Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why experts weren’t impressed with two of the charter school contenders for Spokane

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 5:17 PM

UPDATE: With the recommendations laid out so starkly by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the results weren't a surprise. 

The Spokane Public Schools board unanimously voted to adopt former Garry principal Brenda McDonald's PRIDE Prep school, and rejected the other two.
The board was unanimously opposed to the online-based Academy of Arts and Sciences — a school who's representatives didn't even bother to show up. 

Three representatives of iLEAD schools, dressed in green iLEAD t-shirts did show up. They explained their belief that the mediocre test scores of their current schools in California would be improved when California switched to the new Smarter Balanced test. And even before the vote, they thanked the board for considering them, and promised to reapply as if they'd already been rejected.

But their prediction was accurate. Only one board member, Jeff Bierman, voted to charter iLEAD. 

After the votes, I caught Spokane Education Association president Jenny Rose, and asked her if the local teacher's union supported PRIDE Prep. "Of course not," she said. "Takes money away from our kids." 

Spokane is already doing the sort of work that PRIDE Prep is doing, she said, citing North Central and Lewis and Clark as examples.

PRIDE Prep won't open until the Fall of 2015. 


“Are charter schools better than traditional schools?” is the wrong question.

A better question is, “Which charter schools are better than traditional schools, and which are worse?”

Tonight, at 7 pm, the board of directors for Spokane Public Schools will decide if any of three charter school applicants would be a good addition to Spokane. The district hired the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to determine which of the three were up to snuff, and which the board should reject.

For two of the schools, the results were, honestly, pretty bad.

iLEAD Schools

Quick description: A charter school focusing on large projects

Problems the NACSA identified:

— The first iLead school founded, in California, has failed to meet federal adequately yearly progress standards.

— Both iLead schools in California had fewer low-income and Hispanic students than surrounding schools.

— Several of their current charter schools did worse than the state average on state standardized reading tests. And the low-income and Hispanic students they did have fell far below the district average.

— The Academic Performance Index score of the first iLead school founded was far below other schools in the area.

— The superintendents of the three surrounding districts to the first iLead School penned a skeptical article about the school titled “Whom do Charter Schools Serve.”

— Specifics for the governing structure for their planned Spokane school were left vague.

Conclusion: “Unsound governance structure with inappropriate relationship between board and Charter [Management Organization], Weak [Special Ed] plan, Budget Incomplete”


Quick description: Online school focusing on the arts, sciences and the International Baccalaureate program.

Problems the NACSA identified

— Four out of the five of AAS’s current schools have higher performances than the district they’re located in. But in the fifth, the performance is much lower.

— The AAS CEO has received complaints about “banking issues, harassment, non compliance with the charter agreement and board bylaws.”

— Didn’t include the fact on its application that they’d also applied to create charter schools in several other jurisdictions.

Conclusion: “Unsound governance structure with unclear relationship between board and [Charter Management Organization], due diligence revealed low performance at organization’s other schools, budget had significant weakness and mistakes, key elements of the academic plan were underdeveloped, various concerns in due diligence report.”

On the other hand, the organization was genuinely impressed with PRIDE PREP, the locally developed charter school option, concluding Pride benefited from “Strong and diverse board, robust academic plan, modeled off of successful schools in Denver and California, strong/concise budget, experience serving a similar student population, clear and realistic plans for start-up, operations, and progress monitoring."

Read the entire report below.

Board of Directors Meeting: Charter Schools

Tags: , , , , ,

Ales & Antiques @ Sprague Union District

Sat., Sept. 25, 1-6 p.m.
  • or

About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...