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Friday, October 19, 2012

Inside PCSB: Qualitative Site Reviews Underway


Image credit: KIPP DC: KEY Academy PCS

DC public charter school students may be seeing some new faces in the classroom. PCSB staff members and other observers are visiting schools to do Qualitative Site Reviews (QSR). PCSB is doing these in-person school visits to assess how DC public charter schools are performing at the ground level.

As a member of PCSB’s Charter Agreement Team, I am taking part in this work along with my colleagues. We are visiting charter schools that have been open for fifteen years, which is the length of a charter agreement. Those schools are filing petitions to PCSB for charter renewal. Schools may be selected for QSRs for other reasons.

What does a QSR entail? There are a few components: a scheduled full-day visit, during which classroom observations and focus groups with staff and students are conducted; an unscheduled visit, where only classroom observations are conducted; an observation of a parent event; and an observation of a Board of Trustees meeting.

During my initial school visits, I saw teachers who cared deeply for their students and their work employ creative teaching strategies in the classroom. I heard from administrators who were constantly thinking about how to best support students. It reminded me of one way charter schools are set apart from traditional public schools: DC public charter schools have the freedom to establish a school culture and education system personalized to the needs of their students. As I participated in student focus groups, it was readily apparent that students value this personalization and are learning better because of it. As one student put it, she considers her charter school “to be part of her family.”

Sarah Medway is a member of PCSB's Charter Agreement Team.  Prior to joining PCSB, Sarah  practiced at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw in New York, where she specialized in employment litigation. Following this, she worked in Kenya with Flying Kites, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the standards of care for orphaned and vulnerable children.  Sarah graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Government, received a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and earned a LL.M. in Advocacy.

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