Sturgis Charter School Accused of Cherry Picking Students
By: Elsa H. Partan
A Mashpee School Committee member wrote a 15-page report last week that accuses Sturgis Charter School in Hyannis of selectively admitting high-achieving students. The head of the charter school denied the claim in a written response.
Sturgis is a public charter high school that opened in 1998 with the philosophy of “International Baccalaureate for all,” a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum. The school, which has about 400 students, was given the top ranking among all high schools in Massachusetts this month and 15th in the nation by US News & World Report. Boston Latin School received the Number 2 ranking in Massachusetts.
Committee member David P. Bloomfield based his accusation of selective admissions on the fact that the students entering Sturgis are more likely to have high standardized test scores than a cross-section of Cape Cod students.
“If you cherry pick students, a violation of the Sturgis Charter, then you can build an outstanding school,” Mr. Bloomfield wrote.
As an example, Mr. Bloomfield calculated that 17 percent of grade 8 students who attend non-charter public schools in Mashpee, Sandwich, Bourne, Barnstable, and Dennis/Yarmouth scored in the “advanced” category of MCAS English Language Arts. That is compared to 36 percent of grade 8 students who are accepted by Sturgis.
If you cherry pick students, a violation of the Sturgis Charter, then you can build an outstanding school.
David Bloomfield Mashpee School Committee
In math, 20 percent of students from the five public school districts scored advanced on MCAS, while 47 percent of the students Sturgis accepted scored advanced, Mr. Bloomfield wrote. The fraction of students who scored “needs improvement” in the five districts was 31 percent, compared to 15 percent of the students Sturgis accepted.
“Charter School enrollment practices should be investigated and action taken. Similarly, the practice of returning poorly performing students to their original school districts should also be investigated.”
Eric Hieser, executive director of Sturgis, fired back a four-page response. “Use of the term cherry picking suggests that Sturgis picks and chooses its students based on prior grades or performance, which is impossible when admission is gained via random lottery of applicants,” he wrote. “Also, Sturgis never receives a student’s school records until weeks or months after the student is offered admission. In the random lottery at Sturgis, ten students with low grades or MCAS scores could be offered places before one outstanding student.”
Mr. Hieser said that more than 450 students applied for 210 seats in grade 9 at Sturgis this year.
“The tenor of D. Bloomfield’s [report] suggests that a higher percentage of the students who apply to Sturgis have MCAS scores in the Advanced or Proficient categories on their grade 8 exams,” Mr. Hieser wrote. “Whether or not this is true has nothing to do with any selective or cherry picking admission practices at Sturgis as they don’t exist.”