Bridges Charter School leaders still plan to be teaching students this fall, despite the N.C. State Board of Education’s vote earlier this summer to revoke its charter.
The school is working to appeal the charter status that the board revoked, according to an Aug. 2 press release.
“We are not closing,” said Mary Ann Finger, chairman of Bridges Charter School. “We are in negotiations, and it is possible we will have another hearing. Our lawyer says they can’t close the school as long as we are in appeals.”
The state board of education voted to revoke the charter based off state test scores, according to the July press release.
Finger said in an Aug. 2 press release that a sub-committee of the State Board of Education acknowledged that a division of the State Department of Instruction, “gave Bridges erroneous advice about the applicability of a federal and state policy and ‘strongly recommended’ Bridges needed to change the way it was testing its special needs students.”
Bridges followed the advice of the state agency, which resulted in test scores on the EOG tests that did not accurately reflect the abilities of the students at Bridges, according to Finger. As a result, Bridges composite test scores on the state tests fell below 60 percent for the past two years, she said.
“There are shorter end-of-grade tests designed for special needs that are less of an obstacle course,” Finger said, adding that they were told that scores would count if they administered regular end-of-grade tests.
However, Bridges administered nationally normed tests internally to its students that demonstrate that had Bridges administered the state special needs tests. The results of those tests showed that enough students would have performed at grade level, so that Bridges scores would have surpassed the state minimum, according to the Bridges release.
“Several years ago the office of charter schools gave wrong information about how one goes about putting student’s end-of-grade (EOG) scores,” Finger said. “The law changed, and the charter office never told us. We’ve got nationally normed tests that show a different picture of how our students test. The truth that we want to get out is that we are teaching children.”
The state board voted Thursday morning to revoke the charter, and the school appealed immediately. If the appeal is denied, the school will go for a hearing before a judge, Finger said.
The state board of education sub-committee stated that Bridges is responsible for knowing and keeping up with the laws, said the release.
Bridges Charter School teaches students from kindergarten through eighth grade and has about 145 students. Students are taught by six teachers, six assistants and three support staffers. Only one student has withdrawn for the upcoming school year, Finger said.
“We actually have a lot of new students and parents calling wanting to write letters to the board,” Finger said.
Bridges Charter School opened in 1997 in the basement of the old Hugh Chatham nursing home and moved to its current location on Pleasant Ridge Road in State Road in 1999. It was one of the first three charter schools to open in North Carolina.
“We are truly fabulous at being able to discover the little spark of genius in each child,” Finger said. “We do a fabulous job for children with any type of need. We teach children is the bottom line.”
The only qualifications to go to Bridges are that the student must live in North Carolina, be within the grade levels taught and the school can not be too full. Bridges mainly serves Wilkes, Surry and Yadkin County.
“What we say is, ‘We love to have children failing to thrive.’ We have several students who are school phobic because of the way they have been treated by bullies or teachers in the past. We take them and help them learn,” Finger said. “We have had astounding stories of children who didn’t want to do anything in school and wound up succeeding in high school and going on to schools like Savannah School of Design and Duke University.”
Reach Jessica Pickens at 835-1513 ext. 18 or firstname.lastname@example.org.