On Feb. 16, the Pittsburgh Public School Board voted on the approval of four new charter schools. The only school to receive approval was Urban Pathways K-5 College Charter School.

“The District supports quality options for families that spur student achievement,” said Superintendent Linda Lane.

MUSIC—Urban Pathways offers band and instrumental lessons, with a focus on performance.

The new charter will serve as an expansion to Northside Urban Pathways, a 6-12 school that has been operating Downtown for the past 12 years. The school’s student body of approximately 360 students is predominantly African-American and representative of many neighborhoods in the city.

“We’ve been working on this for a few years. Our current school starts at grade six. Since our kids come from so many districts they don’t really always have the right attitude to prepare them for learning when they first arrive,” said Linda Clautti, chief executive officer. “Through this we can kind of get them in the right frame of mind in the beginning. We find if we can work with our parents and students from kindergarten, they will have a better success rate at being on grade level. ”

The school was originally proposed as an amendment to Urban Pathway’s existing charter. The board denied the original proposal and said the application for the K-5 addition should be resubmitted as a new school.

The school, which will be located across the street from the 6-12 site, will carry on Urban Pathway’s focus of college readiness. When asked how a K-5 school could’ve benefitted them, Clautti said many of her students said it would have prepared them for college at an earlier age.

“It’s incredible to me how many of them kept talking to me about college. So we’re getting it through to them—if you want to get ahead in the world, you have to go to college. If you are a minority youth who is disadvantaged you have a better chance if you go to college,” Clautti said. “Last year’s graduating class, 100 percent of them got accepted to college. We intend to remain college focused from grade K.”

The board denied applications from Propel Charter School-Northside, Three Rivers Charter School for Public Service and Leadership Academy for Math and Science Charter School.

The Charter School Application Review Team released a series of finding to the board with their recommendations on the approval or disproval of each application. The teams were made up of district principals as well as experts in curriculum and instruction, special education, assessment and accountability.

In their explanation for recommending the denial of charters to the three other schools, the team said they did not provide additional opportunities not already being offered in the district. They also said the applications for these three schools were not fully complete, as they did not include a complete, comprehensive curriculum or conform with legislative guidelines.

“Their applications were not complete,” Clautti said. “Our application was over 1000 pages. It was very time consuming and economically consuming.”

In their recommendation for all four applications, the team expressed concerns with how the schools planned to provide a continuum of services to meet the needs of all students, including students with disabilities, English language learners and at-risk students. The board requested that Urban Pathways provide this information prior to the beginning of school next Fall.

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