OAKLAND — For the first time in about five years, the school district is revoking a school charter, saying it is gravely concerned about the academic performance of students at an East Oakland campus serving Spanish-speaking and African-American children.

Growing Children Charter School has some of the lowest test scores in the district and is losing its charter because students are not making adequate academic progress, Oakland charter schools coordinator Liane Zimny said Thursday.

"A charter is a performance contract," she said. "It is an agreement to achieve certain outcomes. The district didn't see that the school had met the terms it agreed to in the charter."

The district has pulled the plug on only two other charter schools in the past — one because it could not attract enough students and the other after it experienced serious financial trouble.

This is the first time an Oakland charter has been revoked almost entirely for academic reasons.

University Preparatory Charter Academy also has been given notice by the Oakland school district its charter may be revoked.

Growing Children Principal Susan Harman said standardized tests are not the best way to gauge the performance of her school's 150 students in kindergarden through sixth grade because she does not emphasize test-taking.

Her school encourages students to learn by doing, and field trips and experiential learning are at the center of the school's curriculum.


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Instead of having a teacher point out parts of a plant on a classroom slide, for example, students at Growing Children learn to identify a stamen after planting flowers themselves, Harman said.

She has filed a new charter application with the school district but said parents and students are making plans to attend other schools in the fall.

Oakland is home to 26 charter schools that teach about 6,740 students. Seven new charter schoolsopened in Oakland in 2005 and at least three more are expected to open in the fall.

Charters are public schools independent from school districts; however, districts grant charters and can revoke them if a school is not meeting certain standards, as in the case of Growing Children.

In 2004, Harman was banned from school district headquarters for 30 days after arguing with the former bodyguard for Oakland schools State Administrator Randolph Ward.

Zimny said revoking Growing Children's charter had nothing to do with that incident, although the two are linked in Harman's mind. "The schools are not democratically run anymore, that's the connection," Harman said. "In the end, the decision is Randy (Ward's)."

E-mail Grace Rauh at grauh@angnewspapers.com.