21st Century Schools

More on DC as a National Leader in School Reform and Innovation

The Washington Post has a well-crafted editorial this morning reflecting on the emergence of Washington, DC as a national leader in the charter school and education reform movement.  The Post writes:

WITH D.C. schools reopening, attention is focused on the reform efforts of Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, and rightly so. But with growing numbers of students enrolled in charter schools, hers is just part of the story of educational change in the District. Not only are a record number of charter students expected this year but an initiative is also being launched to hold the public charters more accountable and improve their performance.

Enrollment of 28,000 to 30,000 students is projected for the charters, a remarkable number considering that the first charter school opened its doors just 13 years ago. (Meanwhile, traditional public schools, which opened Monday with an encouraging 37,000 students already enrolled, are projecting an eventual roster of some 44,000 students, based on budget assumptions.) There are 56 charters, making the District a national leader in its embrace of these publicly funded but independent and often innovative schools. Recent test scores show overall success by the charters, though with big variations among them. So it's good that the Public Charter School Board will measure the schools' success more vigorously.

The article then go on to discuss how what the DC Charter Board is attempting to do could end up creating the national standard for evaluating the success of individual charters.  I wrote about the growth of charters here in DC on Monday.

For a city whose civic identity has been deeply effected by its unique status and dependent relationship on the federal government, the idea that DC has become a true leader in the national education reform movement should become a point of true city-wide pride, and an important part of DC's maturing 21st century brand.  As a parent with - as of this morning - three kids in DC public schools I am grateful to Mayor Fenty, Chancellor Rhee, the city council, the Charter entrepreneurs and investors and all those who have labored so hard to make DC schools a source of pride not shame.  This is an uplifting story which needs much more attention, and telling.

More than One Third of DC Public School Kids Now in Charters

All three of my kids head off to school this week in DC as the public schools reopen.  Buried in all the back to school stories is this remarkable passage from a Washington Post story by Bill Turque:

Regular public school enrollment in the District has declined by more than half since 1980, while the public charter community has grown dramatically since the independently operated schools began in the 1990s.

More than a third of the city's public students attend charter schools, which project an enrollment of about 28,066 this fall, up more than 10 percent from last school year's 25,363. Some analysts say public charter enrollment could surpass the regular school population by 2014.

I'm not sure even the people living here in DC understand what an extraordinary transformation is taking place in our local schools.  As someone who was a very early advocate of the charter concept (back when there were fewer than ten in the whole country) I am amazed to see this level of transformation happen so quickly; and in such a tough place.....

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