NEWARK, NJ - The state Education Commissioner is closing M.E.T.S Charter School in Newark, but giving a reprieve to three other charter schools despite their lackluster student performance on standardized tests.

Education Comissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet will renew the charters of People's Prep, University Heights and Roseville Community, according to a source with first-hand knowledge of the decision.

“More than 1,000 Newark families can breathe a sigh of relief tonight," said Kyle Rosenkrans, the executive director of the New Jersey Children's Foundation.

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"We applaud Commissioner Repollet for looking past the rhetoric and focusing on the individual merits of each of the four Newark charters up for renewal," Rosenkrans said. "We are still awaiting the details, but by renewing three and closing one, we think he made decisions that balanced the interests of Newark children and families against the urgent need for accountability for performance that all charters sign up for."

Still, Rosenkranz said, the issues of accountability are no consolation for the several hundred students who ill be impacted by the closure of M.E.T.S.

"We stand ready to assist with local efforts to find a home for those students next school year," Rosenkrans said.

The Department of Education has not confirmed the closure and the department's public information staff could not provide any information after hours Monday.

As of last night there was no indication on M.E.T.S website or its Facebook page that the school would be closing at the end of the year. Its website has a large banner that says: "Now accepting applications for the 2020-2021 school year."

The four charter schools, which faced their five-year renewals this year, have suffered from subpar performance on state exams. In 2019, all but Roseville Community had higher test results than the average for Newark in math and all performed worse than Newark in English language arts, according to data provided by the Children's Foundation.

Newark Schools Superintendent Roger Leon wrote letters in December to Repollet requesting the schools to be shuttered.

Leon also asked the commissioner to “deny any and all requests for new charter schools and charter renewals unless the applicant shows that it would serve a specific educational need.”

Leon's call prompted a backlash in the city and last week anonymous posters were put up around the city attacking Leon.

Rosenkrans, along with Mayor Ras Baraka, condemned the posters. Baraka called the posters "tasteless and sophomoric" and based on "ignorance of actualities."

Rosenkrans, Baraka and North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. have worked together in previous school board elections to support candidates on the Moving Newark Schools Forward slate.

Rosenkrans previously noted that former superintendents Chris Cerf and Cami Anderson, who were both appointed by the state, advocated for the closure of five under-performing charter schools.

“We support the closure of under-performing charter schools in Newark, as it has been key to building what is arguably the best urban charter school sector in America,” Rosenkrans said.
 

State Test Score Proficiency - Last Five Years

  ELA % Proficient Math % Proficient
School SY15 SY16 SY17 SY18 SY19 SY15 SY16 SY17 SY18 SY19
METS CS* 25% 18% 28% 30% 22% 16% 8% 8% 9% 11%
People's Prep CS 15% 28% 24% 34% 13% 5% 7% 5% 7% 7%
Roseville Comm CS 28% 34% 39% 45% 35% 25% 41% 41% 41% 30%
University Heights 37% 39% 40% 31% 23% 25% 22% 29% 19% 16%
Newark District Avg. 23% 29% 31% 35% 36% 17% 20% 23% 23% 26%
Newark Charter Avg. 43% 49% 51% 58% 56% 36% 38% 39% 44% 44%

Source: New Jersey Children's Foundation.