Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board, wrote an extremely interesting article recently on lesson learned by his organization when turning over management of a charter that is being closed to another school. For many years now when the PCSB shutters a charter it tries to identify a Performance Management Framework Tier 1 school to takeover the facility instead of finding new places for the pupils to attend. It is a great move in that it minimizes disruption for families while significantly increasing the quality of what is taking place in the classrooms.
Mr. Pearson indicates that one of the traits that will increase the probability that a restart will be successful is to allow the board of directors of the closing school to select, within parameters, the incoming charter. This is an engagement tool for those that are being in the unfortunate position of having to give up their institution. Another important observation discovered through this process is that the new school should bring strong resources to the existing site. This includes hiring an experienced principal and “flooding the zone” with extra resources to ensure success. Furthermore, Mr. Pearson writes that the staff should avoid trying to expand their program to areas that they lack prior experience in carrying out. In other words they should stick to what they know they do best.
One crucial issue the PCSB executive director has found with restarts is that there may not be a school agreeing to assume the task. This was the case this year with Potomac Prep PCS. When I interviewed Mr. Pearson a couple of months ago he explained to me that another school could not be found to take it over. One impediment to a charter being willing to enter into a restart relationship could be the fear that the move will negatively impact their PMF score. Therefore, to provide a strong incentive for a charter to boldly go into a restart situation, the PCSB should exclude this campus from PMF tiering for two years; the first year of operation at the new campus plus another twelve months.
Mr. Pearson admits in his article that one charter taking over another is a daunting job. I content that by holding off grading on the PMF for two years for charters initiating a restart we could see far greater replication of some of our highest performing schools.