Spokane Public Schools embraces charter schools to become Washington’s most progressive, forward-looking district
On July 1st, Spokane Public Schools was the only district in Washington state to submit an application to become a charter school authorizer for the 2014-15 school year. Responsible for the education of 28,738 students, Spokane Public Schools is the second-largest district in Washington. With this decision, Spokane has become the state’s most progressive, forward-looking district in the state.
In the fall of 2014-15, only a year from now, some of the first charter schools in Washington state are likely to open in Spokane.
This decision by Spokane Public Schools, led by its school board and Superintendent Shelley Redinger, is a profile in courage, humility and responsibility. These education leaders have enthusiastically forged ahead to deliver what the community clearly wants: charter school options for their students.
Spokane’s application shows the district has undertaken exceptional research and planning efforts to determine which types of charter school innovations will best meet the needs of Spokane’s students. Spokane is interested in applications from charter schools which will deliver:
- Rigorous curricula with a track record of success with at-risk students, including:
- Core Knowledge, a rigorous English language arts curriculum;
- Cambridge curriculum;
- International Baccalaureate;
- A dual-language elementary and or K/8 school to prepare students to take language courses in high school so they can apply to college;
- More Montessori options, which might include preschool programs, expanding the program to additional kindergarten classes, expanding to middle school, or creating a K-8 Montessori school;
- Extending the Big Picture High School project-based learning program to middle school;
- Charter management organizations with a proven track record of success with at-risk students;
- Early college in High School, and other possibilities.
Spokane’s application is well worth reading, particularly its introductory pages. These pages reveal a district leadership not satisfied with and determined to improve the district’s performance. These pages also reveal a district leadership willing to learn from the successes of high-performing charter schools in other states. Most importantly, these pages reveal a district leadership willing to take responsibility for delivering on the state’s paramount duty: “for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”
Let’s hope Spokane's trail-blazing efforts set a precedent for the remaining 294 school districts in Washington state. Their next deadline, to file a notice of intent for the 2015-16 school year, is October 1, 2013.
This report is part of Washington Policy Center’s Initiative 1240 Follow-Up Project.