D.C. charter board is eradicating limits on accountability

I know that the DC Public Charter School Board, operating under the School Reform Act, has the power to close charters based upon poor academic performance, financial irregularities, a failure to meet its goals, and a violation of applicable laws. However, the mandates that it has been imposing on charters go way beyond a reasonable definition of oversight.  For examples, let’s just consider some of the demands placed on schools at last Monday night’s monthly meeting.  I want you to know that these are the actual conditions that the specified charters need to meet in order to continue to operate.

Imposed on Democracy Prep PCS during its five-year review:

“The school must achieve a PMF score of at least 40 for SY 2018-19 on a modified one-year PMF, with all measures using only SY 2018-19 outcomes and no re-enrollment rate, as calculated by DC PCSB, OR must improve by at least 15 points on the standard PK8 PMF between SY 2017-18 and 2018-19. If the school fails to meet at least one of these targets, it will close at the end of SY 2019-20.”

Imposed on Harmony PCS during its five-year review:

Harmony DC PCS must decrease its enrollment ceiling from 480 students to a maximum of 250 students, and submit a five-year budget to describe how the school will remain economically viable with such enrollment; and Given the cost of the school’s turnaround and the reliance on philanthropic funds that largely come from a single source to pay for this turnaround, Harmony DC PCS must provide evidence that at least $500K per year has been secured for SY 2018-19 and SY 2019-20.”

Imposed on LEARN PCS during its application process to open a new school:

“By May 15, 2019, the school will develop and submit a plan to engage non-military connected families in DC (especially Ward 8). The plan will include i. reliable, recent, and comprehensive data demonstrating that there will be sufficient demand among non-military families to sustain the school, and ii. a description of recruiting strategies that have been successful either in DC or other jurisdictions with competitive charter markets serving a similar target population.”

“Enrollment—due to the mixed historical performance of LEARN schools, and lower quality and lack of demand at LEARN 10, enrollment at LEARN DC will be limited to the current enrollment numbers of LEARN 10. . .”

“The school’s opening year may have a maximum enrollment of 180. Enrollment each year may grow by 45 students to a maximum enrollment of 495 students.”

“By December 14, 2018, the school will sign an agreement committing that the following condition will be included in the school’s charter: If the performance on the PMF at the five-year review is below and average of 40%, the school agrees to relinquish its charter. If the school earns a Tier 3 in any three of five years, the school will relinquish its charter.”

And here is my personal favorite:

“The LEARN Network will open no additional schools until at least one year after the opening of LEARN DC.”

The PCSB is now dictating what this charter management organization can and cannot do on a national level in order to open in D.C.  If I was running this school, and if I wholeheartedly believe in school choice for those much less fortunate than myself, and if a vital part of my sworn mission is to provide a high quality education for the offspring of men and women who sacrifice their lives for the protection of this country, I would tell the board “no.”  Actually I would tell them “hell no.”

However, this is what our local movement has become.  Autonomy and accountability.  But the autonomy part is disappearing.

 

 

 

 

D.C. charter board lives up to reputation as tough authorizer

The headline for a story about the DC Public Charter School Board’s November monthly meeting is obvious to anyone watching the session: LEARN PCS was approved by a unanimous vote to open on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB). But nothing about last night’s proceedings was this simple and so it goes with LEARN. While the new charter was given the green light, it is facing an extremely long list of conditions imposed by the PCSB that covers everything from engagement of Ward 8 families to changes to the governance structure of its board. The requirements also include the following statement regarding its future academic performance:

“By December 14, 2018, the school will sign an agreement committing that the following condition will be included in the school’s charter: If the performance on the PMF at the five-year review is below an average of 40%, the school agrees to relinquish its charter. If the school earns a Tier 3 in any three of five years, the school will relinquish its charter.”

In addition, the granting of a local campus has national implications for this charter management organization:

“Enrollment—due to the mixed historical performance of LEARN schools, and lower quality and lack of demand at LEARN 10, enrollment at LEARN DC will be limited to the current enrollment numbers of LEARN 10 and the LEARN Network will not open additional schools prior to opening LEARN.”

In other words by agreeing to come to JBAB, LEARN cannot open another site anywhere across the United States before the 2020-to-2021 school year. I think this requirement could be the definition of strict.

It was easy to anticipate a challenging evening for LEARN. The staff’s report regarding the charter’s application was published ahead of time and it included mixed findings regarding meeting the board’s standards. The representatives from the charter must have been concerned because no one from the school testified during the open comment period in favor of opening at the military complex.

The same approach was applied to Harmony PCS, a Texas charter school that faced its five-year review. While the school was able to land in the Tier 2 Performance Management rankings in 2018, its prior two scores on this report card had it in the lowest category. Therefore, the charter board applied an equaling grueling set of goals for this school to meet in order to continue teaching kids.

The most interesting discussion revolved around Democracy Prep PCS. After being a PMF Tier 2 school during the 2015-to-2016 term, it now finds itself with the lowest score on this measure of any local charter at 21.0 percent. Its board wanted to jettison its Brooklyn, N.Y. – based centralized office and have a high performing D.C. charter take its place. While Rocketship PCS did respond to a request for proposal, instead the school went with the TenSquare Consulting Group to perform a turnaround. It would be an understatement to say that the board was not too sure that this was the right decision. While it would be highly unheard of to have the PCSB close a school at the five-year mark, that is exactly what may happen. The members split three to three as to whether to allow the charter to continue with conditions and so the matter will be taken up again at the December meeting.

The bright side of night came from a proposal from Lee Montessori PCS to replicate in Ward 7 and 8. Yes, I did use the work replicate. The four-year old Tier 1 institution desperately wants to increase the proportion of low-income students that it serves. It now teaches about 177 children in grades pre-Kindergarten through five, eventually going to sixth, and it would mirror this offering at a second location. It currently has a wait list of over 750 pupils. The new school would enroll 400 kids and open in the 2019-to-2020 term. The board will make the decision next month and at that time the charter will have something to celebrate.

D.C. POST parents conduct media campaign ahead of charter board vote to approve LEARN PCS

Next Monday evening, the DC Public Charter School Board will vote on whether to allow LEARN Charter School Network, a Chicago charter management organization, to open a school at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.  In anticipation of the decision, the POST, the Ward 8 Parent Operator Selection Team, has conducted a social media campaign to have their selection of a charter operator approved.   Its members write:

“The entire process we participated in was designed to put parents in charge. So we were especially pleased to find that not only did LEARN present well, they listened to us and asked us some great questions. We wanted a school operator that would listen to the needs of the parents and children and our two communities—not just while we are evaluating them, but during the planning and after they open. We feel that LEARN will do that.”

I’ve documented in the past the highly detailed and lengthy work the parents involved in the process to select a school conducted, a project that was facilitated by Irene Holtzman, the executive director of FOCUS, and Maya Martin, executive director of PAVE who would become the new school’s board chair.  I especially enjoyed reading the case study of the POST’s effort.  The team has been highly engaged, evidenced by the fact that my skeptical comments about the charter’s academic results were met by two different uncoordinated communications to me by prominent members of the school choice community.  These resulted in my participation on a conference call with a couple of the leaders of LEARN.

It’s an interesting concept to have parents make the decision about the selection of a school.  The argument reminds me of the position I’ve heard many times asserted by Jeanne Allen, the founder and chief executive officer of The Center for Education Reform.  She consistently states that whether a charter school is permitted to operate should be determined by its popularity with parents and students, and not by an authorizer that has established accountability standards, particularly around standardized test scores.  She believes that charters should develop their own goals and it is the successful meeting of these objectives that should be judged by the body that oversees these schools.

This is not how the movement has operated here in the nation’s capital.  Many charters have been closed, the most recent being Excel Academy PCS, despite the strong belief by parents that this is where they want to send their children.  The DC PCSB has insisted that it knows best which schools should be open and closed, and it has made these decisions under its authority through the School Reform Act, which have revolved around academic and financial results.

It will be fascinating to see whether this tradition continues next week.

 

Growth of D.C. charter school sector comes to a screeching halt

Yesterday, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education released the audited enrollment data for the 2018-to-2019 school year, and for the first time since the charter school movement began teaching its first students in 1998, the percentage of pupils being taught in this sector compared to those enrolled in DCPS declined compared to the previous year.  The change is small but the implication is humongous.  47 percent of all public school children in the District of Columbia attend a charter school.

This year 43,958 students have signed up to go to a charter school compared to 43,393 during the 2017-to-2018 school term, representing a one percent increase over the last 12 months.  However, DCPS saw its student body increase by two percent, going from 48,144 pupils on the count last October to 49,103 this fall.  92,994 students now attend public school in the nation’s capital, which represents ten years of growth.

The reaction to this news yesterday by Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board, may not be the one you would expect.  He posted on Twitter:

“For the 10th yr enrollment has increased in public schools but the 1st time the percentage of DC charter school students has gone down. This slight decline reflects our commitment to opening good schools and closing low-performing ones. It’s about quality and choice, not numbers.”

My blood pressure is going up so much right now that I can hardly sit in my chair to write these words.  Yes, of course, public education reform is about quality and choice but it is fundamentally about providing each and every child a good education no matter where they live.  However, we are so far away from this goal despite the fact that so many of us have been working and fighting and arguing and sweating and giving our hard-earned money to turn this situation around.  This is the civil rights struggle that I’m afraid will never be corrected.  Not when the leader of our sector states that we don’t have to worry about the numbers.

In 2012, The Illinois Facility Fund estimated that our city was in need of approximately 40,000 quality seats in our schools.  Last April, the DC PCSB reported there were 11,317 students on charter wait lists.

I have spoken to so many frustrated parents who cannot get their children into a high-performing school.  I have spoken to so many frustrated parents that cannot get their children into a high-performing school.  I have spoken to so many frustrated parents that cannot get their children into a high-performing school.

Charters teach their kids but they don’t get the same amount of money that the regular schools receive.  The founders have to beg to obtain a building in which teachers can practice their profession.  Then, on top of all this, they get to provide information on every detail of their operation to the PCSB.

We have to start over.  We need someone, anyone, who will go to bat for these alternative schools that are literally closing the academic achievement gap for the first time in the history of public education.  We need to figure out how every child, even if they are poor or black or disabled, can get access to what others have been so fortunate to be able to obtain.

 

 

 

 

Negatives and positives of D.C. charter board 2018 Performance Management Framework rankings

Last week the DC Public Charter School Board released the results of the 2018 Performance Management Framework charter school rankings and, as usual, there were fascinating findings.  Let’s start with where the board does in announcing the scores, with the fact that there are more students than ever, estimated at 20,717 or 47.3 percent of all students enrolled in charter schools, that attend Tier 1 institutions.  The number has gone up from 19,498, equating to 45.0 percent of pupils, the year before, and approximately 17,385 pupils, a proportion of 41.3 percent, that attended Tier 1 charters during the 2016-to-2017 school year.  All of this is great news.  The charter board also pointed out that nine schools have moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1 and that “nearly nine out of the ten public charter high schools either earned a Tier 1 rank or improved overall from the previous year.”  This is another strong trend.  Now let’s dive into the individual school results.

On the worrisome side, Breakthrough Montessori PCS, in its first PMF ranking, came in at 28.8 percent, which is a solid Tier 3.  DC Scholars PCS dropped from 54.1 percent to 37.4 percent, which makes it a low Tier 2 facility.  Eagle Academy PCS Congress Heights Campus, its primary location, dropped a staggering 26.2 percent, going from Tier 2 to Tier 3 at 34.2 percent.  I know school leader Joe Smith and I’m sure that this number will not be allowed to stand for his young scholars in Anacostia.

National Collegiate Preparatory PCS is now a Tier 3 school for three years in a row, so look for this charter to be closed.  Paul PCS Middle School went from 45.3 percent, a Tier 2 school, to 34 percent, now ranked at Tier 3.  Sela PCS, which changed leadership this year, lost its Tier 1 status after two consecutive years to fall to 60.7 percent, a Tier 2 number.  Summerset Preparatory Academy PCS is also at Tier 3 for three years in a row, so its future does not look promising.  Finally, and surprisingly, Two Rivers PCS Young Campus came in at 51.4 percent, a Tier 2 ranking, from 73.6 percent or Tier 1 in 2017.

Now on to the good news.  Achievement Prep PCS Walter Place Elementary, jumped out of Tier 3 status to Tier 2, improving from 32.3 percent to 46.6 percent.  I cannot help recognizing AppleTree Early Learning PCS Columbia Heights Campus that scored an amazing 80.9 percent, Tier 1 territory, after being at 68.6 percent last year, which is still at the Tier 1 level.  For the same charter management organization, the Southwest Campus grew from 58.8 percent in 2017, which equates to Tier 2, to 72.9 percent this year, which makes it a Tier 1.  Bridges PCS left Tier 3 at 34.5 percent going to Tier 2 at 42.3 percent.  Capital City PCHS improved to a Tier 1 83.6 percent from a Tier 1 65.3 percent last year.  DC Prep PCS Benning Middle Campus joined the Tier 1 group at 68 percent after being at 59.1 percent or Tier 2 twelve months ago.  Its Edgewood Elementary School was Tier 1 last year at 74.7 percent and now is at a bright 85.1 percent.

Friendship PCS Technology Preparatory High recorded a tremendous 77.9 percent at Tier 1 going from a Tier 2 54.5 percent in 2017.  Its Woodridge International Middle changed from a Tier 2 54.5 percent to a Tier 1 74.7 percent or Tier 1.  I count five out of 12 Friendship campuses being at Tier 1 with the remainder being at Tier 2.  I wonder what founder Donald Hense says about the PMF now?

Harmony PCS said goodbye to Tier 3 at 30.8 percent in 2017 and landed in Tier 2 at 45.4 percent.  Perry Street Preparatory PCS went up 9.1 points to a Tier 2 60.9 percent, and its PMF score has gone up three years in a row.  Washington Latin PCS Upper School, the charter for which I was once board chair, increased its Tier 1 status to 93.4 percent.  Washington Leadership Academy PCS, in the first year that it was ranked, scored at a Tier 1 84.8 percent, and finally, the National Alliance of Public Charter School’s Hall of Fame inductee Washington Yu Ying PCS, came in at 93.8 percent, a Tier 1 score.

In all of these figures I also could not help noticing that the schools that are working with Josh Kern’s TenSquare Consulting Group all showed signs of improvement, including Cesar Chavez PCS whose Prep Middle School has received so much press due to its union activity.  A TenSquare press release states,  “After a full year of implementing TenSquare’s multi-year school improvement strategy, ratings for the charter support organization’s clients in the District Columbia have increased 7-9 points, and 15-20 points within two years. At TenSquare’s partner schools in DC, between one-half and three-quarters of students are at-risk, and 12%-20% receive special education services.”

I have only highlighted the significant changes in PMF scores here and I do not want to take away from the great work that many of our city’s charters are doing to educate our children.  Here is the list a the top ranked charters.  Please do yourself a big favor and get your day off to an excellent start by reviewing the outstanding standings of these schools.

 

 

 

Ingenuity Prep PCS cannot expand; LEARN PCS may be granted a D.C. campus; that’s not fair

In my interview with Aaron Cuny, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Ingenuity Prep PCS, he explained that a strategic goal of his charter is to grow in size.  Why shouldn’t it?  For District of Columbia schools with an enrollment of over fifty percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced price meals, it ranks seventh in PARCC scores.  However, as I’ve written about before, it cannot replicate because it has not yet reached the Tier 1 level on the DC Public Charter School Board’s Performance Management Framework.

Yet, earlier this month, the board considered the application of LEARN PCS to open a campus on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.  The Chicago charter management organization has no academic record in our city but may very well be given the green light to accept up to 712 pupils.

Something is terribly wrong here.  In order to treat charters equitably, an institution such as LEARN should have to be graded on the PMF before it can start teaching kids locally.  The charter has a 17-year track record.  Representatives of the CMO pointed out that the school that they would open in the nation’s capital would most closely resemble its LEARN 6 campus.  So I think the only reasonable and equitable path to take is to grade this site on the PCSB’s benchmark tool.  If LEARN turns out to fall in the Tier3 category of course, then its application should not be approved.

At the same time we have to allow schools such as Ingenuity Prep the right to expand.  Strong Tier 2 schools provide a significantly better education than the DCPS facilities where students are now posting PARCC results in the teens.

The expressed goal of education reformers in this town is to provide a quality seat to anyone who needs one.  By allowing Ingenuity Prep to take on more students and by grading out-of-state schools with a history of instruction on the PMF, we would take an important step in this direction.

 

LEARN DC PCS most likely not to be approved by charter board

Last Monday evening the DC Public Charter School Board considered the application of LEARN DC PCS to open a Pre-Kindergarten three to eighth grade school on the grounds of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB). As you recall, this charter management organization was selected by the Parent Operator Selection Team (POST), a group of four military and four Ward 8 parents, through a request for proposal to submit an application to open the new school. As I detailed previously, the POST was aided by an advisory board that included Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) and other community members, and it received financial support from Education Forward. The charter would begin operating during the 2021-to-2022 school year and grow to teach 712 pupils. In addition, the AppleTree Institute would be contracted to manage Pre-Kindergarten three and four.

From the minute the public hearing began, you could tell that the PCSB was skeptical of the bid. I want to be careful here. It was absolutely clear from the testimony of many on this night, especially that of Maya Martin, the founder and executive director of PAVE who would become the school’s board chair, that the POST did some extraordinary work over the past twelve months. It met two to three hours every other Saturday to learn about the educational landscape in the city, and through guest lectures by groups such as the PCSB and EdOps, to understand the national and local charter movement. It was this team that eventually settled on LEARN to open the charter that would offer an admission preference of up to half of its enrollment to military families.

However, here is where the process may not have been ideal. It was revealed at this session that the POST received responses to its RFP from three local charters and two national ones. Through a rubric analysis one local group was eliminated. Then following a SWAT review LEARN became the clear choice. Here we have the POST becoming almost a substitute to the charter board for making a school selection. Perhaps it would have been preferable to ask that all interested parties submit applications to the PCSB and then let this body decide which one gets to open. This is how it was done when a replacement for Options PCS was sought. After all, approving new schools is part of its standard operating procedures.

But I digress. The night began on a high note as representatives of LEARN DC and the LEARN Charter School Network detailed it record of having 95 percent of its students graduate high school and 83 percent admitted to college. The CMO consists of ten campuses in Chicago teaching over 4,200 students. 94 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced priced meals. Two of its schools serve children of military families.

One exciting aspect of this charter that goes up to the eighth grade is that it back fills open slots throughout the academic year and through middle school.

Mr. Gregory White, LEARN president and chief executive officer, provided numerous uplifting anecdotes about the exciting efforts of this CMO on behalf of its students.

Eventually, questions and comments from the board began to demonstrate their concerns around the charter. Saba Bireda, the PCSB’s vice chair, brought up high student suspension rates at LEARN 8, the network’s middle school. Scott Pearson, the PCSB’s executive director, commented that he visited LEARN 6 and a few of the other campuses and stated that he saw some excellent teaching and some that was mediocre. He added that other members of his group had visited all ten schools and reported back that some were better than others. One leader informed Mr. Pearson that his site was a turnaround school.

Mr. Pearson also related that the board has looked at a lot of test results and that the NWEA Map test shows that at almost half of LEARN’s schools most of the results are below average, meaning that fifty percent of students are not meeting their expected growth in math.

Another area of uneasiness with this application revolves around the proposed governance structure of the school. LEARN DC would become part of the LEARN Network, and, according to the LEARN DC application, the network would become the sole member of LEARN DC. Under this arrangement the CMO would have the following powers:

  • To approve material amendments to LEARN DC’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws;
  • To appoint and remove directors;
  • To approve the merger, consolidation, or affiliation of the corporation with another corporation, organization or program or the dissolution of the corporation; and
  • To approve the assumption or creation of any indebtedness of the corporation, except in the ordinary course of business of the corporation.

In other words, although the representatives from LEARN stated that the Washington, D.C. board of directors would be responsible for the success of the school, much of the authority would belong to those residing outside of the District of Columbia.

Mr. Cruz, the PCSB chair, concluded the conversation by observing that national charter school networks do not have a great track record here in the nation’s capital. Of course, with the exception of KIPP DC PCS, he is unfortunately absolutely correct. Academic weaknesses have been noted at Democracy Prep PCS, Harmony PCS, and Somerset Prep PCS. Basis PCS has been criticized for its lower-than-expected enrollment of special education and low-income students.

I have to admit that I was intrigued by the information that a couple of our town’s charters had replied to the POST RFP. In my mind, considering the deep complexities of public education in the nation’s capital, it would be best for our community and those residing at JBAB to select one of these schools.

The PCSB will vote on the LEARN DC application at its November meeting.

Washington D.C.’s Ingenuity Prep PCS may want to expand. It cannot

In my recent interview with Aaron Cuny, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Ingenuity Prep PCS, he related that “while the organization is approved to expand through the eighth grade, it aspires to eventually grow into a small Southeast D.C. network that will include several elementary schools, middle schools, and potentially even a high school.”  I’m sure that Mr. Cuny would like to serve many more than the 550 students it does today, so that it can lead other scholars to reach the superlative academic results this school is posting that were included in the article:

  • Ingenuity Prep’s students’ combined English Language Arts and Math scores ranked in the 74th percentile of all D.C. district and public charter schools, outperforming a range of higher-income schools across the city,
  • Students’ combined scores ranked 2nd of 36 schools in the Ward 8,
  • Of D.C. schools where the tested student population had an “at-risk” (or high-poverty) rate of 50% or greater, Ingenuity Prep’s students ranked near the top: 7th of 113 schools.
  • For the second year in a row, no school in the city with a higher “at-risk” (or high-poverty) rate had better combined English Language Arts and Math scores.
  • Students’ gains from the 2016-17 school year in English Language Arts ranked at the 92nd percentile of all district and public charter schools, and
  • Of new charter organizations opened by D.C.’s public charter school board in the past 10 years, Ingenuity Prep ranks in the top 10 and is the only such school located in Southeast D.C.

However, extremely unfortunately for the families in Ward 8 and the entire education community, this school would not be permitted by the DC Public Charter School Board to open another campus.  The reason for this is straightforward.  Ingenuity Prep is not yet ranked as a Tier 1 school on the PCSB’s Performance Management Framework.  Being a Tier 1 institution is the main criteria set by the charter board as qualifying for an enrollment ceiling increase.

Something is terribly wrong here.  No one could possibly argue that the students at Ingenuity Prep are not receiving an excellent education and are being prepared to excel at college and beyond.  As indicated above, their PARCC standardized test scores are second best in Anacostia, and for those serving kids living in poverty, they are seventh best in the city.

The situation we have here, which is frankly absurd, is that an applicant that wants to open a new school in the nation’s capital, that may have an unproven track record in this town, might have a better chance of filling additional classrooms than this charter.

Attorney Stephen Marcus has strenuously argued that there is an inherent bias to the PMF for those schools characterized by having a large population of at-risk students.  The charter board staff disagrees.  I’m not an authority in this area so I cannot say for sure who is right.  But the situation with Ingenuity Prep begs the question that has only one correct response.

Would an application for expansion by Ingenuity Prep be approved?

D.C. Mayor Bowser withdraws two nominations to the D.C. Public Charter School Board

A recent Twitter Post which now has been deleted led to the challenging to uncover news that Mayor Muriel Bowser had nominated Lyon Rosario, a Ward 8 resident, to replace Dr. Darren Woodruff on the DC Public Charter School Board.  Dr. Woodruff’s term ended last July.  Ms. Rosario’s volunteer service was scheduled to conclude on February 24, 2022.

This selection seemed a bit odd.  According to Ms. Rosario’s four page resume submitted with the written announcement of the nomination, she is currently serving as a Drug and Alcohol Program Manager for the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration in the nation’s capital.  She has held this position since 2014.  While her Curriculum Vitae appears extremely impressive, it centers completely around work in the U.S. Department of Transportation.  For example, she received a 2006 Secretary Team Award for Hurricane Katrina Response.  Ms. Rosario has a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Brandeis University.

The nomination was apparently made on June 22, 2018 and then on September 26th it was withdrawn.

Research on the Ms. Rosario nomination led to information that another candidate for the PCSB had been put forth and then cancelled by the Mayor.  Also on June 22nd, Ms. Lea Crusey was nominated to fill the seat of Don Soifer, who relocated to Nevada last year to become the president of Nevada Action for School Options.  Mr. Soifer is still included as being on the PCSB on the organization’s website, but then too is Dr. Woodruff.  Her term would have been co-terminus with Ms. Rosario’s.  Ms. Crusey is listed as a Ward 6 resident and is the founder and chief executive officer of Allies for Educational Equity, a group started in 2017.  Before coming into this role, according to resume accompanying her nomination, she was a senior advisor to the United States Department of Education for about a year as an appointee of President Obama.  Before joining the Department of Education she was a senior advisor to Democrats for Education Reform.  She was also once a teacher through Teach for America.

Ms. Crusey received a Bachelor of Arts in Government and History from Claremont McKenna College and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

On September 28, 2018, her nomination was withdrawn by the Mayor.  No explanations are provided for the rescinding of these candidates for the PCSB.

Closure of Sustainable Futures PCS drives D.C. charter board to alter procedures around new school openings

At last evening’s monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board deputy director Naomi Rubin DeVeaux delivered a heartfelt report on changes in procedures the organization is considering in the aftermath of Sustainable Futures PCS’s decision to relinquish its charter after only one year of operation.  The alternative high school charter was approved in 2016 and had an enrollment of approximately 46 students.  It shuttered its doors last June.  The ideas obviously came to the board after much thought as Scott Pearson, PCSB’s executive director, stated that there has been “a lot of soul searching, examination, and self-reflection,” that has been going among the staff regarding the closure.  It was clear that the board is viewing this event as a failure and is taking responsibility, perhaps overly so, for the negative outcome.  You can view the presentation here.

Ms. DeVeaux explained that once a new school is approved there are almost always conditions placed on the charter that need to be fulfilled before it is allowed to open.  She revealed that some of these are basic, such as securing a facility and the need to incorporate as a 501(c)(3).  In other cases, Ms. DeVeaux detailed, there are changes to the curriculum or the educational plan for special education students that are required due to board concerns.  In these instances, sometimes schools will negotiate over the final form of these changes and the implementation deadlines.  While in the past the staff has made decisions on their own as to whether to accept, for instance, a delay in meeting the new requirements, the deputy director opined that these modifications should probably go back to the board for approval.  In the case of Sustainable Futures, Ms. DeVeaux recalled that almost all the dates around meeting conditions slipped.

The PCSB deputy director also observed that the planning year, the time between approval to open by the board and the first day of school, is tough for new schools because there is so much that has to be accomplished.  Therefore, the charter board is going to change its calendar to move up the application process.  While new submissions are now made in March and approved by the board in May, beginning in the year 2020 applications will be due in January with decisions made in March.  Ms. DeVeaux remarked that this step will help significantly with schools being ready for common lottery applications in November.

Another modification that the board is considering is around the founding members.  In a new school’s application key individuals are identified.  Ms. DeVeaux opined that there has to be some assurance that this group will be in place when the school opens.  She feels that if there is significant turnover of key personnel then the new body should be approved by the board.  The PCSB deputy director explained that in the case of Sustainable Futures, only the original board chair and founder remained.  Moreover, while the PCSB staff meets with key individuals of a new school about once a month before the charter opens, Ms. DeVeaux said that the new charter’s board should be included in these sessions at least on a quarterly basis.

Finally, Ms. DeVeaux believes that the PCSB should be much more active in setting new charters’ enrollment levels.  She revealed that many have lofty targets for its initial year of teaching and she wants the board to restrict this number in case the schools run into difficulties.  She added that she was glad that this is exactly what transpired in the case of Sustainable Futures, which limited the number of students impacted by the school’s decision to close.

All of these recommendations appear to make logical sense and are obviously coming from people who care exceedingly deeply about the scholars under their care.