KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Only one alternative charter high school is still operating in Missouri, prompting supporters to suggest the state change the way it measures progress at a school that serves only students who struggle academically or drop out.
DeLaSalle Education Center in Kansas City is the only alternative charter high school among 45 charter schools operating in Kansas City and St. Louis. Only nine of the charter schools are high schools, after several alternative high schools that opened in the last 15 years closed.
The school has stayed open because it raised millions of dollars to support its mission, which allows it to keep class sizes small and support special services. But students’ test scores remain low, with the school earning only 24.2 percent of the possible points on state scoring in 2013.
DeLaSalle and its sponsor, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, contend the at-risk students are not being helped by closing alternative high schools.
“I would have expected to see more alternative high schools,” said Doug Thaman, the executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association. “But when organizations look at the challenges in regulations and statute, it becomes apparent they are not going to be able to meet the needs of students in a way they (the schools) can be successful.”
The 280 students at DeLaSalle this year come from throughout the Kansas City Public School attendance area. Last year, only 23.9 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in English language arts on end-of-year exams, and 12.1 percent scored proficient or better in math.
While other school districts have alternative programs, their student performance is generally diffused within the district.
“There are reasons you don’t see many alternative charter schools,” said DeLaSalle director Mark Williamson. “It’s difficult, and it’s expensive.”