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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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