Is charter school board getting tough?
It looks that way, given the recent run of schools that have had charters revoked by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, or that have beaten the board to the punch and relinquished them on their own. On April 27th, the board pulled the charter of Young America Works, a vocational/technical high school in Northeast DC, citing health and safety issues along with academic problems.
At Monday evening's board meeting, two schools targeted for revocation surrendered their charters: Children's Studio and Academy for Learning through the Arts (ALTA). The board also moved to begin revocation proceedings against Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers (KIMA). If the board follows through as expected, it will mean that it has effectively closed nine schools since the beginning of 2009. In 2008, two schools relinquished sharters.
"Closure of a school at any time is disruptive to families. It has always been the priority of the Board and staff to ease the transition, and as always we will help families bring closure and find new schools," Board Chair Brian Jones said Monday, according to a statement. "But the fact of the matter remains that this Board is highly focused on offering the highest quality alternatives to D.C. families. Closing under-performing schools is a painful but necessary part of this process."
The three schools on the chopping block Monday suffered from shaky academics, spotty staffing, and in one case, breaking the rules by enrolling athletes who did not meet D.C residency requirements, according to board officials.
KIMA, a Ward Four school that opened in 2001 and serves grades 6 through 12, modeled its approach after what its web site called "the great Kamitic (Ancient Egyptian) founders of civilization who nurtured inner intelligence to produce exceptional knowledge and inventive power." According to a report by board staff, KIMA suffered from 30 percent truancy rates, showed no evidence of a coherent curriculum, lacked basic supplies and a science lab, and had inadequate staff for special needs students. Senior transcripts were riddled with inaccuracies. Reading and math proficiency rates on the 2009 DC-CAS were under 45 percent.The school was also the subject of a March 19 Washington Post piece revealing that members of the basketball team didn't meet District residency requirements and failed to pay non-resident tuition as required. A call to school officials Tuesday was not returned.
Children's Studio Public Charter School for the Arts and Architecture operated for many years as a private school before it was chartered by the old Board of Education. A pre-K through 6 school in Ward One that serves 77 predominantly low-income children, it aspires to infuse arts into all parts of the academic program in a "transcultural setting." But a board staff report said the "inspiring ideas and rhetoric behind the school is not matched by the reality of daily experiences." It said teachers, primarily artists, struggle with academic subjects. Reading and math proficiency rates on the DC-CAS were under 40 percent.
Brandi Redo, a parent and member of the school's board, said there were "fundamental, irreconcilable differences" with the charter board. "Our mission is to give low-income children a chance to experience education through the arts and there are differences as far as how we saw the success of the school and how they measured the success of the school."
The plan is to reopen as a private school, Redo said.
ALTA, another pre-K through 6 arts integration school, located in Ward One, also suffered from weak academics and lack of technology, according to board staff. Reading proficiency on the DC-CAS was 50 percent, while math proficiency was 18.7 percent, although only 32 of its approximately 96 students were tested.
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