Did Cross Collaboration Task Force leave off important members?

Recently the Deputy Mayor for Education released a schedule of focus group meetings beginning in February in preparation for the work of the D.C. public schools Cross Collaboration Task Force.  Taking another look at the membership of this body I’m wondering if some individuals who could have played a major role in advancing coordination of efforts between DCPS and charters were purposely left off the list.

For example, Dr. Ramona Edelin, the long-term executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, did not make the cut.  Now this is highly unusual in that I am not aware of any serious discussion regarding charter schools in the nation’s capital over more than a decade in which she was not included.  Also not sitting around the table will be Martha Cutts, the head of school of Washington Latin PCS, one of the leading players in our local movement.  So these omissions got me thinking.

Were these people not given a ticket to participate because they are two of the three parties that brought the FOCUS engineered lawsuit regarding funding inequity for charter schools against the city?  Perhaps this is the case since there is also no representative of Eagle Academy PCS on the task force and this school also joined the legal initiative.

Whether this action was intentional or not, the oversight of these names brings up another larger point.  How in the world can there be a group working on the development of closer ties between the traditional and charter sectors when one is suing the city over revenue that the other one gets that it does not?  Please keep in mind that this is no small matter because it has been estimated that DCPS is illegally provided about $100 million a year in cash over what charters receive.  Add to this the issue of surplus DCPS facilities that charter schools have been blocked from using for their students and we find that we don’t really have the best environment for everyone gathered in the meeting room actually getting along.

It seems to me that bringing together this Cross Collaboration Task Force is way too premature.  Before the two sides can really team up together in a meaningful way that will not be a waste of everyone’s valuable time the concerns contained in the lawsuit must be settled. Only then will stakeholders have a solid foundation on which to build pillars of common goals and metrics.


Colbert King gets problem with D.C. schools correct, offers wrong solution

Last Saturday, the Washington Post’s Colbert King opined about the growing academic achievement gap found in D.C. schools which was highlighted by this year’s PARCC standardized test results.  About the elementary and middle school scores he writes:

“Overall English and math proficiency rates reached 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, only because white students, who make up 12 percent of the school system, scored proficiency rates of 79 percent in English and 70 percent in math.

The stark truth: Black students, who constitute 67 percent of the school population, had a 17 percent proficiency rate in both English and math, trailing Hispanics, who comprise 17 percent of the school population and recorded proficiency rates of 21 percent in English and 22 percent in math.”

The issue does not get any better regarding the high school findings.  Mr. King points out that while 52 percent of white children were proficient on the geometry test, that number is at 8 percent for Hispanics and 4 percent for Black kids.  In English, 82 percent of white students were found to be proficient while only 25 percent of Hispanics and 20 percent of Blacks were college ready.

I  share Mr. King’s unhappiness that after almost 20 years of school reform here in the District we have this persistent and stubborn achievement gap.  But his solution does nothing to help.

“This new year, responsibility for a turnaround rests not only on principals and teachers but also on mothers and fathers behaving like supportive, participating parents, and a community — business, religious and social leaders, including elected officials — bent on providing all that is necessary, both school resources and family support, to close one of the widest racial academic achievement gaps in the country.”

We have waited long enough for parents, community leaders, and politicians to fix this problem.  There are proven charter schools that already know how to bridge the achievement gap like KIPP DC PCS, DC Prep PCS, Achievement Prep PCS, Friendship PCS, and Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS. As a society we should do everything we can do to help these charters and others that have been successful at this work expand and takeover traditional schools that aren’t.

I have a New Year’s resolution to replace the one offered by Mr. King.  By the end of this year, 2016, there will be an action plan for each facility that has a lower than 25 percent student proficiency rate in English and math which includes the takeover by a high performing charter.