Last week, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education released the audited student enrollment for the 2017 to 2018 school year and the news for DCPS complimented its recent accumulation of negative press. The total number of pupils going to neighborhood schools dropped by about 0.9 percent from 48,555 to 48,144. The last time that DCPS actually experienced a decrease in enrollment from the previous fall was the 2011 to 2012 term.
Charter schools, alternatively, continued to demonstrate a strong improvement in demand. The number of students in this sector rose by 4.3 percent compared to a year ago, going from 41, 506 to 43,393. The figure means that another percentage point has been added to the symbolically important market share statistic, with charters now teaching 47 percent of all students attending public schools in the nation’s capital.
Overall in the city the total number of those attending all public schools grew by 1.6 percent compared to the 2016 to 2017 school year.
But there was also groundbreaking news coming out of the DCPS Central Office. In the wake of the controversy swirling about high school seniors being given diplomas who never should have graduated, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation joining the investigation, the Chancellor has taken the bold move to create, and I’m not making this up, an Office of Integrity to handle concerns or questions by teachers about the system. The new Chief Integrity Officer (CIO) named to head the OOI is Dr. Arthur Fields. Mr. Fields was DCPS’s Senior Deputy Chief of School Culture in which he was “responsible for ensuring that schools have the necessary supports to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for students.” But I have to ask. What supportive learning environment did Mr. Fields offer to the cheated kids of Ballou, Anacostia, and other high schools when they were deliberately socially promoted?
Sorry, one more question. Isn’t integrity supposed to everyone’s job in DCPS, including the Chancellor’s?
Over at the charters the picture is much different. We recently witnessed the DC Public Charter School Board voting to shutter Excel Academy PCS, as well as agreeing to close Cesar Chavez PCS’s Parkside middle school campus, and Seed PCS’s middle school. In addition, the long-term future of Achievement Prep PCS is unpredictable.
Herein lies the most significant difference to our children, families, and community between charters and traditional schools. Charters are held strictly accountable for their performance. When they don’t meet established goals they are closed.
However, the regular schools, no matter the quality, just get to keep on going.