Epicenter Working to Make the New Missouri Charter Public School Commission a Success
January 6, 2017 | By Christina Musinski |
The Missouri Charter Public School Commission (MCPSC) is approximately two years old but they are already having a positive impact on education. Their commissioners were appointed in September 2014 and Robbyn Wahby was hired as the Executive Director in May 2015. They sponsored their first school in October 2015 and that school opened in August.
Before working at the MCPSC, Wahby spent nearly fourteen years in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. In the mayor’s office she worked on education policy, and had a hand in the launch of an exciting charter school effort in that city. That effort led to a successful policy that currently has over 10,000 students in charters. Under the leadership of Mayor Slay, St. Louis opened 26 charter schools in almost 10 years and also successfully increased enrollment in public schools by three percent. The mayor also closed six low performing charters, which demonstrates that the mayor’s plan was not about charter schools, but about promoting quality education.
Missouri opened their first charter school in 1999, and the MCPSC was created add to the state’s charter schools landscape by ensuring that there were enough independent statewide sponsors of charter schools. The goal of the MCPSC is to make sure that all children in Missouri have access to high-performing public schools, whether that be a traditional public school or a charter school.
“We’re really careful about setting numbers—our goal is quality,” said Wahby. “Ultimately our goal is to sponsor high-performing schools so everyone has access to a good school, especially in our two urban areas of St. Louis and Kansas City.”
The MCPSC also strives to disseminate best educational practices. They want to make sure that whoever is involved in education–whether it be teachers, parents, or principals–knows what charter schools are about and knows that positive events are happening in charter schools that can be replicated elsewhere.
And Epicenter has been a tremendous help to the MCPSC team.
“Epicenter has been a terrific addition to our operations,” said Wahby. “We want to share quality and that quality is seen throughout our accountability work. We are public schools and the public has a right to information that is as transparent as possible. Epicenter allows us to take all contracts, data, and information from the schools and simply and easily give that data to the public so they can determine whether we are doing our job and whether the schools are doing their job–both on the finance side and on the academic side.”
“Also, we need to have the information necessary to make the best decisions and protect the autonomy of our schools. Epicenter gives us all the tools to accomplish these goals by giving applicants equal access to data and information, and allowing us to process data.”
When MCPSC was established, they wanted to be lean and ensure that resources went directly to the schools. As a public agency, MCPSC went through the bidding process for a software firm.
“We were familiar with Epicenter, but we also asked others to bid on our technology needs,” Wahby said. “Epicenter was head and shoulders above the rest. It was easy to select them. There are a lot of products out there that gather and aggregate data, but Epicenter had the ability to aggregate the performance data and give that to the public through our website.”
“There is an interest to get data out and to be as transparent as possible. The key is to give the public data and also perspective on the data. That is where Epicenter shined, especially in the performance center portion of Epicenter. The ability to track the academic and financial performance of schools was critically important. It’s also important for the public and legislature to see the status of our schools.”
“Finally, one of the great things about Epicenter has been that it’s easy to use. The Epicenter team that offers assistance was phenomenal, and a special kudos to Stephanie for her help! I would absolutely recommend Epicenter to others and I hope others in Missouri would use Epicenter–we would highly recommend it!”