Performance, Finance Troubles Doom Charter School in New Jersey


The Central Jersey Arts Charter School in Plainfield, New Jersey is being shut down by the state due to "dismal" academic results, as well as "a lack of evidence that the school is providing its students with a quality education," according to the state Department of Education.

The school first went on probation in May 2012, and the charter is set to expire on June 30 of this year. The state informed the school in a letter sent on March 13 that the charter would not be renewed, in effect forcing the school to close its doors by the end of June.

The letter, written by Education Commissioner David Hespe, said the school's academic performance is significantly below that of other area schools, beating out only 17% of schools in the entire state.

No more than 37% of students have shown proficiency in the language arts section of NJ ASK in the past five years, with only 1% of the 253 students enrolled in the school who were tested in language arts receiving an advanced score in 2013-14.

The board, who had hired Renaissance School Services to oversee management of the school two years ago, said they were "deeply disappointed" in the decision to not renew the charter. Raj Menon, the school board president, said the school had seen some gains in the academic performance of their students since that time.

While 45% of students at the school scored proficient or advanced on NJ ASK in 2012-13, that number increased to 58% of students in 2013-14. In addition, math scores were 9 percentage points higher than those seen at Plainfield Public Schools.

However, the state pointed toward additional reasoning for the closure, which included financial troubles found during a recent audit that suggested there "can be no assurance that the charter school will be able to generate sufficient cash flow to achieve or sustain operations in the future."

Menon contends that many of the issues reportedly found within the school predates the addition of the Renaissance company and the current board members.

"Our task ahead as a board, and for our management company, is to do everything possible to work closely with the department, local schools, and our families to ensure there is a smooth transition for our students," Menon said.

The Galloway Community Charter School in Atlantic County is also being closed by the state this year due to poor academic performance and growth. The school was not up for renewal.

Meanwhile, the Hudson Arts and Science Charter School, which is accepting students in Jersey City and Kearny, was approved by the state and is set to open its doors for the 2016-17 school year.

The school first opened in 2006.

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