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Complaints follow charter school's testing rules

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 8:18 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Public school officials are criticizing state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis for changing the rules for testing student achievement in charter schools.

In a story published Friday, officials told The Morning Call in Allentown that the changes made it easier for the privately run, publicly funded charter schools to meet state benchmarks for academic progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

They also criticized Tomalis for making the change for the 2011-12 school year without getting required federal approval.

Education Department spokesman Tim Eller says the new rules treat charter schools like school districts for the purpose of judging their performance, because both serve multiple-grade populations.

Eller labeled the change “routine” and said federal approval is anticipated.

“In the department's view, it's all about hairsplitting,” he said Friday.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association said the move violates requirements in the federal law that every public school be evaluated in the same way and that all students in a school be held accountable for its achievement.

Stuart Knade, chief counsel for the school boards group, said the change could confuse parents and give the Legislature the false impression that charter schools outperform public schools.

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