Perry Stein of the Washington Post reported recently that more than 700 students at the Excel Academy Public Charter School in Southeast Washington will soon be looking for another school. On January 11, the DC Public Charter School Board voted unanimously (6-0) to close Excel due to very little evidence of academic improvement. Not a big deal? Tell that to the more than 600 students in grades Pre-K through eight. Excel is the district’s only all-girls public charter school.
Saba Bireda, a member of the DC Public Charter School Board said, “The longer girls are at Excel, the further they fall behind their peers in the city” (Washington Post). Excel Academy is not alone. Since 2012, 24 charter schools have closed in DC due to poor performance.
In arguing against the closure, school leaders said the framework to assess schools is biased against those with a high percentages of at-risk students, and two-thirds of Excel students are considered at-risk. However, Naomi Rubin DeVeaux, deputy director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said that 22 of the city’s 120 charter schools have greater at-risk populations than Excel, and most of those schools perform better on their annual assessments (Washington Post).
Nationwide, there is a repeating pattern of charter closures. Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said, “Each year, about 400 charter schools open in the country, while 200 to 300 close because of low enrollment, poor performance and financial woes” (Washington Post).
In April Betsy DeVos visited Excel with Melania Trump and Jordan’s Queen Rania Al-Abdullah. DeVos made a statement after the visit.
Excel Academy is a shining example of a school meeting the needs of its students, parents and community. As Washington’s first public charter school for girls, Excel Academy shows the transformation that can happen when parents are empowered to choose the education setting that best fits their child’s individual needs, and when kids are given a true chance to learn and thrive. The school’s focus on STEM education prepares its students for success in high-potential fields that need more female representation (Ed.gov).
DeVos touted Excel as a “shining example”. Nine months later, the school is preparing to close. Excel is not a shining example at all. It is an example of the failure of yet another charter school to turn students around academically, while siphoning money away from the public schools.
With regard to the closing of Excel Academy, what are the thoughts of the secretary, the first lady, and the queen now? I really wish someone would ask them.
These are my reflections for today.
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