Eight groups apply to open new D.C. charter schools

Eight groups have submitted applications to open new D.C. charter schools in fall 2015, according to the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which is responsible for vetting proposals and deciding which merit approval.

The proposals include the city’s first Arabic-immersion, dual-language program; two boarding schools, one with a particular interest in serving children in foster care; two middle schools with a bent toward international education; a K-8 school with expertise in special education; an adult-ed school meant to reconnect high school dropouts with education and eventually a job; and a privately funded preschool in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, seeking to convert into a publicly funded charter.

The city charter board will hold a public hearing on the eight proposals in April, and it is scheduled to vote May 19 to approve or deny each one. The board could approve all of the school plans, but historically has only approved a fraction of the proposals each year.

Here’s a quick synopsis of each proposal, with links to the full applications:

Xcelerate Institute

Grades served: Adults

Expected enrollment: 160 students in year one, growing to 400 at maximum capacity

Proposed location: Ward 1 or 4

Mission: Xcelerate would use a “blended learning” — combination of online and face-to-face learning — approach to help high school dropouts earn a diploma or General Educational Development certificate and build technology-centric workplace skills, including social media management, coding and digital marketing.

In their own words: “Xcelerate Institute’s vision is to significantly decrease the number of disconnected youth due to dropping out from High School in Washington, DC, and to ‘turn around’ the lives of these youth by providing them with the skills they need to have a successful school-to-work transition.”

Founding group: Founders have a diverse group and include Dolores Virasoro, the Spanish department coordinator at the Washington International School, and Jennifer Daniels, an education consultant and former lobbyist for the Archdiocese of Washington who has advocated for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship, the private-school voucher program.

Click here to read Xcelerate’s application.

Monument Academy

Grades served: 5-12

Expected enrollment: 40 fifth-graders in year one, growing to 317 students at maximum capacity

Proposed location: TBD

Mission: Monument Academy would be a weekday boarding school for high-risk students, especially students who are in the foster care system. It aims to pair high-quality academics with efforts to meet the specific needs of foster children, including therapeutic supports, life skills and strong connections with adults.

In their own words: “Across the country, outcomes for youth aging out of foster care are tragically poor, on every imaginable dimension. The goal of Monument Academy is to radically change this fate for pre-teens and tens in the Washington, DC foster care system.”

Founding group: The leader is Emily Bloomfield, who recently finished a term on the D.C. Public Charter School Board. Bloomfield began planning for Monument while still serving on the board, and the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability recently opined that she may continue working for the school if it wins approval from the board later this month.

Click here to read Monument’s application.

Washington Leadership Academy / Revolution Schools

Grades served: 9-12

Expected enrollment: 100 students 11th-graders in year one, growing to 400 students in grades 9 to 12 at maximum capacity

Proposed location: Lower Academy (freshmen and sophomores) in Ward 7 or 8; Upper Academy (juniors and seniors) on Capitol Hill

Mission: This blended-learning school would focus on civics education and service learning opportunities. Older students would attend the Upper Academy, a boarding school where they take classes in the morning, complete internships (primarily in congressional offices) in the afternoon and do online learning in the evening. The Lower Academy, for younger students, would be a day school without the internship component.

In their own words: “By engaging the first generation of digital-natives in a technology-rich, blended-learning and civic-minded school environment, WLA will equip citizen-scholars to excel in higher education and ultimately to become civic leaders who address our Nation’s toughest challenges.”

Founding group: The lead founder is Seth Andrews, who built a national reputation as the founder of Democracy Prep, a New York-based charter school chain known for its no-excuses approach to lifting achievement among children in poor neighborhoods. Democracy Prep won permission to operate its first D.C. school, an elementary-middle school, starting in the fall; the first 8th graders to graduate from that Democracy Prep campus would be able to enter Washington Leadership Academy in 9th grade, if WLA is approved.

Click here to read WLA’s application.

One World

Grades served: 5-8

Expected enrollment: 100 in fifth grade, growing to 300 in grades five to eight at maximum capacity

Proposed location: TBD

Mission: This middle school aims to infuse arts, technology and environmental education into an extended school day. Each student’s experience would be shaped by his or her individual learning plan.

In their own words: “The mission of One World Public Charter School is to develop critical and creative students who address global social, economic, and environmental conditions via artistic expression and rigorous academic culture.”

Founding group: This group is back for a second try after failing to win approval last year. Many of the group members have ties to Sidwell Friends, the prestigious D.C. prep school; last year, they pitched One World as a cooperative venture with Sidwell, although the nature of the cooperation was not clear. This year, the application’s section on “partnerships” does not mention Sidwell.

Click here to read One World’s application.

SPACE, or Student Parent Achievement Center of Excellency

Grades served: preschool-3 through 8th grade

Expected enrollment: 180 students in preschool-3 and pre-K-4 in year one, growing to 440 students at maximum capacity

Proposed location: Ward 3

Mission: SPACE would be the first Arabic-immersion school in the city.

In their own words: “The recent Arabic Spring developments point to a desire of many Arabic speaking countries in North Africa and the Middle East to embrace the principles of democracy. However, in America today, there are very few pre-k-8 public schools offering a curriculum that supports the understanding of Arab language and culture.”

Founding group: The names of founders have been redacted from the résumés included in SPACE’s application, but the group includes a neurologist, a civil engineer and several educators, among others.

Click here to read SPACE’s application.

Washington Global

Grades served: 6-8

Expected enrollment: 100 sixth and seventh graders in year one, growing to 240 students at maximum capacity

Proposed location: Ward 4, 5, 7 or 8

Mission: Using the International Middle Years Curriculum, the school would emphasize service learning, foreign language (Spanish and Chinese) and “international mindedness.”

In their own words: “Washington Global Public Charter School is a community school open to all middle school students in Washington, D.C., that utilizes a rigorous, internationally based academic and cultural curriculum, which integrates project-based learning, service learning, technology and language acquisition to develop enterprising and competitive global citizens.”

Founding group: The founders include several Education Department employees and former DCPS employees, including one veteran school psychologist who has worked since 2012 for Exceptional Education Management Corp., a company founded and run by the former managers of Options Public Charter School.

Click here to read Washington Global’s application.

Educare DC

Grades served: Preschool-3 and pre-K-4

Expected enrollment: 119 in year one and 119 at maximum capacity

Proposed location: The existing Educare facility in Kenilworth-Parkside at 640 Anacostia Ave. NE

Mission: This $16 million state-of-the-art preschool, established by a privately funded nonprofit group and hailed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan as a model for the nation, is seeking to convert into a publicly funded charter school.

In their own words: Educare “believes that young children who have the opportunity to experience the world as predictable and supportive develop strong emotional foundations essential for learning.”

Founding group: Most members of the founding group are already associated in some way with Educare.

Click here to read Educare DC’s application.

The Children’s Guild District of Columbia

Grades served: K-8

Expected enrollment: 450 students in year one, 450 students maximum

Proposed location: 5600 E. Capitol St., the current site of Maya Angelou PCS

Mission: The Children’s Guild would seek to serve mostly special education students, using the “transformation education” approach that the founding group has used elsewhere, and that focuses on creating a flexible school culture that emphasizes life skills and values.

In their own words: “CGDC will look like no other school in the District, charter or traditional public. It will seek special needs students while providing general education students and families with many attractive features and opportunities.”

Founding group: The founding group includes many key leaders of the Children’s Guild, a Maryland-based nonprofit group that runs both charter and nonpublic schools for students who have experienced trauma, have autism or have other emotional

Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Children’s Guild application

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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