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EDUCATION BRIEFS: Two 'Experienced Operator' Charter Applications OK'd by D.C. School Board

12/4/2013, 3 p.m.
DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson (Courtesy photo)

The D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) recently granted conditional approval to Harmony School of Excellence-DC (Harmony-DC) and Democracy Prep DC (DPDC) to each open one school under the Board’s “Experienced Operator” application procedure. With this conditional approval, the schools could open as early as August 2014.

Founded in 2000, Harmony operates a network of 40 high-performing college-preparatory science, technology, engineering, and mathematics ("STEM") schools in Texas serving more than 25,000 students. On a 6-0 vote with one recusal, the Board gave conditional approval to Harmony-DC’s plan to open one school in DC with students in grades kindergarten through fifth, adding one grade each year until it serves students in grades K-12.

“When I visited Harmony I saw active learning with a high level of engagement — and with Harmony’s STEM focus, I think that would be a very worthy addition to the District of Columbia,” said Board Vice Chair Darren Woodruff.

As part of its normal Experienced Operator application review, PCSB examines the background, experience and track record of the operator. With Harmony, the staff conducted additional outreach including to the Texas Education Agency, U.S. Department of Education, Texas State Board of Education and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

The second approval was for Democracy Prep, which opened its first charter school in New York in 2006 and now serves 2,300 students at five schools in Harlem, N.Y., and Camden, N.J. On a 5-1 vote with one recusal, the Board gave conditional approval to Democracy Prep’s proposal to open a prekindergarten-three through fifth grade school in Ward 7 or Ward 8.

PCSB Board members praised Democracy Prep’s record of improving the performance of students from below grade level to high performance. “Democracy Prep's commitment to working with underserved and underprivileged students and moving them to proficiency is noteworthy," said Board Chair John H. “Skip” McKoy.

“Democracy Prep Public Schools is thrilled that the D.C. Public Charter School Board approved our charter application so that we can open a school in Washington, D.C. We are excited to be given the opportunity to educate scholars in our nation's capital,” said Alice Maggin, Senior Director of Communications, Democracy Prep.

PCSB previously approved one Experienced Operator application in 2012 from Rocketship DC, which is planning to open one elementary school in August 2015.

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson Shows Nation the Possibilities

District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson issued a statement (a portion of which follows) recently after the National Assessment Governing Board released the results from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card. D.C. students made tremendous growth from 2011 to 2013. 4th grade reading went up 5 points, 4th grade math went up 7 points, 8th grade reading went up 6 points, and 8th grade math went up 5 points, all compared to only 1 to 2 point growth in the nation. DC and Tennessee saw the largest growth of any other state in the nation from 2011 to 2013.

“D.C. is showing the nation that when you embrace higher expectations for teachers and for students, they rise to the challenge. This work is difficult and it takes time, but our breakthrough gains demonstrate that the reforms we have put in place are working, and our students are making great progress.

“I am confident that the approach we have taken to ensure great teaching and high quality content is key to our success. I am so proud every single day of our students and our educators. When you walk into our schools, you see a dramatically different classroom then you would have seen several years ago. Our teaching force improves every single year. We have been relentlessly focused on making sure that there's a highly effective teacher in every single classroom, and a highly effective school leader in every single building.”

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