I-LEAD Charter School is nearly bursting at the seams with pride these days.
That’s because when the state Department of Education recently released its annual school performance profiles – which rank schools based on standardized test scores and other factors – I-LEAD saw its number go up.
Berks County’s only brick-and-mortar charter school received a score of 40 out of 100. And while that number puts it last among all high schools in the county – Antietam was second lowest at 62.7 – it represents an increase of 19.4 percent over I-LEAD’s score of 33.5 from last year.
Thursday afternoon, school leaders held a special event to celebrate the gain.
Students gathered in the cafeteria, a banner announcing the improvement on the wall, as school officials lauded their efforts.
“Today, we’re here for a very awesome purpose,” said Angel Figueroa, one of the school’s founders.
He said the profile results are a great accomplishment, and that they show what I-LEAD students are capable of. He spoke with an us-versus-them theme – a nod to the Reading School Board recently initiating the revocation process of the school’s charter – saying there are people in the community who don’t believe in what I-LEAD is doing.
“Today we’re here to tell them you are smart, you are capable of learning,” Figueroa said.
Robert S. Natalini, chairman of I-LEAD’s board of directors, continued with the praise.
“I am humbled by being in your presence,” he told the students, calling their performance “fabulous” and “remarkable.”
He encouraged the students to do even more, and to try to inspire younger students to follow their lead.
“Together, the sky is the limit,” he said.
I-LEAD’s overall score increase of 19.4 percent was second highest in the county, behind Oley Valley High School at 20 percent.
Because I-LEAD’s population of just over 500 students is so small, only between 60 and 75 students took each of the three Keystone Exams used in determining the profile score.
For each test taken this year, more students tested proficient or advanced. But that number was fewer than 10 for each exam.
I-LEAD also failed to meet graduation rate goals and any of the goals set by the state for academic growth or closing the achievement gap.
But Dwayne Brown, vice principal, said those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Brown said the targets set by the state are not particularly realistic for I-LEAD, given that state projections based on previous testing show three quarters of students at the school aren’t expected to ever test proficient on the exams.
Most I-LEAD students, Brown said, come to the school already several grade levels behind.
And the state-set growth goals for those students is too steep, he said. It assumes I-LEAD will increase its score by about 30 points over six years.
Brown said despite not meeting the state growth goals, I-LEAD is happy with the growth it’s achieving.
“We are going to, and have been, growing children,” he said. “I’m happy with the growth because it shows what’s possible.”
Brown said the school has implemented several measures that should continue that growth. He said the effect of those measures should be evident in the school’s profile score next year, which he expects will continue to climb.