If you are truly objective and you place the interests of the students of the District above all the politics surrounding public education, it would be hard to argue that charter schools haven't been one of the most effective ways to elevate academic achievement.
What a concept - use public money to fund schools that are free from a centralized bureaucracy, the restrictions of collective bargained agreements, and other policies and rules that stifle innovation and out of the box thinking! And why not? After all, we have many years of flagging test results and low graduation rates that show us that we have yet to develop the most effective educational strategies.
In the District, charter schools serve 41 percent of Washington's public school students. Only New Orleans tops D.C. That compares to four percent nationally.
The Washington Post cited that D.C. charter schools have a graduation rate of 80 percent versus a rate of 60 percent for non-charter high schools. The numbers are most likely better when you eliminate some under-performing charter schools. The Washington Post also cites that charter schools have achieved higher test scores on the D.C. comprehensive assessment system than non-charter schools, even though the District's 123 non-charter schools have shown more overall improvement.
So why do charter schools in the District feel like the ugly sister of the public school system? Too many schools are housed in substandard facilities, affecting student's academic growth. Charter schools receive almost 50 percent less funding from the city to lease or purchase facilities. What's going on here? Could the D.C. traditional schools system deem the charter school movement as a threat to their continued overall public funding? Could they be fearful of being upstaged by better charter school graduation rates and test scores?
Decisions regarding funding, support and growth of charter schools in the District need to be based on one consideration only: What is the most effective way to increase reading and math proficiency and graduation rates among the District's 75,000+ student population. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has said when discussing the subject of chartering authority, "Autonomy leads to innovation and success." That success will only be stunted if the charter school movement in D.C. isn't more fairly funded.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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