Late yesterday afternoon, the DC Public Charter School Board voted at a special meeting six to one to allow the Latin American Youth Center Career Academy Public Charter School to continue operating under a new set of conditions, most of them tied to results of the Adult Education Performance Management Framework. Only board member Rick Cruz cast his ballot against the measure, arguing that the school failed to meet several of the goals contained in its charter.
There were a number of common themes around last night’s discussion. All board members thanked the school and the PCSB staff for their exceedingly hard work around the issue of charter revocation that first surfaced during the five year review of LAYCCA in January of this year. There was also a lot of whining. They complained that the school should have come to the PCSB quicker when it realized that based upon the low academic preparation of its student body, the original charter goals were unrealistic. There were assertions that the systems relied upon by the charter for administrative tracking of data were weak. The members also found that many of the targets were subjective and therefore open to interpretation.
The most interesting remarks came from Sara Mead. She chastised the board for accepting the school’s goals in the first place because they were unclear and vague. She also made the point that while there is a tremendous need in the nation’s capital to meet the needs of adult learners, she is not quite sure that attempts to provide these services fit “naturally” into the adult charter school model. She cautioned the board about approving other charter applications that seek to educate a similar population of students. Dovetailing nicely on her statement, board member Steve Bumbaugh pointed out that there is evidence that those enrolled at LAYCCA have shown academic improvement, especially in the area of reading. He concluded that in light of the “multiple risk factors” of pupils LAYCCA is serving, “this is no small matter.”
“The Youth Center is serving adult students with an average education on a sixth grade level. This is the average. Almost all of those enrolled have faced tremendous obstacles throughout their lives from drug addiction, homelessness, poverty, and incarceration. Needless to say, these are not individuals from typical two-parent households. Then what this school does, and I have no idea how they do this, is they take these disadvantaged people and put them back together. The charter demonstrated that many attendees are able to gain years of learning under their watch. As was stated yesterday evening, Frederick Douglass remarked that, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” But somehow, in consistent irrefutable evidence presented by the staff and the board of directors, fixing broken human beings is exactly what this charter is accomplishing.”