Wednesday, May 5, 2010
‘Meet and Greet’
With D.C. Public Charter School
Board Members and Staff
Celebrate National Charter Schools Week with the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) by attending an open house with PCSB members and staff. This event will give parents and community members the opportunity to:
· Ask questions.
· Learn about the Board’s latest initiatives.
· Gain information about what the authorizer of charter schools in Washington, DC actually does.
Date: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Location: D.C. Public Charter School Board Offices
3333 14th Street, NW
Suite 210 (2nd Floor conference room)
Washington, DC 20010
Light refreshments will be served
Please RSVP to Sdovemorse@dcpubliccharter.com if you plan to join us.
Monday, April 26, 2010
While our greatest hope is that our (and your!) recommendations here create an environment that establishes successful public charter schools, we do recognize that there comes a point where a school has been chronically failing its students, and should ultimately be closed down. In fact, in several cases where these failing schools have been allowed to remain open, they have been doing their students and their families a disservice, as students lose valuable years off of their education. The school where I currently teach can provide a perfect example. My school has been the picture of chaos for the last two years. We have seen five different principals, an 80% staff turnover rate, teachers quitting regularly throughout the year, unqualified administrators, a million dollar budget deficit, and insufficient space to even provide each grade level its own classroom. As a result, our test scores last year on the DCCAS were 13% proficient or advanced for Math and 34% for Reading. Our mission guarantees that our school prepares students for college in a rigorous and arts-infused environment, but when only 1 in every 10 students scores proficient or advanced in math, what are we really preparing our students for? Additionally, our students take the NWEA test in the Fall, Winter, and Spring, and during the 2008-2009 school year, scores actually dropped between Fall and Winter in the 4th -6th grades. Students knew less as the year went by. My school is now in its fifth year of operation and we are in the process of having our charter renewed. We have been placed on “charter warning”, but not for the leadership turnovers or for our students assessment data. When the PCSB discovered that we had several different Boards of Directors over the past few years, only then did alarm bells start going off. Unfortunately, the story of my school is not an isolated case. As Meaghan mentioned, her school has existed for 10 years without making AYP—that is a student’s entire education. Schools cannot continue to be held to such a low standard. We believe that a more rigorous evaluation system for charter schools will help to identify and, hopefully, solve challenges that schools may face before they make it to their 5 or 10 year mark. The second prong of that recommendation is, however, that schools who continue to fail their students after all support systems have been exhausted should be closed down. We also encourage the PCSB to reprioritize what information truly determines whether or not a school gets its charter renewed. While it is important to note that the Board of Directors has changed several times during an evaluation, in no way is that more important than the achievement of the students and the consistency and qualifications of teachers and administration. We can no longer allow schools to squander our students’ growth; those who do not meet a high expectation for performance on a consistent basis need to be closed so that the students of the District of Columbia do not lose any more time.
Readers, when do you think it is clear that a school should be closed? What criteria should be used and who should be consulted?
So now what? We looked at several other states and found that in Chicago and New York City, authorizers actively recruit new providers, offer one-on-one consultations with applicants, and interview the leadership teams of each school.[i] In addition to these strategies, DC could become more “hands-on” by offering workshops to address hurdles in school planning and by creating an iterative application process that includes feedback and support at each stage. In Massachusetts, where the charter schools consistently outperform public schools, an outside non-for profit organization coaches candidates through the application process.[ii]
These are just a few of our beginning suggestions as to how DC could start improving at the very beginning of the charter process. Make sure competent individuals, with relevant experience, are applying, and if they are not, seek them out. Once individuals have applied, or are interested in doing so, coach them through the process. Offer feedback and support at each stage of the planning so that when those school doors open, that staff is as prepared as possible to give the students of the District of Columbia the education that they deserve.
[i] Destler, K. (2009). Contrasting approaches to charter school oversight. Center on Reinventing
Public Education, Retrieved from http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/view/csr_pubs/277