News came yesterday about the future of Excel Academy PCS, and it was not the announcement that was expected. The charter, whose operation beyond the 10 year mark was rejected by the DC Public Charter School Board last month, will remain open beyond this summer but will do so under the authority of DCPS. It will continue to be an all-girls school.
I will remind you of the charter board’s assessment of the school’s academic progress which was made in November of last year:
“Excel PCS is a single campus local education agency (LEA), serving grades prekindergarten-3 (PK3) through eight, that adopted the Performance Management Framework (PMF) as its goals and academic achievement expectations. Pursuant to the school’s Charter and Charter Agreement, Excel PCS has not met its goals. Per its charter and charter agreement, the school committed to achieving an average PMF score of 45% for the past five years of operation. Excel Academy PCS’ average score is 41.4%, and it only exceeded a score of 45% in school year (SY) 2012-13, the first year of this five-year review. The school’s 2016-17 result, 36.7%, is the school’s lowest score yet, and reflects a downward trend, making the improvement provision in its charter agreement inapplicable to assessment of its goals. While the PMF number is an average, the low score reflects overall low academic achievement and school climate. Math results have been consistently poor – both absolute results as well as year-to-year student growth. English language arts (ELA) results have been higher than math, but are on the decline, with student growth now below the state average in ELA as well. Reading and math growth for grades K through two, as measured by NWEA MAP, has been below 50 for the past four years. Both attendance and re-enrollment rates have also been below DC averages in every year of the review period. Separate and apart from the determination of the school’s goal and academic achievement expectation attainment, DC PCSB staff has determined that the school has not committed a material violation of law or of its charter, has adhered to generally accepted accounting principles, has not engaged in a pattern of fiscal mismanagement, and is economically viable. Based on these findings, DC PCSB staff recommends that the DC PCSB Board vote to initiate revocation proceedings of the school’s charter, with a final date of operation on June 30, 2018.”
Once the board voted to close Excel, the word on the street was that two high performing charter school networks, KIPP DC PCS and Friendship PCS, were interested in taking over the school. This information was confirmed to me by teachers from Excel at the 2018 FOCUS Charter School Conference, and again just this week by Dr. Darren Woodruff, chairman of the DC PCSB. Whenever there is a decision to revoke a school’s charter, it is the hope that the facility would come under the auspices of schools that have a solid track record of producing strong academic results. Unfortunately, in this case, this is not the path that the charter decided to pursue.
It frankly saddens me that the Excel students of Ward 8 will not longer be held to the high accountability standards of the DC PSCB.
The move by Excel is not unprecedented. In 2014, Hospitality High School joined DCPS after it decided to relinquish its charter in the face of low academic performance. At the end of 2015 it was closed and its students dispersed to one of three traditional schools.
Now we will watch as students, parents, and educators, who were used to functioning under the framework of a charter, make the transition to a traditional school system.