Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The New Charter School Paradigm 

It has been an extremely challenging enrollment year for the William E. Doar, Jr. Public Charter School for the Performing Arts. We added 40 students from last term, going from 360 to 400. This is great but our hope was to go to 440 kids.

We have heard through the grapevine of other charter schools falling short of enrollment projections. Now comes FOCUS with this statement:

Although overall charter school enrollment grew by nearly 11%, a significant number of charter school campuses did not meet their enrollment projections, while many others exceeded theirs. This may be an indication that the charters are now in competition with each other, not just with the school system, which lost 7% of its student body this year.
On a conference call with some of my other board members yesterday it was stated that the number of people transferring from DCPS to charters has reached a plateau and that now, echoing the FOCUS announcement, charters are stealing students from each other. Observations along the same line were made at a recent board meeting.

I reject this analysis.

First, the good news. D.C. charters now educate 1/3 of all D.C. public education students. Participation grew this term by 11%. In just a few years it is estimated that charters will educate 50% of those attending DCPS. These numbers are astounding.

Furthermore, if charters are finding it harder to recruit students away from traditional public schools then guess what? They need to offer a better product. This is what competition is all about. Charters have appealed to parents up until now because of what they are not. They are not dangerous, education wastelands whose physical condition should be condemned. But now we need to take the movement to a new level.

We have to provide academic preparation second to none. We have to teach at a level that allows our students to be accepted at the nation's best colleges. We have to give our kids the tools necessary to excel in an extremely challenging global economy.

To me this is what education reform is all about. Could you imagine anything better regarding inner city schools?

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