A lot was riding on the State Board of Education’s decision about whether to renew the Thrive Charter Schools of San Diego. The schools have a terrible record, which the district documented. The charter lobby was pushing hard for renewal, showing how little it cares about results or accountability or children’s welfare. It was Linda Darling-Hammond’s first meeting as chair of the State Board.

The Board voted to deny renewal. Facts still matter.

The Board voted 7-1 to renew a Gulen Magnolia Charter. A former member of the charter’s board, now on the State Board, declines to revise herself.

Thrive certainly did not lack funding; it received $575,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to open in 2014 and has received millions of dollars in “New Market Tax Credits” from the federal government since then.

To learn more about Thrive, here are some readings.

Thrive’s scores have dropped every year since it opened.

Christopher Rice-Wilson, a charter parent at another charter in San Diego, called for the closure of Thrive and laid out the facts of its poor performance. 

He wrote:

“I did not feel safe… and I learned absolutely nothing.” That was the testimony heard from one former Thrive Public Schools student who is now doing well in fourth grade at a different school. A group of former students and parents have come forward to describe their experiences during their time at Thrive charter schools. Without a doubt, there are many more like them — the school has a 27 percent to 39 percent attrition rate — roughly one-third of the students leave the school each year. And with good reason, especially for San Diego’s most vulnerable students. Simply put, Thrive is failing low-income, black and Latino students.

Looking at the numbers, Thrive failed to demonstrate it meets the academic requirements to renew its charter, especially when compared to the 13 schools Thrive identified with similar grade and demographic data. For low-income students, Thrive had the worst academic outcomes in both English Language Arts and Math. For low-income students, more than 75 percent of Thrive students weren’t able to meet the state’s standards in math. At the middle school level, the situation is even worse: 80 percent of all of Thrive’s middle school students failed to meet the state achievement standards in math, and 90 percent of low-income students failed the same standard.

Similarly, for black students and Latino students, Thrive’s outcomes were worse than almost all other schools in ELA and math. Fewer than 10 percent of Thrive’s Latino students were meeting state standards in math. All of the comparison schools have a much higher low-income population than Thrive, and a higher percentage of English learners, yet still demonstrated better academic outcomes than Thrive. Thrive argues that it excels at serving students with disabilities. However, Thrive’s academic outcomes for these students are far lower than SDUSD’s outcomes, as well as the outcomes for these students countywide.

Our entire school system needs to do better by black students, and San Diego Unified is 42 points away from having all black students at grade-level proficiency on the California Schools Dashboard in English Language Arts. For these students, Thrive is a disaster. Thrive is more than double that number, at 106.5 points below grade-level proficiency for black students. Outcomes in math are similar. Thrive also has a larger achievement gap in math and ELA between black and white students than the district overall. Why renew the charter for a school that expands the achievement gap?

Thrive argues that parents are choosing Thrive because they were struggling in the schools they were attending. But there are over 130 charter schools in San Diego County, and 46 in SDUSD alone. Wouldn’t we see these same poor outcomes at all of those schools? Thrive argues that they are too new for us to look at state standards. Two other charters in the district opened at the same time as Thrive. They were renewed because they demonstrated improved academic performance. There should be one standard for these schools and Thrive should be held accountable.

Thrive has been given every advantage to show their school can succeed. They have benefited from the investment of millions of dollars from wealthy supporters and received $13 million in new market tax credits from Civic San Diego and another Los Angeles entity. All that and still couldn’t prove their ability to deliver achievement for students.

Schools like Thrive are a symptom of a system in much need of reform. Recent research has found that the dramatic growth of charter schools has cost San Diego Unified about $66 million annually. This cost is born by the students who remain in district managed schools — the overwhelming majority of students in our public school system. Given what’s at stake, we can’t continue to support schools that cost more to our system but do not deliver for our most vulnerable students. We need to ensure our scarce resources are invested in educational strategies that create student success, not expand student failure.