Sunday, March 12, 2017

Washington State Charter Schools Update (Plus a New Private One)

Where are we with charter schools in Washington State?
- the latest lawsuit against the current charter law was turned down by the King County Superior Court (who also left the door open for it to be revisited).  The plaintiffs have not yet announced whether they will continue on at this time or wait for a time of "ripeness."

- There are currently eight charter schools operating in Washington State, two in Seattle.

- There are currently three charter schools scheduled to open in 2017.

Via the Charter Commission:
- Willow Public School in Walla Walla (the first that the Commission has opened in Eastern Washington)
Summit's Atlas 6-12 School in West Seattle (Summit has two high schools; Sierra in Seattle and Olympus in Tacoma.)
- Green Dot's 6-12 School, somewhere in Seattle, tbd. (GD has a middle school in Tacoma.)

Submitted Notices of Intent to apply for new charter schools submitted to the Charter Commission (applications due March 31).
- Impact: Seattle -  I note that the filer is Jen Wickens, a former TFAer, who works for Summit.  Impact seems to be a school group created for low-income students of color.

Christine Wright heads this group and was a former teacher at a KIPP charter school for a year, then in SPS for a year and then Issaquah for two years.  Previous to that she taught at Lakeside.
Launching K-5 public charter micro schools in the Seattle area via Cascade Micro Schools.

Incubating our first public charter elementary school to open Fall 2018. The school's mission is to prepare students of diverse backgrounds to lead communities as empowered creators who invent the world in which they want to live.
- New Horizons Academy.  The filer is Dr. Wanda Billingsly and it appears this K-5 school will operate in the south Puget Sound Region.  Dr. Billingsly is currently the CEO/Executive Director at First Place School ( a private school which had been the first charter school opened in the state but left the charter world).

(Partial) New Horizons Academy strives to address the opportunity gap for marginalized student populations (under-performing and under-identified gifted).  

- Washington College Prep.  A 6-12 school to open in Everett.  This would be the first charter to open in northern Puget Sound.  It has a fairly bland statement on their mission.

- Whole Elephant Chinese Charter School.  A K-12 school, it says it will be affiliated with UW and Benaroya Research Institute.  The filer is Dr. Lotus King Weiss with a New York state phone number. 
To establish an innovative education system which integrates the most frontier science of the West with the ancient science of mind-body-spirit from the East, with the goal to bring out the Master within each child whose unique passion and talent will be cultivated to blossom and whose mind will be cultivated to reach true maturity with great wisdom of human life and the universe.
Some interesting "applicant questions" submitted to the Charter Commission:

Are charters allowed to develop Private Placement Memoranda to gain private funds?
The short answer: no.

Can we issue Certificates of Participation? The short answer: no

Can we issue private bonds?
The short answer: maybe. But the charter school would seem to be fully responsible for that debt and could not use state charter funding for this purpose.

Does Washington State Initiative 1351, smaller class sizes, apply to charter schools?It would appear that the answer is yes but with nuanced fully-fleshed out in the response.

Spokane School District is the only school district in the state to be a charter authorizer, with two schools, Pride Prep and Spokane International Academy.  I cannot seem to located current information at their website on new applications.

I will have to ask the Board of Education if any other school districts have applied to be authorizers.

As for the new private school, I just happened to stumble on this - Axiom Learning.  Axiom appears to have study centers throughout the country but Axiom West appears to be a new school here in Seattle.  Interestingly, just like Impact, it appears to be a new thing in the ed reform world - a micro school.
  • What if there was a school where you eliminated lectures and actually learned more because of it?
  • What if you eliminated homework and your kids could actually get a chance to play and rest?
  • What if your kids came home from school excited about what they are doing and eager to go back the next day?
  • Where do you go if your child struggles in a traditional school system and wants to learn by doing rather than learn by listening?
  • What if your child wasn't just a number in a school that feels like a factory but was a cherished individual who was part of a community that looked for and knew the best part of him or her?

Axiom West, opening in Seattle in the Fall of 2017, is a project-based learning school focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) which will not have more than 150 students in each school. Axiom West combines the concept of "maker-space" STEAM learning with targeted, hyper-personalized, small-group instruction in English and Mathematics. Axiom West’s curriculum also provides our students with a mini-MBA focused on Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy and computer coding skills as well as crucial life skills that will be needed by the next generation of effective entrepreneurial technologists, scientists and problem-solvers. Students will spend 90% of their time learning by DOING instead of having to suffer through lecture after lecture as in a traditional school.

As we embarked on the journey that became Axiom Learning, we wanted to be careful not to repeat the mistakes made by others. If you look at the history of education reform, you will see that it is littered with well-intentioned people who all attempted reform with the same view: That THEY knew what was right and everybody should listen to them. Well, sometimes they were right but often they were wrong. That's why at Axiom we don't presume to know what works - we let the data decide what works. Everything we do here is research-driven and evidence-based. We test everything (big and small) and, if it works, we test it some more before we roll it out to the public. For every lesson plan or business line that we now have, there have been dozens that we closed out because they simply weren't effective. That's why our programs, schools and interventions have proven so effective compared to everything else - we know what works because the data tells us (not our egos!)

Today, Axiom Learning has grown into the ultimate Social Purpose Corporation: Every morning, our talented team goes to work seeking to advance our mission to serve as a catalyst for the positive transformation of education globally. While we will deliver robust commercial returns to our shareholders, we will do so by providing the very best educational offerings we are capable of - no cutting of corners, no sacrificing quality for revenue and ALWAYS putting our students' needs and their futures at the center of every conversation. In other words, here at Axiom we place an emphasis on being good people who are doing the right things in the right way for the right reasons.


Anonymous said...

Just a brief correction: Jen Wickens is not a former TFAer-- she completed her MIT at Seattle University and did her first few years of teaching in the Highline School District.
-a friend

NO 1240 said...

Gil Mendoza now sits on the Charter Commission.

Melissa Westbrook said...

A Friend, her LinkedIn page reflects under "Accomplishments - Teach for America." She is in some way affiliated with that group if she put it there.