Washington, D.C. — The D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) voted this past spring to approve four applications for new public charter schools for the 2012-2013 school year.
The proposed schools are: Creative Minds, Latin American Youth Center Career Academy, DC Scholars and BASIS DC. Three of the applications received conditional approval and must satisfactorily address the required conditions outlined by the Board before they can be granted a charter to open in the fall of 2012. The Latin American Youth Center Career Academy was approved with no conditions. All seven members of the Board voted on the applications with Board Member Sara Mead voting by proxy. Fourteen applications were denied.
"The Board received a rich array of charter applications – some from founders with extraordinary track records in other states," said Board Chairman Brian W. Jones. "We conducted an exhaustive review of the applications including a rigorous public hearing and poured over mountains of data submitted to the Board. The decisions we made were not made lightly."
Creative Minds will offer students a comprehensive education program that involves an international primary, project-based curriculum, including the arts, and integrates standards-based literacy and math instruction in small classrooms. While the school's proposal was developed to serve pre-school through eighth grade, the PCSB felt that the application was stronger for pre-school through fifth grade and conditionally approved the application to serve those grades only, with the possibility of being approved to serve the middle school grades later.
The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) Career Academy will provide young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who have not been successful in a traditional school setting with skills necessary to attain a GED certificate, vocational training in high-growth occupations, college-credit classes and preparation for success in college, postsecondary education, training programs or the workplace. LAYC has founded three successful public charter schools in the District: LAYC Youth Build, Next Step and Latin American Bilingual Montessori (LAMB). Board members noted their successful track record with these schools as a strong indicator of success with Career Academy.
DC Scholars will serve students in pre-school through the eighth grade partnering with Scholar Academies, a non-profit, school management organization that has been successful operating schools in Philadelphia and Washington, DC—including the highest performing charter middle school in Philadelphia.
BASIS DC plans to provide a rigorous liberal arts college preparatory education to middle and high school students in grades 5 through 12. The BASIS school model has been successful in Arizona and the PCSB gave conditional approval pending the applicant's demonstration of how this model will be adapted to the demographic profile of students in the District of Columbia.
The Board received many strong proposals, but felt that many applications fell short of connecting the mission with the curriculum. "The connection of a fabulous mission to an operational plan was lacking," said Board Vice Chair Skip McKoy. "It's not our job to connect the dots, but it's incumbent on applicants to do appropriate research on potential student population."
In February, the PCSB received 19 applications with Bedford Collegiate Academy withdrawing its request after it was accepted. The Board conducted a rigorous review process before deliberating and voting at the April 25th meeting.
During the review process, each applicant received a technical review as well as interviews with the founding groups and proposed principals. Public hearings were held where applicants were allowed to present their proposals to the Board and the public. The community also provided input at the hearing. All applicants will receive extensive feedback from the Board on their applications.