The Washington Post

More details on three charter-school chains seeking approval to operate in the District

Three experienced charter-school operators have applied to set up shop in the District, eventually enrolling more than 6,000 kids at 10 separate campuses.

Meanwhile, the city’s school system prepares to shutter 20 under-enrolled buildings. And lots of people are wondering what all that means for the future balance of traditional public schools and public charters in the nation’s capital.

Here are more details on the three new charter applications, all of which offer some combination of online learning and face-to-face instruction. The D.C. Public Charter School Board will take public comment on the proposals in January and will vote to approve or deny the applications in February.

1. Rocketship Education, a nonprofit operator based in California, wants to open eight elementary school campuses serving 5,040 kids in Wards 7 and 8.

Rocketship has seven schools in San Jose, Calif. As my colleague Lyndsey Layton reported earlier this year,

its students — — overwhelmingly poor, Latino and Spanish-speaking — have outscored the county and state average. In some cases, the “Rocketeers” have performed as well as students in nearby Palo Alto public schools, where Stanford University professors send their children.

But there are a lot of questions about whether Rocketship’s model will work in a city with very different demographics. And, as Layton reported, “Critics, including several school superintendents in the San Francisco Bay Area, say Rocketship uses a low-cost ‘industrial’ model that depends on inexperienced teachers and computers.”

The education world has been buzzing about Rocketship for some time. The operator has said that cities who want Rocketship’s services must promise it at least eight schools.

The executive summary of Rocketship’s D.C. charter application is here.

2. K12 Inc., a for-profit company based in Virginia, wants to open a high school serving 600 students in Northeast or Northwest Washington.

K12 operates the nation’s largest network of full-time virtual schools, which have drawn intense scrutiny over the last year for high student turnover, poor achievement on standardized tests and other issues. (See here, here , here and here.)

The company also operates several blended-learning campuses across the country, where students go to a brick-and-mortar school but do much of their work online. The proposed D.C. Flex Academy would mirror that model.

In Washington, K12 already manages the online campus of the Community Academy Public Charter School, which enrolls 95 K-8 students who learn at home via computer. The company also partners with George Washington University to run a private online high school.

The executive summary of K12’s charter application is here.

3. Nexus Academy — which would be run by Connections Education, a subsidiary of the for-profit publishing giant Pearson — wants to open a high school serving 550 kids in Ward 2.

Connections is also a major operator of full-time virtual schools across the country, but like the other two proposed charters, this one would blend online and in-person learning.

There are already Nexus schools in Michigan and Ohio. The Washington school would locate in an office building or other non-traditional site, according to the proposal, and would offer a personal trainer “who runs the on-site fitness center and develops individual student plans for fitness and lifelong wellness.”

The executive summary of Nexus Academy’s D.C. charter application is here.

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


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