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Statement by Scott Pearson, Executive Director, DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB)

Release Date: Monday, January 07, 2013
Contact: Audrey Williams  202-328-2748
awilliams@dcpcsb.org

Washington, D.C. — Today Students First, the organization founded by former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, issued its first annual State Policy Report Cards.
 
Unfortunately, and despite repeated attempts by PCSB to correct the record with Students First, the Report Card issued for the District of Columbia grossly mischaracterizes the educational policy environment in DC, particularly when it comes to charter schools.
 
Significantly, the report never mentions that 43% of DC public school students attend charter schools.  This is emblematic of the fundamental flaws in this report, where the significant and fast-growing DC charter sector is ignored when ratings are given to the state. 
 
For example, the report grades DC a “0 out of 4” points for “School Report Cards,” ignoring the significant contribution made by PCSB’s School Performance Management Framework, that grades every charter school on a clear and transparent 100-point scale and assigns schools based on that score to Tier 1, 2 or 3 status.   The report makes no mention of charter schools in such areas as fiscal transparency, alternative certification, pensions, and teacher pay.
 
When the report does look specifically at charters, it usually gets it wrong.  For example, the report grades DC a “0 out of 4” points for “Charter School Accountability”, ignoring that fact that PCSB was recognized last year by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers for its aggressive policy towards closing low-performing charter schools.  Indeed, of the 82 charter schools that have opened in DC since 1998, 25 have closed, a rate of over 30%.  Most of these closed under pressure from PCSB.  Similarly, the Center for Education Reform, which annually ranks state charter school laws rated DC first in the nation in 2012, noting “[DC] once again took the top spot in the rankings because of their strong independent authorizer [PCSB], charter autonomy and nearly equitable funding.”
 
The report also erroneously gives the district high marks for “Equitable Access to Facilities”, ignoring the enormous obstacles that Ms. Rhee herself, as DCPS Chancellor, placed to charters gaining access to closed DCPS buildings.  The District has made significant improvement in this regard during the tenure of Mayor Vincent Gray and DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, but still has more to do to ensure equitable access to facilities for charters.
 
Ms. Rhee’s service as Chancellor of DC Public Schools was largely characterized by ambivalence towards the DC charter sector.  That ambivalence appears to rear its head in this report, yielding a disconcerting disconnection from the facts on the ground.  DC public schools are in fact on the move, evidenced by a growing enrollment and improving accountability and performance, led by a charter sector now educating nearly half of the public school students in the city.  It’s a shame that Students First and Ms. Rhee have chosen to avert their eyes from that progress in this misleading “Report Card.”


About PCSB: The DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) is setting a national model for creating quality public school options through its rigorous review of new charter applications and effective oversight of charter school performance that is leading the transformation of public education in Washington, DC. PCSB currently oversees 57 public charter schools 102 campuses serving 35,019 students living in every ward of the city. Learn more at www.dcpcsb.org.


 

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