Test results for Washington’s new charter schools show promise. Don’t let a lawsuit stop these new public schools from proving they can help students succeed.

Share story

LAST week’s report on how Washington schoolchildren did on their statewide tests included some positive data on the promise of the state’s charter schools, even as they are threatened by another lawsuit.

Test scores showed students at most of these eight fledgling Washington schools are outperforming similar students at other public schools in the area. The data are preliminary and represent a small number of students, but the report shows these schools are worth watching and learning from.

The students at Washington’s charter schools and the education advocates watching their progress won’t have much of a chance to establish their value if the state teachers union and others who want to shut charter schools down are successful in their recently filed lawsuit. The lawsuit argues a legislative remedy enacted earlier this year to the state’s 2012 charter-school law is unconstitutional. State government lawyers vetted the language before the new law was passed by the Legislature, and the state attorney general is already defending it.

These public charter schools should be given a chance to prove they can help Washington students succeed.

On statewide tests last spring, the students at Rainier Prep, which is in South Seattle but within Highline School District boundaries, outperformed students at neighboring schools, in the district and statewide.

The numbers are especially impressive for African-American students at Rainier Prep, which comprises students from diverse backgrounds. In math, about 58 percent of black fifth-graders and 76 percent of black sixth-graders met the state standard on tests given last spring, compared to 21 percent of black fifth-graders and 29 percent of black sixth-graders in the Highline School District. Statewide results are similar to the Highline numbers.

Principal Maggie O’Sullivan credits the school’s teachers and Rainier Prep’s extended math program. She compares the approach to the way many elementary schools teach reading — by offering 83 minutes of math instruction on most days and teaching students by grade level and by ability. She cautioned, however, about putting too much stock in one year of test scores and noted that the Highline School District is also doing impressive work in meeting kids where they are academically.

This is important because Washington’s biggest challenge academically is the achievement gap, which shows children from poor families or certain ethnic groups are not keeping up academically with their richer or white or Asian classmates.

For the sake of all kids, education officials should keep a close eye on what is happening at first charter schools”

Other promising data came out last week for students at charter schools in Kent and Spokane. Students in Tacoma had decent, but not as impressive, results.

In Spokane at the Spokane International Academy, 62 percent of low-income sixth-graders met the state math standard and 72 percent met the English standard, compared to districtwide results of 33 percent of low-income sixth-graders passing the math exam and 42 percent passing the English test. The results for low-income students at Spokane’s other charter school, Pride Prep, were not any better than the district average.

As with any statewide test results, the story behind the snapshot of a moment in time is complex. But this interesting snapshot deserves a closer look.

For the sake of all Washington kids, state and local education officials should keep a close eye on what is happening at Washington’s first charter schools.