ANTIOCH -- The California Charter Schools Association has called for the closure of a local charter school formed to help at-risk students catch up with their peers.

The statewide organization said last week that R.A.A.M.P. Charter Academy, which opened in 2009 and serves 138 students, is one of six charters in the state falling below its minimum criteria for renewal based on low standardized test scores.

"We understand many of the students face difficult challenges, but when you look at (R.A.A.M.P.'s) rate of growth, you do not see scores increasing at a rate that is acceptable," said Elizabeth Robitaille, the association's senior vice president of achievement and performance management.

Officials with R.A.A.M.P. strongly disagree with placement on the list, saying the school's small size makes testing data unreliable.

"It's disheartening," said Karla Branch, the school's executive director. "I appreciate the need to have accountability, but they're taking such a blanket approach. There's a real flaw in the measurement."

The Charter Schools Development Center, another advocacy group for charter schools, said the association's rationale is unsound, saying it is based on a testing criteria that the state is doing away with.

"It's just sort of fundamentally out-of-whack, and based on flawed data," said Eric Premack, the development center's executive director.

Using the data also does not consider that some charters have smaller and highly transient student populations, so test scores will fluctuate, Premack said.

Though acknowledging the state is shifting to new standards, the charter school association says the six schools it named have consistently demonstrated an inability to achieve success, and accountability cannot wait.

The association's minimum criteria for recommending renewal states that a charter school must have operated for a minimum of four years and meet at least one of the following:

  • An Academic Performance Index score of at least 744 from last spring's state tests.

  • Three-year cumulative API growth of at least 50 points.

  • Close to or exceeding the performance of similar student populations statewide for at least two of the past three years.

    If none of those criteria is met, the association allows schools to submit more data, as a "second look" to show academic gains.

    "R.A.A.M.P. engaged in that process, but was unable to make the case," Robitaille said.

    R.A.A.M.P., which stands for Raising Academic Achievement Multi-Cultural Program, scored a 623 on its API score last spring. Its test results have fluctuated in its three years of recording, going from 649 in 2011 to 689 in 2012, before dropping last spring. R.A.A.M.P.'s student population changed by 58 percent last school year, Branch said.

    The final decision on R.A.A.M.P.'s future will be determined by the Antioch Unified School District board, perhaps as early as February.

    As part of the charter's consideration for renewal, Branch says the district invited her to do an analysis showing how R.A.A.M.P. fares.

    Branch points out that R.A.A.M.P.'s test scores mirror district schools with similar demographics. Most importantly, the school meets the criteria set by the state Department of Education, she said.

    R.A.A.M.P., which is comprised of nearly 86 percent African-American students and 57 percent boys, offers unique programs for mentoring, social and emotional help, smaller class sizes and individual attention and schooling on Saturday geared toward academics.

    "We're so much more than just test scores and numbers. We're a small community charter doing big things for our students," Branch said. "The district has been extremely supportive."

    Antioch Unified Superintendent Donald Gill said it's early in the process, but the district will take a thorough look at all information about R.A.A.M.P.

    Other schools the association recommended for closure are located in Watts, Santa Rosa, Delano, San Francisco and West Sacramento.

    Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.