The D.C. Public Charter School Board is expected Monday night to begin the process of revoking the charter for Potomac Preparatory Charter School.
The school in Northeast Washington, which used to be called Potomac Lighthouse, nearly lost its charter last year during a 10-year review because of poor performance. But the school was given conditional approval to stay open under new management and a turnaround plan, and according to an agreement with the charter board that the school must meet strict annual performance targets.
In late November, though, the charter board asked the school’s leaders to voluntarily relinquish its charter, on the grounds that the school fell short of its targets for the 2014-2015 school year.
A letter from Scott Pearson, executive director of the board, and Darren Woodruff, the board’s chairman, requested a letter of relinquishment from the school by Dec. 9 in advance of the opening of the citywide school enrollment lottery this Monday, to give students time to research and apply to new schools for next year.
In response, school officials said they would not voluntarily shut down.
“Potomac Prep continues to strive toward the PCSB’s far-reaching academic targets and has achieved significant growth during the one-year time frame given,” said Richard A. Chesley, an attorney for the school, in a Dec. 9 letter to the charter board.
The unmet performance targets included a goal that the school would exceed or be within a percentage point of the in-seat attendance rate for the charter sector as a whole and a goal that the school’s average proficiency rate on the new Common Core-aligned standardized tests would exceed or be within one standard deviation of the 50th percentile of all DC charter elementary and middle schools for 2014-2015.
Chesley’s letter says that the school is still reviewing the data that the charter board used to make its decision and noted that the school’s special education population grew by 300 percent last school year. If data were broken down, he said, rather than looked at as a schoolwide average, the school would show more significant progress.
“We often get kids that are 12, 13-years-old that are reading at the second and third grade level. No matter what you do you’re not going to be able in one academic year to bring them up to grade level expectations,” said Marian White-Hood, head of school, in a statement.
Pearson said in a statement that the board’s vote Monday is whether to start the process and that school leaders would have “ample opportunity” to make their case. “Our goal is to keep schools open as long as they are providing quality education to students,” he said.
About 20 charter schools or campuses have closed or lost their charters because of poor academic or financial performance since 2012.
Tomeika Bowden, a spokeswoman for the charter board, said Potomac’s is the only charter that would potentially not be renewed or revoked this year. At the same time, four new schools are in the pipeline to be opened next year: Breakthrough Montessori, Washington Leadership Academy, Rocketship D.C. and Goodwill Excel Academy.
Publicly funded charter schools enroll about 44 percent of the city’s public school students.