School Choice Means Finding the Best Fit

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Bucking the national trend of declining enrollment numbers, MITCH Charter School has stayed steady with 220 students as it enters the third year of education impacted by COVID. MITCH Executive Director Keri Butler attributes this largely to the school’s high degree of autonomy and small infrastructure which are a hallmark of charter schools. MITCH provides K-5 instruction from its Tualatin location, and is the only public charter elementary school sponsored by the Tigard Tualatin School District (TTSD).

“Whether it’s a charter, a private, or a zoned school, parents want a learning environment that will help their child thrive,” said Keri Butler, MITCH Executive Director. “When I’m talking to prospective parents, I answer questions all over the board about what makes our school unique. The most common decision factors for parents to choose MITCH are our small class size, our core curriculum that focuses on whole-child education, and our mission to welcome and foster a diverse community of learners.”

While MITCH has the capacity to enroll 300 students, Butler has set a target of enrolling 250 students for the upcoming school year. The goal is to balance growth and the ability to hire more teachers with maintaining small class size. Classes are capped at 20 students for grades K-1, and 25 for grades 2-5. Core instruction at MITCH is augmented by art, music, and agriculture each week. The Agriculture Class is one of the most distinctive elements of the curriculum at MITCH, expanding classroom lessons with hands-on exploration of scientific, social and cultural aspects of food systems. “As a public charter we adhere to ODE rules, but we have more autonomy to choose our tools and our approach,” explained Butler. “I’ve yet to encounter a classroom of kids who all learn the same way, so rather than aim for one-size-fits-most, we keep our class size small and shape instruction to meet kids where they are at in order to create a cohesive learning environment.”

A good example of how quickly MITCH can respond to student needs is the implementation of “A Little SEL,” a school-wide Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program developed by retired TTSD educator, Colleen Thompson. Butler explained, “When our kids came back this Fall, we quickly saw a gap in their ability to navigate social interactions and be in community. Rather than ask our teachers to create SEL lesson plans on top of everything else, we found a comprehensive program we could offer across all grades. Once we identified the need, we had the ability to move fast to meet it and get our teachers additional tools.”

MITCH maintains a close relationship with TTSD. As the sponsor for MITCH, TTSD retains a portion of the state school fund’s per-child budget to provide literacy assessments, special education services, consultation on ELL services, and transportation. “TTSD is a solid, well-performing district and we couldn’t ask for a better partner to provide vital resources for our students,” said Butler.