PCSB Approves Three Out of Six DC Public Charter School Applications

Monday, May 18, 2015

For Immediate Release: Monday May 18, 2015

Contact: PCSB Communication, 202-328-5543


PCSB Approves Three Out of Six DC Public Charter School Applications

New schools to offer Montessori, Service Learning and Competency-Based High School Diplomas in 2016-17

Washington, D.C. — The DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) approved three new public charter schools Monday evening, increasing school quality and choice for District students and adults. The schools approved include: Breakthrough Montessori, a Montessori program serving prekindergarten and kindergarten students; Washington Leadership Academy, a high school with a service learning component; and Goodwill Excel Center, the first competency-based alternative DC public charter school offering high school diplomas to students aged 16 and older.

All three were approved with conditions that must be addressed before the schools can open in 2016.

PCSB received three other public charter school applications. The Board declined to approve Legacy Collegiate and Sustainable Futures while Fostering Scholars withdrew their application.

“As the recent lottery showed, there is tremendous demand for quality public education in the District,” said Darren Woodruff, PCSB Board Chair. “These new schools will help ensure every family can find a quality school that is right for their student.”

“PCSB has a rigorous process and criteria – and is committed to approving those applications which offers quality educational opportunities,” Woodruff added.

“Our next step is to work with the Deputy Mayor of Education to find the best facilities to house these new schools,” said Scott Pearson, PCSB executive director.

Pearson encouraged the newly approved schools to meet with the Deputy Mayor of Education to talk about available facilities and to coordinate their school opening with other education plans in the city.

With the approval of these schools, the percentage of students attending public charter schools in the City is expected to stay roughly the same.

Because of the Board’s commitment to quality, it has in recent years closed nearly as many schools as it has approved. In the last three years alone, 17 have been approved while 18 campuses have been closed. 

The three approved schools to open in fall 2016 include: 

  • Breakthrough Montessori was approved to serve 90 PK3 and PK4 students in its first year of operation. It proposes to provide families a Montessori program, designed in collaboration with the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. The Board approved the school for grades PK3-K, although the school applied to open through third grade they may apply to grow to 6th grade before opening in fall 2016.
  • Washington Leadership Academy was approved to educate 100 students in 9th grade in its first year, with plans to grow to serve 400 students in grades 9-12 at capacity. The blended learning school will offer a service learning component and focus on developing technology-literate leaders.
  • Goodwill Excel Center was approved to offer an alternative high school designed to serve students 16 and older, who are seeking high school diplomas. The first of its kind in the District, this program will fill the gap between traditional high schools programs and adult education programs that result in a GED. To ease adults’ barriers to success, the founding group seeks to locate near a metro, offer childcare onsite, and support students with life coaches.  

In March, the Board received a total of six applications, notified Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) citywide of the applications and opened the charter applications for public comment. Meanwhile, PCSB staff began reviewing each application, which included 1) analyzing academic, operational, and financial plans, 2) conducting interviews with the founding group, and 3) in applicable cases, visiting existing programs run by the applicants. The Board held a public hearing and a Twitter Town Hall in April about the applications. In addition to meeting with Ward Education Councils and community groups about the applications.