Two long-time public charter schools are candidates for closure because of poor academic records and management issues, the D.C. Public Charter School Board said Monday night.
The board voted to place Community Academy PCS, opened in 1997, and Integrated Design Electronics Academy (IDEA), opened in 1998, on the path to revocation of their operating charters. A final decision will come early next year after the schools have a chance to address the specific deficiencies at public hearings.
Community Academy, which serves more than 1,800 students in grades PS-8 on six campuses — five brick-and-mortar and one online—is the more complicated of the two cases. The Butler campus on Thomas Circle NW in Ward 2 received a top ranking in the board’s new performance management system. But four of the other five (located in Wards 4 and 5) are in some form of corrective action or restructuring under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
A report by charter board staff said the school’s board of trustees was not engaged in academic issues and that paid employees were serving as trustees, a potential conflict of interest. A charter review team also noted that classroom instruction did not consistently follow the curriculum. Charter board members said they were particularly concerned about the Rand campus, a PS-5 school on Riggs Road NE, where only 25 percent of third graders were proficient or advanced in reading on the 2011 DC CAS. The school scored just 19.5 percent on the charter board’s performance system.
Community Academy board chairman Francis Smith said new leadership and other changes were in place at Rand. But charter board members were not persuaded, and they voted to begin revocation proceedings.
The problem is that the school’s charter covers all six campuses, meaning that revocation would force them all to close, including Butler. It’s difficult to believe that the charter board would take such a step, and while board chairman Brian Jones said after the meeting that he would not rule it out, it’s clear that he’ll push for Community Academy to make its own decision to fold the Rand campus.
“It’s in the leadership’s hands to do the right thing,” Jones said.
IDEA, a Ward 7 middle and high school with a tech emphasis, has produced a decade’s worth of poor test scores. Anywhere from 55 to 70 percent of students have been below proficiency levels in reading and math on the CAS. The school also began an adult education program without getting clearance from the charter board. Overall, its performance rating was 29.3 percent in the middle school and 30.9 percent in the high school.
Board of trustees chairman Joseph Stull said the data doesn’t fully reflect the ways in which it supports students, many of whom come from at-risk backgrounds. But he acknowledged that it has been a struggle.
“We haven’t broken the code yet,” he said.
“That does not engender great confidence,” said Jones, before the board voted to begin revocation.