Wednesday the D.C. Public Charter School Board voted unanimously not to renew the 15 year charter of Arts and Technology PCS, the correct decision for a Performance Management Framework Tier 3 facility whose DC CAS scores over the past three years have been heading downward. The move now throws 624 Pre-Kintergarten through 5th grade students onto the street at the end of the 2013 to 2014 term, resulting in the obligatory story by the Washington Post’s Emma Brown regarding the need for the kids to find a new place to learn.
Recall the recently released Equity Report which included student turnover information for all public schools in the District of Columbia. Charter schools generally demonstrated a decrease in the student body as the year progressed. Traditional institutions, on the other hand, had wide fluctuations in the number of kids entering and leaving schools throughout the term, obviously providing a tremendous pedagogical challenge. The ruling this week only adds to this turmoil.
The PCSB press release announcing the fate of ATA states that the Board “would be open to entertaining proposals for the school to transfer its assets and operations to a high-performing charter operator.” But this is insufficient. Haven’t we matured as a movement to the point where when we know we are about to close a school we prearrange to have a first class charter take over its operations? Perhaps going forward identifying a new administration to replace a low performing one should be a mandatory requirement before a motion can be entertained to shutter a school.
I’m really not sure what is going on right now at the PCSB. First the body is surprised by the managerial malpractice going on at Options PCS, then it agrees to revoke to the charter right in the middle of a stellar Josh Kern revitalization effort, all the while refusing to comment as news reports provide an ever increasing amount of shocking revelations as to what took place at the school for disabled youth, and finally the closing of ATA without first minimizing disruptions for families by finding a high performing charter to take its place. Has it lost its way?
Fortunately, one school has stepped forward to show us how it should be done. Yesterday, Democracy Prep announced that in July it is taking over Imagine Southeast and would be renamed Democracy Prep Congress Heights. Democracy Prep was recently granted a charter under the PCSB’s experienced operator application process and gave a particularly impressive presentation when its opening here was being considered by the Board. Word on the street was that Imagine Southeast was going to be the PCSB’s next target so it is fantastic that a low performing Tier 3 Pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade charter of over 600 students is now going to be taught by an organization that has a proven record of school turnarounds.