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Monday, July 28, 2014

Charter Founders: Lee Montessori PCS

                                                             
“When you choose to form a school, you have the beginnings of an idea, but it isn't until you have something on paper that you really start to get an idea of how you will leverage the passion, skills, and experience of a team to achieve a shared vision for closing the achievement gap.”  Founders of Lee Montessori PCS 

We were really excited after turning in our application.  When you choose to form a school, you have the beginnings of an idea, but it isn't until you have something on paper that you really start to get an idea of how you will leverage the passion, skills, and experience of a team to achieve a shared vision for closing the achievement gap.  Our application took this vision to a level of detail that forced us to answer the nitty-gritty questions: Can we afford to implement our model?  How do we have a holistic plan that serves all of the students we want to serve?  What's the best way to grow?  How do we maintain sustainability?

The day we turned in our application to the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), we felt we knew our school.  We didn’t have a building, but we knew what it would look and feel like.  We didn’t have students, but we could see our scholars learning.  And we hadn’t hired teachers, but we could envision the talented individuals we would need to help us in our mission of closing the achievement gap for our students.

As a small founding group, we didn’t have a lot of start-up money. We all pitched in to edit, review, copy, and assemble our more than 200 page application.  The review process was difficult and somewhat arduous, but at the same time exhilarating, because our team was passionate about implementing high-quality Montessori programming. Because we wanted to ensure our application had sufficient detail, we worked long hours leading up to the day the application was due, but thankfully no all-nighters!

On May 20, 2013, PCSB approved our application.  The Washington Post's Emma Brown said it best:  "The two successful applicants for new charters are giddy after PCSB vote. I think I heard talk of champagne."  We were proud to have external, objective validation of the strength of our plan and ecstatic to know we would start implementing our work.  

We're very proud of our application and all the work done so far, but now we begin the hardest part.  We have spent a lot of time doing outreach and project planning to ensure we have a strategy that will get us a school that, on the first day of school, is fully enrolled and staffed by the greatest teachers in the District of Columbia.  

We're somewhat a case study in how perseverance pays off when designing a charter application in DC.  We didn't realize how much was missing in our application last year until we went through the application process, but we knew we had a great idea that others would value, so we kept going.  

Lee Montessori PCS, located in the Edgewood neighborhood in Ward 5, will open in August 2014 and serve 70 students in pre-kindergarten 3 through first grade and add a grade each year up to sixth grade.  


Posted by: PCSB at 10:55 a.m.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Rocketship PCS Prepares to Launch



There has been much buzz over the past year about the expansion of Rocketship Education to our nation’s capital. Community members and partners are excited about the possibilities that Rocketship’s innovative personalized learning approach will bring to the Ward 8. In Woodland Terrace, a longstanding member of the community echoes this sentiment.

Ms. Juanita Britton, who owns and operates a local art gallery in the community, says she is “looking forward to the unique relationship between the Rocketship DC school and the community at large — particularly the Woodland Terrace community.” Britton has worked in Woodland Terrace for years and has quickly become a supporter of Rocketship DC. Other Ward 8 community partners like Horton’s Kids are also looking forward to building a strong partnership with Rocketship DC.

The building will sit on top of a hill looking out over a forest, part of a green way connecting the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum to Fort Stanton Park to Fort Davis Park, all the way to Fort Dupont Park.

The building will sit on top of a hill looking out over a forest, part of a green way connecting the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum to Fort Stanton Park to Fort Davis Park, all the way to Fort Dupont Park.

We’re incredibly excited about the facility for our first school in DC. It will be our best facility to date, probably the best we will ever build. We are working to create a learning environment that is both an asset to the community and conducive to student learning. The two-story, 54,000 square foot building will feature a glass entrance, an outdoor terrace, two playground structures and incredible views.

“One of the unique assets of the site on Raynolds Place is the rolling forested landscape. It’s the driving force behind the campus design,” explains Harrison Tucker, Rocketship’s Facilities Project Manager.

“The cafeteria, learning lab, outdoor gathering space, playgrounds and southern-facing classrooms will all enjoy spectacular views of the trees and hills. There will even be a nature trail within the campus grounds for the students to enjoy the natural landscape in an urban setting. We are very excited about this 3.87 acre site and this design for Rocketship’s flagship DC campus.”

After meeting with families and community members for more than I year, I know Woodland Terrace is a small community of families who truly want the best for their children. Our goal is to create a flagship Rocketship school in this community that is a source of pride and excitement for adults and students alike.

In this spirit, we are asking community members to weigh in on the design of our outdoor front entrance seating area. We also want community input on a mural to be featured on the front of the gymnasium. The neighborhood feeling a sense of ownership of the school is a top priority for us. We want to provide another high-quality option that not only achieves academically, but that also connects with the community.


Barry lives in DC where he’s been working to engage the community before we open our first school. Prior to his work at Rocketship, Barry was the Director of School Services at Metro TeenAIDS. He earned his BA in Psychology with an emphasis on Family and Child Development from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his MA in Elementary Education from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. When he’s not working, Barry enjoys mentoring, all things Tar Heel basketball and eating great food.

This is a cross post from the Rocketship Education blog.  

Posted by: PCSB at 9:40 a.m.
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

We're Closed Today for Professional Development

                                                                        

Posted by: PCSB at 9 a.m.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Charter School Application Guidelines Released



The 2014-15 applications guidelines for new charter school operators or founding groups to apply to open a charter school in Washington, DC are available.  

 Application


Using these guidelines, applicant groups may submit a charter petition. The two application cycles for new schools to open in school year 2016-17 are: September-November 2014 and March-May 2015.

Any person or entity who expects to submit an application during the Fall 2014 (September-November 2014) application cycle is strongly encouraged to submit a “Declaration of Intent to Apply Form” (included in the guidelines) by August 11.

PCSB will host a public information session from 10 a.m. to noon on August 5 at PCSB offices. The information session will include a question and answer session for applicants who have already read the application guidelines.

To RSVP to the public information session or for more information, email
applications@dcpcsb.org.

For more information about the 2013-14 New Charter School Application process cycle, email applications@dcpcsb.org .


Posted by: PCSB at 3:08 p.m.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Board Releases 2013 Financial Audit Review Report

                           Financial Audit Review

DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), the Office of State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) released a joint report analyzing the financial health of all 57 DC public charter school LEAs (local education agencies).

View the full report   
Study of FY2013 DC–PCS Fiscal Audits

Search the dataset below to view 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 financial information.

Powered by Socrata

To download the data in its raw format, click here.

Posted by: PCSB at 9 a.m.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Academy of Hope PCS Seeks to Move to New Location

                                                                     AOH Adult PCS logo - full color


Academy of Hope PCS plans to relocate to a new location in Ward 8.   The Board will hold a public hearing on July 21 to discuss the school’s request to move 1.1 miles from its current location to 421 Alabama Avenue SE. 
 

PCSB notified the ANC or Advisory Neighborhood Commission on June 23, and the school presented at the Ward 8 ANC meeting on July 7. 

Academy of Hope PCS was approved on May 20, 2013 to open a public charter schools in the 2014-15 school year.  In addition to their campus in Ward 8, the school operates a second campus in the Edgewood community in Ward 5.  

Academy of Hope PCS’ mission is to serve lower-skilled adult learners so they are able to obtain skills that lead not only to a high school credential, but also to postsecondary credentials and careers that pay a living wage.  


Posted by: PCSB at 11:35 a.m.
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Monday, July 14, 2014

How DC Got to be an Education Hot Spot

                                              

The news this month that DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson dispatched her principals to recruit students in house-to-house canvassing sounds like a declaration of war with the charter schools. What if they bump up against charter principals doing the same thing — clipboard duels at 20 yards?

Given the district vs. charter fights we’ve seen in cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, it’s easy to assume that the District is headed in the same direction. Now that charter school enrollment is up to about half the city’s public school enrollment, this would seem like a logical time for war to break out.

Relax. It’s one more sign that the District has evolved into one of the most creative charter-district relationships in the country. And that’s a good thing.

The fight in New York City is partly rooted in ideology. The new mayor, Bill de Blasio (D), is an unabashed progressive who believes that all resources should be focused on “common” schools — despite the unimpressive track record they have in educating low-income minority kids. In other cities with bitter charter-district conflicts, it’s a matter of market share: Superintendents and teachers unions view every child in a charter as a revenue loss.

The DC model is different. Here, a liberal charter school law and generous per-student payments allowed for quick growth — too quick, actually. But Scott Pearson, who oversees DC charters, has done an impressive job of shutting down bad charters and building up high-performing charters.

While the District has an impressive number of schools belonging to the national charter organization KIPP, what’s notable is the number of homegrown programs that rank in the top tier of DC charter schools: DC Prep, Thurgood Marshall, Two Rivers, Washington Latin, Achievement Prep and others.

Achievement Prep, in Ward 8, warrants special mention. Founder Shantelle Wright has built a school that outperforms other schools in the ward by as much as 40 points on the DC Comprehensive Assessment System exams. Henderson expressed an interest in Wright absorbing a failing Ward 8 district school — yet another sign that Henderson sees the ¬≠district-charter relationship as more than just competition.

Schooling in Ward 8 is about to get more interesting. In 2015, San Jose-based Rocketship Education will open a school there that will collaborate with the high-performing AppleTree Early Learning. AppleTree will handle preschool and Rocketship will handle kindergarten through fifth grade. That twinning, suggested by Pearson, is yet another reason DC schools are drawing national attention.

The buildup of good charters played out at the same time that the reforms in public school begun by former superintendent Michelle Rhee and continued by Henderson were kicking in. Those two forces playing off one another made DC Public Schools the fastest-improving urban district on recent federal tests.

The DC district-charter balance resembles the Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose, where Superintendent John Porter is building a thoughtful weave of charters and traditional schools.

When Porter allowed Rocketship charters to build a new school around the corner from the district’s Robert F. Kennedy Elementary, the initial reaction at Kennedy was one of dismay. Would parents abandon the school? Instead, Kennedy responded by building an impressive science-themed school in partnership with San Jose’s Tech Museum. As more charters have opened, district schools have responded by, you guessed it, going to the neighborhoods to recruit students charter-style. It’s working as planned.

Where will the District’s charter-district relationship end up? It could evolve into what we see in Houston’s Spring Branch schools, where top charters got invited into district schools as full partners, not just co-located schools. This is inspiration by cooperation rather than competition.

My suggestion: Henderson and Pearson should take a road trip to Spring Branch. Soon.

In San Antonio, local foundations intent on improving schools assembled a collection of charters — some aimed at low-income Latino parents, others to target middle-class parents. For those accustomed to charters serving only high-need neighborhoods, that sounds odd. But it makes sense. Winning the support of soccer moms means cementing political support for better schools.

Currently, DC Public Schools has a monopoly on public schools serving the affluent Ward 3, which explains the interest in securing a spot in the high-performing Woodrow Wilson High School zone. But what if charters that appeal to middle-class parents, such as Basis or Great Hearts, opened in Georgetown? That would shake things up in DCPS and the private-school world, where lofty tuitions get forked over for educations no better than what tuition-free charters offer.

We can’t pretend that everything is copacetic between DC district and charter schools. DCPS has more than 20 unused school buildings it has yet to release. And Wright, despite her sterling success, has yet to find a permanent home. How can that be allowed to stand? But if you think of that as strife, you need to check in on the intense combat in New York and Los Angeles. No comparison.

So, if you get stopped on the street by clipboard-bearing DC principals, offer encouragement and welcome them to one of the nation’s education hot spots. Sounds weird, right? But it’s true.

Richard Whitmire is author of “On the Rocketship: How Top Charter Schools are Pushing the Envelope,” which looks at Rocketship Education.


Posted by: PCSB at 1:34 p.m.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Harmony PCS Tried to Coordinate Location with Gray Administration

                           

Yesterday I was able to touch base with Dr. Soner Tarim, a founder and Chief Executive Officer of Harmony Public Schools. You could hear the frustration in his voice as he explained to me that the last thing he wanted was to ignite a controversy over where his school would be located. He then went on to describe a facility hunt that for me was a broken record of the exasperating experience each and every charter opening in this city has had to endure.

Dr. Tarim related that his team had begun working on trying to secure a site even before his charter was approved. But the matter rose in seriousness on November 18, 2013 when the D.C. Public Charter School Board gave the green light for their application. The Harmony CEO reminded me that his school was granted the right to begin operating for the 2014 to 2015 school term under the Board's fast track experienced operator provision along with Democracy Prep PCS. The very next day he met with Building Hope to have the organization assist in finding a building.

Building Hope's Tom Porter provided him with a list of 50 potential options. On the spreadsheet was eight closed DCPS buildings, five available for long term leases and three which there going to be provided for use on a short term basis. Remember that in May 2013 Mayor Gray announced that he was turning over 16 surplus traditional schools to charters or other community organizations.

Right from the start Mr. Porter warned Dr. Tarim that his timeline for securing a DCPS property was too short. But he indicated that he was willing to give it a try, and the process of making one of these schools a permanent facility for Harmony began.

At the same time Dr. Tarim was extremely interested in introducing his school to the city. Toward that goal he scheduled a meeting with Kaya Henderson. He explained to me that he makes it a point to meet with the school superintendent wherever Harmony PCS goes. "We want to work with the local education officials," Dr. Tarim related. "There is no point in getting into fights with these individuals. We are all trying to do our best for kids," the Harmony CEO asserted, "and we want to see how we can work together.". Last March, four months ago, he sat down with the DCPS Chancellor who brought with her one of her system's STEM experts. He described the session as positive and he was immediately impressed by Ms. Henderson's friendly and upbeat demeanor. The conversation did not involve a discussion of a facility since Harmony was working hard to narrow the original list of potential sites.

As Harmony narrowed their possibilities the organization had many conversations with Brian Hanlon, the director of D.C.'s Department of General Services. It is DGS that is responsible for developing leases of shuttered DCPS facilities jwith charters. In a meeting last February the DGS head explained that there was most likely not sufficient time to conclude the process of turning over a closed school to Harmony.

There was one closed DCPS school that especially appealed to Dr. Tarim and that was the former Marshall Elementary located on Fort Lincoln Drive, N.E. in Ward 5. So about four weeks following his session with Mr. Hanlon he set up an appointment with Abigail Smith, the Deputy Mayor for Education. The Harmony CEO described a cordial discussion with the Deputy Mayor in which she discussed the possibility of the school co-locating with a future YMCA in the Marshall building. Dr. Tarim said he was open to the idea and the meeting concluded with Ms. Smith relating that she would be back in cotract if this proposal seemed possible to turn into reality. However, a follow-up call failed to materialize.

Harmony was now racing against the clock. Their first lottery was eminent and they needed to have a home so they could determine how many students they could admit. They narrowed the first list of classroom locations to eight, with none of these buildings coming from the city. Negotiations to secure one of these spaces concluded without success.

Finally, and in desperation, Harmony settled on the 19,500 square feet building across the street from Langley Elementary. Dr. Tarim said that he knew that McKinley Tech middle and high school was in the vicinity, but he did not realize there was an elementary school so close to this site that had the same STEM academic focus and grades. He added that this former home to a private school and City Lights Charter School is too small for his program, and therefore in only two years Harmony PCS will have to find another facility. Dr. Tarim made one final point. Of the 92 students admitted to Harmony's D.C. location only 10 come from Ward 5. Therefore, the presence of his school is not having a significant detrimental impact to the enrollment of the neighborhood school.

This story is really a tragedy. There are currently 23 surplus DCPS buildings that are sitting vacant. Many more current traditional schools are substantially under-enrolled. If these empty structures were turned over to charters, as the law requires, it would avoid future controversies like the one concerning Harmony PCS Langley Elementary. It would also allow these alternative schools to concentrate on their core mission of academics instead of real estate.

This is a cross post from the Examiner.  

Posted by: PCSB at 2:54 p.m.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Renowned Culinary Institute of America Chefs Visit Carlos Rosario International PCS

                                        

Ahead of this year's graduation ceremony, chef ambassadors from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) visited Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School to share their expertise with students, alumni and local chefs.

The first day culinary arts students got up close and personal with the chefs working side-by-side in the Marriott culinary arts lab at the new Sonia Gutierrez Campus. Students assisted the chefs in preparing for the next day’s cooking demonstration while learning trade secrets.

Published author and award-winning Chef Federic Sonnenschmidt then gave a charcuterie demonstration highlighting sausages from his book.

The following day Chef Paul Prosperi and Chef Sonnenschmidt presented a cook demonstration to a packed audience. The French pastry chef Prosperi made a tiramisu while Chef Sonnenschmidt prepared an “Out of Africa” medley weaving stories of culture and history with his tilapia and couscous.

Sonia Gutierrez Campus Principal Jorge Delgado said, “The CIA event opens the eyes of the students to other possibilities they never dreamed of. Adult education is about motivation and this event is a prime example of how we motivate our students.”

On June 19, more than 300 students received a high school diploma, became a U.S. citizen or obtained workforce certifications in culinary arts, computer support or nurses aide.  

About Carlos Rosario International PCS
As an adult education school, Carlos Rosario International PCS has graduates in several different academic and workforce programs.  Students hail from as many as 78 countries and speak more than 35 different languages.  This year more than 300 adults will graduates from these programs: GED graduates, ESL Level graduates, culinary arts, computer support specialist, and nurses aide graduates, and new citizens from citizenship program.  


Posted by: PCSB at 11:01 a.m.
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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS' 9th Commencement Ceremony Celebrates 100% College Acceptance for its Largest Class

                                                                                    

Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS' college-bound culture is deeply entrenched in every graduating class. Year after year, students, many of whom had never pictured themselves on a college campus prior to enrolling at Thurgood Marshall Academy, graduate ready and anxious to begin their undergraduate education. Mr. Sanjay Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Programs, remarks on this transformation, noting “Through it all, the seniors have persevered from doe-eyed freshmen to capable and adaptable college-bound students.”

In the tradition of the past nine graduating cohorts, 100% of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s seniors gained acceptance to college; they were accepted at over 90 different colleges and universities, including top-tier schools such as Yale University, Stanford University, Bates College, Rice University, University of California – Irvine, and The George Washington University. They represent a breadth of academic and professional interests, representative of the range of classes available to students at Thurgood Marshall Academy. The graduates “are majoring in fields from nursing to journalism to engineering, and attending colleges from Maine to California” in pursuit of their dreams, says Emma Levine, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Alumni Program Manager/Associate College Counselor.
In addition to being admitted to some of the nation’s top universities, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s graduating seniors have also been offered over $5.7 million in scholarships by universities and private foundations that have taken note of the remarkable successes of these students, both in and out of the classroom. These include one Gates Millennium Scholarship – a full tuition award that continues through graduate school for students who pursue in-demand field such as science, technology, engineering, math, or education; threePOSSE Foundation scholarships; 44 DC Achievers scholarships through the DC College Success Foundation; and full-tuition scholarships at institutions such as Yale, Stanford, and The George Washington University. Says Ms. Levine: “As a whole, this class has received the greatest amount in scholarship money in the school’s history. They are notable not just for their size (the largest class yet at Thurgood Marshall Academy), but also for their scholarship successes.

Stewart Gray, valedictorian of the Class of 2014, and the recipient of the Gates Millenuium Scholarship, received $1.1 million in university scholarships alone; in the fall, he is heading to Palo Alto, California to study electrical engineering at Stanford University. This year, Stanford University accepted just 6% of undergraduate applicants. In addition to Stanford University, Stewart was also accepted – and offered full scholarships to – Northwestern University, Rice University, and Pomona College, among many others.

While Thurgood Marshall Academy’s annual graduation ceremony typically takes place at the school, in the gymnasium it shares with neighboring Savoy Elementary School, this year, with over 80 graduates taking the stage, the school needed a larger venue, Matthew Memorial Baptist Church, to accommodate the proud families, mentors, and friends of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Class of 2014.

Executive Director Alexandra Pardo, who has closely followed the development of seniors through their time at Thurgood Marshall Academy, says the Class of 2014 stood out not only for its size and its accomplishments, but also for its character. “This was a very cohesive group that was determined to succeed together and support their classmates with passion,” says Mrs. Pardo. “They had a sense of unity and identity as a class that we haven’t seen in a senior class in several years.”
For the new graduates, today's ceremony will not be their last memory of Thurgood Marshall Academy. Ms. Levine, the Alumni Program Manager, says “We could not be more thrilled for the Class of 2014 and we welcome them to the Thurgood Marshall Academy alumni community!”


Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS is a Tier One public charter school located in Ward 8.  
Source:  Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS


Posted by: PCSB at 5:10 p.m.
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