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A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Summit charter school has plans to open a charter school in the International District of Seattle in the fall of this year.

So far, I have written two posts on Summit charter schools, The inherent racism of Summit Sierra charter school and Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others.

To follow is a checklist of questions to ask the principal of Summit charter school if you are considering registering your student to attend this school.

questions

How many years of teaching experience does the principal have and is she an accredited teacher and principal?

The Principal of Summit Sierra charter school, Melia Burns, started out in the field of education as a Teach for America, Inc. (TFA) recruit. To “teach” as a recruit requires a Bachelors degree in any subject and five weeks of training. Then you are placed in a school, usually a charter school.  Ms. Burns was in the program for two years.  Then she was a Program Coordinator at the Umoja Student Development Corporation for one year. After Ms. Burns one year stint at Umoja Corporation, she taught at the Noble Network charter school for two years, she then became Dean at the same school for two years. That means that Ms. Burns, as a Principal of Summit charter school, has a total of four years teaching as a non-accredited teacher in two charter schools.

Who will the teaching staff be and will they be teachers who graduated from accredited teaching programs and certified by the state of Washington?

Most charter schools are staffed by individuals who do not have a  degree from an accredited teachers’ college.

Will there be Teach for America staff in the classrooms?

Teach for America recruits students who have recently graduated from college and train them for five weeks to teach in mostly charter schools although they managed a foothold in the Seattle Public School district. The recruit does not have to have a degree in education or a related field. Teach for America recruits contract with TFA, Inc. for two or three years then move on to graduate school, law school or another chosen profession leaving the school and creating churn within the school community.

Will a student fee be required?

Along with volunteer time, there is a “suggested donation” of $500 per student at Summit Charter School in Everest, California, one of the now 7 charter schools Summit operates and considered their banner school. (Please note: The link to the “suggested donation” has been taken down by Summit since this post was first published but I have chosen to keep the link up until I find the new location.)

How many hours of parent volunteer time will be required?

According to the Everest Parent Organization website, it is required that parents or guardians put in 30 hours of volunteer time with the school each year, 50 hours if you have two students attending the charter school.

What does “personalized” or “Blended learning “mean?

“Blended learning”, is basically putting a student in front of a computer where they are to read, watch videos, do their lessons and take tests also called “assessments”.

The reason for the proliferation of online learning in charter schools is that it is cheaper than hiring additional teaching staff and therefore generates revenue for charter schools.

How many hours will my student be on a computer each day?

The Blended Learning Environment per Summit charter schools:

There are three types of work to be done:
1. Basic curriculum modules : “Power Focus Areas”. All content is delivered on a computer and online tests are given.
2. Project work (often group-based)
3. Additional curriculum modules: “Additional Focus Areas”. This is the same as the Basic curriculum modules but with more challenging content.  

A student must pass all Basic content assessments at 70%.  This is mandatory and half of the requirement to achieve a C- grade. This means re-doing playlists and re-taking the computer test for the same module over and over again, until the student achieves a 70% passing grade. If the student passes on the first or second attempt, it is considered reasonable. If the student is passing after 3 to 10 attempts it is taking them 3 to 4 times as long to achieve a passing grade.  Projects are supposed to take up 70% of the students’ time, but with so much time required to pass the basic module there is little time to do Project Work. Projects must also be passed at 70% as the other half of the requirement to attaining a C- grade for the subject for the year. For some it is taking 70% of their time to pass the content assessments for the Power Focus areas alone.

What is the percentage of time my student will have in face to face class time with the teacher?

Will Summit charter school offer sports and music programs?

Summit Rainier Prep and Summit Everest charter schools do not offer either.

Will there be a nurse at the school?

Will there be an International Baccalaureate (IB) program?

Will my student be asked to leave the school if his or her test scores do not meet a specified standard?

At Summit Everest there was an attrition rate of 18% between the Freshman and Senior year in 2013.

Will there be a certified teacher and staff for special ed students?

At First Place charter school in Seattle, the Special Education teacher who had been working there for three years was fired and another staff person replaced her who was not credentialed. I assume this was a cost-cutting measure taken by the new administration who took over the school when it became a charter school.

It will be best to know now if there will be appropriately trained staff for IEP students.

By the way, First Place expects to receive levy money. See Will the Seattle Office for Education give First Place charter levy money now that they’re on probation? Summit Sierra charter school does also. From
Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others.

In a field report titled “Greenlighting 2015″ that was sent to me regarding Summit’s plan for our children’s future and was discussed at a Summit board meeting, their plan is to establish four schools in seven different districts in Washington State, two in the fall of 2015 and two in 2016.

According to this field report, Summit has questions about how much of the Seattle  school levy budget they will receive. “The thinking is that the first charters approved will be the first ones to get access to the levies.”

For more on the subject of levy (tax payer) money and charter schools, see The Seattle Office for Education has decided it’s OK to use taxpayer levy dollars for charter schools

Will an IEP be developed and followed by the school staff?

Will transportation be provided?

For additional information about charter schools, see:

What is a Charter School?

Schools Without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic Stratification

Teach For America: A False Promise

Are charter schools public or private? Neither or both?

Submitted by Dora Taylor

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This entry was posted on January 19, 2015 by in Charter schools, Seattle and tagged , , , .
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