Summit Atlas in Arbor Heights is one of only 10 charter schools that were operating in the state as of last school year, six years after voters approved the concept. It opened last year at 9601 35th SW with one middle-school and one high-school grade, and added one more of each this year. In our update report just before the school year started, we were short a few stats because school administrators didn’t have them handy. Now we have some stats courtesy of a newly released state audit of charter-school accountability.
The audit looked at the 2017-2018 school year. It didn’t cover all aspects of charter-school operation but did look at statistics that could show whether the schools are fulfilling a major mission, to serve at-risk students. In some categories, it compared what the charter schools did with what neighboring public schools, and the local public school district did. Examples: Summit Atlas was reported to have had a 46 percent free-and-reduced-lunch student population last year, compared to 60 percent for “neighboring” public schools and 34 percent for the Seattle Public Schools district at large.
Its public funding, meantime, was listed as $12,900 per student, 300 dollars less than the allocation for local public-school students. Summit Atlas served a slightly higher percentage of special-education students than “neighboring” schools – 17 percent compared to 15 percent – and a slightly lower percentage of English language learners, 11 percent compared to 16 percent.
The “profile” included in the audit (page 58) said that Summit Atlas had 167 students in its first year, and included its demographic breakdown:
Two or more races 13%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Pacific Islander 0%
That translated to a “diversity index” of .72, slightly lower than the .78 cited for neighboring schools. The audit did not address academic achievement or assessment; here are its overall conclusions:
The purpose of the audit was to examine whether Washington’s charter schools have the foundations in place to help ensure they are accountable to the public. We looked at whether charter schools have enrolled the types of students identified in their charters, whether they have complied with certain state and federal requirements, and whether their charter agreements include appropriate performance frameworks. We also examined the extent to which the charter schools and traditional schools work together. The results were mixed, which is not surprising given newness of the entire charter school system in Washington.
It is worth noting that during the course of the audit, charter schools made efforts to address some of the deficiencies found as a result of this audit.
Unfortunately, the newness of the system also keeps us from addressing another question about Washington’s charter schools—how effective are these schools at teaching students? As the system matures and more years of data accumulate, this is a logical question that should be addressed.
P.S. We’ll know soon whether any new charter school operators are applying to the state – tomorrow is the deadline for filing “notices of intent to apply” for the next annual cycle.