Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Will First Place Scholars Survive?

The Charter Commission meeting tomorrow morning will let us know if First Place Scholars charter school has met the requirements laid out for them.  I do not believe there will be any more chances for this scrappy little charter if the requirements are not met.

Interestingly, one Charter Commissioner, Cindi Williams, wrote a moving piece about the difficulty in deciding what to do.

There is no doubt that the Commission and First Place share the same mission: providing our state’s most at-risk student population with an excellent education. By all accounts, First Place is a safe place where students and their families feel loved and secure, providing stability in the midst of what is for many of these young students an unpredictable life. As I have had the opportunity to meet with volunteer board members at First Place and Dr. Linda Whitehead, the school leader, I have been humbled by their dedication to each of the families in their care. However, the question that I am still unable to answer is whether students are receiving the academic education and personalized, data-driven instruction they will most certainly need to fulfil their full potential. 

In the end, there is no easy answer, but the Commission will be forced to make a decision based on the evidence presented as to whether First Place is meeting, or has a viable plan to meet, its obligations under the charter it signed a year ago.

However, once again, the Washington Policy Center, in its assessment of First Place, seems tone-deaf to what the agreement is when a school signs a charter agreement.

Still, the regulations administered by the Charter School Commission appear to be more stringent than those required of traditional public schools.  For example, First Place administrators must provide weekly reports of student progress, weekly test scores in reading and math, along with student and teachers schedules.  This represents a level of oversight not seen in other Seattle public schools. 

Sure, because it's a charter school that has accountability, especially around Special Education and ELL students it has NOT been adequately serving, according to the Commission.

Families often face imperfect choices.  For families at First Place, for all its start-up problems, the charter school may serve as protection against a worse alternative; that their children would become subject to Seattle’s mandatory school assignment policy. 
Charters are also unknown "imperfect choices."  And, parents who choose Seattle Public Schools DO have choices.  
Second, would closing First Place show respect for parents?
Here's the thing that I would contend for almost any public school - the district's first duty is to serve the students and respect taxpayer dollars.  Then, I would worry about "respect" in the form of a parent's desire for their student's school not to close.  

I know that two Commission members have previously voted against giving First Place another chance but the Commission ended up doing so.

Tomorrow, they vote to close First Place, it's is just the start of the process of closure.  All these current steps have just been the Commission trying to give First Place every chance to stay open.

I'm attending the meeting so I'll report back on the outcomes.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't First place Scholars a private school before they became a charter? Or am I thinking of a different school? If so, why are they having trouble now - is it just the additional regulations that did not apply in the past? or maybe they expanded too quickly? Would they have to close, or could they revert back to being a private school?


Anonymous said...

Wondering, it was a well-respected, beloved, and highly functional nonprofit prior to converting to charter status.


n said...

I'm wondering why they chose to change to charter as well. More public money? More opportunity to grow? Why?