Low performing DCPS schools should be turned into charters under Charter Board

The Washington Post’s Michael Allison Chandler wrote recently about a study released by the Progressive Policy Institute that concluded that low performing DCPS schools should be turned into charters.  The reason for this recommendation is that the report found that reading and math proficiency rates are higher for charter schools in Ward 8, and other areas where there are larger concentrations of people living in poverty, compared to the academic performance of traditional schools.  The idea is that converting these facilities to charters would grant them the flexibility, such as creating a longer school day, that would boost standardized test scores.

The Post reporter then goes on to relate past efforts by DCPS Chancellor Henderson to obtain the power to create charter schools.  But here Ms. Chandler misses the point.  The solution to fixing what is wrong with these schools is not to devise some new governance structure to run them.  Why in the world would we do that when we have sitting in our backyard the best performing charter sector in America?

As I’ve advised for years, educational institutions demonstrating math and reading proficiency rates in the 20’s and 30’s should be immediately turned over to the DC Public Charter School Board.  The PCSB would then identify leading charter operators to run these facilities.

However, this move creates a new problem in that in all likelihood there would not be a sufficient number of top performing charters to take all of these students.  But there are a couple of ways to get around this difficulty.

First, charter management organizations would be given the facility where these kids currently are taught.  Of course, securing permanent facilities is the biggest challenge charters face, and the guarantee of a building would probably be enough of an incentive to have experienced charter operators from around the country come to the nation’s capital.

In addition, we need some mechanism for encouraging Tier 1 charters in town to replicate.  One idea to bring about this step that I’ve mentioned before is to give these schools that open a new campus a one year pass on the Performance Management Framework grading, something new charters already receive.  A more aggressive means for driving expansion could be that for schools to achieve and maintain their Tier 1 status they need to be growing their student enrollment.

We are approaching 20 years of school reform in this city and there are still far too many kids not being educated.  Its time to try a different approach.

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