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caption: Senait Ogubamichael embraces her 8-year-old daughter Hermon Yonas, 2nd-grade student at Impact Puget Sound Elementary school, on Monday, November 29, 2021, in Burien.

Broken promises

Impact Public Schools, the largest charter school chain in Washington state, promised its students a world-class education. In a six-month KUOW investigation, dozens of parents and staff said the reality fell far short. By Ann Dornfeld.

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  • caption: Asmeret Habte hugs her 9-year-old daughter, Kisanet Yohannes, while standing for a portrait on Monday, November 29, 2021, outside of their home in Burien. Yohannes was a 4th-grade student at Impact Puget Sound Elementary before she unenrolled several months ago.

    'Where is the accountability?' for WA's largest charter school chain, ask parents and staff

    Although Washington state's charter schools are granted more flexibility and freedom than other public schools, charter school backers have pledged to keep the schools subject to strict oversight, including annual performance reviews. But that accountability is lacking for the state’s largest charter school chain, Impact Public Schools, staff and parents told KUOW, and the students most affected are also the schools’ most vulnerable.

  • caption: Aurora Pacheco was both a parent and teacher at Impact Public Schools' Tukwila school before she resigned in 2021.

    A Seattle-area charter school’s controversial approach to holding students back

    This is the second story in Broken Promises, a series about Impact Public Schools, the largest charter school chain in Washington state. Art Wheeler’s daughter and son were thriving in the fall of their second year at Impact Puget Sound Elementary, a charter school in Tukwila, Washington. Their grades were high, Wheeler said, and they got glowing reports from their teachers. “Your kids are standouts,” he recalled teachers saying. “They’re a pleasure to have in class.” But two months into the school year, in November, 2019, Wheeler said letters arrived from Impact saying his children were failing, and may have to repeat the year — the year that had just begun. Wheeler was confused. “They messed up,” he thought. “This is for somebody else’s kids.”