Badger Rock Middle

Badger Rock Middle School is housed within the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center on the city's south side.

The Madison School Board renewed the charter for Badger Rock Middle School for three more years Monday but said the school must greatly boost its academic performance.

The environmental-themed school, 501 E. Badger Road, landed in the “fails to meet expectations” category on the latest round of state-issued report cards.

A final vote on the exact charter contract language is expected in March. But before then, leaders of the middle school must submit several things to the board, including a plan to strengthen core reading instruction and a more robust plan for recruiting students.

Badger Rock supporters turned out in force Monday, with nearly two dozen testifying before the board. They said problems that had beset the school in past years have been fixed, and they stressed that innovation takes time.

The curriculum at Badger Rock, opened in 2011, focuses on urban agriculture and environmental sustainability. Students have access to gardens, greenhouses, an on-site commercial kitchen and weekly field trips.

Test scores are up this year, behavior issues are down sharply, and parent involvement is extensive, supporters said. They praised new interim principal Hong Tran for listening to parent concerns.

The school’s advocates sought a five-year contract. The board went along with Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s recommendation for three years, although board member Michael Flores pushed for five years.

The vote on the three-year renewal was 6-1, with TJ Mertz voting against it. He said reauthorizing the charter would essentially send a signal to families that the board recommends the school, something Mertz said he couldn’t do given the school’s academic record.

Wright Middle School, the district’s oldest charter school, also was on Monday’s agenda. Both Badger Rock and Wright were granted one-year charter contract extensions last December to allow them to prepare for the more rigorous charter review process the school district implemented this year.

At last year’s meeting, Mertz, a former Wright parent, voted against granting Wright the one-year extension, saying at the time that while he highly values the school, it had operated for many years as a charter school in name only.

The process to create a charter school structure would overburden school staff and take them away from more important work, he said.

Wright leaders now agree with that view. They withdrew the school’s charter renewal application last week, saying the school is effective as a traditional district school, albeit one with special themes and a broad attendance area.

Consequently, the board did not need to vote on the issue Monday.

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