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Friday, May 02, 2014

Board Testimony at DC Council Budget Oversight Hearing: "We're Committed to Creating a Sector of Outstanding Public Charter Schools"

PCSB's annual budget oversight hearing held by the Council's Committee on Education allows the Board to discuss its FY15 budget.   

Here are highlights from the Board's testimony:  

"At the charter board, we are committed to creating a sector of outstanding public charter schools. We want families in our city to continue enjoying an ever-increasing diversity of quality choices for their children’s education."

"As you know, 44% of public school students in Washington, DC now attend charter schools. Despite the important role that charter schools play, funding focharter students still lags behind funding for DCPS students. We urge the Council and city leaders to address the funding and facilities inequities between charter schools and DCPS."

"We are proud to be one of the leading charter authorizers in the nation. And we are proud that many other authorizers and school districts across the country are adopting some of the creative and rigorous oversight strategies that we have pioneered." 

"The proposed PCSB FY15 budget includes a provision in the Budget Support Act. This would increase from one-half percent to one percent – the oversight fee that individual charter schools pay to PCSB. It would also eliminate the Council appropriation to PCSB that has historically exceeded $1 million per year."  

"While most charter authorizers across the country have similar oversight fees, ours is one of the lowest. In fact, PCSB's fee is well below that of authorizers in other states, including Maryland, New York, Michigan, Illinois, CaliforniaOhio, Louisiana and Florida. According to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the average oversight fee nationally is 2.6%. That is five times PCSB’s current fee and more than double the proposed fee.  We believe this increase is important. And we thank you, Mr. Chairman, for including this increase in your proposed package of education legislation."  

"As you know, our current oversight fee makes up 55% of our total budget. Increasing it to one-percent will eliminate the need for other sources of funding, such as the Council appropriation. That means the Council can use the PCSB appropriation for other uses.  Moreover, Federal SOAR Act funding which has gone to PCSB can be used for the charter schools themselves."  

"Its true that public charter schools will pay more to PCSB. However, the impact will be minimal. Thats because the proposed FY15 budget would increase per-pupil funding for each school by at least two and one-half percent. This is an additional one-half percent beyond the 2% increase schools have typically received."  

"PCSB’s oversight has changed a great deal in the last two and one-half years."  

"We have continued to strengthen our accountability tools by using our Performance Management Framework on all grades and levels from pre-kindergarten to adult educationWhen assessing whether a charter school should be renewed, we use systematic, data-driven reviews of the school. And we also use qualitative site reviews that examine how schools are meeting their goals and achieving their mission." 

"We have developed new robust and reliable data systems. These help both the PCSB Board and this Council to conduct better oversight.  We also use these data as powerful tools to improve our schools. For example, we now publish school-by-school expulsion and suspension rates. This sparked an important conversation and caused many schools to change their policies and practices. As a result, expulsions have dropped by more than half, and suspensions dropped by a quarter since 2012."  

"We are proud of these many improvements. But there is more to do – to strengthen the quality of our oversight, to serve DC students and families and to provide even greater transparency to the city about public charter schools."  

"While we work hard to be efficient, there is inevitably a public cost. Our total budget amounts to a fraction of one percent of total education spending in the city. Given our role as the steward of nearly $700 million of taxpayer money, and the quality of education that has produced for nearly 40,000 DC students, we believe that is money well spent." 

Read the full testimony here.  

Posted by: PCSB at 10:00 a.m.
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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Board Testimony at DC Council Oversight Hearing: "Our Focus is on Increasing the Quality of the Charter Sector"


PCSB's annual performance oversight hearing held by the Council's Committee on Education allows Council members, parents and the public to discuss our authorizing and oversight responsibilities.     

Here are highlights from the Board's testimony:  

"Charter schools are critical to the revitalization of public education in the District, and are contributing to a more optimistic future for our young people."

"The Board’s mission is to provide quality public school options for DC students and families.   We currently oversee 60 charter school organizations operating 109 campuses in every Ward, except Ward 3.  Our schools serve more than 36,000 students from pre-kindergarten to adults. Students from every Ward attend charter schools. About 72% of our students are low-income and 12% receive special education services." 

The heart of PCSB’s mission – and indeed the principal reason for charter schools – is improved school quality.  And I am able to report that, again, charter school quality, as measured by DC CAS proficiency rates, has increased, as it has each year for the past seven years.  Charter schools, as you know, consistently outperform the state average in proficiency rates.   Performance by subgroup is even more impressive. And that performance contributes to a lower achievement gap.  Indeed the Black-White student achievement gap in charter schools is ten points lower than the district average." 

"The percentage of students with disabilities in charter schools, 12%, is within one percentage point of the city average.  Here’s a figure most people would find surprising: charter schools serve the same percentage of level 3 and 4 special education students as DCPS."

"PCSB’s oversight has played an important part as well.  For three years now, we have released the results of our Performance Management Framework (PMF), which tiers schools by quality.  Using the PMF as a guide, we have closed low performing schools, encouraged high performing schools to grow, and used the data we have collected to help drive improvement at schools across the quality spectrum.   From 2011 through next school year, we are projected to have added more than 4,000 Tier 1 seats in charter school classrooms and eliminated more than 2,000 Tier 3 seats. And there would be no Tier 3 seats in Wards 7 and 8.  These numbers show that PCSB is not just after the “market share” of public school students. Our focus is on increasing the quality of the charter sector."

"Another goal of our focus on quality has been to encourage the boards of low-performing schools to work with high-performing schools in the face of non-renewal or closure, to find an alternative to outright closure.  This process provides stability and continuity. It also provides increased opportunities for students and families, as they do not have to go through a lottery process to find a new school. Instead, they are assured a seat at the high-performing school along with all of the benefits that the school or network of schools provides."  

"The first concerns charter school discipline – particularly the high levels of suspensions and expulsions.  When we testified two years ago, there were 227 expulsions at charter schools annually.  Since that time we have worked closely with charter leaders on this issue and these efforts have borne results.  Year to date figures show that expulsions are likely to be well under 100 this year.  And we are seeing impressive reductions in out of school suspensions as well."

"The second big success is the progress we have made on openness and data transparency.  Our collaboration with OSSE and DCPS led to the publication this year of the city’s first equity reports.  These reports, which literally lead the nation in the quality of data presented, show student performance, growth, and discipline numbers by subgroup.   Beyond the equity reports, we have significantly enhanced PCSB’s website to permit school leaders to explore the underlying data behind our accountability tools, the PMFs and Accountability Plans, and to allow parents to share our data on multimedia platforms."

"The third is the progress we have made on improving the financial strength of charter schools.  Two years ago we began publishing financial analyses of each school and providing technical assistance to those with weak financials.  Since then, the number of schools with weak financials has declined from 13 to 3.   It was not many years ago when charter schools would literally run out of cash in the middle of the year.  Those days are over."

"What remains unfulfilled is the full and equal funding of charter schools by this city.  Nearly a year ago you held a roundtable on this issue, Mr. Chairman. And a recently released study showed that funding inequities remain, with charter schools receiving less funding per pupil and overall, compared with DCPS. It is past time that the District addresses these inequities and provides full and equal funding for charter schools."

Read the full testimony delivered by Board Chair John "Skip" McKoy, here.

Read the information provided before the hearing, here.  

Posted by: PCSB at 10:01 a.m.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PCSB to Testify Before DC Council About Options PCS


This morning at 11 a.m., PCSB's Executive Director Scott Pearson will testify before Chairman Catania and members of the Committee on Education about Options Public Charter School.  
Read Pearson's remarks
as delivered or for the record, here.

Posted by: PCSB at 10:45 a.m.
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