Monday, February 6, 2012

D.C. schools: charter or public?

Posted in the Washington Post at
at 02:16 PM ET, 02/06/2012

Last week, I was talking to a couple planning to leave a D.C. charter school. They liked the school well enough. But the commute — from home, to school, to work — had reached two hours a day.

As the couple waited to close on a house in Virginia, they knew they would miss the District. But they looked forward to walking to their neighborhood school.

I thought about this family while digging into the new $100,000study of D.C. schools sponsored by the charitable arm of Wal-Mart. The study’s big takeaway: There are not enough “top-performing” schools in working-class D.C. neighborhoods. This is not exactly news. But their solution — close some neighborhood and charter schools and replace them with more charter schools — makes no sense given the rest of the study’s findings.

Given that there is already a network of neighborhood schools that is publicly owned, I can’t think of a more circuitous route to getting to better schools in every neighborhood.

The study’s most relevant finding is that, much like the couple I spoke to, two-thirds of D.C. families still choose a school within their neighborhood or adjacent cluster, despite nearly two decades of “choice.” (Some 74 percent of DCPS students and 57 percent of charters chose schools close to home.) The study shows that the traditional neighborhood system is both more racially and socioeconomically diverse and has a higher “current achievement,” judged by standardized tests. Charters, on the other hand, show “higher slopes of improvement” on the standardized tests, the report notes. (Click HERE to read the rest of the article)

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