When people learn what I do, they often have questions. How does our public charter school differ from a traditional public school? What type of students are a good fit for our school? Why do parents choose this type of learning environment for their children?
As the Executive Director of Green Dot Public Schools Washington, I have a very rewarding job: working with staff, students, and the community at Destiny Middle School in Tacoma, our first school in Washington State.
How does our charter school differ from a traditional public school?
My answer often points to the success we’ve seen so far at Destiny, which launched in August 2015 with our first sixth-grade class. Destiny’s focus is on providing excellent educational opportunity for Tacoma’s traditionally underserved students. Our student body is 86 percent non-white, 22 percent students with special needs and 83 percent qualify for free/reduced lunch.
Here’s where we are not different than traditional schools: we are open to all students with no application or admission requirements and no tuition.
To best serve each of our students, we focus both on academics and on “wrap-around” support services – from tutoring to counseling to parent engagement. We have a 25:1 class-size ratio and offer extra intervention courses in literacy and math for students who need it, as well as acceleration courses for those who need more challenging work right away. Each student is partnered with an adult mentor, who builds a lasting relationship over three years in preparing the student and their family for college-ready experiences in high school.
What type of students are a good fit for our school?
At Destiny, we use data every day to diagnose and problem-solve student needs. Because we track academic progress so closely, we know that our students have made significant gains in the short period of time they have been with us.
For example, baseline reading levels of our fall 2015 entering class showed that 80 percent of our students were below grade level in reading and math. In just the first three months of school, one-third of our students met their annual reading growth goal, growing one to two grade levels in just twelve weeks.
And 30 percent of our students met grade level standards and exited our math intervention program by the second semester.
I’m proud to say that Destiny students’ reading and math growth is already demonstrative of the Green Dot National Network, which serves more than 11,000 students in Los Angeles, Memphis and Tacoma.
Nationally, our student test scores show sustained student growth and U.S. News & World Report has ranked our schools among the very best in the nation. In fact, with a graduation rate of approximately 90 percent, we have graduated more students than any charter network in the country. Despite entering school in the bottom academic quartile. Just last year in Los Angeles, 100 percent of Ánimo Leadership Charter High School graduates went on to pursue higher education in either two or four-year educational institutions.
Why do parents choose this type of learning environment for their children?
With those results, it’s clear to see why our parents are passionate about this type of learning environment for their children. Yes, we pay attention to data and track our students’ progress, and we lead with support and intervention services to ensure that all of our students succeed. At the end of the day, though, everything we do is built around the relationships we build with parents and their children. We know that there is nothing more important than a child feeling cared for, challenged, and deeply believed in.
As we near the spring of our first year at Destiny, I know that the path ahead requires continuous support for our students and families, and I look forward to the continued progress of our students.
By Executive Director of Green Dot Public Schools Washington, Bree Dusseault