A charter school is (re)born

Regular Scholar's Notebook readers will recall last year's story of Veritas Academy, a fledgling charter school that due to various circumstances never opened its doors.

I am happy to report that Veritas Academy is now Beacon Preparatory School, which will be open in Plymouth, Minnesota in the fall of 2006 for sixth grade, sixth and seventh in 2007, and adding grade eight in 2008. The school has the same sponsor as the former Veritas Academy, Friends of Ascension. In fact, Friends of Ascension is also the sponsor of Beacon Academy, a K-5 charter school that will share space with Beacon Prep.

The mission of the Friends of Ascension is "to improve the education of children." They began by starting Ascension School in north Minneapolis with traditional math and Core Knowledge curricula. Their results fly in the face of public schools that whine about demographics. Where Ascension School is located, 31.7% of the families with minor children have incomes below the poverty level, and 76.7% of the population is minority (the largest groups are African-American, 51.2%, and Asian, 17.9%).

In 1999, before Friends of Ascension implemented the Saxon math program in the school, Ascension grade school performed at a 21% pass rate on the Minnesota mathematics standardized achievement tests. In 2000, Ascension School achieved an 80% pass rate on both the Basic Skills mathematics test and the reading test. In 2005, the students achieved a 90% pass rate on the math test and a 95% pass rate on the reading test.

According to the group, "Due to the tremendous success achieved at Ascension School with the Core Knowledge sequence and Saxon math, Friends of Ascension sponsors only those charter schools which implement the Core Knowledge sequence in grades K-8 and a similar classic content-rich curriculum in grades 9-12. Friends of Ascension also requires that its sponsored schools implement a phonics-based reading program and a sequential math curriculum typified by the Saxon math program."

Friends of Ascension is apparently determined to duplicate its successes across the state. The non-profit group now sponsors over a dozen Minnesota charter schools now in operation or in the planning stages, including Beacon Preparatory School.

Beacon Prep's association with Beacon Academy gives the school some significant advantages:

  • Beacon Prep's start-up coordinator is Beacon Academy's current principal/director, Jordan Ford, an experienced educator and administrator.

  • Beacon Prep's board of directors include current Beacon Academy parents and the mayor of nearby Medicine Lake, Mary Anne Young.

  • Beacon Prep will be housed in the same building as Beacon Academy, a renovated former Wayzata Public Schools building on a hillside with over five acres.

Ford tells me that area residents will soon receive a mailer announcing the opening of Beacon Prep in the fall of 2006. Board meetings are already open to the public, and parent information meetings will begin soon. Beacon Prep seems poised to offer west metro parents the choice of a tuition-free "public school with a private school curriculum."