Growing Pains: An Evaluation of Charter Schools in the District of Columbia, 1999-2000

Co-authors Jeffrey Henig, Thomas Holyoke, Natalie Lacireno-Paquet and Michele Moser of the Center for Washington Area Studies at George Washington University present a comprehensive status report on the D.C. charter scene in this crisp and readable evaluation. Washington has one of the nation's strongest charter school markets, so charter advocates and detractors alike closely monitor its development. This report offers both groups some ammunition, but mostly it makes clear that definitive conclusions about the accomplishments and promise of D.C. charter schools would be premature and presumptuous. Since the charter school law was enacted in the nation's capital in 1995, some 33 of them have opened their doors, now enrolling approximately 13% of all D.C. public school students. According to "Growing Pains," while the schools are undeniably popular (judging from their waiting lists) the rate at which new schools are opening is itself slowing, likely due in part to the mounting difficulty of acquiring viable, affordable facilities. Indeed, according to the report, "facilities obstacles might soon set an effective ceiling on the potential entry of new charter schools." Other tough challenges include staff turnover and perceived lack of academic progress vis-??-vis traditional public schools, while some of the positive charter school developments involve progress in serving special education students and increased access to resources. For the full overview of the D.C. charter scene visit www.gwu.edu/~cwas/publications.htm and click on Occasional Papers no. 20, or contact Christie Fanelli at the Center for Washington Area Studies at (202)-994-5780.

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