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The Bottom Line Impact Public Schools are the Gold Standard

Thanks to Jim and Fawn Spady, the creators of the Washington Charter School Resource Center (WCSRC), for highlighting the novel concept of Washington’s Impact Public Schools (IPS). The Spadys are perhaps best known for their leadership of the Seattle area’s beloved Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants. But they are also long-time, stalwart advocates of education reform.

IPS operates a charter public school in Tukwilla and will open another one this fall in South King County. The school serves 280 students in grades kindergarten through second grade, comprised of 83% students of color, 67% low income, and 32% English learners.

IPS effectively pivoted to distance learning in early March and are now sharing their technology and lessons learned with everyone interested — whether public charter schools, district schools, or private schools.  IPS leader Jen Davis Wickens and her team put together an exceptional online learning webinar to share their educational model and explain how they handled the process of switching to online learning.

The school’s stated goal is “liberation.” As highlighted in the webinar, their academic performance indicates they are achieving this goal:  in the 2018-19 academic year, 77% of their scholars met their growth target in reading and 87% met their growth in math.

With their pivot to distance learning due to the coronavirus, IPS set out to create the best online educational experience for their students, families, teachers, school leaders, and the home office team.

Their strategy involves three phases. The first phase was formulating a plan that would provide connectivity, support wellness, advance equity, anchor in their original design principles, and blend in with the community. To do this they instituted a temporary procedure that included daily emails and Vimeos with the principal, sent home necessary materials before the school closed, and set up calls for families and teachers. They then collected data on families who need connectivity and the necessary computer technology.

The second phase integrates the components of Impact’s model: social emotional learning, individualized instruction, project based learning, and a culture of positivity.

The plan above is supported by their Impact at Home strategy which includes:

  1. A blend of whole class, small group, and 1:1 time for students, teachers, and families;
  2. A Teacher-led and family supported daily synchronous instruction in literacy and math, daily real-time feedback from teacher and peers, with all educational materials, including project kits, delivered to students’ home; and
  3. A structured day for most with a flexible option for families who need it

The last phase is to evaluate and make adjustments. In this phase, Impact reviews what is working for the students, teachers, parents, and leaders and adjusts as necessary.   

Clearly, our traditional public schools serve more children. However, we are observing many examples of how charter public schools have managed this crisis far better.

Charter public schools have been setting a gold standard regarding innovation in education.  We need more of them and to follow their lead in traditional public schools.  

Bailey Takacs

Development Program Coordinator, American Center for Transforming Education
Bailey Takacs served as development program coordinator to Discovery Institutes' American Center for Transforming Education and Development team. Bailey has experiences which also include: campaign management and administrative roles with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of the government. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Government from Pacific Lutheran University.