D.C. charter schools should not accept CARES Act funding

Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Perry Stein followed up on her original April 2nd article anticipating that D.C. charter schools may apply for federal funding aimed at aiding those who have not been receiving a paycheck due to business interruptions around the Covid-19 virus. At the time I made the case that these schools should look to the city and nonprofits to cover additional incremental costs they may be experiencing due to this crises.

In her most recent story Ms. Stein states that Statesman College Preparatory Academy for Boys PCS and Digital Pioneers PCS applied for CARE Act dollars and have received them. Both schools defended their decision to the reporter. She sought comment from Steve Hardnett, the founder and executive director of Statesman, who she wrote received a loan of $300,000:

“Hardnett had been relying on private funding until his school hits full capacity in two years. Most of his grants are set to lapse at the end of the academic year, and he had been searching for new private funding. But he says that won’t be possible now, and the federal funds will allow him to keep his staff through the summer and provide his students with extra academic services he says they will require once distance learning concludes.

‘Every dollar we find we should get into this building,’ Hardnett said.”

Digital Pioneers chief executive officer and principal Mashea Ashton justified her move to the Post this way:

“The school is concluding its second year, she said, and has high overhead costs, which private donations have enabled the school to afford. She said she spent money during the health emergency on technology and distance-learning training for her teachers.

‘If we don’t have these resources, then I would have to let go my P.E. and art teachers, and those who are not full time with us,’ she said. ‘And those positions are essential to delivering our mission.'” 

Ms. Perry revealed that DC Bilingual PCS and Paul PCS applied for the emergency financial support and did not receive it. She added that Friendship PCS and KIPP DC PCS have more than 500 employees and so are not eligible for the federal money. The reporter then listed a number of charters that she stated she asked as to whether they sought to participate in the program but did not respond to her inquiry.

I know that both the DC Public Charter School Board and the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools have encouraged charters to submit applications doe to the added expenses they have faced and uncertainly over future income. However, let me be as clear as possible. This aid was intended to help those small businesses that are unable to meet their payroll obligations because their revenue streams have been cut off. This is not the case for charter schools. District funding has not ended.

Ms. Perry states that several companies that have been won this cash have decided to return it such as Shake Shack and Ruth Chris Steakhouse. I think charter schools should follow this example. Any assistance that our schools need during this extremely difficult period should come from our local leaders.

Pandemic points to huge gap in online learning between D.C. charters and DCPS

The Washington Post’s Perry Stein delivered some startling news the other day regarding participation rates for DCPS with distance learning in the face of the Covid-19 virus:

“The attendance records look bleak. At an elementary school in Northeast Washington, just 50 percent of fourth- and fifth-graders are logging on to watch the PowerPoints that their teacher spends hours building each weekend. A special-education teacher in Northwest Washington said she’s struggling to schedule individualized virtual meetings with her students, many of whom have working parents who do not speak English and have never before used the school system’s Microsoft platform.

Sean Perin’s fifth-grade students at Garfield Elementary in Southeast Washington have parents who report to work each day at restaurants, stores and medical facilities, leaving their children with older siblings or relatives during the day. He said he has heard that at least two of his students have lost relatives to the virus. . .

The Washington Teachers’ Union surveyed its teachers last month to determine student participation. Fifty-seven percent of the 2,000 teachers who responded — around half of the teacher workforce — said less than half of their students are participating. Teachers at more affluent and more selective schools said attendance has been strong during remote learning.”

This is not what the charter sector has found. Teaching 47 percent of all public school students in the nation’s capital, equivalent to 43,393 scholars, these schools are reaching exceptionally high numbers of those enrolled. On May 1st the DC Public Charter School Board released data regarding the number of students with whom they have not been able to communicate. Here is its conclusion:

“There are 1,334 students in the charter sector that schools have not made contact with since school buildings closed due to the pandemic, based on an analysis conducted by the DC Public Charter School Board. Of those, 119 students are special education (8.9%); and 363 of the unreachable students are adult education students.”

The overall percentage of those who have not been able to be engaged with is 3.1 percent. For special education students the proportion is 1.9 percent.

It is an astonishing accomplishment. It is especially heartwarming to go to school websites and see the resources they have assembled for parents. As an example here is one from Ingenuity Prep PCS, a preKindergarten three to seventh grade school located in the center of Ward 8:

“Ingenuity Prep is committed to supporting student learning during our school’s closure caused by the COVID-19 virus. This page will be updated regularly throughout our closure with materials and resources to support the continued academic growth and development of our students. Check back for updates and more resources. We will also be keeping in touch with our school community through our regular school messaging platform – SignalKit. Should you not find the answer to your question on here, you can: 

Email us: distancelearning@ingenuityprep.org

Call us: (202) 562-0391″

To be fair, Ms. Stein quotes DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee as claiming that “Ninety-six percent of our students have engaged in some way. . . Instead of logging into a learning session, a student may be doing virtual meetings with a counselor or a school psychologist. When we talk about engagement, we’re not just talking about teaching and learning.”

In these exceptionally challenging times I am so proud of our teachers who have adapted to this new world as the professionals that they are. They are all heroes.

More than half of all D.C. charter schools ending school year later than DCPS

Not all of D.C.’s charter schools have released their end of the school year date, however, of the 36 school that have, 55.6 percent made the call to close later than May 29th, the day that Mayor Muriel Bowser announced would be the last one for the current school year for the traditional schools. One of the largest charter networks in the city, KIPP DC, teaching 6,800 students on 18 campuses, has decided that it will continue until June 12th, offering its predominately low-income children a full additional two weeks of learning compared to DCPS.

June 12th is in fact the most popular ending date for charters. None is concluding earlier than May 29th. The most interesting decision so far is that of Paul PCS, which is ceasing on May 29 for those pupils in good academic standing. It will teach until June 18th those children that need summer school or recovery work. Some charters are going until June 19th, the original last day of this highly unusual year.

In some other news, it was announced at the first April board meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board, before it was interrupted, that Scott Pearson will extend his departure date as executive director by a month, leaving at the end of June instead of May. He should probably stay in his post until August to provide a transition for the new hire. No decision on a replacement has been announced.

Also, as part of that meeting, it is now clear that there is a well-organized effort to damage the reputation of Ingenuity Prep PCS. In the public testimony part of the session nine individuals spoke against the school reading almost identical statements. Apparently, this effort is being led by some employees who had been terminated.

My wife Michele and I have been conducting remote tutoring for about a month now through the Latino Student Fund. It has been an adjustment but we feel our time is extremely valuable to the kids we are helping. The parents are exceedingly grateful for this effort. The tutoring has been extended and now will continue through the end of July. If you are interested in participating you can sign up here.

We are one step closer to all D.C. school reopening as charters

Yesterday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released the names of those who would serve on the ReOpen DC Advisory Group that is being chaired by former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. There are six co-chairpersons under them that will lead eleven Advisory Group Subcommittees. The one for Education and Childcare is getting a lot of notice.

The government co-chairman of this group is Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn. He will share his duties with community co-chairman Charlene Drew Jarvis and associate committee director Rich Harrington, the associate director Mayor’s Office of Policy at DC Government. The mission of the body is as follows:

“The Committee will work across sectors to recommend strategies to close the digital divide, improve distance learning strategies, re-imagine physical learning environments, evaluate phased entry for summer learning and next school year, as well as new tools or resources needed for reopening all aspects of education in Washington, DC.”

In other words it has a say over every aspect of public education in the nation’s capital.

Most exciting is who is a part of this group and who has been left off. There are eighteen members. Of those, seven are either leaders in our local charter movement or have been tremendous supporters. These include Katherine Bradley, co-founder of CityBridge; Patricia Brantley, CEO Friendship PCS; Ricarda Ganjam, member of the DCPCSB; Sonia Gutierrez, founder of the Carlos Rosario International PCS; LaTonya Henderson, executive director of Cedar Tree Academy PCS; and Victor Reinoso, Deputy Mayor of Education under Mayor Fenty. I could also count Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, as she has worked closely with many of our charter schools.

Not named with these individuals is Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union. Today, the Washington City Paper’s Amanda Michelle Gomez has an article detailing Ms. Davis’ displeasure of being dissed from the list, as apparently she directly asked Ms. Bowser to be a participant.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Ms. Gomez quotes Ms. Davis as remarking about the omission.

I called recently for all D.C. schools to become charters once they are permitted to reopen in the image of what happened in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. In the piece I wrote, “In order for these facilities to be as flexible as possible, union membership by all teachers would be suspended indefinitely.” Not having the head of the local teachers’ union as part of the ReOpen DC Advisory Group is a fantastic first step in this direction.

The City Paper reporter also notes that there are no teachers and principals as part of the new organization.

It is possible for some very good things to come out of tragedy. We have the opportunity to do something great here. I have pointed out the terrible societal cost of our stubborn 60-point academic achievement gap. Now for the health and safety of all of those living in the District, let’s take this moment to hammer it closed once and for all.

High COVID-19 death rate in D.C.’s Wards 5, 7 and 8 was predictable, just look at academic achievement gap

Fully eighty percent of those who have passed away from the Coronavirus in the District of Columbia are black. Almost all of these cases involve individuals who live in Wards 5, 7, and 8, the poorest areas of the city.

The news has been flooded with stories explaining that those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to passing away from the disease. Medical experts and social scientists have also known for years that when people live in poverty their environment is characterized by negative social determinants of health that lead to the chronic illnesses that are now contributing to the demise of these individuals. Adverse Childhood Events also plague this population, and having a high number of ACE’s has been shown to be a precursor to the development of serious maladies.

It is all one horrific circle, one that starts from the time kids come onto this Earth. Perhaps the first real indicator of the problem is the three-year-old boys and girls that come into our schools already academically behind. The gap in knowledge between white students and minority pupils in the nation’s capital is 60 points. It is perhaps the largest in the country, and is a span that despite twenty-five years of public education reform has not budged.

I have written time and time again about our need to take this achievement gap deadly seriously. Until we ensure that all students receive a quality education, we will never break the cycle that is now taking away the future from our neighbors. We must ensure that those brave souls who create schools serving the most at-risk students have the financial support and other resources that can reverse the situation for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

There are numerous charter schools that have taken on this challenge. But there are so many obstacles in their way that it is a miracle that their visionary leaders don’t run the other way. Some of these blockades are put in place by our city leadership in the form of the inequitable funding that charters receive compared to the traditional schools. Another challenge is the severe lack of permanent facilities that our Mayor will not talk about while ignoring a chorus of pleas to turn over vacant DCPS buildings. Our own charter board contributes to the issue through bureaucratic oversight of existing schools and those groups that want to create new classrooms.

Until we are serious about closing the academic achievement gap we will never eliminate the health gap that we are experiencing for all to see today. There are no words to describe the horror of the current situation.

However, I’m an eternal optimist so I believe something good can come out of this tragedy. Someone out there could decide that enough is enough. One person can still change the world.

Last Friday Mayor Bowser announced D.C. schools would close May 29; charters say not so fast

On Friday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser revealed that DCPS would continue instructing students utilizing distance learning until May 29th and would then close for the school year three weeks ahead of schedule. In her remarks she stated that charter schools would shutter on or around the same date.

Recall that on Friday, March 13th, Ms. Bowser closed DCPS beginning the following Monday, stating that it would reopen on April 1st. The Mayor said that she expected charters to follow suit, which they did. All schools then quickly adopted distance learning plans for their students. On March 20th she delayed the opening until April 27th. April 6th she held a teleconference with education leaders in which she stated that the April 27th date would not be met and that schools are closed indefinitely. Finally, at the end of last week, she proclaimed that the 2019-to-2020 term would end on May 29th instead of June 19.

Ms. Bowser did raise the possibility that schools could reopen early in the fall in order to make up for lost instructional time.

My immediate reaction was that the Mayor does not have the power to dictate to charters their last day of school. Apparently, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board Scott Pearson agreed. In a tweet immediately following Ms. Bowser’s remarks he wrote, “This is inaccurate. Public charter schools each have their own closure schedules. Many are choosing to serve students well into June.” The message was sent directly to @MayorBowser.

So ended coordination between the traditional schools and charters during the most significant public health crisis we have seen in our lifetimes.

Of course, the Mayor has authority over charter schools when it comes to the health and safety of its students. That is why when she required schools to stop having students learn in classrooms on March 16, charters fell in line. However, now that pupils are being taught remotely, there is no safety consideration governing a closing date. Two charters that serve some of our city’s most at-risk students, Kingsman Academy PCS and KIPP DC PCS, reacted to the Mayor’s news by announcing that they would stay upon until June 12th. Community College Preparatory Academy PCS will end its year on June 30th as planned. Other schools have not yet committed to their final day of instruction. You can see the list here.

To the schools that have decided to stay open beyond May 29th and for the immediate rebuttal by Mr. Pearson, I can say that I have never been so proud of our local movement. This clear demonstration of student-centered autonomy is why charters were established in the first place.

I sincerely hope that other schools follow the needs of parents and scholars by independently determining when school is over for the year, whether that is May 29th, June 19th, or another date of their choosing.

We are not living in an Edward Hopper world

Picking up today’s Arts and Style section of the Sunday Washington Post, I read an article by Sebastian Smee entitled “These Scenes Remind Us the Good Times Will Return,” in which he states that “over the past few weeks, I’ve heard people repeatedly declare that they feel like figures in an Edward Hopper painting.” The notion that we are now playing a part in the scenes of this artist was also the subject of a March piece by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian with the headline “‘We are all Edward Hopper paintings now’: is he the artist of the coronavirus age?” Those who know of my love of Edward Hopper’s portrayals have also repeated the same theme to me since we have been reduced to staying at home and social distancing.

The only problem is that I’m not in agreement with this line of reasoning.

I first became aware of Edward Hopper over twenty-five years ago when my family first began our annual summer vacations to Cape Cod. In order to be able to reach our rental home on the Cape early in the day on a Saturday we would drive from Reston, Virginia to Boston on the previous Thursday and spend a couple of days exploring the city. One of our first stops would always include exploring the Museum of Fine Arts.

On one such occasion, when my wife and two young girls were following the map to the Impressionist wing, we passed Edward Hopper’s “Drug Store.”

I studied the piece of art not knowing anything about the man whose signature appeared on the bottom corner. This began for me an interest in this painter that has led me to see other examples of his craft across the United States and Europe.

My feelings about the subjects of Edward Hopper paintings do not fit in the alienation camp of thought. I have never believed that he was trying to depict isolation or loneliness. In fact, I think he was after something much more important.

To me, Mr. Hopper was trying to initiate a state of mind described by the writer Robert Pirsig in his most well-known book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I was assigned to read this work by an English professor when I was a college freshman at the George Washington University.

In Zen, Mr. Persig goes on a physical and theoretical journey trying to understand the definition of the term quality. He actually develops a mental illness during this period in which he is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital and receives electroshock therapy. But he does solve his riddle.

Mr. Persig maintained that true quality was the summation of two parts. He characterized these components as romantic quality and the classic quality. An example will assist in understanding his point. A house can have aesthetics that greatly appeal to the eye, which exemplifies romantic quality, but can be made with inferior materials, which represent the classic quality. Mr. Persig would argue that the house did not have true quality because the classic quality ingredient was missing. Mr. Persig’s comprehension of quality can be applied to almost anything around us.

Essential to the author’s understanding of quality was an ability to perceive the romantic and classic elements that need to be included in the design of a quality product. He believed that the only way to grasp the recipe for quality was to first develop a peace of mind. Here’s the key paragraph from Zen on this subject:

“The reason for this is that peace of mind is a prerequisite for a perception of that Quality which is beyond romantic Quality and classic Quality and which unites the two, and which must accompany the work as it proceeds. The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that the goodness can shine through” (Pirsig 288). 

This is where Edward Hopper comes in. But to understand how, we need to take a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. This museum possesses perhaps the artist’s most famous painting: “Nighthawks.”

I have worked in the field of radiology administration for over 30 years. Each fall there is a major radiology convention in Chicago right after Thanksgiving, and when I attend I always make it a point to go to the Art Institute. In the room adjacent to where Nighthawks is displayed there is a bench. I love to sit on this bench and watch the reaction to Nighthawks as people pass by. Almost uniformly visitors take a quick look and begin to walk away. They then almost immediately turn around as their attention is pulled back to the canvas. Individuals will focus on the picture trying to understand the scene. Their mental process will take them to thinking about the characters before them. “Why are these people there when it appears to be in the middle of the night?”, they may ask themselves. Or they may wonder about the relationship between the man and woman who are sitting together.

Viewers then naturally begin to reflect upon their own lives. In other words, they are beginning the act of contemplation that is the first step to achieving a peace of mind.

It is this peace of mind that can lead to an idea to build a new company or service. Skyscrapers and life saving inventions originate when there are opportunities to consider what is possible in the future. Nonprofits that benefit the less fortunate spring from the kindness and creativity of mankind.

There are certainly artists that have painted with more skill than Edward Hopper. Others create much more beautiful pieces of art. But the manner in which Mr. Hopper utilized color, light, and shadows, together with illustrations that leave us emotionally slightly uneasy, combine to drive us to try to understand the nature of the world and our place in it.

The powerful significance of Mr. Hopper’s work is that it helps us develop a peace of mind while exploring the philosophical area of metaphysics. Ideas to consider while we cannot leave the house.

Mark Lerner is a member of the board of trustees of the Edward Hopper Museum and Study Center in Nyack, N.Y.

D.C. charter school student wait list drops; appears to be first time in sector history

The Performance Management Tier 1 charter schools with the greatest backlog of over 1,000 students include Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS, Washington Latin Middle PCS, Elsie Whitlow Stokes PCS Brookland Campus, DC Bilingual PCS, District of Columbia International PCS, Munde Verde PCS J.F. Cook Campus, Two Rivers PCS 4th Street Campus, Washington Yu Ying PCS, and Basis PCS.

This week the DC Public Charter School Board released its wait list data for the next school year based upon the My DC Lottery results and for the first time in the history of the local movement the number has decreased from the previous term. The number on the list is 10,771 individual names attempting to get into one or more schools. This compares to 11,317 students waitlisted last year for a decrease of 5.1 percent.

The number is still exceedingly high but it it exceptionally interesting that we have seen a drop. The reason for the decline is easy to understand.

Parents have given up trying to get their children into many of these schools.

We don’t know at this point what will happen with school next term. In an article in today’s Washington Post by Perry Stein and Donna St. George the reporters say the KIPP DC PCS is looking at various possibilities:

“Adam Rupe, spokesman for KIPP DC, the city’s largest charter network, with seven campuses, said the network is exploring multiple options, including having prolonged summer school or a longer academic year in 2020-2021.

If officials allow schools to bring limited numbers of students into buildings, Rupe said, Kipp has discussed giving students with special education needs or students in transition grades, including sixth and ninth grade, extra instruction time. The network has explored what it would look like if some students reported to school on certain days, to ensure schools do not create a health hazard by having too many people in buildings.”

I feel terrible for what parents are going through right now. Adding to their stress is where their children will go to school. And when.

D.C. charter board puts school accountability on hiatus

The DC Public Charter School Board had already announced that there would be no School Quality Reports issued for the 2019-to-2020 school year due to the impact of COVID-19. Next Monday evening the board will hold a public hearing regarding its amended policy dealing with the crisis which will then be voted on in May.

In summary, the document states that the Performance Management Framework will not be calculated for schools this term. The board really had no choice regarding this decision. The D.C. Deputy Mayor of Education has stated that he will seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to permit the city to skip conducting the PARCC standardized assessment this year. Much of the School Quality Report findings are based upon student PARCC scores. But this raises an interesting quandary. Many schools that have faced high stakes reviews were required to meet certain PMF scores going forward or face possible charter revocation. Here’s what the revised policy says on this subject:

“DC PCSB will not monitor SY 2019-20 conditions. Instead, SY 2019-20
conditions will be applied to SY 2020-21. In addition, to address unforeseen
long-term consequences of the current situation, the following discretionary clause will be included for SY 2020-21 and SY 2021-22: ‘The DC PCSB Board may, at its discretion, determine that this condition should be waived in SY 2020-21 and SY 2021-22.’ If the condition(s) originally ended in SY 2019-20 or SY 2020-21, the condition(s) will not be extended for an additional year beyond SY 2020-21.”

I recognize that these are the most unusual circumstances that many of us have seen in our lifetimes, but the proposed rules raise some interesting questions. For example, if it was so important that schools attain a particular academic level but now there is no measurement, what are the implications for the quality of the education students at these campuses are now obtaining? Moreover, if it is possible that conditions will waived until the 2021-to-2022 term, then are kids being harmed by lowering our standards?

The answer is that in all likelihood there will be little or no impact on our children. The great majority of charters, even those facing stringent requirements to meet PMF targets, are doing an excellent job educating their pupils.

Every situation is an opportunity to learn new things and gain a fresh perspective. I guarantee from what I have read on social media that organizations are discovering aspects of distance learning that they had never thought about. The same is true about the PCSB’s high stakes review procedure.

Perhaps the next time that a charter comes up for its five, ten, fifteen, or twenty-year review and it is not meeting its academic goals, the response from the board can be more lenient. For instance, instead of demanding that a school meet a target in twelve months, the time period could be two years. Or perhaps the quantity of improvement expected could be more gradual.

I do not think anyone has argued for quality in public education more than me. But simultaneously, we know that closing schools is causing significant disruptions for families. The moral question has to be asked, especially regarding our facilities that enroll extremely high proportions of at-risk students, as to whether the punishment is worse than allowing the status quo to continue.

There are also implications for the rules around charter school replication. Maybe schools should be allowed to grow even if they have not reached Tier 1 status.

I am confident that these questions have always been on the minds of charter board members. But now there is another angle to consider. Hopefully, something good will come out of this tragedy.

Meanwhile, yesterday Mayor Boswer announced that D.C. schools will be closed at least through May 15th.

When D.C. public schools reopen they should all be charters

City leaders and educators are already beginning to imagine what public education will look like when schools are once again allowed to teach students in the classroom. Today, the Washington Post has a long article by Laura Meckler, Valerie Strauss, and Joe Heim talking about the challenges school systems are anticipated to have bringing its pupils up to their academic grade level. Once solution that was provided by Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and referenced by the Post reporters, is to keep low performing Title 1 children, those from low-income households, at their current grade until individualized lesson plans can be developed for each child. Mr. Petrilli wrote:

“So when schools reopen in the fall, these students should remain in their current grade and, ideally, return to the familiarity of their current teacher. (Other types of schools — including affluent schools, middle schools and high schools — may also want to consider a similar approach.) The first order of business will be to attend to the social, emotional and mental health needs of their children and to reestablish supportive and comforting routines.

Then teachers should develop individualized plans to fill in the gaps in kids’ knowledge and skills and accelerate their progress to grade level. The use of high-quality diagnostic tests will be critical in assessing how much ground has been lost in reading and math. Students who are assessed as ready for the next grade level can move onward.

The next step would be for teachers to develop plans for each pupil to make progress, aimed at getting them to grade level by June. The plans should involve as much small-group instruction as possible, with kids clustered according to their current reading or math levels, plus some online learning opportunities in case schools are closed again. Those who are furthest behind could get regular one-on-one tutoring from specialists. This would be different from just ‘repeating the grade,’ which, research shows, rarely helps students catch up.”

I agree with the Fordham Institute president that restarting schools will bring a need to tailor learning, as the excellent teachers I have met like to say, “to meet the students where they are.” But how can we get this done for the 47 percent of the 93,708 students that are identified as at-risk in the nation’s capital?

The answer is surprising simple. We need to open all schools, including those of DCPS, as charters. Charter schools in the District of Columbia have spent more than 25 years learning how to adapt their curriculum to the needs of the specific students enrolled in their buildings. We need to free the leaders of each campus to adapt as quickly as possible to the plethora of needs of those they are about to serve once again.

Now don’t get me wrong. This conversion to one hundred percent charters is a tremendous undertaking. But it is monumentally exciting at the same time. I imagine the DC Public Charter School Board, with the assistance of OSSE, the Deputy Mayor for Education, DCPS, and the State Board of Education, all rolling up their collective sleeves to create the new paradigm. In order for these facilities to be as flexible as possible, union membership by all teachers would be suspended indefinitely.

Think of the freedom that this change would bring to the principals of our traditional schools. They would form a natural partnership with the 62 sites that are already part of the charter sector. Consider the support that groups like Education Forward DC, CityBridge Education, the Center for Education Reform, FOCUS, the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools, Education Board Partners, the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, and the Flamboyan Foundation could provide to this effort. This is a ton of expertise.

After the Katrina hurricane disaster in New Orleans, that city’s schools reopened as charters. The result, as documented by a Tulane University research group, has been increased high school graduation rates, higher college participation, and standardized test scores that have gone up by “eight to fifteen percentage points.” These improvements include students from low-income families. In the aftermath of another catastrophic tragedy, a similar bold move is needed regarding education reform.

This coming Friday Mayor Bowser is expected to make another announcement regarding the city’s public schools. I anticipate that she will keep them closed for the remainder of the academic year. Wouldn’t it be great if she also announced that in the fall all schools would reopen as charters?