By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
In a spirited and robust meeting late Monday night, the D.C. Public Charter School Board voted unanimously to initiate revocation- essentially trying to close the doors- for National Collegiate Preparatory (NCP) Public Charter High School.
Jennifer Ross, founder and CEO of NCP as well as several staff, board members and legal council appealed to the school board to renew their charter. The hearing just for that school was over an hour with impassioned speeches and new data for the board to consider.
Ross has been fighting for children’s education for more than twenty years. Her school’s credo, with the words, “Veneratio for Honor, Philologus for Scholarship and Gubernatio for Leadership” are more than a marketing ploy. These are the guiding principles for the school, instituted by a woman who understands the strength and value of a good education.
A Howard graduate, she had to bow out during her sophomore year so she could get a job and pay back loans. It was rough but she persevered, thanks in large part due to the education she received in high school.
“It was a trying year,” Ross said. “But I was always grateful for my experience in high school and my ability to get a job.”
For Ross, the measures of success in High School and its impact on a child’s life reach beyond test scores and data measurements. Surviving life is also a true measure of many students.
On Monday afternoon the DC Public Charter school board reviewed charters for NCP and four other schools. According to the School Reform Act, D.C. Code 38-1802 et seq., “the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) is required to review each District charter school’s performance at least once every five years, and if a school wants to continue operating beyond its original 15-year charter it must apply to D.C. PCSB in its fifteenth year of operation to renew its charter for another 15-year term.”
The school board had three options with each school: 1) To continue the school’s charter without conditions; 2) Conditionally continue the school’s charter by imposing annual or interim targets it must meet or 3) commence charter revocation proceedings, according to information provided by the School Board.
Ross was confident that her students have been served during the past 10 years, however was concerned that some of the measurements for renewal puts her school in jeopardy of revocation.
“We’ve done a lot of work to make sure our children will be ready academically, mentally and socially,” Ross told the AFRO. “We maintained we have kept that promise to the state.”
National Collegiate set out nine goals for the community when it initially opened according to Ross.
“One of the goals are standardized test scores,” Ross said.
However, the school’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores was part of what made them vulnerable during the committee meeting. PARCC is the District of Columbia’s annual assessment of mathematics and English language arts (ELA), based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), according to the site.
“[PARCC] is done in the 10th grade. The entire idea that your success is determined in 10th grade… I think it’s a bit stringent and it should not be the only measure for the school or its children.”
Ronique Jones, whose son graduated from National Collegiate Prep in 2017, said he wanted to go to a neighborhood school at first. But his opinion quickly changed once he got ingratiated into the school.
“After four months my son went from, ‘I don’t want to go’ to ‘I like it,’” Jones said adding that the school’s smaller classroom allows for more quality time with the students.
She cited school’s rigorous curriculum and guidance and staff who were there 24/7 which helped propel her son to graduation and attendance at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
“Being a single mom raising a son is hard,” Jones said, “but the school made it a little easier for you.”
NCP is the first and only International Baccalaureate (IB) public charter school East of the River, nestled in the Ward 8 area of the District. Their first graduating class (in 2013) included 53 students who had a 100% college acceptance rate and received scholarship/grant monies totaling over $700,000. The Class of 2014 graduated 100% of its students and included students who received the prestigious IB Diploma, a two-year program that was launched at National Prep during the 2012-2013 school year, according to a school press release.
Even though the school board recommended revocation at the end of the upcoming school year, NCP still has the opportunity to ask for a public hearing at the school, at which time another vote will be held.