Since the first charters were awarded by the Board of Education in 1996 to six promising founding groups, there has been tremendous growth in the charter sector, with more families choosing charter schools every year. However, this growth has not been one-sided—nearly one-third of all schools awarded charters have closed their doors. Including the eight schools that were conditionally approved to open but never received final approval, 40 percent of schools approved to open either never did, or subsequently closed.
Here’s the list and here is another view.
Of the 95 DC charters that have been awarded since 1996, four plan to open this fall. Of the 91 remaining:
- Eight schools never made it past the first hurdle, a compliance review that requires the school show it is ready to serve students.
- Another 27 schools opened their doors for anywhere from one month to 14 years before closing.
All 35 schools that are no longer operating closed under the direct oversight, involvement and guidance of DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) or the former Board of Education (BOE).
PCSB has received national recognition for being a high-quality authorizer because of its focus on school performance: academic, fiscal, and legal/compliance. Since PCSB started authorizing charters in 1998, it has been directly involved in the closure of 14 schools originally chartered by PCSB, plus another six originally chartered by the BOE (which was dissolved in 2007 as part of the shift to mayoral control of education).
The 33 percent figure understates the closure rate, because several charters elected, under PCSB pressure, to close campuses or reduce grade levels serving students.
School closure is never easy. It is the most difficult for the school families affected, and school staff are also impacted. PCSB respects charter autonomy and recognizes that the same independent Boards of Trustees that originally received the charter are responsible for continually evaluating whether the school is doing what it promised in the charter it would.
At the same time, PCSB must fulfill its authorizing role and hold schools accountable. That means talking to school’s boards of trustees to ensure they are aware of PCSB’s quality standards and impressing upon them that the charter school must look for innovative, aggressive ways to improve performance. This could range from closing a campus, reducing the number of grades served, or finding a successful charter school to assume the charter and run the school.
PCSB’s Board approved several proposals Monday night that speak to the choices made by school Boards of Trustees on how best to live up to their school charter and improve the education provided to students. Howard Road Academy will shutter its upper elementary grades and remain open as an early childhood school. Septima Clark will be absorbed by Achievement Prep Academy, effectively meaning Septima will close at the end of this school year. Imagine SE was facing having its charter revoked, until it submitted a turnaround plan that the Board thought was aggressive, and PCSB Board members voted that it should remain open.
The decisions by the voting PCSB Board members Monday night demonstrate PCSB’s ultimate goal, to hold charter schools accountable while increasing quality education options in DC.