For Immediate Release | December 21, 2020
Contact: Maggie Meyers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724.263.9826
Olympia, Wash. — Last Saturday, the Washington State Charter School Commission voted unanimously to renew contracts for all four of the Commission-authorized charter schools that were up for renewal, citing that all four met rigorous standards for positive student outcomes.
The four schools are Rainier Prep, Spokane International Academy, Summit Olympus, and Summit Sierra. This milestone is a critical one for individual schools, and also serves as an indicator that Washington’s charter public school sector is building a track record of success.
“These renewals are a vote of confidence in four remarkable schools – public schools that are making a measurable impact on the educational outcomes of the students being served,” said WA Charters CEO Patrick D’Amelio. “We laud the dedicated leaders, educators, and students who achieved this important milestone. While our state’s charter public school sector is still relatively young, these renewals are proof points, and suggest that students and families would benefit from the continued growth of an excellent, equity-focused sector.”
Washington’s charter public school law has been ranked the third strongest in the nation for three years in a row for its high bar of quality and accountability. Charter school renewal criteria in Washington state are particularly rigorous. If a school is not able to demonstrate that it is delivering on its promise of improved student outcomes, it can be closed.
Washington’s charter school law also stands out for its explicit emphasis on serving systemically underserved, and the state’s charter public schools are serving the students that the law intended: they attract and serve disproportionately high percentages of Global Majority students (i.e., students of color) and students from low-income households. They also serve high percentages of students receiving special education services and English language learners and attract and employ three times the percentage of Global Majority teachers as compared to traditional public schools statewide.
These four schools all satisfied rigorous academic benchmarks designed to measure student academic proficiency, student academic growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, high school graduation rates and postsecondary readiness, and school-specific measures.
A PIVOTAL MOMENT FOR CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The Commission renewals come at an important moment for the state’s charter public school policy. The charter school law approved in 2016 allows for the establishment of up to 40 charter public schools over a five-year period, ending in April 2021. To date, only 24 charter public schools have been established. The state’s charter public school sector is growing slowly to ensure that every school is supported by its community and ready to meet rigorous standards.
“There are many communities in our state in need of additional high-quality public school options like Rainier Prep, SIA, and Summit Sierra and Olympus,” said WA Charters CEO Patrick D’Amelio. “Extending the five-year time frame would allow more time for a limited number of new charter public schools to be established and enable more families and communities to benefit from nontraditional public school options.”
The ability to grow to up to 40 schools would be significant for communities across the state. At the same time, charter public schools are intended as laboratories of innovation, and they are intended to complement the traditional system by providing families options. If 40 schools were to operate at full capacity, the number of student seats created would still be less than two percent of the state’s total public school population.
This Friday, the Washington State House of Representatives Education Committee is holding a hearing on House Bill 1195 to extend the time frame to open new charter public schools. Families in local communities all over Washington are asking for more public school options that meet their needs and this bill allows more time to make that happen.
“This is a pivotal moment for students and families,” said D’Amelio. “Every child deserves to have a school that fits their needs and interests. Extending the time frame for establishing charter public schools would mean the promise of meaningful options for more communities and families in the future.”