Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Charter Schools And The Jacks Case 

Unfortunately this article by Dena Levitz in the Washington Examiner fails to capture the horrible job D.C. Public Charter School Board Executive Director Josephine Baker did testifying last evening before the D.C. Council. During tough questioning by Councilwoman Muriel Bowser all but disappeared was the confident Ms. Baker. She appeared hesitant and insecure in her answers.

She was asked by Ms. Bowser if there was a disincentive for charter schools to report children who had transferred out. No, Ms. Baker said, a charter school receives its money from a count done in October so there is no reason why a facility should not openly reveal who leaves during the year. Nothing could be further from the truth. Charter schools are very careful to try and protect their reputation so that they will be able to attract students in the future. Charters do not like talking about those who leave because it may look like there is a problem at their school.

Next Ms. Bowser wanted to know how many students leave charter schools in any particular month or year. Ms. Baker didn't know the answer to these questions but said she could gain access to this information through her office. Her guess, however, was that a couple of hundred students transfer out per year. My problem with this response is that it fails to capture the dynamic environment of charter school enrollment in which dozens of children sign up to attend a school only to end up going somewhere else. The system is so fluid that there is no way any of this is tracked so that if a parent wanted to keep their kid at home it would be extremely easy to do so.

We need a better system to know what is happening with these children. Congratulations to the social worker at the Booker T. Washington Charter School that alerted authorities about this family.

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