our charter goals. Commission staff will then make a formal recommendation to the State Charter Schools Commission to renew or reject YMLA’s charter application.

What data will the State Charter Schools Commission consider in its decision on the renewal? Commission members and their staff will analyze student performance data from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. The data from the current school year is not yet available and will not be considered in the review.

When will we know the outcome of the state commission’s decision? The State Charter Schools Commission is expected to vote on YMLA’s charter renewal in early March. Charter schools typically receive a five-year renewal. Abbreviated renewal terms are also granted on a probationary basis.

What will happen to students if the charter application is rejected? School administrators and counselors will work with families to develop a transition plan to return scholars back to their neighborhood schools or to pursue other school options if YMLA’s charter application is rejected.

How can I support YMLA’s effort to be renewed? Share your scholar’s academic improvement story with commission members by emailing Bonnie Holliday, executive director of the State Charter Schools Commission, at bonnie.holliday@scsc.georgia.gov.

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