We all need to look in the mirror when it comes to D.C. charter school replication

The Twitter response to yesterday’s article “Pearson vs. Great Public Schools” came quickly and furiously from Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board, as I knew it would:

has a dead simple process for replicating Tier One schools. Mark, you have served on the boards of TWO Tier One schools neither of which has requested to replicate. Next time you wonder why we don’t have more Tier One seats, perhaps you should look in the mirror.”

I spent six years on the board of governors of Washington Latin PCS, the only Performance Management Framework Tier 1 school with which I was personally involved, although I also served on the board of the Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy and was a founding board member of the William E. Doar, Jr. PCS for the Performing Arts which is now named City Arts and Prep PCS.  I was the board chair of Doar for four years and board chair at Latin for a couple of years when it acquired and renovated the former DCPS Rudolph Elementary School as its permanent location.  As an individual who has blogged about charters in the nation’s capital for almost 10 years, I made a commitment to those schools for whom I volunteered that I would not discuss board matters in this space.  Therefore, I cannot respond directly to Mr. Pearson’s remarks.

However, I can say this:  when it comes to increasing the number of seats of high performing charters we owe it to our families and community to do whatever we can to make this a reality.  And I’m not talking about this occurring decades from now.  I mean now, today, or if not today, tomorrow.  It is terribly unjust that in the year 2018 zip codes are still determining the quality of the education children are receiving in the nation’s capital, and that parents who desire to get their offspring into those charter schools that are best will have a greater probability of having them, when they are older, admitted to Harvard University than to gain a spot here.

If we believe with every cell in our hearts and our heads, as Joseph E. Robert, Jr. stated on numerous occasions, that access to a good education for our kids is a civil right, then we need to view the shortage of quality seats as a crisis.  When a public policy crisis occurs usually there are heroes that emerge to forge answers.

My conversation with Mr. Pearson continued overnight.  “The biggest incentive is a building,” he wrote. “I don’t control that and has not released any city buildings so far, though she has boosted the facilities allowance. What other incentives do you have in mind that are a) in PCSB’s control and b) don’t involve lowering standards?”

I can think of many, although I’m afraid Mr. Pearson will claim that these solutions lower the academic bar.  But here I go.

First, I would consider granting a new campus a two-year exemption from PMF tiering, doubling the one-year break it currently receives.  Second, I would give a year off to the entire CMO from the scoring for 12 months when it decides to replicate.  Third, the PCSB should review all of the requirements for reporting by its schools and drastically simplify them as much as possible.  Fourth, I would rewrite the rules for opening new schools to make it simpler and to reduce barriers to entry.  Fifth, I would take a look at the guidelines under which a school can replicate to increase the pool of charters that could qualify to take this step.  Sixth, I would demand a resolution to the charter school funding inequity issue compared to the revenue DCPS receives on an annual basis.

Lastly, Mr. Pearson, I would use my position to talk to every politician, non-profit, philanthropist, developer, and business leader to finally solve the charter school facility crisis.  There are a ton of smart people in this town and we can and will figure this out.

We only live once.  Let’s spend those hours giving our children the chance in life that they deserve.

 

 

 

 

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