The D.C. Public Charter School Board has approved plans for four schools to open in fall 2012, including one to be operated by an Arizona organization whose Tucson high school is ranked one of the 10 most challenging in the country.
BASIS DC, DC Scholars, the Latin American Youth Center Career Academy and Creative Minds were selected Monday evening from among 18 applicants to join the city’s burgeoning sector of publicly financed, independently operated schools. More than 29,000 D.C. students, just under 40 percent of the public school population, attend one of 52 charter schools in the District.
D.C. Scholars, a Philadelphia-based group that operates Stanton Elementary under a contract with the District, will open a Pre-K-8 school in Ward 7 or 8. The Latin American Youth Center, which runs three D.C. charter schools (Youth Build, Next Step and Latin American Bilingual Montessori), plans to offer career, technical and college-prep program for students from 16 to 24 who have not been successful in traditional settings. It will operate in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Ward 1. Creative Minds is an arts and project-based program for grades Pre-K through 5 that has not determined where it will operate.
BASIS has attracted national attention for the rigor of its academic program. Its founders, Olga and Michael Block, require students to complete a minimum of eight Advanced Placement courses to graduate. The Tucson school, one of six operated by Basis, was ranked among the country’s 10 best high schools by Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report in 2009. Basis has said that 26 percent of its Tuscon students are Hispanic or black, and 20 percent are low-income.
But BASIS has also been criticized for high attrition rates, and the charter board said its approval is contingent on demonstrating that its model can work in the District, where the demographic profile includes large proportions of special-education students and English Language learners.
Audrey Williams, a spokeswoman for the charter board, said the board was also “concerned about how they would recruit from the entire city and not be selective.” Charter school enrollment is supposed to be on a first-come, first-served basis, or through lotteries.
Four public charters approved last year will open in fall: Inspired Teaching Demonstration School, Munde Verde Bilingual School, Shining Stars Montessori Academy and Richard Wright School for Journalism and Media Arts.