State charter-school audit includes stats from first one in West Seattle

(WSB photos)

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:

White 39%
Black 28%
Hispanic 17%
Two or more races 13%
Asian 3%
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.

23 Replies to "State charter-school audit includes stats from first one in West Seattle"

  • Scott November 29, 2018 (4:40 pm)

    What a waist of tax payer money.  Just my opinion. 

    • Mr. C November 30, 2018 (7:53 am)

      Scott – did you even read the article?  It says that the school cost (quote): “300 dollars less than the allocation for local public-school students.” So it is literally saving you money.Your continued use of “waist” rather than “waste” also suggests that you simply don’t value any educational efforts.

  • momosmom November 29, 2018 (7:07 pm)


  • TJ November 29, 2018 (8:27 pm)

    Yeah, what a waist. I mean, why take away funding from the continually mediocre performing SPS? 

  • 1994 November 29, 2018 (8:43 pm)

    My child attends Atlas and is doing quite well there. I am happy this is a choice for high school, and that it is located in West Seattle. In my opinion it is not a waste of money. 

  • ShorewoodSlim November 29, 2018 (9:07 pm)

    It is spelled “waste”. I learned that in public school.

  • momosmom November 29, 2018 (9:20 pm)

    @Shorewood…Exactly what I was getting at.

  • Shorewood Slim November 29, 2018 (9:20 pm)

    “Waste” is the correct spelling here not “waist” (the size of your belly). The two words are homophones. Something you learn at SPS.

  • RP November 29, 2018 (10:21 pm)

    I would be curious to hear feedback from other parents of kids who are studying at Summit Atlas (or who are no longer there)…

  • Rb November 29, 2018 (11:21 pm)

    $300 cheaper per student.  With 167 students, they just save taxpayers $50k.  

  • monroe1200 November 30, 2018 (7:12 am)

    lower diversity rates…not surprised by this at all! 

    • Eric1 November 30, 2018 (11:50 am)

      Monroe, you have to make sure you check the facts that people feed you  before you agree with what you read and make blanket statements about diversity.  Knowing a bit about SPS, I know that the “whiteness” at SPS has hovered at about 45% for many years.  The data shows Summit is at 39% and I smell a colorful fish.  Sure enough the qualifying phrase of “nearby schools” obviously only mean Denny and Sealth (diversity index both 0.78).  A comparison to Summit’s score would be fair if Summit were a “local” attendance area school, but it is not.  Even if it were only a West Seattle school, you would have to count WSHS and Madison.  Wanna guess their diversity index?   Yep. 0.67 and 0.62…  but to you it is only a little bit higher right?   LOL. Remember, there are three kinds of lies:  Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

  • MJ November 30, 2018 (9:29 am)

    Providing options for parents and a bit of competition to the SPS system is a good thing.  

  • Peter November 30, 2018 (9:55 am)

    The report also reveals that these charter operations are consistently opaque and uanccountable with regard to how they’re using our tax money. They need full, detailed, and ongoing audits.

  • WestSeattleDad November 30, 2018 (10:33 am)

    Summit school is very Diverse not sure where you got that from …  In fact white kids are a minority this year I think.  Those stats were 1st year (year 2 now)  The school is challenging, they mix special ed with regular classes which can be a bit much for some kids.   No Gym and No cell phones during the day.   Main issue is there are some bad seeds there which for some reason have not been kicked out and lots of bullying going on.  I know lots of kids didn’t like it and transferred out to SPS.  It’s not for everyone.   Other then that the students get much more one on one attention and most of the time no homework.  Look at the class sizes for the middle schools and High Schools in West Seattle. This was needed.   40+ kids in lots of SPS rooms and the front 2 rows are A students and Troublemakers.   If anything this will help lower class sizes in the area.     

  • CheifRawka November 30, 2018 (12:04 pm)

    I thought the main idea behind charter schools was that they were primarily funded by corporate money? Instead I am paying taxes for both charter and public schools, neither of which can perform an audit with integrity and our state education officials keep getting hammered by the Supreme Court? $300 less per student….haha. Bargain or scam?

    • WSB November 30, 2018 (2:57 pm)

      While their capital costs are funded privately – as we’ve reported multiple times before, a separate nonprofit spent millions buying and remodeling this site (previously a church and, before that, a supermarket) for Summit – their operating costs are not.

  • WSDad November 30, 2018 (4:32 pm)

    WSB – Thanks for making the point about the capital investment. SPS spent over $30 million on the new Genesee Hill Elementary school, but Summit Atlas  was funded entirely by private money.  My daughter chose to attend Summit, and a student who was previously average is now thriving. The amount of access the students have to faculty is extraordinary, and the fact that the student is responsible for meeting their academic expectations it’s a great life lesson. As parents, we have the opportunity to see her progress at any time.  One comment stated above that this is a diverse community, and the data will become more valuable as the student population grows. It’s so small at this point, that the statistics are being created from a relatively small sample set, as compared to the other SPS campuses nearby. 

  • momosmom November 30, 2018 (4:37 pm)

    I know this has nothing to do with the story but I just talked to a parent who has a 15 yr old going to Summit and she says her one complaint is that there is no sent home homework (all on-line) and her sons complaint is there’s no gym, I said no gym does that mean no PE class and she said no, they have PE but the kids are to go outside…I said here in Seattle?! Otherwise they like the school.

  • anonyme December 1, 2018 (7:03 am)

    I find it telling that the article says absolutely nothing about actual education.  I don’t see why Summit Atlas would be able to provide detailed accounts of diversity and free lunch stats, but absolutely nothing about educational outcomes.  It sounds like this school is a social services institution, not a school.  I would also like to know how the diversity index works, and what its parameters are.  What are the diversity goals based on?  Is this system required in all public schools, or is it a diversionary statistic aimed at deflecting attention away from teaching?

    • WSB December 1, 2018 (7:22 am)

      That’s not what the audit was about. Regarding diversity, public schools’ demographic breakdowns are publicly available. The state put out a report and I thought it would be interesting to pull out whatever specifics it included about the local charter school, so that’s what this is.

  • SPS Survivor December 1, 2018 (11:58 pm)

    The only thing SPS is good for is derailing students education and making this stage in a child’s life twice as difficult. With low expectations pushing students through with less than state required credits forging documents and misrepresentation of certificates.Denny and Chief Sealth specifically threw some serious hurdles in my oldest two path of success found accountable in denying my middle child of her education completely and reporting false police reports against my oldest. Settled out of court after finally meeting my demands of releasing my kids records/transcripts allowing enrollment in another district. So when my youngest child finished fifth grade last spring I was of great relief knowing I wouldn’t be forced to send another child of mine down the path of failure I unknowingly did with my older two. Although I believe she wouldn’t have subjected to the same treatment based on her all white complexion unlike her siblings who are of mixed raced. It ultimately took a few years of therapy extra tutoring and a lot of reinforcement to get them back on track to graduating three years late for my oldest and only a year behind for my middle child. The structure positive energy removing interruptions like cell phones and going the extra mile for each and every students needs always addressing any complications that arise. Making student accountable and in charge of their own success. They care and have created a very successful approach of not just creating grads but seeing them thru to degree holders with a 95%success rate in doing so since opening their doors in 2013. Thank You Summit for picking Seattle Washington to allow our children the opportunity to succeed.

  • Ws prayers December 2, 2018 (12:10 pm)

     I’m thankful for summit atlas as well-my son was definitely being set up for failure in sps-I  was told by a counselor at chief sealth his freshman year “let’s just get him thro -when he is 16 he can go to job core” they pushed him thro despite him struggling (started struggle at Denny) he obviously wasnt getting it-lots of distractions with so many students -he was in the native american homeroom  (he started in the hispanic one but transfered to native group because im native his dad is hispanic he doesnt relate a whole kot to his dads culture because he wasn’t raised with it ) i didnt like that-honestly instead of connecting him (international/diversity) felt they literally sterotyped him-he got with the wrong crowd of kids -becoming a sterotypical lower income student of color yes he indeed ended up in trouble at the end of his sophomore yr was kicked out of the school district until completion of behavior modification -he was done with his bmod class when school started this year ans honestly he wasnt ready to go into 11th grade with his credits and abilities so i was so glad when I found out there was an alternative to alternative schools  -which i beleive would have just encouraged more troublemaking behavior despite any kind of modification class i was losing hope for my sons future-the kids he got in trouble with were of course sent to these alternative schools-I  knew he would have been set up for more failure-now he has a chance…Summit atlas brings hope and opportunities for every student- despite socioeconomic status , their abilities, or their race-the classrooms are smaller not a typical setting it is at the students pace puts responsibility on the student keeps the focus on why they are at school -I like the no cell phone policy -and yes they do have homework is up to the student because everything is online it is set to the students pace if they are behind they can complete assignments and tests online -but they are given a laptop (a lot of sps homework in online too and theres alot of hoops for low income families to jump thro to get a laptop if u dont have a computer at home including still having to pay small fee -where at summit it is given for them to take home during the school year) not sure about “gym” but I do know there is still opportunities for sports they just had basketball tryouts- i love that their focus is on future-college readiness…they believe every student is capable and deserving of education which of course can lead into sucessful careers producing a way out of poverty-a way out of systems and instituions that produce sterotypes keeping people oppressed. I’m grateful for the tenacity and devotion they have given my son-they are dedicated they have stressed to both him and I they don’t give up on a srudent-I so appreciate it….-it is so needed… I’m grateful for the hope we have for his future 

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