20 Years of School Choice

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Celebrating 20 Years of Quality Public Charter Schools
For more than two decades public charter schools have been helping students learn and grow. What better time to kick off the celebration than during National School Choice Week (January 24-30)

The first public charter schools opened in District of Columbia in 1996 educating 160 students. Today, 62 nonprofits operate 114 schools that educate more than 39,000 students living in every ward of the city. Students and families can choose from a range of programs like Montessori, language immersion, STEM, and so much more. 

Celebrate 20 years of school choice with us on social media using #DCcharterPROUD. 

Families Continue to Choose Quality Public Charter Schools
What Charter Advocates and Leaders Had to Say
"For two decades public charter schools have provided quality school choices to families in Washington, DC. In this time the DC Public Charter School Board has never forgotten it's most important responsibility: ensuring that every public charter school student receives a quality education.  As we look ahead, I’m confident saying that DC's public charter schools will continue to be part of the renaissance of public education in our nation's capital." 
-Scott Pearson, Executive Director, DC Public Charter School Board
"When I talk to the kids who come back here now – graduates who are finishing law school and studying for the bar or celebrating their second master’s degree or first job – I see individuals who will have careers that will allow them to support themselves and the next set of kids. When we started this work, I don’t think we actually started with thinking about improving test scores or growth percentiles, although both are a critical part of the work. We thought about how you lift people out of poverty… for good. To me, that’s the promise of public charter schools that was made at the start of this movement and it’s the one that’s being made good on day in and day out in our city.”
-Patricia Brantley, CEO-Elect, Friendship PCS
"I was fortunate enough to be on the PCSB board during the tenure of both the founding leaders and that of the next generation. DC's parents, activists and legislators were in the forefront of the nation's Charter Movement and the pioneering schools and regulator experienced predictable trials of start-ups. The growth, diversity and maturity of the cohort of schools has been marvelous to watch. Similarly, the development and maturation of the board has provided trend-setting guidelines for the development of the sector. PCSB plays a vital role in requiring high standards and facilitating sharing of 'best practices.' Over time, I think the results will be better schools and better equipped students graduating from DC Charters."
-John "Skip" McKoy, former PCSB Board Chair
"In a city-state with the highest racial and socio-economic education achievement gap in the nation, only the chartered public schools are providing solutions. Despite enormous obstacles facing children of color from impoverished backgrounds and students new to this country, its language and customs, DC’s public charter schools are demonstrating that proficiency and graduation rates higher than the national average can and will be achieved by this, its majority population. Because of DC’s public charter school leaders, stunning successes are changing the life trajectories of tens of thousands of students: the same kinds of students whose educational achievement must become a high priority for this entire city and for the nation."
-Ramona H. Edelin, Ph.D., Executive Director, DC Association of Chartered Public Schools
“I can remember the excitement and the trepidation the first public charter school leaders had here in DC. Few people had heard of public charter schools and to educate communities of the prospects we toured neighborhoods and spoke to many community groups. At the same time we spend time scouring vacant, rundown, school buildings looking for some place to hold classes. Who can forget the thrill of opening day. Now almost 20 years later thousands of students have benefited from public charter schools, and parents have had the privileges and opportunities that school choice offers to families.

How exciting it is to open our doors every day."

-Donald L. Hense, Founder, Friendship PCS
"I’m not sure that 20 years ago anyone envisioned the important role that public charter schools would play in public education in the District of Columbia.  Public charter schools--independent, non-profit agencies, which have developed, in large measure, through the efforts of dedicated educators, parents and activists--have completely changed the landscape of public education in our city, resulting in significantly expanded opportunities for children who live in the nation’s capital. Twenty years later,  students have the opportunity to learn a second or third language, study abroad, attend schools that focus on science and technology, and pursue a variety of college and career preparation paths that were largely unavailable previously. As an educator and as a grandparent of children who were largely educated in DC schools, I am grateful that the public charter school option is available."
-Linda Moore, Founder, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Freedom PCS
"As we celebrate 20 years of public charter schools in Washington, DC, those of us privileged to play a role in the growth and success of public charter schools reflect with pride on the difference we have made as a sector on the lives of so many young people.  Seeing the increased collaboration between DCPS and DCPCS is gratifying. After all, strong elementary, middle and high school options in each neighborhood is the goal; we aren't there yet, but we are getting closer."
-Martha Cutts, Head of School, Washington Latin PCS
"Twenty years of public charter schools represents twenty years of better choices for DC families, better academic success for DC students and an environment that made all schools in the District raise their standards to greater heights.  FOCUS celebrates the past 20 years and looks forward to a bright future of increased school quality."
-Irene Holtzman, Executive Director, Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS)
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