The Minnesota Department of Education has taken an unprecedented move to close an online charter school accused of graduating students improperly.
The department notified the West St. Paul-based BlueSky Online School on Thursday that it would sever the school's contract with its overseer, a recourse the state has under recent charter legislation.
The department has accused BlueSky of offering a deficient curriculum and graduating students who had not completed required coursework…
The department said the school is guilty of "repeated or major violations of the law." As recently as February, the department claims, the school graduated students who did not meet requirements, such as taking two algebra courses. Its math and social studies curriculums do not hit state standards, the state said…
More than 40 Minnesota charter schools have closed since 1996, most of them because of financial problems or enrollment declines. Only four ran into academic issues. The state, though, has never played such a forceful role in a charter school's demise until BlueSky…
The organization that oversees BlueSky Online School told state officials on Monday that it will not take action to close the charter school.
In a letter to the Minnesota Department of Education, the executive director of Novation Education Opportunities (NEO) said the nonprofit group will not end its contract with BlueSky.
State officials said last month that, despite warnings and audits going back two years, the charter school was still violating the law. They asked NEO to indicate whether it would cut ties with BlueSky, adding that they would start the process of closing the school themselves if NEO did not respond or refused to act.
As recently as February, BlueSky has issued diplomas to students who did not meet state graduation requirements, according to the state…
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Education is threatening significant fines against an online charter school if it doesn't fix problems with its curriculum and graduation requirements.
Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said an audit shows BlueSky Charter School in West St. Paul gave diplomas to some students who had not taken four years of English and three years of math.
Seagren also said the school's curriculum doesn't match state requirements.
"We have given them a lot of support and technical assistance to help them to do this, and they still continue to seem to not understand the seriousness of this," Seagren said.
BlueSky has 30 days to fix the problems, or the Department of Education will reduce its funding by $18,000 dollars a day, which amounts to about 60 percent of the school's state funding on a daily basis.
In a statement, school officials said they disappointed in the department's findings. They said they're confident they'll meet the state's standards by the deadline and avoid any fines.
Despite being Minnesota’s first public online school, BlueSky Charter School faces the possibility of closure due to compliance issues with graduation. A KSTP-TV investigation aired a report on 9/1/10 claiming the school handed out diplomas that students didn’t earn; the next day BlueSky executive director Jeffrey Schultz resigned.* * * * * * * * *
KSTP-TV claims that BlueSky graduated students, as far back as 2009, who had inconsistencies on their transcripts. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), through a letter to the school, claims that BlueSky “failed to meet required academic standards" and "still remains out of compliance with state law.”
In the letter, MDE stated that “some BlueSky who graduated or are on pace to graduate in 2010 took the wrong state test.“ The letter goes to show that BlueSky students did not meet state core credit requirements in math or social studies, does not require all of its students to pass state-required tests in math, and its counselors were unclear on required student courses. If BlueSky doesn’t make the necessary changes by this spring, MDE has threatened to revoke the school’s charter.
The MDE initially got involved after former BlueSky employees, Misun Bormann and Kyra Campbell, approached them about BlueSky’s questionable academic standards. The employees went to MDE about the practices and were subsequently fired; the former employees have a pending lawsuit against BlueSky.
No reason was given for BlueSky executive director Jeffrey Schultz‘s sudden resignation. According to a KSTP-TV interview on 9/1, Schultz commented that BlueSky has done an “exhaustive analysis of (BlueSky’s) transcripts” and will be adopting a more rigorous core curriculum. Schultz initially joined BlueSky as an English teacher then Curriculum/Staff Development Coordinator and finally director.
BlueSky Charter School was founded in 2000 becoming Minnesota’s first 100% public online school. In 2005 BlueSky graduated its first class of 17 students; last May the school graduated over 100 students.
STATE: SCHOOL GRADUATED STUDENTS WHO DID NOT MEET STANDARDS; September 1, 2010; KTSP TV(Minneapolis, MN)
The state says a Minnesota high school handed out diplomas to students who didn't earn them in 2009, and possibly again in 2010.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has evidence that BlueSky Online High School graduated kids who had big problems on their high school transcripts. More than 100 students graduated from BlueSky last May. But, the state says some of those students failed required math exams, others took the wrong exams.
In a letter, the Minnesota Department of Education tells school officials they continue to graduate students who have "failed to meet required academic standards" dating back to 2009. And, that the school "still remains out of compliance with state law".
State officials tell 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS if the problem is not fixed by next spring, the school's charter could be revoked. BlueSky has 700 online students statewide and starts classes next week.
Former BlueSky employees Misun Bormann and Kyra Campbell went to the state and blew the whistle on the school. In a lawsuit, the two claim they were fired after blowing the whistle on BlueSky.
Read the letter from the Minnesota Department of Education here.