As charter renewal looms, Badger Rock Middle School pledges to improve its performance

Doug Erickson:

A small, environmental-themed charter school in Madison with a substandard academic record is facing heightened School Board scrutiny as its charter comes up for renewal.

Badger Rock Middle School, 501 E. Badger Road, opened in 2011 amid great enthusiasm for its emphasis on urban agriculture, environmental sustainability and project-based learning. Last month, though, it landed in the “fails to meet expectations” category on the latest round of state-issued report cards.

The school’s overall accountability score, which takes into account such things as test scores, student academic progress and college and career readiness, was the lowest of the 45 district schools that received ratings.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham this week called Badger Rock an “under-performing” school but said it “has incredible potential to be an excellent school.” She said she is leaning toward recommending a charter renewal of three years. That’s less than the five-year contract sought by school leaders, but the recommendation still should be seen as a vote of “confidence and hope,” Cheatham said.

The School Board is expected to vote on the issue Monday. Wright Middle School, the district’s oldest charter school, also is to be up for discussion the same night, but for a very different reason. Its leaders say they want to drop the school’s charter status.

The designation no longer makes sense for them, they say, as Wright has operated for many years as a traditional district school. The change in designation would have little effect on day-to-day school operations, district officials said.
Badger Rock

A charter school is a publicly funded school that does not have to adhere to many of the state laws governing traditional public schools. The intent is to foster innovation and experimentation and to give students more choices.

Madison has three charter schools. In addition to Badger Rock and Wright, there’s the dual-language Nuestro Mundo Community School. Each is an “instrumentality” of the district, meaning the district authorizes the school, employs the staff and retains ultimate authority.

Madison’s K-12 world lacks governance diversity. Many cities, including Minneapolis, offer families diverse school options.

Wright developed from the largely aborted “Madison Middle School 2000” project.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School several years ago.