Quality Authorizing Leads to Positive Outcomes For DC Charter School Students
June 4, 2019
The DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), in partnership with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the research group FSG, released “Transforming Public Education in the Nation’s Capital,” a case study highlighting DC’s strong, effective charter school authorizer practices. “When it comes to school quality and better outcomes for kids, authorizing matters—a lot,” the report states.
As a leading charter authorizer, PCSB fosters quality education opportunities for students by approving new schools, overseeing schools in operation, and revoking school charters if the school fails to meet its performance goals. As the charter sector grows, stronger authorizers are increasingly important.
The case study is an important contribution to a relatively new field, examining how one successful charter authorizer is advancing student achievement and increasing the number of high-quality charter seats available. The study outlines PCSB’s authorizing strategies and tactics that policymakers, other authorizers and traditional school districts can adopt, adapt and build on in order to strengthen their practices. The study was based on data and more than 40 interviews with PCSB staff, Board members, school leaders and national education experts.
Roughly 18 years ago, Washington, DC launched an experiment in public education when it opened its first five public charter schools. Today more than 38,000 students, or 45 percent of public school students, attend one of the 112 public charter schools in DC. Students are performing better and schools are meeting higher standards.
PCSB’s paramount mission is to create a network of outstanding public charter schools in Washington, DC, offering families quality and diverse educational choices. As PCSB’s Executive Director Scott Pearson explains in the case study “developing a quality charter school sector is everything to us. This determines whether the life trajectories of Washington, DC’s children will be improved by our schools.”
To achieve this goal, PCSB employs a set of complementary strategies:
Close of underperforming schools, with a commitment to ensuring the students are able to attend high-quality schools the following year
Authorize new, high-quality schools
Expand of proven high-quality schools, either through higher enrollment ceilings or approval of new campuses
Facilitate of takeovers of low-performing schools by high-performing schools.
“PCSB is a national exemplar in charter school authorizing, as evidenced by the number of students attending high-performing schools,” Joe Siedlecki, Program and Policy Officer at the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. “Any stakeholder can learn from PCSB.”
As Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) -- which is having its annual conference this week in Miami -- states in the case study: “We have seen again and again that authorizers have a tremendous impact on the overall quality of a charter sector in a city or state.”
Read the executive summary, the entire case study and appendices below.