District of Columbia Public Charter School Board
Under the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board’s (PCSB) watch, DC’s charter sector and schools have greatly improved student performance, school quality, and citywide access to high quality seats in recent years. PCSB is the only government agency in the District of Columbia with the authority to approve schools, oversee schools while in operation, and revoke school charters if they fail to meet their performance goals.
PCSB currently oversees 62 nonprofits that operate 115 public charter schools serving more than 39,000 or 44% of all DC public school students.
PCSB gives DC public charter schools a high degree of flexibility in exchange for accountability for results, and encourages schools to exhibit fidelity by requiring schools to remain faithful to their status as public schools and responsibility to educate all students equitably.
Through a multi-faceted approach, PCSB has developed a model of authorization and oversight that has improved the quality of Washington, DC’s charter school sector and led to DC public charter school students making significant learning gains. According to the CREDO study, the average student enrolled in a Washington, DC public charter school receives an educational benefit equivalent to 99 extra days of school per year compared to his or her peers attending the city’s traditional public schools.
PCSB was created in 1996 by the District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1995 as a second, independent authorizer of public charter schools in Washington, DC. In 2006, the DC Board of Education (BOE), which had served as the first charter authorizer since 1996, voted to relinquish its authorizing responsibilities.
In 2007, the DC Council passed legislation to give the DC Mayor direct authority over the traditional public school system, and to transfer the oversight responsibility for the charter schools previously authorized by the BOE to PCSB.
Performance Management Framework
Under the School Reform Act (SRA), PCSB is granted authority to hold DC public charter schools accountable for fulfilling their obligations under the Act.
With a high proportion of PK-12 and adults in public charter schools, PCSB created the performance management framework (PMF) in 2011. It was developed to evaluate charter school performance, based on common measures across all schools. Schools are rated Tier 1, 2, 3, with Tier 1 being the best. The PMF measurements evaluate student achievement as well as student growth, indicators of readiness for high school and college, and mission-specific measures at each school.
Since its first announcement in 2011, the PMF has significantly help to determine the quality of public charter schools creating a standard by which new charter schools can aim to be “Tier One on Day 1.”
The results of the PMF have improved year to year. In 2014, six elementary/middle schools and six high schools were rated Tier 1 based on their performance during the 2013-14 academic year. Seven schools received this high-performing designation for the first time, while 10 public charter schools have been rated Tier 1 for all four years the PMF has been in existence.
Even as charter schools have grown in DC, school quality has remained high. According to recent DC CAS testing data, public charter school proficiency rates have increased for the 8th straight year and continue to exceed the DC average. Additionally, the charter sectors proficiency growth is occurring across traditionally disadvantaged subgroups.
According to the 2013-14 SY DC CAS rates, public charters scored 5.2% above the state proficiency level in math; 3.5% above the state proficiency level in reading; and 3.2% above the state proficiency level in science.
In its role as DC’s sole charter authorizer, PCSB has a strong record of ensuring equity and access across DC charter schools.
Public charters in DC serve several groups of people including students with disabilities, English language learners as well as under-served and under-privileged students of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. And, public charters have demonstrate significantly higher proficiency among each of these historically disadvantaged groups
Overall, DC public charter schools serve virtually the same percentage of English Language Learners (8%) and students with disabilities (12%), and a substantially higher percentage of African-American students (78%) as the state average.
Additionally, in an effort to prevent any type of discrimination, the Board has also implemented several processes and programs, such as the Mystery Shopper policy, and have partnered with My School DC to create a common lottery, which adheres to the US Department of Education’s guidance on non-discrimination and will eliminate many potential barriers to enrollment.
Using Data to Improve Outcomes
PCSB uses data to increase transparency, improve and inform school improvement.
In 2013, PCSB and the traditional school system released the first-ever District of Columbia School Equity Reports. These unprecedented reports, produced in collaboration with the Office of the State Superintendent and DC Public Schools, offer school-by-school data on a school’s demographics, percentage of students with disabilities, and academic, attendance and discipline data disaggregated by student group.
PCSB’s data releases have sparked important conversations and caused many schools to change their policies and practices. As a result, since 2012 expulsions have dropped by nearly half. In SY 2012-2013, the DC public charter schools expulsion rate stood at 186 students and in the SY 2013-2014 it dropped to 139 students. Additionally, suspensions have dropped significantly. In SY 2012-2013 the suspension rate stood at 14.7% and decreased to 11.9% in SY 2013-2014.
Public school enrollment in the District of Columbia has increased overall for five straight years and there is also an increased demand for public charter school education.
Overall, the District's public school enrollment increased from 82,958 in SY 2013-14 to 85,403 in SY 2014-15 or 3.06%. And, the overall wait list increased to 8,526 unique names, an 18% increase over 2014’s 7,205 names.
In addition to overall enrollment numbers, this year’s enrollment report—released by PCSB—showed that the quality of public charter schools continues to grow in that more students are attending high performing schools and that sector growth is the slowest in history as the charter board prioritizes school quality over growth.
- DC Public Charter School Board. "Executive Summary: Transforming Public Education in the Nation’s Capital." Scribd.com. N.p., 22 Oct. 2014. Web.
- Office of the State Superintendent of Education. "2014 DC CAS Results." Osse.dc.gov. N.p., 31 July 2014. Web.
- "For the Ninth Year in a Row, Charter School DC CAS Scores Exceed the State Average." For the Ninth Year in a Row, Charter School DC CAS Scores Exceed the State Average. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2015.
- "Demand for DC Public Charter Schools Remains High." Demand for DC Public Charter Schools Remains High. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2015.