Private schools seek to become charter schools
My colleague Michael Birnbaum reports:
The D.C. charter school board didn't attract a string of struggling Catholic schools seeking conversion in this year's charter applications, which were due Monday. But it did receive proposals from two existing private schools hoping to open public charter schools, along with applications from a D.C. teacher training nonprofit and 10 other groups.
The board will review the applications, hold two hearings in March and vote on them in April. Approved schools would open to students in the fall of 2011.
Two of the applicants, the Naylor Road School and the Kuumba Learning Center, are existing private schools that are seeking to win the right to operate as public schools. Both currently draw students heavily from the federal D.C. voucher program, which gives private school scholarships to students from low-income families, but is closed to new entrants and is likely winding down.
Update: Feb. 3: Kuumba Learning Center notes that it would continue operating its private school but wants to open an additional public charter school.
In its application materials, the Naylor Road School says "it has become unsustainable to remain open as a tuition-based program." But it expresses its hope to stay open as a public charter school, which would eliminate tuition for its students but subject it to D.C. accountability requirements such as the DC-CAS standardized tests.
Another one of the applicants, the Center for Inspired Teaching, is an established D.C. non-profit that trains teachers. It hopes to open a school that will give teachers-in-training the chance to partner with experts.
"We felt it was time to create a place where we could really have more direct influence over the conditions where we're training teachers," said Julie Sweetland, director of research, teaching and learning at the center. "We want it to be a showpiece and help disseminate creative teaching more widely."
She said the school would have a core staff of master teachers and a more itinerant staff of student teachers who would work in the same classrooms as the permanent teachers, spending a few years at the school before moving elsewhere.
The charter board didn't take any applications last year, and in 2008 it approved two of 10 applications.
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