D.C. charter board extends life of schools up for review, at extremely high costs

The DC Public Charter School Board held its final monthly meeting of the year Monday evening and you could see on the faces of the members that it is time for a break. Only three of the seven made it to the session in person and one was on the telephone. In the aftermath of an exceptionally tough year that included the closure of several schools, serious concerns around student safety, controversies over permanent facilities, and the resignation of the body’s executive director, it appeared that 2019 could not come to an end sooner.

The public comment period was dominated by speakers testifying in favor of the continuance after five years of Monument Academy PCS. In fact, among the charters up for review on this night, IDEA PCS at twenty years; Kingsman Academy PCS at five years; the Children’s Guild PCS at five years; and Monument Academy PCS; all failed to reach their charter goals. Each, however, was given credit for efforts in implementing improvements over the past three years. I will not go into the details of the findings of each school individually since you can read them here. But I will give you a sense of the serious consequences these charters faced for failing to hit their targets. Please keep in mind that these are only a sample of the conditions imposed by the PCSB.


“The school must achieve a PMF score of at least 47, or at the DC PCSB Board’s discretion, a STAR rating of at least three stars, 6 for SY 2019-20, or it will close at the end of SY 2020-21.”

“IDEA PCS will decrease its maximum enrollment ceiling from 600 students to 400 students. The school may not serve additional students unless and until it returns to DC PCSB to apply for a charter agreement amendment to expand its maximum enrollment beyond 400 students. “

Kingsman Academy PCS

“Kingsman Academy PCS will continue improving academic outcomes for its students. Failure to demonstrate continued improvement may result in a high-stakes charter review prior to the school’s scheduled 10-year charter review in SY 2024-25.”

“Kingsman Academy PCS must provide DC PCSB, by March 31, 2020, a plan to improve school completion rates or reduce dropout rates.”

Children’s Guild PCS

“Children’s Guild PCS must eliminate its eligibility to serve grades 9-12, unless and until the school returns to DC PCSB to apply for a charter agreement amendment to expand its grade levels served beyond grade 8.”

“Children’s Guild PCS must decrease its maximum enrollment ceiling from 850 students to 450 students. The school may not serve additional students unless and until it returns to DC PCSB to apply for a charter agreement amendment to expand its maximum enrollment beyond 450 students.”

Monument Academy PCS

“Monument Academy PCS will demonstrate improvement in the following measures: NWEA MAP Math, NWEA MAP ELA, and In-Seat Attendance. Beginning in SY 2019-20 through its ten-year review in SY 2023-24, the school must achieve at least two out of three of the following targets, or it will relinquish its charter at the end of the following school year:
i. NWEA MAP Math Growth: 50.0 or higher
ii. NWEA MAP ELA Growth: 50.0 or higher
iii. In Seat Attendance: 88.0% or higher”

You can sense that the charter board was not in a jovial mood. The somber atmosphere continued with the return of Rocketship Education DC PCS to the dais. Although representatives of the school were there to offer apologies for the incident in which two students were nearly kidnapped from its Rocketship Rise facility, there was really nothing more that needed to be said. The PCSB slapped the following requirements on the charter regarding the actions that it must complete:

“A thorough security assessment, through DC PCSB’s security consultant or other qualified security consultant approved by DC PCSB, of Rocketship PCS’s existing two DC campuses, including an assessment of all dismissal procedures. This security assessment shall be updated to also include the school’s third campus as part of the preopening requirements listed in the checklist.”

“Develop a policy or set of protocols (or provide any existing policy or set of protocols) for communicating with families, the school community, and DC PCSB following serious safety and security incidents. Such policy or set of protocols shall be consistent with those in use by DC public charter schools generally and shall be subject to the reasonable approval of DC PCSB.”

“Provide training of the type and nature in use by DC public charter schools generally for all school staff who have direct interaction with students, including staff in the aftercare program, around student safety and security, risk assessment, dismissal procedures, and the school’s communication protocols.”

“As necessary based on the above actions and consistent with similar protocols in use by other DC charter schools generally, submit to DC PCSB a revised set of 1) its safety and security protocols, and 2) its communication protocols, both for internal communication among school personnel, and for external communication with parents, the school community, and DC PCSB.”

“Undergo ongoing scheduled, or as deemed reasonably necessary, unscheduled monitoring visits from DC PCSB at the school and the aftercare program to assess safety and security, as well as to determine the extent of completion of the above actions. Any written concerns identified during such visits shall be discussed with the Rocketship PCS and addressed by the school within the timeframes mutually determined by DC PCSB and Rocketship PCS.”

“At such times as may be reasonably requested by DC PCSB, appear before the DC PCSB Board to discuss the progress to date made by Rocketship PCS in completing the above actions to the satisfaction of DC PCSB.”

It was now time for everyone to go home.

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