In Cleveland, the Menlo Park Academy charter school serves children in grades K-8 and has very strict admission requirements.  Menlo Park restricts their enrollment to only the best and brightest — those students identified as being gifted.  Not surprisingly, these students consistently highly on Ohio’s standardized tests year after year, making it appear as though the school is performing at a consistently high level.  The most recent changes to Ohio’s school report cards, especially the new grade given to a school’s impact on gifted students, gives us a reason to look more closely at Menlo’s program.


Menlo Park’s website repeatedly sells the notion that they are the ultimate destination for gifted children — the place for parents to take their children to develop their gifted potential.  And as we know, charter schools supposedly exist to provide a better academic opportunity than the local public school where these children would attend, so the advertising is very compelling.

MenloGiftedAs we mentioned before, Menlo Park students regularly put up high achievement test scores, not unusual for gifted populations, but Menlo explains on their website that using that data alone doesn’t tell the true picture — the school makes the case that the use of value-added data is a better, more “objective” indicator of their success as a school:

How can value-added analysis positively impact gifted students?
Noting whether a gifted student’s achievement surpasses a state’s proficiency performance level likely reveals very little about the student’s growth in a given year. Many gifted students enter school near, at or above that achievement level. Similarly, minimal information is probably gained about a school’s effectiveness with gifted students by documenting how many of the high-achieving students have passed a state’s proficiency test. For these reasons and others, a progress measure to gauge the amount of student learning realized over a year’s time makes more sense to objectively assess gifted students’ learning gains and the schools’ effectiveness with gifted students.

MenloDifferenceWhether or not you believe that using value-added data to measure a school’s performance is a good idea, Menlo Park Academy trumpets its use as a better metric to judge their own performance.  So, how is Menlo Park doing?  Well, if you go to their website and look at their “Record of Excellence” page, they only share their latest achievement test results.  Why is that?  The latest report cards clearly identify not only how the entire school’s population has grown from one year to the next, but the newest report card has a new category that explicitly spells out how a school has done with its gifted population.  For a school that is “focused solely on serving gifted learners”, a school whose tagline reads, “Developing the Potential of Gifted Learners” and a school that believes that value-added is the best metric to judge their success with their population of gifted students, why aren’t their results prominently displayed on their website?  We went to the Ohio Department of Education website to look at Menlo Park’s 2012-13 Report Card and here’s what we found:


Oh. That’s awkward.

A “C” grade would mean that from one year to the next, the students are maintaining their high level of achievement from one year to the next (i.e., if students scored in the 90th percentile and continued to stay at that level across the years, the school’s grade would be a “C”).  Last year, the oft-maligned Cleveland School District provided more students (55) and more taxpayer dollars ($404,736.10) to Menlo Park Academy than any other school district and received a “C” in this category — yet we don’t see them advertising as being “focused solely on serving gifted learners”, do we?  No, Cleveland must serve all learners.

Menlo Park’s value-added grade of “F” means that their gifted students’ achievement test results are dropping over time.  Not only are the students not improving, they aren’t even maintaining their achievement levels from one year to the next.

For a charter school that supposedly specializes in Developing the Potential of Gifted Learners, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

  • becca

    But we already know that the new “state report card” doesn’t accurately
    show what is going on. If gifted learners are already at the top of the
    mountain, how do they grow higher than the top of the mountain? We
    also know that the majority of gifted programs across the state – even
    in many A-rated districts received D-F in the gifted student category.

    I am not a fan of charters either, but……

  • gregmild

    If they simply keep those kids at their already high level, they receive a “C” grade for value-added. Given that teaching gifted students is their advertised expertise…

  • gregmild

    And actually only 52 school districts (out of 610) received an F in this category, while 62 received an A grade. This while these districts somehow manage to educate ALL children, not just the gifted kids (as Menlo Park “specializes” in).

  • Think.

    Using value-added data to measure a school’s performance is simply not a good idea, for the legislature nor for the rest of us who actually know the real strategy behind those new state report cards.

  • Natalie

    I just don’t think we are on the right track for evaluating gifted growth. Of course, the students are not going to show growth on a standardized test. They are always going to do well. They are not being assessed beyond their grade level test or on other skills in which they may excel.

  • BH74923

    The Olentangy district has the largest gifted population in the state (and let’s not forget they get only $441/pupil in state funding compared to thousands that charter schools get) and got a B in Gifted Value Added. Yet our politicians continue to support and fund underperforming charter schools on the backs of some very good public districts.

  • Shanny_l

    I have three children that attend Menlo Park Academy. My oldest joined the school in their second year of operation. I am not happy to see this report card but do wonder how they come up with that letter grade. Progress can be hard to measure there. My oldest was grade accelerated. We did see her going from acing the standardized tests to getting more like 90% when she skipped a grade. She no longer made the Noetic math finalists for her grade or spelling bee. But she still gets straight A’s and enjoys the work. I think accelerating her was the right decision, but she would be hard to include in this measurement.

    My middle kiddo falls in the middle. She does well in math and gets a little extra help in reading. She’s a quiet kid and I fear she would have fallen through the gaps elsewhere. Here she is encouraged and pushed to do her best.

    My youngest is dyslexic. She struggles a lot. But she is also gifted. I have talked with numerous teachers and doctors and all assure me Menlo is going above and beyond with her. Last year she received an hour a day of one on one help. This year will be a little less because of her progress.

    In summary, the scores concern me. We don’t love every teacher – but every school has a bad apple or two. When I weigh that with our personal experience, I still know this is the place for my kids.

  • just another argument

    how can you judge the intellect of a gifted kid? They don’t learn the same way as you, so how can you test them based on that? How do you judge for the many here who have skipped a grade? You can’t, it’s impossible, in each class at least three people have moved up one or even two grade levels. These kids are doing better than some of the kids who have never moved up. How can you judge if they fall from getting 100 percent to 90 percent because they moved up a grade? Developing potential is about developing that child, not developing their grade, because thats just a number.

  • argumenter

    Yeah, I agree.

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