Charter enrollment continues to grow

By Alison Collier


Enrollment in DC public charter schools grew another 11 percent in the 2012-2013 school year, according to unaudited enrollment numbers released by the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) last week. Just over 35,000 students chose one of 57 public charter schools on 107 campuses across the District.  This continues the annual growth trend in the charter sector, which has seen marked growth every year since the first charters opened in 1996.  Almost half of the growth was due to either new charter schools or new/expanded campuses of existing charters: four new schools opened their doors in 2012, and 12 existing schools added more students.


Of note is that 20 percent of the new seats were in schools designated as “Tier One” under the PCSB’s Performance Management Framework (PMF), the ranking system that was rolled out last fall, while there was a 10 percent decrease in enrollment in Tier 3 schools (the lowest tier in the PCSB system). But there is still much more demand for quality education options; there are thousands of students on waitlists for the higher performing schools. FOCUS is one of many charter support organizations across the District that is focusing its efforts on increasing the number of quality seats available at charter schools. Our startup services help high potential groups open quality schools, while our workshops and consulting services support existing schools to improve their performance.

The PMF and Median Growth Percentile

By Steve Taylor


Public charter schools are afforded a great deal of autonomy in academics, operations, and finances in exchange for increased accountability for student performance. The Public Charter School Board (PCSB) holds D.C. charters accountable by means of its “Performance Management Framework” (PMF). This year’s school-by-school PMF scores are scheduled to be released on November 1.


For elementary and middle charter schools, the PMF score reflects re-enrollment rates, attendance, and performance on the District’s high-stakes annual assessment, the DC CAS, which tests students in reading, math, writing, and science.  For public charter high schools, the scores also reflect graduation and college acceptance rates, SAT scores, and the percentage of students passing Advanced Placement (AP) tests (equivalent tests such as the International Baccalaureate are used as well).  Of these factors, student performance on the DC CAS is the largest component of the PMF score.  This performance is measured in two ways.

Thank a charter school board member today!!!

By Ram Uppuluri


One of the things that strikes me about the charter school movement here in the District of Columbia is the opportunity that it affords people from so many different walks of life to play a direct role in the education of children by serving on the Board of Trustees of a public charter school.


There are currently 57 public charter schools in the District, operating on more than 100 campuses across the city.  Assuming each school’s Board of Trustees is made up of 10 members, on average, that is a total of almost 600 people, young and old, rich and poor, famous and not so famous, who are now directly involved in providing quality educational opportunities for the District’s children and youth. 


DC-CAS 2012 Subgroup Data: FOCUS Graphs and Analysis

By Lauren Outlaw


The Office of the State Superintendent has at long last posted the DC-CAS subgroup data and FOCUS has conducted its own analysis, which shows that public charter schools continue to do a better job than DCPS of educating their students, especially their at-risk populations.  (Click here to view the FOCUS graphs.)  Overall, 49 percent of charter students scored proficient or advanced in reading and 55 percent in math compared to 44 percent of DCPS students in reading and 46 percent in math.  Over the past six years, public charter schools have increased the number of students who score proficient or advanced on the DC-CAS by 24 percentage points in math and 9 points in reading, bringing the charter average to above 50 percent.


The public charter schools also continue to excel in educating their African-American students and the economically disadvantaged students that qualify for free and reduced lunch (FARL).  This year, 48 percent of African-American students attending charter schools scored proficient or advanced in reading and 53 percent in math.  Meanwhile, only 35 percent of their DCPS counterparts scored proficient or advanced in reading and 37 percent in math.  The same holds true for the charter schools’ economically disadvantaged student population, with 45 percent of FARL students scoring proficient or advanced in reading and 52 percent in math.  Conversely, only 33 percent of similarly situated DCPS students scored proficient or advanced in reading and 36 percent in math.  This result highlights the steady increase over the last six years of public charter schools’ FARL students scoring proficient or advanced on the DC-CAS.


Taken together these results demonstrate that public charter schools consistently outperform DCPS. Congratulations charter schools and keep up the good work!

FOCUS and Public Charter Schools in the News: June 2012

With the end of the school year and public charter school graduation ceremonies in full swing, June was already going to be a busy month for the DC public charter community.  But with the DC government making headlines too, public charter schools and the issues they face made the news frequently this month.  For a quick review of the relevant articles, here are a few articles that are worth your time!


D.C. Budget: Charter Facilities Pay in Flux (The Washington Post, 6/4/12)


This article describes how the DC Council failed to maintain public charter school funding of $3,000 per student as mandated by law.  In the past, the DC government has relied on three-sector funding, meant to fund the DC Voucher program, DCPS, and DC public charter schools, to attain the $3,000 from the Education Department.  However, the Department wants fewer three-sector funds used toward this end, contending that it should be used to increase student achievement more directly. 

FOCUS and Public Charter Schools in the News: May 2012

DC public charter schools continue to make headlines for their achievements.  May’s relevant articles tell just part of the story of how far public charters have advanced DC public education in spite of the adversities they face.  Here are five particular pieces that we recommend! 


D.C. Charters Shortchanged Again, With No End in Sight (The Washington Examiner, 5/1/12)


In his OpEd, FOCUS Executive Director Robert Cane warns against labeling the Mayor’s latest public charter allocations as supplemental funding.  In fact, he points to how these funds were rightfully owed to the charter community due to increased summer school and special education enrollment. 

Calling All Members of the D.C. Public Charter School Community!

Once again this year Mayor Gray’s proposed budget underfunds the public charter school facilities allowance.  This underfunding will play havoc with charter school budgets and make it harder for charters to get bank loans to acquire and renovate school space.  The D.C. Council can fix this problem by coming up $3.2 million by June 5 to include in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. 


Show your support for D.C. public charter schools by calling and emailing your school's ward councilmember and each of the at-large councilmembers, starting with Kwame Brown.  Tell them that the council should fully fund the charter school facilities allowance.


Also, tell them that the Council should fix the school funding law by including amendments in the Budget Support Act requiring that all funding for public charter school and DCPS operations should flow through the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. 

No End in Sight to School Funding Unfairness

Amid D.C. Council deliberations over Mayor Vincent Gray’s $77 million supplemental spending package, the District’s public charter schools have been left reeling. A recent series of political maneuvers will dearly cost the students of these publicly funded schools. 


Rumors spread before the council’s vote on the mayor’s supplemental package. Among the more serious included a suggestion that charter schools’ quarterly payments from the city might be stopped unless the council voted on the spending package. 


Sadly, this is merely the latest example of adults playing politics with children’s education in the District. 


Recently, in an announcement made hours before the mayor spoke at an annual gathering of D.C.’s public charter school community, his office announced $9.4 million for charters to cover “spending pressures” — wrongly implying charters had overspent their funds. 

PCYLC Event at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science PCS

At the latest Youth Town Hall held by the Mayor, as the PCYLC councilmembers kept asking the Mayor questions about fair funding that he was dodging, one of the PCYLC asked Mayor Gray, “Mr. Mayor, why would you hold these events if you won’t listen to us?”  



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