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Heritage Academy

A view of Heritage Academy charter school in Jerome.

JEROME — The embattled charter school that was criticized by state leaders for poor academic performance saw significant growth this year on its standardized test scores.

Heritage Academy doubled the number of its students proficient in reading during the 2019 school year, according to results released last week by the State Department of Education.

Only 28.4% of the school’s K-3 students were reading proficient in the fall, but 59.7% scored at grade level or better in the spring on the Idaho Reading Indicator, a biannual state test measuring early literacy.

Heritage saw 77% growth in English language arts from 2018 to 2019 and 22% growth in math on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, taken annually in three key subjects.

The results still lag behind the rest of the state, but Heritage serves large populations of students facing barriers to academic achievement. Of its 166 students in K-8 last year, about 96% were low income, 24% were with disabilities and 19% were learning English.

The real story is growth, Superintendent Christine Ivie wrote this week in a letter to parents and staff.

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“We are proud of the hard work our students have done over the past few years,” Ivie wrote. “These results show that our students have the mindsets, perseverance and ability to achieve great things!”

In April, members of the Public Charter School Commission derided Heritage over its poor academic performance during a controversial executive session that the Idaho Attorney general later deemed in violation of open meeting law. Members accused Ivie of “malpractice” and discussed strategies to convince legislators to shut down the school.

The commission has since acknowledged its violation, and the commission’s chair visited Jerome to apologize to local leaders, but Heritage declined to show up.

The newest test results confirm that commission staff misrepresent data of schools they don’t like, Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families President Tom LeClaire wrote Thursday in a statement.

“This is more evidence that the commission staff decides to harass a charter school and then selects the set of data that makes the school look bad,” LeClaire wrote. “The commission staff is the most unprofessional and biased group of employees in our state government.”

LeClaire called on commissioners and staff to resign in July and wants schools to move oversight of their authorization to districts and colleges. Jerome School District trustees previously expressed hesitance at the prospect of overseeing Heritage.

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