A Letter to the Impact Community

Dear Impact Community,

As we grieve for the victims, families, and communities in Uvalde, Texas, we are at our schools supporting one another and ensuring that the sacred spaces where our students learn and grow are safe and supportive for all. The safety of our teachers and scholars is our utmost priority as we continue to work toward our mission.

Over the past 72 hours, KUOW has run two stories about Impact Public Schools as part of a multi-part series. We feel it is critical to respond in order to set the record straight about the important work of our dedicated teachers and scholars.

Our commitment to transparency and listening 

As a public charter school, we are held accountable and aim to be transparent in everything that we do. Over the past six months, we have provided the  staff reporter more than 2,000 pages of information in response to a Washington Public Records Act request, answered more than 50 questions in writing, and responded to more than 150 emails from a staff reporter.  

We are deeply committed to listening to and learning from the experiences of our school community—past and present. We acknowledge that there are staff and families, current and previous, who have experienced challenges and we understand their frustration. We remain diligent in gathering feedback and instituting appropriate policies and practices. At heart, our mission is to be a support to our scholars and families.

With that mission in mind, our Board and leadership welcome feedback and suggestions from anyone in our community for ways we can improve. You can share these by emailing us at info@impactps.org. If you have a complaint, please share those via our formal complaint procedures (available here for faculty and here for families).

Clarifying Impact’s philosophy and approach 

We are disappointed that this story paints an inaccurate portrayal of our schools – and misleading, for it does not represent the lived experiences of the majority of our staff, families, and students. 

We are surprised that the reporter has chosen to ignore the impressive learning gains achieved by our teachers and scholars during the pandemic. On the recent WA state exam, Impact | Puget Sound Elementary scholars ranked in the top 1% for math and the top 3% for English among the state’s public elementary schools serving a majority of low-income students. Our families are highly satisfied with their Impact education. In our last family survey, 99% of responding Impact families reported that they would recommend Impact Public Schools to another family. 

For clarity and transparency, below we have included some context and relevant information about Impact Public Schools that are amiss in the story.  

  • Impact’s special education program was validated by the state review agency. Our teachers are dedicated to ensuring students in need of special education receive support. Any family can request an Individualized Education Program (IEP) evaluation for their child. We support families through the IEP process in partnership with Seneca Family of Agencies and the True Measure Collaborative. All of our schools employ a full-time Learning Specialist who ensures our students with special needs are receiving the best services and instruction. Our special education program has received high marks from the organization responsible for reviewing special education programs — the Washington Integrated System of Monitoring. When Impact budgets for Special Education, we rely on the sound budgeting practice of making conservative estimates of the number of students to receive services. We always dedicate the funds necessary to support all students who are determined to be in need of special education services. 
  • English Language Learners (ELLs) make strong learning gains at Impact.  KUOW reports a claim that Impact does not offer students ELL services. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our ELL program provides each student with daily individualized instruction at their just-right level. We offer a curriculum designed to meet the learning needs of English Language Learners through small-group instruction focused on phonics. In addition, we provide students access to Lexia English, a software program specifically designed to support multilingual learners. Teachers are trained in strategies for supporting ELL students as part of their literacy training. As a result of all this, ELL students are making progress academically. On the 2021 Washington State SBAC, Impact PSE ELL students ranked among the top 2% of all English Learners statewide for both mathematics and ELA.
  • We are committed to ensuring Impact Public Schools is a great place to work and teach. Like many other schools during the pandemic, we have dealt with teacher transitions. And while we respect the perspectives of those who shared their stories in the piece, their experiences are not representative of Impact educators overall. More than 70% of the teachers who began the year with us are still teaching at Impact Public Schools. As an organization dedicated to continuous improvement, we surveyed teachers this fall and winter to learn how we could improve support and sustainability. Based on what we learned, we have expanded professional development time, increased teacher salaries, and instituted longer teacher prep times to make sure our teachers have the time and support they need. We have also strengthened our benefits package significantly; Impact now reimburses faculty for the cost of enrolling in a teacher certification program and provides a suite of services, including free counseling, through an Employee Assistance Program.
  • We work to minimize grade level retention for Impact scholars. If a scholar is struggling academically, we meet with the family to discuss the best support for the scholar. In these conversations, we talk about a number of factors, including reading and math benchmarks, social-emotional development, age and school history, and academic growth. Occasionally, the family decides that the best support for the scholar is an extra year at their current grade level. There is absolutely no basis in the allegation that we recommend grade retention to increase funding. When a teacher has a concern about a student’s learning, we work to identify it early in the school year, and we work closely with the student’s family to create a plan to help them reach their academic goals. In all cases, the family, not Impact, makes the final decision on whether to retain their child. 

How we commit to continuous improvement 

We certainly have room to improve, and we’ve already begun the process of building priority focus areas identified by our Board of Directors. Among many other things, we have built a partnership with City University of Seattle to provide over 10 hours of additional ELL coursework to all teachers. We have hired a new Director of Student Supports with over 10 years of experience teaching and leading special education. We have added intervention blocks to the daily schedule to make time for additional support and enrichment for all scholars. We will continue this process to strengthen our organization in partnership with our scholars, faculty, and families. 

We want anyone with a curious mind about charter schools to see our schools and give us constructive feedback on what we can do better. With this goal in mind, we are resuming our school visitation days that we had offered before the pandemic. If you are interested in scheduling a tour to visit one of our schools, please email us at info@impactps.org.

If you have any questions or concerns, our doors are always open. Please feel free to reach out at any time. 

In partnership,

IPS Leadership Team

Jen Wickens, Amy Kiyota, Angela Sheffey-Bogan, Abby Cedano & Kristen McCaw