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Cobb charter school faces closure

A Cobb County charter school faces the possibility of closure due to academic performance, with the potential displacement of 1,000 students.

The International Academy of Smyrna has had falling scores on the state report card for two years in a row and failed to perform at the state or district average for three of the past five years, according to the Georgia Department of Education, which in early March wasn’t recommending renewal of the soon-to-expire charter based on academic performance. The school district administration is recommending that the Cobb school board deny renewal at their April 20 meeting.

The DOE “will be unable to recommend a renewal or extension of International Academy of Smyrna’s charter contract at this time,” a DOE attorney wrote the school’s governing board on March 8.

The letter, which is attached to the April 20 agenda of the Cobb school board, reports that the school scored 56.7 on the College and Career Ready Performance Index for the 2015-16 school year.

The school, founded in 2006, has had two five-year contracts. The latest expires June 30, and Superintendent Chris Ragsdale is recommending that his board vote non-renewal based on "the continued decline in student performance” and also “financial trends.”

DOE, suggesting that its position is in flux, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday that it now sees conflicting financial information between the school’s and district’s records, and has asked Cobb to resolve that before the local board votes. That and other new information leaves DOE with insufficient information for a recommendation to the state board should the matter get that far.

There were 1,032 students enrolled in the school during the last count, in October, according to DOE records. A majority of students come from households under financial duress, with 59 percent qualifying for free- or reduced-price school meals -- higher than the Cobb average of 44 percent and lower than the state average of 62 percent. Higher economic stress tends to correlate with lower performance. 

Neither the district nor the school could be reached for comment, with most districts, including Cobb, closed for spring break.

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