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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rocketship: An Experienced Charter Operator in DC?

On Sunday, the Washington Post published a profile of Rocketship Education, a highly successful California charter operator that serves grades K-5, and its co-founder and CEO John Danner.  Rocketship is known for their "hybrid" education model - using computers for a portion of the day to supplement classroom instruction. This past spring, I visited Rocketship with other education leaders from DC. The integration of computers into the school day was interesting, as was the use of data produced by these computers to help the classroom teachers be more effective.

But what most struck me most pointedly was how the changed economics made so many other things possible. Computers mean the school spends less on classroom teachers. But remember - this is a nonprofit - so all of the saved money is put back into other things that help students, like after school tutoring and summer school and parental engagement. Indeed, Rocketship has the single most impressive parental involvement I have seen in a charter school.

Rocketship is exactly the type of charter school operator the PCSB would like to attract to DC. That's why the Board created a new application process for outside operators. The new process is streamlined. Prospective DC charter school operators apply in the fall and, if approved, can open just a year later. The questions on the application focus as much on the operator’s track record as plans for the school. Of course this "experienced operator" application isn't just for groups outside of DC. We have many experienced charter operators right here in DC, the best of whom we want to see expand and grow. And we still have our regular application process in the spring for new operators, who remain critical to bringing new ideas and innovations to DC.

DC students and families should benefit from the very best charter schools in the country. Making it easy for groups like Rocketship to come to DC is good for the city and its students.

Posted by: Scott Pearson at
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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Experienced Charter Operators - Why Come to DC? (Part II)

Last week we talked about Rocketship, and why it would be good for experienced charter school operators like them to apply to open schools in DC.  We have a host of reasons why DC is a great place for outside operators to start new DC charter schools, here are a few of them:
  • DC has a strong charter law. The DC School Reform Act of 1995 (amended in 1996) established the DC Public Charter School Board as an independent charter school authorizer.  PCSB has been the sole authorizer of charter schools since 2006.  We respect the autonomy of charter schools and work with government officials to ensure that funding to charter schools is equitable with the funding to traditional public schools. 
  • DC is a supportive environment for charter schools to grow.  We continue to work closely with our Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Deputy Mayor for Education De'Shawn Wright and DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson to ensure that every child has access to a high-quality education.
  • DC charter school enrollment has seen steady growth.  Charter school enrollment has been on an upward trajectory since 1999 and now stands at 41% of the public school population.
  • Charter schools outperform traditional public schools.  Charter schools have higher results than the statewide average while serving a more challenging population, as we have detailed in our school performance reports.
  • DC funding levels are among the highest in the nation.  The typical DC elementary charter school received $16,000-$17,000 in public funding per pupil.  Click here to view the per student funding formula details for SY2012-13.
  • Being in Washington, DC puts local education into the national spotlight. Federal officials are interested in our work in DC and legislators from around the country also have the opportunity to visit schools.
The guidelines for experienced charter operators detail the rigorous requirements that prospective charter schools have to adhere to apply to open a charter school in DC, and approved schools would be able to open in August 2013 – a full year ahead of the current timeline for startup charter schools.

What do you think about this fast-track option for local and non-local experienced charter operators?

Posted by: Scott Pearson at
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