Monday, December 12, 2011

District unveils first ranking of public charter schools

Speaking of charter schools in DC, coincidentally there's a new report out that evaluates the academic performance of every charter school in the district in what appears to be a comprehensive and robust way.  Some will surely say that the 34 Tier II schools and 15 Tier III (lowest ranked) schools show that charter schools aren't all great and certainly aren't a panacea – and they'd be right!  Nevertheless, we reformers should be celebrating and embracing reports like this (see Chicago, below) for a variety of reasons: A) Most importantly, parents need and deserve this information to make better informed choices for their kids; B) The schools themselves need this information so they know how they're doing and can take steps to improve; C) Charter authorizers/evaluators need this information so they know which schools should be put on probation and, if they fail to improve, shut down.  Proper evaluation is SO important, yet it's done poorly or not at all, so we reformers should be demanding similar reports for ALL charter schools – and, this is key – ALL public schools.  The reasons I note above in A, B and C apply equally to regular public schools, so why aren't ALL public schools evaluated and held accountable similarly???  I'm delighted that this appears to be on track to happen in DC (per the article below: "D.C. Public Schools and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education are expected to release their own school ratings…"), but this is most assuredly not the norm for the vast majority of public schools.

The District unveiled its first rankings of public charter schools Tuesday, part of a new rating system that offers parents a broader assessment of school progress than annual standardized test results.

The new performance evaluation shows how test scores of students have grown over the last year, relative to their academic peers across the city. Schools also are assessed against a series of leading indicators and "gateway" measurements that researchers regard as predictors of future educational success. They include third-grade DC CAS reading scores, eighth-grade math scores and 11th-grade PSAT results.

The new system raises the bar of accountability for the 53 publicly financed, independently operated schools that educate more than 30,000 D.C. students across 98 campuses. While some of the information in the assessments is already available in annual performance reports, the new system creates a more detailed and easily accessible snapshot for parents and families.

"The idea here is that we really do want to shine a light on what's going on in our charter schools," said Brian Jones, president of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, the body empowered to authorize the opening and closing of charter schools. Joined by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), Jones unveiled the new rankings at a news conference at one of the top-rated schools, Achievement Prep in Southeast Washington.

The new ranking system, developed by the board over the past three years with the help of outside consultants, also represents the leading edge of a new generation of more-detailed school report cards that will soon be available to parents across the region.

D.C. Public Schools and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education are expected to release their own school ratings emphasizing academic growth over time rather than annual test scores. Virginia and Maryland are also committed to making similar changes in reporting school data.

The 71 charter campuses are listed in three tiers of overall quality, based on a 100-point scale. The rankings unveiled Tuesday, which cover the 2010-11 school year, delivered few surprises. Among the 22 charter campuses in Tier I were schools with established records of high student achievement. They include D.C. Preparatory's Edgewood middle school campus; the three KIPP middle schools (AIM, KEY and WILL) and its College Preparatory high school; Thurgood Marshall Academy and Washington Latin high schools; Two Rivers, a PS-8 school; and Howard University Middle School.

The 15 Tier III schools, considered the weakest performers, include the middle and high school campuses of Maya Angelou; Center City's Congress Heights campus, a PS-8 school; and Options, serving grades six through 12.

The remaining 34 campuses were ranked in Tier II.

Schools that win top-ranking are exempt from further in-depth monitoring by charter board staff. Officials said Tier III schools will get additional scrutiny, including consideration for possible closure by the board.

Other so-called "non-standard" schools — those offering early childhood programs, or serving adult or exclusively disabled populations, were not ranked. Officials said the charter board will be developing an alternate system to appraise their performance.

To repeat: nobody claims that all charter schools are great – and they should be held to the same standard as ALL public schools: if they're not delivering for students, there should be REAL consequences for the adults/sponsors, including reconstitution or closure.  To the extent that there's greater scrutiny and accountability for charter schools, we should celebrate this – and be asking why this isn't the case for ALL schools...


District unveils first ranking of public charter schools

(Astrid Riecken/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST) - Michael Woods teaches pre-kindergarten children during a class at LEAP Academy Early Childhood School (PreK3 Ð Kindergarten) at KIPP DC, a public charter school in Washington.

By Bill Turque, Published: December 6 

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