D.C.’s charter school sector stands as a shining example of what urban chartering can accomplish for kids in need.
It has outstanding results and serves a student population that mirrors the District’s. Just as importantly, it refutes the simplistic narrative that a New Orleans-style system is only possible through a natural disaster. The D.C. charter sector has grown methodically for almost two decades, now serving nearly half the city’s public school students.
It is demonstrating that the district can be replaced in a gradual, deliberate fashion.
It could offer America’s cities an invaluable new example of an all-charter approach. NOLA’s pioneering Recovery School District-led system is hugely promising, but D.C.’s Public Charter School Board (PCSB)-led system could potentially show us even better strategies.
Unfortunately—almost unbelievably—that won’t come to pass should PCSB’s current leadership have its way.
In a Washington Post op-ed and Education Next article, the board’s executive director and chair explain that they don’t want high-quality charters to become the system or even to predominate. They want “balance” with the district.
Their justification reflects an unwarranted deference to the status quo, a surprising dearth of vision in tackling emergent challenges, and a lack of appreciation for the half-century failure of America’s urban districts.
They say DCPS is “strong and successful.” But according to 2013 NAEP TUDA, it still has the lowest eighth-grade reading scores of every participating city.
They say DCPS is progressing. It is. But despite mayoral control, a reform-friendly union contract, a leading educator evaluation system, and amazing talent in schools and the central office, charter kids acquire about one hundred more days of learning annually. As Neerav Kingsland wrote, “We have witnessed what the best of...