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Big surprise. A study funded by the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation recommends more charters for the District of Columbia.
The report, “A Tale of Two Systems: Education Reform in Washington D.C.,” was funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The Washington-based Progressive Policy Institute promotes market-based solutions to public policy issues. It appears that the long-term goal is to turn the entire district into a charter district, although a few public schools might remain open to enroll the students the charters don’t want.
The new study looks at the history of education reform in the city and includes research showing greater academic improvements in charter schools. It compares District and national test scores that show bigger gains for charter schools, particularly among African American and poor students.
It notes that comparisons are difficult because charter and traditional schools serve different demographics. Charter schools serve families who actively choose their schools, which can indicate a higher level of family commitment to education. D.C. Public Schools serve more students in crisis, who are are homeless or returning from jail, experts say. Also, charter schools don’t accept students after a certain month of the year or grade level, so they tend to serve a more stable group of students.
But the report argues that the governance model is the most important difference in the larger gains.
“It creates an environment in which the extraordinary measures necessary to effectively educate poor, minority children are not only easier to implement, they are virtually required if schools are to survive,” the report says.
In an interview, Osborne predicted that in 30 to 50 years, most urban districts will have mostly charter schools or other types of schools that are given more autonomy and expected to perform or be closed. “The magic is not in the word ‘charter,’ it’s in that arms-length relationship with the system,” he said.
So, even though most research shows that charters do not outperform ordinary public schools on average, D.C. should push for more and more charters. The report acknowledges that the remanning public schools serve children with greater needs than the charters, but so what. The charters get higher test scores because they don’t have the kids who have severe disabilities, the ELLs, the homeless, the students in crisis, and those returning from jail.
It must be the autonomy that makes the charters so terrific, not the fact that they exclude the kids who are most challenging and most expensive to educate.
Why don’t the Broads and Waltons come up with another pastime?
Why should the nation abandon public education because they like the free market that made them billionaires?