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Monday, December 23, 2013

DC Schools Getting Stronger

Late last week the Washington Post published an op-ed by Richard Whitmire that added to the growing chorus recognizing the heartening improvement in DC’s public school system. (Progress in the D.C. schools: Many authors and a surprising path.) 

The article cites the recent release of federal data showing strong growth in both the traditional public school system and the charter school sector.  It could easily have also cited many other indicators: steadily improving results on the DC CAS, improving graduation rates, the Stanford CREDO study on the quality of DC’s charters, and the reversal of a fifty-year slide in public school enrollment.

The article singles out three individuals – DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, KIPP DC Executive Director Susan Schaeffler, and me. 

While I appreciate the shout-out, let me use this space to extend the props.

First on my list would be the school leaders and teachers who are the ones actually producing the improved results.  Mayor Gray deserves a lot of credit for sticking with the reforms and for his increasingly even-handed treatment of charter schools.  His Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith has been instrumental in fostering collaboration between the different sectors that make up public education in the city.  And credit is due also to the D.C. Council, which consistently makes available resources for education that are the envy of the rest of the country.

Also, the op-ed refers to PCSB’s Performance Management Framework as belonging to me.  While I lead our staff to implement the PMF with fidelity, I can’t take any credit for the system itself.  It was developed under the leadership of my predecessor, Jo Baker, and the PCSB board.   As with so many things, PCSB’s current success owes a great debt of gratitude to them. 

Posted by: Scott Pearson at 6:10 p.m.
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Looking for a High-Performing Charter School? Spaces Still Available

Spaces are still open for families seeking a quality school option for their student in preschool to 12th grade. 

PCSB ranks charter schools by tier’s, according to the Performance Management Framework (PMF), a tool used to rate schools based on student growth, student performance, attendance, reenrollment rate, and other factors.   

Every month, the DC Public Charter School Board publishes all available charter school seats on our website. Families should contact the school to confirm availability and to enroll your student. 

The following Tier 1 schools have spaces available as of today:  



Spaces Available | Grade

Address & Phone No.        


Achievement Prep Academy PCS


9 | Kindergarten



1500 Mississippi Ave., SEWashington DC 20032


Community Academy PCS – Butler Global 


2 | PK3
10| PK4
10| Kindergarten
8 | 1st grade
8 |2nd grade
12 | 3rd grade
7 | 4th grade
1 | 5th grade

1400 First St.,
Washington DC 20001


Paul PCS


6 | 6th grade
7 | 7th grade
13 | 8th grade


5800 8th St., NW
Washington DC 20011




3 | 5th grade

421 P Street, NW
Washington DC 20001




3 | 5th grade

2600 Douglass Rd., SE
Washington, DC 20020

Posted by: PCSB at 6:30 p.m.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

PCSB Releases 2013 Annual Report

PCSB released its 2013 annual report, the Board's cumulative public record of its authorizing work in the past school year. 

In his annual message, Chair John H. "Skip" McKoy summed up PCSB's work as the city's independent body that approves charter schools.

"As the sole authorizer within a charter sector now comprised of 57 schools educating 43 percent of the District’s public school students, we have a critical duty through our oversight to ensure that all of our schools are meeting the expectations and goals that they agreed to in their charter. Trying hard is extremely important, but it’s not enough to honor the pledge of high quality outcomes for kids made to parents, students and this Board through a school’s charter agreement."

To read the full report click here.

Posted by: PCSB at 2.25 p.m.
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mayor Gray Swears in DC Public Charter School Board Members

Mayor Gray swears in new board members Barbara Nophlin and Herbert Tillery.  Current board member Sara Mead, first from left, was also sworn in for a second term. 

Posted by: PCSB at 5:45 p.m.
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Washington Post Panel featuring PCSB Executive Director

PCSB Executive Director Scott Pearson will be among the featured panelists at a Washington Post forum on The State of District Education the evening of Wednesday April 24. The panel is the first in a three-part discussion series on education in the Washington region. The event will also include DC Councilmember DavidCatania, Director of Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principles and Educators (SHAPPE) Cathy Reilly, The Washington Post DC Schools reporter Emma Brown, and Empower DC’s Daniel del Pielago. Natalie Hopkinson of The Washington Post will moderate the event, which PCSB will be livetweeting, starting at 6:30 p.m. 

Posted by: PCSB at
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

State Board to Vote on Attendance Rules; PCSB Has Concerns

UPDATE: The State Board of Education (SBOE) decided Wednesday (4/17) to allow further public comments on the proposed rulemaking, tabling the issue until at least the time of their May meeting. PCSB will continue to work with the SBOE and to ensure that the final regulations are in the best interest of all stakeholders.

PCSB recognizes that attendance and truancy are important issues. PCSB tracks student absences and shares the data with city agencies and the public. We have also recently begun making these data public and are pleased to report that truancy rates at charter schools are lower this year than last.

The State Board of Education is also considering this issue, and is scheduled to hold a final vote the night of April 17 on rules pertaining to mandatory school attendance. PCSB strongly supports efforts to improve attendance and reduce truancy; however, we continue to have concerns about how these regulations may impact PCSB’s oversight of public charter schools.

We have shared PCSB’s concerns, and also made suggestions to the State Board, most recently in an April 15 letter and look forward to working collaboratively with Office of the State Superintendent of Education and the State Board on effectively addressing this issue.

Posted by: PCSB at
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

15-year Charter Renewal Approved for Washington Mathematics Science & Technology PCS

DC Public Charter School Board voted 6-0 to approve a charter renewal for Washington Math Science Technology PCS on Monday night, during a public hearing at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School.

WMST PCS is a high school that began operating in 1998. PCSB recommended its approval based on the school’s overall academic, compliance, and fiscal performance. The board was unanimous to approve the renewal, congratulating the school for its success so far.

During its 5-year review in 2002-2003, PCSB determined the school’s academic data records were insufficient and therefore had only met one of eleven academic goals. But the school, in NE on Bladensburg Road, corrected itself by late 2004.

During its 10-year review in 2008, PCSB determined the school had met all performance standards. In this review, PCSB noted the school’s performance on the DC-CAS (74.68% of the school’s students scored proficient on the DC-CAS in mathematics; 64.56% of students tested proficient in reading).

You can read the full recommendation here.

Posted by: PCSB at 3:15 p.m.
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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Charter Board to Hear from Charter Applicants at Public Hearing April 8

Nine charter school applicants will make their case for why they should be allowed to open a public charter school in Washington, DC during a public hearing on Monday, April 8.  The hearing will be held at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, 1110 Harvard Street, NW, at 6:20 pm.  In addition to the public hearing, the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) will vote on the 15-year charter renewal of Washington Math Science and Technology PCS at a Public Meeting, which will commence at 6:00pm.  Here’s a link to all the materials for the Board meeting.

Each applicant group will make a short presentation and PCSB Board members will have the opportunity to ask questions. The schools, which represent start-up applications from eight local founding groups and one nationally-recognized charter management organization, would open in school year 2014-15 if approved.  The Board will vote on the applications at its May 20 Public Meeting.  To read the full applications visit this link.

The public is welcome to testify at the hearing or you may submit written comments on the proposals. To be put on the witness list, please call the Public Charter School Board’s offices at 202-328-2748 by 3:00pm on Friday April 5. Public comment will be limited to two minutes per person.  To submit written comments, please email Isoken Igodan,, or mail them to DC Public Charter School Board, 3333 14th Street, NW, Suite 210, Washington, DC 20010.  

Posted by: PCSB at 3:40 pm
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

PCSB to Tell DC Council About Past Performance, What's Ahead

Executive Director Scott Pearson (@sdpearson) and Board Chair John (Skip) McKoy (@johnhmckoy) will appear before the D.C. Council today to talk about PCSB's work in the past year.

PCSB had a busy, active 2012. We hired a new executive director and reorganized our school performance department so staffers were responsible for topics (data, early childhood) across all charters rather than being assigned to individual schools.

Those are a couple of things that happened for PCSB in 2012. To learn more read our testimony, tune in the DC Council at 10am to watch the hearing live, or follow us on Twitter.

Posted by: PCSB at 5:59 a.m.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

DCPS Enrollment: The Sky is NOT Falling

Today’s Washington Post story on the steady growth of DC charter school enrollment talks about charter school market share, and whether or when charters might become more than 50 percent of the DC public school students.

The piece by reporter Emma Brown also raises important questions about education policy in the city, like: Should there be a limit on charter school growth or a pause on this growth? Should there be more joint planning around what schools open where? I’d like to share my thoughts on these issues.  Today I will focus on the issue of charter growth.  Tomorrow I will address joint planning.

PCSB has heard from many the concern that charter school growth is weakening traditional schools.  Many have expressed the fear that DCPS could shrink to an attenuated system without enough scale to maintain a viable network of neighborhood schools. 

We think the opposite is the case, and that a sky-is-falling Chicken-Little outlook is actually a result of misreading the data. 

Here are the facts:  Since 2009, enrollment in DCPS has stabilized. DCPS is not shrinking.  It is slowly growing. 

Why is enrollment in DCPS increasing? 

Two reform-oriented chancellors, an education shift to mayoral control, and a huge investment in modernizing facilities have certainly played a role.  But all of this has occurred in an environment of increased competition from charter schools.  As was intended when they were created, the competition from charter schools is spurring needed improvements in traditional schools.  As a result DCPS is stronger, better led, and higher quality than it has been in decades.

But what about school closures?  Isn’t that prima facie evidence that DCPS continues to shrink?   No it is not.  The recent decision to close 15 DCPS schools is, in many respects, a delayed response to the enrollment declines of a decade ago.

Add strong charter growth to modest DCPS growth and we achieve something remarkable: overall public school enrollment has grown for four straight years.  More students are enrolled in public schools, DC and charter, than we have seen in nearly twenty years.  

And this growth does not need to stop.  In 1966, 146,644 students went to DC public schools.  Today total enrollment is 80,230.  If DCPS and charters keep growing high-quality schools, we can draw families back to the city and keep the many young people who will soon have children.

It’s time to stop focusing on market share and to start focusing on more important questions:  Don't we need more high-quality schools for our children?  Don't good public schools – district and charter -- contribute to the growth of our city?

As long as the answers to these questions are “yes”, we see no reason to stop approving new charters of operators who offer that promise to the city.

Posted by: Scott Pearson at
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