Timeline of the DC Charter School Movement

Highlighting key events in the DC charter school movement from 1996
through today and the role FOCUS has played in charter success in the District.

DC School Reform Act of 1995

Congress passes DC School Reform Act of 1995

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DC School Reform Act of 1995

The District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1995 was passed by the United States Congress. Since Washington, DC is a semi-autonomous non-state, Congress has jurisdiction over the city and passed the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996. Title I amended the DC School Reform Act in 1995, making charter schools part of the public education system in Washington.

The School Reform Act is codified in Title 38, Subtitle IV, Chapter 18.

To view the DC Code, click here.

Click here to see the full School Reform Act.

Click here to download a PDF.

DC Council passes charter law

DC Council passes charter law in attempt to avoid congressional actions

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DC Council passes charter law

On April 17, 1995 the United States Congress put in place a financial control board to oversee the District government; shortly thereafter, Congress began taking its own look at ways to improve public education in the District, including charter schools, vouchers, and private management of public schools. Subcommittees in both the House and Senate held hearings on the issue and directed the District to pass school reform legislation or face Congressional action.  

Soon thereafter DC Councilmembers Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) and Bill Lightfoot (I-At Large) introduced legislation in the Council to authorize the creation of charter schools.

In another attempt to head off Congressional action, a group comprising some DC school officials (including the superintendent and the president of the school board) and a variety of school advocacy groups (among them COPE and Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools) drafted its own school reform plan and sent it to Congress in June. The plan, which was publicly disavowed by school board members who were not included in its creation, advocated for public school vouchers, private management of some public schools, and other ideas, not including public charter schools. In spite of these local efforts, Congress continued to press ahead with its own attempt to solve the DC public school crisis. The effort was led by Congressman Steve Gunderson (R-Wis), who circulated draft legislation.   

On October 23, four of the five members of the Education Committee of the DC Council voted to send the Patterson/Lightfoot charter school bill to the full Council. According to the Washington Post, the lone Committee opponent of the bill, Harry Thomas Sr. (D-Ward 5), objected that “We don’t need nobody to come in and run our schools,” but left before a vote was taken. Unlike the draft Congressional bill, under which charter schools would be independent of DCPS and could be chartered either by the Board of Education or a newly created chartering board, the Council legislation gave chartering authority solely to the Board of Education and also gave the superintendent some authority over the schools.  

 

DC Public Charter School Resource Center

Federal City Council creates DC Public Charter School Resource Center

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DC Public Charter School Resource Center

Federal City Council creates DC Public Charter School Resource Center.

While the Resource Center no longer exists, today FOCUS and many other entities offer resources on every aspect of the DC charter school sector.

To see a list of other DC charter school support organizations, click here.

AppleTree Institute opens

AppleTree Institute opens; their first PCS opens in 2005

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AppleTree Institute opens

AppleTree has been an innovator from the start, merging proven strategies in education with best practices in business and entrepreneurship.

Social entrepreneurs Lex Towle and Jack McCarthy (now president and CEO) created AppleTree in 1996 to “increase the supply of effective schools through innovation.”  AppleTree, FOCUS and a small group of entrepreneurial non-profits established a strong foundation for the DC charter schools movement through advocacy and action. AppleTree created America’s first charter-school incubator, which launched three high-performing middle and high schools: Washington Mathematics Science Tecnology PCS, Cesar Chavez Public Policy PCS, and Paul PCS. Each has been a Tier 1 (high-performing) school through most of their history.  

When these schools were in their early years, McCarthy was struck by the number of students entering with low reading skills and asked, “What if we could provide these children with quality early learning from the start so they could enter kindergarten ready to thrive?”

AppleTree pivoted into preschool in 2001, and opened a tuition-free laboratory preschool in Southwest DC serving 36 children. AppleTree’s mission became closing the achievement gap before children enter kindergarten.  From 2001 to 2005, AppleTree worked with leading experts in early language and literacy instruction, including Dr. Judy Schickedanz and Dr. David Dickinson, to develop an evidence-based early learning program. In 2005, AppleTree created AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School (AELPCS) as a scalable, multi-site preschool. Today, AppleTree Early Learning PCS educates over 2,000 children.

Click here to learn more about AppleTree Institute

First 3 charter schools are founded

First 3 charter schools are founded, authorized by the DC Board of Education

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First 3 charter schools are founded

The School Reform Act’s late April 1996 passage left far too little time to run a thorough charter application process or allow schools to plan for opening in the fall of 1996. But the Board of Education, which felt itself under congressional pressure to authorize charter schools, authorized three schools that opened in the fall of 1996 (none of those schools is still open today).

DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB)

DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) is constituted

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DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB)

The DC Public Charter School Board was created in 1996 (launched in February 1997) by the District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1995, as a second independent authorizer of public charter schools in Washington, DC. Their goal is to ensure students and families in Washington, DC have access to a quality public charter school education. They do that by setting tough academic standards; using a comprehensive charter application review process and effective oversight; providing meaningful support to DC's public charter schools; and actively involving parents, school leaders, the community, and policymakers. Before the PCSB permits a public charter school to open, the nonprofit proposing to run it must commit—in writing—to the contribution it will make to DC’s educational landscape. If the nonprofit fails to meet its goals, the PCSB holds it accountable.

Click here to learn more about the work of the DC Public Charter School Board

FOCUS is incorporated

Malcolm Peabody helps incorporate FOCUS

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FOCUS is incorporated

Since 1996 – when the District’s first charter schools opened, FOCUS has been the primary advocate for public charter schools in Washington, DC. From helping write the law that created public charter schools in DC, to developing the facilities allowance that enables schools to access appropriate buildings, to protecting public charter schools from illegal intrusions into their autonomy, FOCUS’s work has ensured that public charter schools have the necessary freedom and funding to create the current quality school options for DC families. In addition, FOCUS has played a substantial role in ensuring the health of DC’s public charter schools through its comprehensive start-up program as well as a wide variety of technical assistance programs for schools. Today, there are 120 public charter schools, operated by 66 non-profits, affording students and families the power of choice in their education.

Mission

FOCUS supports the diverse set of public charter schools in DC by advocating for and strengthening autonomy, equity, and quality.

Vision

Quality public school choices for every DC student.

In 2016 FOCUS inducted Malcolm "Mike" Peabody (also known as the godfather of DC charter schools) into the DC Charter Hall of Fame in recognition of his leadership and vision in creating FOCUS and guiding its growth and influence in supporting DC's thriving public charter school movement. In 2017 Malcolm Peabody was also inducted in to the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame.

Click here to read Malcolm Peabody's bio.

 

 

 

DC Public Charter School Coalition

FOCUS & others form DC Public Charter School Coalition

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DC Public Charter School Coalition

In early 1997, FOCUS helped form what became the DC Public Charter School Coalition, through which DC’s charter schools developed their positions on issues concerning the movement and coordinated the advocacy work of FOCUS, other charter school support groups, and the individual charter schools.  

There were many, many issues with which the Coalition had to deal and serious problems to be resolved. Three of the most serious issues were 1) charter school per pupil funding, which was supposed to come directly to the schools from the District’s chief financial officer, was being routed by the Financial Control Board through the school system, leading to delays; 2) the $1 million in federal startup funding had not yet been released to the approved schools; and 3) the charter schools’ ability to acquire abandoned DCPS school buildings was being impaired by decisions taken by the Emergency Transitional Board of Trustees.
 
FOCUS, taking the lead for the Coalition and supported by AppleTree and others, worked with Congress on critically-needed amendments to the School Reform Act that would increase charter school operating funding and provide them with facilities funding. FOCUS and its allies also urged Congress to reject damaging amendments proposed by the Financial Control Board and the Emergency Transitional Board of Trustees that would have gutted the independence of the chartering boards and eliminated the charter school preference to acquire excess space in DCPS school buildings. Both of these efforts were successful.

Standards & testing

President Clinton addresses standards & testing in State of the Union

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Standards & testing

1997 State of the Union Address
President William J. Clinton

"I have a plan, a Call to Action for American Education..."

"First, a national crusade for education standards—not federal government standards, but national standards, representing what all our students must know to succeed in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. Every state and school must shape the curriculum to reflect these standards, and train teachers to lift students up to them. To help schools meet the standards and measure their progress, we will lead an effort over the next two years to develop national tests of student achievement in reading and math.

Tonight, I issue a challenge to the nation: Every state should adopt high national standards, and by 1999, every state should test every 4th grader in reading and every 8th grader in math to make sure these standards are met.

Raising standards will not be easy, and some of our children will not be able to meet them at first. The point is not to put our children down, but to lift them up. Good tests will show us who needs help, what changes in teaching to make, and which schools need to improve. They can help us to end social promotion. For no child should move from grade school to junior high, or junior high to high school until he or she is ready."

Click here to see the 1997 State of the Union Address.

37 applications to start charters

37 applications to start charters are submitted to BOE/PCSB

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37 applications to start charters

37 potential charter school founding groups submitted applications in the fall of 1997 to one of the chartering boards. Nineteen of the applications were approved - 10 by the DC Public Charter School Board and nine by the Board of Education - and 16 of the approved schools opened in 1998: ARE PCS, Carlos Rosario International PCS, Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy, Community Academy PCS, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS, Friendship-Edison PCS, IDEA PCS, Maya Angelou PCS, Richard Milburn PCS, SAIL PCS, SEED PCS, Techworld PCS, Village Learning Center PCS, Washington Mathematics, Science, and Technology PCS, World PCS, and Young Technocrats PCS. Arts and Technology PCS, Hyde PCS, and Marriot PCS delayed their openings until the fall of 1999.

 

Facilities preferences

FOCUS & Coalition defeat attempts to eliminate facilities preferences

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Facilities preferences

FOCUS & Coalition defeat attempts to eliminate facilities preferences.

Although the School Reform Act of 1995 gave preference to charters for acquiring excess space in the facilities inventory of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), the law did not define what it meant by "preference." This language has since been strengthened twice, first by the DC Council to read "first preference," and then by the U.S. Congress to read "right of first offer." The current law requires that charter schools be given first opportunity to bid to lease, at below-market rates, either empty DCPS school buildings or unused space within a DCPS school building that is not operating at full capacity.

PCS family fair

First PCS family fair held

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PCS family fair

Today My School DC hosts an annual EdFest, DC’s only citywide public school fair. This is an opportunity for DC families to explore the city’s many public school options (PK3-12, alternative, and adult). Representatives from DC Public Schools and DC public charter schools showcase their programs. This event originally started as a public charter school fair for District families to learn about all the public charter school choices in one place.

Click here to learn more.

Maya Angelou PCS

Maya Angelou PCS opens

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Maya Angelou PCS

The Maya Angelou PCS high school provides a comprehensive education in a non-traditional setting to all students including those who have not been successful in their educational experiences. They achieve this through a demanding academic program, socio-emotional learning support, and tiered interventions that focus on the whole child. Their students will leave them with a foundation to be successful in their pursuit of education and careers.

The Maya Angelou Young Adult Learning Center (YALC) provides academic and workforce development to older youth/young adults (ages 17-24) who do not have a high school credential, and particularly those transitioning from incarceration. The YALC offers: Academic programs for students to make progress towards their GED; workforce programming, offering OSHA 10 Certification and career internships that provide employment and skills training through Home Builders Institute; and counseling and youth development supports that young people need to get back on the right track.

Click here to learn more about Maya Angelou PCS - High School

Click here to learn more about Maya Angelou PCS - Young Adult Learning Center

Per pupil facilities allowance

FOCUS & PCS Coalition create & negotiate per pupil facilities allowance

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Per pupil facilities allowance

FOCUS & PCS Coalition create & negotiate per pupil facilities allowance.

The facilities allowance helped alleviate some of the funding disparities between DCPS and public charter schools by providing funding specifically for charter schools to buy/lease and renovate suitable buildings.

Click here to read DC Code § 38–2908: Facilities allowance for Public Charter Schools

Robert Cane starts at FOCUS

Robert Cane starts at FOCUS

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Robert Cane starts at FOCUS

Robert Cane was the executive director of FOCUS from 1998 to 2015. In that capacity Robert served as the principal advocate and spokesperson for the District’s public charter school movement, the most vibrant in the country. Cane also acted as the charter schools’ legislative watchdog, defending the District’s strong charter school laws against repeated attacks and writing and seeing through passage many amendments that were sought by charter school leaders.

Supported by a talented staff, Robert also built FOCUS into one of the nation’s premier charter school advocacy and support organizations, whose efforts in quality charter school startup and school support have been nationally recognized.

A lawyer by training, before getting involved with DC charter schools Cane worked at two large law firms and spent nine years in law school teaching and administration. In the early 1990’s, having developed a strong interest in public education reform, he enrolled in a doctoral program in education policy. Concurrently, he took on a full-time assistant principal internship at a 1,200-student high school in Virginia. A year later he moved on to an assistant principalship at another high school and two years after that became principal at yet another large Virginia high school.

Cane, an honors graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University School of Law, now makes his home in Reno, Nevada.

In 2017 Robert Cane was inducted into the DC Charter Hall of Fame.

A record number of PCSs open

A record number of PCSs open, 9 of which still thrive today

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Carlos Rosario International PCS

Carlos Rosario International PCS opens, founded by Sonia Gutiérrez

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Carlos Rosario International PCS

Over the past 40 plus years, the Carlos Rosario School has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of immigrants by investing in and supporting their journey to achieve the American Dream. Their mission is to provide education that prepares the diverse adult imigrant population of Washington, DC, to become invested, productive citizens and members of American society who give back to family and community. The school accomplishes this through excellence in teaching and learning in partnership with the community by fostering a safe and compassionate learning environment.

Click here to learn more about Carlos Rosario International PCS

In 2016 FOCUS inducted Carlos Rosario International PCS founder Sonia Gutiérrez into the DC Charter Hall of Fame. Recognizing her 44 years of service as a counselor, principal, advocate, and organizer to more than 80,000 adult immigrant students.

Click here to read Sonia Gutiérrez's bio.

Cesar Chavez PCS

Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy opens

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Cesar Chavez PCS

Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy opened with a dream to provide DC youth with a quality high school education focused on public policy. In 1998, Irasema Salcido founded the first school in a grocery store basement with 60 eager students.

From the beginning, the goal was the prepare students to pursue a college education and take an active role in addressing important social issues in their communities. Chavez Schools provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, a unique public policy program, and a safe and supportive learning environment with comprehensive support services.

Click here to learn more about Cesar Chavez PCS

In 2017 FOCUS inducted Cesar Chavez PCS, Founder, Irasema Salcido into the DC Charter Hall of Fame

Friendship PCS

Friendship PCS opens, founded by Donald Hense

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Friendship PCS

The mission of Friendship Public Charter School is to provide a world-class education that motivates students to achieve high academic standards, enjoy learning, and develop as ethical, literate, well-rounded and self-sufficient citizens who contribute actively to their communities.

Friendship operates around a simple principle: all students must be prepared for higher education and the career of their choice by ensuring mastery of the skills, knowledge, and tools needed to succeed in the 21st century global economy. Friendship's unique educational model improves academic performance, develops the "whole child," offers families wrap-around social services, and directs students to college and a solid, rewarding future. Through innovative, challenging classroom learning experiences and extended learning programs, Friendship instills an appreciation for education and high academic and personal standards, preparing students to become responsible contributors to their communities and world.

Click here to learn more about Friendship PCS

In 2016 FOCUS inducted Friendship PCS, Founder and Chairman, Donald Hense into the DC Charter Hall of Fame.

IDEA PCS

IDEA PCS opens

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IDEA PCS

IDEA, serving grades 9-12, will prepare students for the competitive high-tech careers now required in the 21st century. The school will develop students who will not only have improved test and aptitude scores but will work more cohesively as team members. This will be achieved through a unique learning environment and enhanced career opportunities that include effective integration of academic and technological career training in electronics, computer repair, engineering design (AutoCad) and the leadership skills training of the mandatory military Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program. Upon graduation, students will enter college, obtain employment in a needed career field, or join the military.

Click here to learn more about IDEA PCS

The Next Step PCS

The Next Step PCS opens

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The Next Step PCS

Next Step Public Charter School is not a traditional school. Founded to provide at-risk youth with the tools and services they need to finish high school, complete the GED exam, and move onward to college or a vocational program, NSPCS pairs a comprehensive academic program with life skills education, workshops in parenting, and programs in career readiness and financial literacy. For students with limited English skills, or learning English as a Second Language, they do not take the traditional high school approach of english immersion, instead they help students boost their academics in Spanish and then transfer their knowledge into English which proves far more successful. For students who face extraordinary challenges, Next Step is truly the first step towards a new life.

Click here to learn more about the Next Step PCS

Perry Street Prep PCS

Perry Street Prep PCS opens

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Perry Street Prep PCS

Perry Street Prep's PreK-8 School serves children in PreK through grade 8. The school is specifically designed to establish a strong academic/educational foundation through a research- and standards-based curriculum. From the earliest age, they are focused on preparing their students for the rigors of college. The Perry Street Prep population includes students from across the city with diverse learning needs, which includes children who have been identified as in need of Special Education and English Language Learning services.

Click here to learn more about Perry Street Prep PCS

The SEED School PCS

The SEED School PCS opens

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The SEED School PCS

The SEED School of Washington, D.C., opened its doors with 40 seventh grade students in July, 1998, at The Capital Children's Museum, and added students to the seventh grade each subsequent year. In 2001, the School moved to its permanent campus located in Marshall Heights, a neighborhood in Ward 7 of the District. In 2004, SEED reached full capacity with 325 students in grades seven through twelve and graduated its first class of seniors, all of whom were accepted to college. In 2009, The SEED School introduced sixth grade to its program. All students live on campus Sunday through Friday, enabling them to benefit from an integrated curriculum that incorporates academic, extracurricular, and life skills learning.

Click here to learn more about the SEED School PCS

Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS

Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS opens

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Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS

The Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School prepares culturally diverse elementary school students in the District of Columbia to be leaders, scholars and responsible citizens who are committed to social justice. Stokes teaches children to think, speak, read, write and learn in two languages: English and French or English and Spanish. With a dual focus on academic excellence and community service, the Stokes School accomplishes its mission by creating an environment of achievement, respect and non-violence.

Click here to learn more about Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS

Washington Mathematics Science Technology PCHS

Washington Mathematics Science Technology PCHS opens

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Washington Mathematics Science Technology PCHS

WMST's vision is to join the ranks of the nation's accomplished math, science, and technology oriented college preparatory institutions. As is characteristic of schools of this caliber, WMST expects to graduate significant numbers of students who will win scholarships and otherwise gain eligibility to enter and obtain degrees from top rated colleges and universities across the country. They are then expected to go on to gain preeminence in the fields and industries of math, science, and technology while always striving to be visionary catalysts in private sector, federal, state, and local municipalities.

Click here to learn more about Washington Mathematics Science Technology PCS

Paul PCS stay in its building

FOCUS convinces Control Board to let Paul PCS stay in its building

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Paul PCS stay in its building

Paul PCS was the first conversion of a DCPS school to a public charter school. There was widespread opposition from the DCPS central office and the teacher's union to allowing the school to keep the building where it had operated as a DCPS school.

When the school finally converted, in 2000, the District refused to sign a lease giving the charter “site control,” as required to allow city funds to flow. The Charter Board could not make its first payment to the school, so a banker, who would later join and chair the PCSB, Tom Nida, extended a line of credit to allow the school to open. Finally the District backed down and signed a lease, but neighborhood activists sued, and it took a court decision to establish the principle that schools converting to charter status could keep their buildings.

Paul PCS continues to operate in their building on 8th Street NW.

Proposed budget under-funds charter schools

Mayor Barry’s proposed budget under-funds charter schools by $9 million

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Proposed budget under-funds charter schools

Mayor Barry’s proposed budget under-funds charter schools by $9 million.

Proposed budgets for the District of Columbia have underfunded charter schools every year since the first charter schools opened, though the disparities have diminished somewhat in recent years.

Click here to learn more.

Charter leaders listserv

FOCUS establishes charter leaders listserv

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Charter leaders listserv

FOCUS established a charter leaders listserv to facilitate communication with and between DC's public charter school leaders around information relevant to all schools. The listserv has been a key communication tool for the sector, and is still in use today.

5,000 students

PCS enrollment surpasses 5,000 students

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5,000 students

6,980 students attend a DC public charter school, which is 9% of all DC public school students.

Click here to learn more.

Ideal Academy PCS

Ideal Academy PCS opens

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Ideal Academy PCS

Ideal Academy PCS is a community committed to excellence in education by providing a nurturing learning environment that enables our students to become competent and contributing global citizens. At Ideal Academy, they embrace the whole child: mind, body and character, providing them not only cognitive development, but also social, emotional, physical and creative growth.

Click here to learn more about Ideal Academy PCS

Meridian PCS

Meridian PCS opens

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Meridian PCS

The mission of Meridian is to instill within their students a passion for learning and to build self-confidence and self-respect through academic achievement. They aim to do this by creating a secure and positive learning environment in which children are encouraged to develop their full potential, intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. They prepare children to become contributing members of society. Curriculum integration is paramount to academic achievement. Through a thematic approach, concepts in science, social studies, language arts, and mathematics are explored. Their goal is to create critical thinkers who are excited about the learning process.

Click here to learn more about Meridian PCS 

Roots PCS

Roots PCS opens

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Roots PCS

The Roots Public Charter School utilizes as a model the curriculum and programs of the Roots Activity Learning Center, a successful independent African Centered school which has a leading reputation for student academic achievement. The Roots PCS alumni have been successful at all of the area's finest high schools. Roots is nationally accredited by The Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools and The Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation. Roots serves students in grades PreK-3 through 8.

Click here to learn more about Roots PCS

1st facilities allowance

DC Council sets 1st facilities allowance at $617 (formula produced $1,048)

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1st facilities allowance

DC Council sets 1st facilities allowance at $617 (formula produced $1,048).

The original facilities allowance formula was based on a 5-year rolling average of DCPS facilities costs. However, from the first year of the facilities allowance, the DC Council has consistently underfunded the public charter school facilities, first by ignoring the formula and subsequently by changing it or refusing, until 2017, to include adjustments to allow the facilities fund to keep pace with rising construction and borrowing costs in the District.

Credit Enhancement

Congress creates Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities program

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Credit Enhancement

Congress creates Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities program.

This program provides grants to eligible entities to permit them to enhance the credit of charter schools so that the charter schools can access private sector and other non-federal capital in order to acquire, construct, and renovate facilities at a reasonable cost.

Click here to learn more.

Funding for increased enrollment

Charters don’t get funding for their increased enrollment until December

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Funding for increased enrollment

Charters don’t get funding for their increased enrollment until December.

While DCPS received full funding in July of each year, public charter schools were forced to survive for half the year on less funding than they were due.

Surplus buildings

FOCUS convinces Control Board to shift surplus buildings from DCPS to Mayor

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Surplus buildings

FOCUS led the effort to convice the Control Board under the direction of Ms. Alice Rivlin to shift the power to make tax payer owned school buildings available from the Chancellor of DCPS to the Mayor.

State Education Agency

Congress creates State Education Agency

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State Education Agency

The State Education Agency was created to ensure effective oversight of federal funding for DCPS and charter schools. In 2007 this function was transferred to the newly created Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The functions were transferred to OSSE to allow for a legitimate "state" education agency instead of federal dollars for public charter schools being facilitated by DCPS, where the State Education Agency was originally housed.

OSSE is charged with raising the quality of education for all DC residents. OSSE serves as the District’s liaison to the U.S. Department of Education and works closely with the District’s traditional and public charter schools to achieve its key functions:

  • Overseeing all federal education programs and related grants administered in the District of Columbia.
  • Developing state-level standards aligned with school, college, and workforce readiness expectations.
  • Ensuring access to high-quality child care and universal pre-kindergarten for eligible District families.
  • Providing resources and support to assist the District’s most vulnerable student populations.
  • Administering the annual Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the statewide student academic achievement exam.
  • Providing regional, door-to-door transportation to school for District children with special needs.
  • Awarding higher education financial assistance to eligible District students at public and private colleges and universities in DC and across the country.
  • Increasing health and physical education awareness as well as ensuring access to free meals year-round.
  • Overseeing the DC State Athletic Association (DCSAA), which provides interscholastic athletic programming that enriches the education experiences of all student-athletes.
  • Providing a one-stop source of statewide school data on each traditional and public charter school as well as resources to support children from birth to post-secondary education

$5 million for Credit Enhancement

Congress provides $5 million for Credit Enhancement program

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$5 million for Credit Enhancement

This program provides grants to eligible entities to permit them to enhance the credit of charter schools so that the charter schools can access private sector and other non-federal capital in order to acquire, construct, and renovate facilities at a reasonable cost.

Click here to learn more.

FY 2001 budget under-funds charters

FY 2001 budget under-funds charters by at least 50%

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FY 2001 budget under-funds charters

FY 2001 budget under-funds charters by at least 50%.

Proposed budgets for the District of Columbia have underfunded charter schools every year since the first charter schools opened, though the disparities have diminished somewhat in recent years.

Click here to learn more.

Capital City PCS

Capital City PCS opens

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Capital City PCS

Capital City Public Charter School enables a diverse group of students to meet high expectations, develop creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, achieve a deep understanding of complex subjects, acquire a love of learning, along with a strong sense of community and character. Servings grades Pre-K - 12, Capital City graduates young adults who are self-directed, intellectually engaged and possess a commitment to personal and civic responsibility.

Click here to learn more about Capital City PCS

Paul PCS

Paul PCS opens

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Paul PCS

The mission of Paul Public Charter School is to educate their students and to develop in them the capacity to be responsible citizens, independent thinkers, and leaders. Paul PCS, located in Northwest Washington, DC, serves students in middle and high school and is the home of the M.E.R.I.T. Scholars (motivated, educated, responsible, independent thinker). Beginning in the middle grades, MERIT Scholars experience a rigorous academic curriculum, coupled with arts and athletic opportunities to develop a firm foundation to eventually enter our college preparatory program at Paul International High School.

Click here to learn more about Paul PCS

Proposed budget fully funds charters

For the first time, a DC mayor’s proposed budget fully funds charters

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Proposed budget fully funds charters

Anthony A. Williams for the first time in the history of the District of Columbia puts forward a budget that would pay public charter schools for the actual number of students that they enroll.

10,000 students

PCS enrollment surpasses 10,000 students

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10,000 students

10,679 students attend a DC public charter school, which is 14% of all DC public school students.

Click here to learn more.

Cedar Tree Academy PCS

Cedar Tree Academy PCS opens

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Cedar Tree Academy PCS

Cedar Tree Academy is an early childhood public charter school located in the southeast quadrant of the District of Columbia. They provide children at grade levels Pre-k 3, Pre-K 4, and Kindgergarten access to exceptional learning. Their environment is safe and their highly qualified staff is nuturing and engaging. The leadership and instructional staff is commited to the academic, social, and emotional growth of each and every child in their care.

Click here to learn more about Cedar Tree Academy PCS

KIPP DC

KIPP DC opens

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KIPP DC

KIPP DC is a network of high-performing public college-preparatory charter schools in Washington D.C. which serves the city's under-resourced communities. At KIPP DC there are no shortcuts: outstanding educators, more time in school, a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, and a strong culture of achievement and support help their students make significant academic gains and continue to excel in high school and college.

Click here to learn more about KIPP DC PCS

Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS

Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS opens

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Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS

Thurgood Marshall Academy is a college-preparatory public charter high school located in ward 8's historic Anacostia neighborhood. The school upholds Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's legacy of equal opportunity through our commitment to providing an excellent education for all students. Opened in 2001, Thurgood Marshall Academy prepares students to succeed in college and instills in students an understanding of democracy and advocacy for themselves and for others.

Click here to learn more about Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS

No Child Left Behind Act

President Bush signs No Child Left Behind Act into law

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No Child Left Behind Act

Coming soon...

15% attend charters

15% of public school students in DC now attend charters

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15% attend charters

11,452 students attend a DC public charter school, which is more than 15% of all DC public school students.

Click here to learn more.

$5 million Direct Loan Program

FOCUS works with Congress to establish $5 million Direct Loan Program for charters

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$5 million Direct Loan Program

FOCUS works with Congress to establish $5 million Direct Loan Program for charters.

The Direct Loan program was funded initially by the District of Columbia 2003 Appropriations Act to structure and provide loans to District of Columbia public charter schools for the purpose of construction, acquisition, renovation, and/or maintenance of public charter school facilities.  

Additional capital allocations were appropriated to the Direct Loan Funds during the fiscal years (FY) 2001-11. In FY 2012 and FY 2015, the Direct Loan fund was awarded additional funds under the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act. As of April 2016 the Direct Loan balance is $9.9 million.

Since inception the Direct Loan Program has disbursed close to $53 million in direct loans to 36 public charter schools, leveraging over $325 million in additional funding for school facilities.

Click here to learn more.

 

DC Prep PCS

DC Prep PCS opens

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DC Prep PCS

DC Prep's mission is to bridge the educational divide in Washington, DC by increasing the number of students from underserved communities with the academic preparation and personal character to succeed in competitive high schools and colleges. At DC Prep PCS every child will be prepared academically and socially for a successful future. This aspirational goal embodies the spirit of their organization and guides the people and the day-to-day educational and operational practices that are the hallmark of DC Prep.

Click here to learn more about DC Prep PCS

Eagle Academy PCS

Eagle Academy PCS opens

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Eagle Academy PCS

Eagle Academy Public Charter School seeks to build the foundation of a promising future for all students in a rich, robust learning environment that fosters creativity, problem-solving abilities, emphasizing cognitive, social and emotional growth by engaging children as active learners, in an inclusive learning environment. Eagle Academy serves grades PreK-3 through 3.

Click here to learn more about Eagle Academy PCS

LAMB PCS

LAMB PCS opens

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LAMB PCS

LAMB's mission is to create a self-directed learning environment in which children build a foundation of knowledge essential for a lifetime of learning while developing bi-literacry in English and Spanish.

Click here to learn more about LAMB PCS

Congress boosts Credit Enhancement Program

Congress boosts Credit Enhancement Program funds & facilities allowance

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Congress boosts Credit Enhancement Program

The Credit Enhancement Revolving Fund is authorized by Section 603 (e)(3)(C)(iii) of the Student Loan Marketing Association Reorganization Act of 1996 (20 U.S.C. 1155(e)(3)(C)(iii)) and approved in accordance with D.C. Official Code§2-301.05a (Supp. 2007). The Credit Enhancement Revolving Fund provides enhanced credit, lease guarantees, and access to financial assistance to eligible public charter schools for the acquisition, renovation, and/or construction of school facilities.

Click here to learn more.

Amendments to School Reform Act

FOCUS-drafted amendments to School Reform Act signed into law by President Bush

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Amendments to School Reform Act

In an effort to improve the School Reform Act (SRA), FOCUS guides legislative language through Congress to the President's desk.  The successful amendments continue the effort by FOCUS to counter the District government's efforts to ignore or misinterpret the SRA to continue to deny charter students equality.

DC Association of Chartered Public Schools

DC Association of Chartered Public Schools incorporates

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DC Association of Chartered Public Schools

The mission of the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools is to improve opportunities and outcomes for students by supporting the development, growth, and sustainability of quality chartered public schools in Washington, DC. The Association serves all chartered public schools in the District of Columbia.

The vision of the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools is that the chartered public schools in the District of Columbia, catalyzed and supported by their Association in strategic partnership with others, will become the quality research and learning center that is needed in the nation, to begin to answer critically important unanswered questions about the quality; demand, accessibility, and retention; governance; sustainability; and community development benefits of chartered public schools.

Click here to learn more.

20% attend charters

20% of public school students in DC now attend charters

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20% attend charters

15,493 students attend a DC public charter school, which is more than 20% of all DC public school students.

Click here to learn more.

DC Bilingual PCS

DC Bilingual PCS opens

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DC Bilingual PCS

DC Bilingual PCS is a learning community that ensures high academic achievement for all students in both Spanish and English, develops leadership, and values all cultures. DC Bilingual implements an innovative developmentally appropriate, two-way immersion curriculum.

Click here to learn more about DC Bilingual PCS

E.L. Haynes PCS

E.L. Haynes PCS opens

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E.L. Haynes PCS

At the core of the E.L. Haynes program is the unwavering belief that every student, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or home language, is capable of reaching high levels of academic performance. Founded in 2004 by now Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer C. Niles, E.L. Hanyes has grown from its humble beginnings above a CVS drugstore serving 139 students in grades PK-2 to serve nearly 10 times as many students at three beautiful facilities across two campuses. Over the years, E.L. Haynes has become nationally recognized and the recipient of numerous awards, accolades, and visits from state and foreign dignitaries. In 2015, they celebrated their first high school graduation.

Click here to learn more about E.L. Haynes PCS

Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy PCS

Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy PCS opens

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Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy PCS

Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy Public Charter School is dedicated to meeting the educational needs of all students. They believe that students should be taught to think independently, to accept responsibility, and to approach school and life with a positive attitude. Their educational program provides opportunities for each child to develop emotionally, physically, socially, and intellectually at his/her own developmental level. They value each child as an individual capable of great talent and learning. Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy Public Charter School serves elementary and middle school students.

Click here to learn more about Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy PCS

Two Rivers PCS

Two Rivers PCS opens

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Two Rivers PCS

The mission of Two Rivers Public Charter School is to nurture a diverse group of students to become lifelong, active participants in their own education, develop a sense of self and community, and become responsible and compassionate members of society. A parent-founded and community-supported public charter school, Two Rivers provides students across the city with a vibrant educational environment where students and staff become a community of learners on a journey of discovery. Two Rivers offers an interactive, project-based instructional model, Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, complemented by an extensive arts program, emphasis on literacy, and a Spanish program. The school focuses on the whole child, recognizing the importance of character education and the social-emotional needs of children while helping them achieve academic excellence.

Click here to learn more about Two Rivers PCS

City Arts and Prep PCS

City Arts and Prep PCS (formerly William E. Doar, Jr. PCS) opens

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William E. Doar Jr. PCS

City Arts + Prep Public Charter School is the District’s only college preparatory public charter school that integrates rigorous academic instruction with world-class performing arts programs to propel young people towards success in school and in life.

Building on a long legacy as the William E. Doar, Jr. (WEDJ) Public Charter School for the Performing Arts, City Arts educates students in PreK through eighth grade from across the city and combines unparalleled opportunities to learn dance, theatre, music and visual arts at no cost to families.

Click here to learn more about City Arts and Prep PCS

Charter school startup program

FOCUS takes on charter school startup program after Resource Center closes

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Charter school startup program

Prior to its closure in 2003, the Charter School Resource Center offered workshops and information sessions for individuals interested in starting new charter schools.  After it closed, FOCUS took on this role and in 2004 created a formal charter school startup program, School Design and Development.

With the creation of the startup program, FOCUS became a one-stop training and support center for individuals and organizations seeking to start new charter schools in the District of Columbia.

The FOCUS startup program continues to provide aspiring charter school leaders with the tools and guidance necessary for creating successful charter school applications and for opening outstanding schools. Virtually every school that has opened its doors since the startup program began has used some of FOCUS’s support services.

Click here to learn more.

Alleged enrollment discrimination

Capitol Hill group sues Two Rivers PCS for alleged enrollment discrimination

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Alleged enrollment discrimination

Two anti-charter Capitol Hill parents filed a lawsuit against Two Rivers PCS on the basis of enrollment discrimination. The claim was that the students enrolled at the school were not reflective of the population of the neighborhood in which the school was situated. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed in 2010.

Property tax rebate bill

FOCUS-drafted property tax rebate bill passed by DC Council

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Property tax rebate bill

FOCUS-drafted property tax rebate bill passed by DC Council.

The Public Charter School Real Property Tax Rebate Act of 2003 introduced on June 3, 2003 was unanimously passed by the Council and became law on April 5, 2005.

One-year moratorium on chartering

The Board of Education declares one-year moratorium on chartering

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One-year moratorium on chartering

The Board of Education declares one-year moratorium on chartering.

Subsequently the Board of Education will relinquish its chartering authority.

Bridges PCS

Bridges PCS opens

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Bridges PCS

Servings grades prek-3 through 5, Bridges provides an exemplary educational program that includes all students. The inclusive learning community builds understanding, awareness and support by connecting children and families with a variety of different needs, cultures and backgrounds. Inclusive education is beneficial to all of the students who have the opportunity to participate. and builds compassionate relationships among students, develops self-esteem in individuals, and develops the awareness that everyone has strengths and challenges.

Click here to learn more about Bridges PCS

Early Childhood Academy PCS

Early Childhood Academy PCS opens

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Early Childhood Academy PCS

It is the mission of Early Childhood Academy Public Charter School to foster the academic and social/emotional growth and development of each student in a safe and holistic learning environment that will equip all students with the knowledge and tools to become high achievers, proficient readers, and critical thinkers who will thrive for a lifetime as productive and caring citizens. Early Childhood Academy Public Charter School serves students in grades PreK-3 through 3.

Click here to learn more about Early Childhood Academy PCS

Hope Community PCS

Hope Community PCS opens

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Hope Community PCS

It is Hope Community's mission to shape the hearts and minds of their students positively, by providing them with an academically rigorous, content rich curriculum, an environment in which character is modeled and promoted, and a community in which to build trusting relationships with others.

Click here to learn more about Hope Community PCS Tolson Campus

Click here to learn more about Hope Community PCS Lamond Campus

Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science PCS

Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science PCS opens

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Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science PCS

The Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS)² is a public charter school committed to academic excellence, focusing on mathematics and science for grades 6-8. (MS)² is a high-performing charter school, created in partnership with Howard University, designed to deliver programs to help students reach their goals and develop the skills needed to succeed beyond the classroom.

Click here to learn more about Howard University Middle School of Math and Science

YouthBuild PCS

YouthBuild PCS opens

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YouthBuild PCS

YouthBuild Public Charter School (YBPCS) is an alternative high school for young people seeking to transform their lives by re-engaging in their education in a non-traditional school environment. YBPCS prepares students for post-secondary education and the workplace by offering, in English and Spanish, academic, vocational and workforce development programs. YBPCS believes that service to the community is an essential part of the transformative process. Therefore, students serve their community through volunteer projects and by creating housing for low income residents in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Click here to learn more about YouthBuild PCS

Open Meetings law

FOCUS defeats effort to apply Open Meetings law to charters

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Open Meetings law

FOCUS successfully fought off an effort by private citizens to apply the Open Meetings Law to public charter schools. Public charter schools are not part of the government and therefore are not subject to the Open Meetings Law.

Chartering authority

The Board of Education asks Congress to relieve it of its chartering authority

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Chartering authority

The Board of Education asks Congress to relieve it of its chartering authority.

10th anniversary

Charters celebrate 10th anniversary

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10th anniversary

10 years in, DC's public charter school movement is thriving. 72 campuses are open and thousands of District families have been able to choose a quality charter school program that will meet the needs of their student. Innovative schools abound, with charter schools offering diverse programs including language immersion, arts integration, STEM, adult education, and beyond.

 

25% attend charters

25% of public school students in DC now attend charters

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25% attend charters

19,733 students attend a DC public charter school, which is more than 25% of all DC public school students.

Click here to learn more.

Briya PCS

Briya PCS opens

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Briya PCS

Briya's mission is to provide a high-quality education for adults and children that empowers families through a culturally sensitive family literacy model. This program provides ESL, computer skills, parenting, and civics instruction to parents while preparing their children ages 0-5 for school success. Students also have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma or enter a workforce development program.

Click here for to learn more about Briya PCS

St. Coletta Special Education PCS

St. Coletta Special Education PCS opens

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St. Coletta Special Education PCS

The mission of St. Coletta Special Education Public Charter School is to serve students with intellectual disabilities, autism and multiple disabilities. St. Coletta is a functional life-skills and functional academic program providing a full-range of related services delivered on-site and in an integrated educational model.

Click here to learn more about St. Coletta Special Education PCS

Washington Latin PCS

Washington Latin PCS opens

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Washington Latin PCS

Washington Latin is a publicly chartered college preparatory school for grades five through twelve offering a challenging classical education in which community, character, and citizenship are valued. Founded in 2006, Washington Latin is the first and only school in the nation's capital to make a rigorous classical education accessible to students from all areas of Washington, DC.

Click here to learn more about Washington Latin PCS

72 PCS campuses are open

10 years after the passing of the School Reform Act, 72 PCS campuses are open in DC

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72 PCS campuses are open

25% of public school students in DC now attend a DC public charter school (19,733 students). This percentage has increased every year since the first public charter school opened.

Mayoral takeover of DCPS

DC Council approves mayoral takeover of DCPS

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Mayoral takeover of DCPS

The Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA), still in effect today, shifted control of most key aspects of DCPS to the mayor.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty won final approval from the D.C. Council to take control of the city's public schools, beginning a historic transfer of power that placed him in charge of fixing the troubled 55,000-student system.

Click here to learn more.

BOE is relieved of its chartering authority

BOE is relieved of its chartering authority by Congress

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BOE is relieved of its chartering authority

The DC Public Charter School Board becomes the sole authorizer of public charter schools in DC after the Board of Education voluntarily relinquishes its ability to charter.

Founder admissions-preference bill

DC Council passes founder admissions-preference bill

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Founder admissions-preference bill

DC Council passes founder admissions-preference bill, which means public charter schools may now opt to accept children of their schools' founders without going through the lottery.

State Education Office (OSSE)

State Education Agency moves from DCPS to State Education Office (OSSE)

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State Education Office (OSSE)

State Education Agency moves from DCPS to State Education Office (OSSE). This ensured that the entity that administers federal funds to public schools in the District is an independent agency and not within DCPS.

Click here to learn more.

30% attend charters

30% of public school students in DC now attend charters

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30% attend charters

21,948 students attend a DC public charter school, which is more than 30% of all DC public school students.

Click here to read more.

Charter school law repealed

DC’s local charter school law repealed

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Charter school law repealed

DC’s local charter school law repealed.

The Congressional School Reform Act of 1995 is still in effect and currently governs public charter schools in the District.

Legal Advocacy Fund

FOCUS granted $750K Legal Advocacy Fund through the Walton Family Foundation

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Legal Advocacy Fund

FOCUS granted $750K Legal Advocacy Fund through the Walton Family Foundation.

This fund supports FOCUS's efforts to ensure public charter schools are being treated fairly in accordance with the law. The Fund will prove critical in the public charter school communities' lawsuit against the city for continued illegal budgets that do not treat every student equitably.

Click here to learn more.

Surplus schools

FOCUS defeats Mayor Fenty’s efforts to make charters compete for surplus schools

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Surplus schools

FOCUS defeats Mayor Fenty’s efforts to make charters compete for surplus schools.

35% attend charters

35% of public school students in DC now attend charters

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35% attend charters

25,732 students attend a DC public charter school, which is more than 35% of all DC public school students.

Click here to learn more.

Achievement Prep Academy PCS

Achievement Prep Academy PCS opens

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Achievement Prep Academy PCS

Achievement Prep is a network of high-performing, college preparatory schools located east of the Anacostia River in Ward 8 of Washington, DC. Founded to close the achievement gap and address the educational needs in the community, Achievement Prep schools are award-winning and have been recognized for their immediate impact in closing the achievement gap between low-income and affluent students in Washington, DC.

Click here to learn more about Achievement Prep PCS

Center City PCS

Center City PCS opens

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Center City PCS

Center City Public Charter Schools empower their students for lifelong success by building strong character, promoting academic excellence, and generating public service throughout Washington D.C.

Center City PCS teaches a broad liberal arts and humanities curriculum to students in PreKindergarten-Eighth Grade. They believe, teach, and live Character, Excellence, and Service. They commit to the intellectual, physical, moral and emotional well-being of each scholar and believe every child can learn, lead and serve. Center City PCS's academic model is built in a disciplined environment that encourages students to strive for excellence in education and their community.

Click here to learn more about Center City PCS 

Excel Academy PCS

Excel Academy PCS opens

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Excel Academy PCS

Excel Academy Public Charter School is Washington's first public school for girls. They opened their doors to 134 scholars on August 13, 2008. Located in the heart of Anacostia in Ward 8, Excel's STEM-focused academics and extracurricular activities support Common Core instruction in a safe, nurturing environment. At Excel, they believe that with a Constructivist approach and strong support, all students can learn and achieve at high levels.

Click here to learn more about Excel Academy PCS

Washington Yu Ying PCS

Washington Yu Ying PCS opens

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Washington Yu Ying PCS

In 2008, Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School was founded by a small group of parents dedicated to establishing a world-class Chinese immersion school in the District of Columbia. From their founding, Yu Ying has been the only school of its kind in the D.C. area. Washington Yu Ying's mission is to inspire and prepare young people to create a better world by challenging them to reach their full potential in a nurturing Chinese/English educational environment.

Click here to learn more about Washington Yu Ying PCS

PCSB converts Catholic schools to Center City PCS

PCSB converts Catholic schools to Center City PCS over objections from Council & Mayor

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PCSB converts Catholic schools to Center City PCS

The Roman Catholic diocese of Washington decided to convert eight K-8 schools it could no longer afford into charters. The Mayor, The Council, The American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans for Separation of Church and State all objected, fearing public funding for religious education. Tom Nida, then chair of the PCSB, dismissed the worries about publicly financed religion stating: “The reality was, in the entire system of schools that came over, there was a total of two nuns. Most of the teachers were not even Catholic, and most of the kids weren’t. They just wanted to have a safe, affordable school to go to because the neighborhood school was awful, and they couldn’t get into a charter.” The charter board approved the conversions - and the Center City Public Charter Schools - have thrived.

Click here to learn more.

Defeat of attempt to slash facilities allowance

Led by FOCUS, charters defeat Mayor Fenty’s attempt to slash facilities allowance

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Defeat of attempt to slash facilities allowance

FOCUS mobilized thousands of public charter school parents to protest Mayor Fenty's plan to almost eliminate the charter school facilities allowance.

OSSE abandons intrusive discipline regulations

FOCUS ensures that OSSE abandons intrusive discipline regulations

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OSSE abandons intrusive discipline regulations

FOCUS ensures that OSSE abandons intrusive discipline regulations.

OSSE attempted to mandate one size fits all discipline regulations to all public schools, which is directly in conflict with the Congressional School Reform Act that grants exclusive control of their daily operations to DC's public charter schools.

National Collegiate Preparatory PCHS

National Collegiate Preparatory PCHS opens

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National Collegiate Preparatory PCHS

National Collegiate Preparatory PCHS was founded on the basis to provide students with a great high school education. It is their goal to teach students to be life-long learners and give them the ability to succeed in college and become productive young adults within their communities. It is their goal to provide a well-rounded educational experience for their students, including a rigorous college prep curriculum to prepare their students for college and give them an international experience including opportunities to travel abroad and learn about other cultures and customs while attending National Collegiate Preparatory PCHS.

Click here to learn more about National Collegiate Prep PCS

Original version of PMF blocked

Led by FOCUS, charters block implementation of original version of PMF

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Original version of PMF blocked

In 2008 the Charter Board decided to create a Performance Management Framework (PMF)—a common yardstick for all charter schools — so it could compare them and ensure that schools are held accountable for performance. The first version of the PMF would have created serious, illegal intrusions into charter school autonomy. FOCUS's efforts to stop the initial implementation led to the PCSB working with charter school leaders over several years to create a more acceptable version that was finally implemented.

Today the DC Public Charter Schoool Board’s Performance Management Framework (PMF) is used to produce the annual detailed School Quality Reports for each public charter school over which it provides oversight. DC PCSB uses the tool to review each school’s academic performance annually. Families can use these reports to find out how a public charter school is performing and as a guide to help them select a new school.

Click here to learn more.

FOCUS’s online data dashboards

FOCUS’s online data dashboards go live

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FOCUS’s online data dashboards

Since 2007 FOCUS began to build expertise in the collection, storage, and analysis of student performance and other school data, and used this capacity to support  advocacy efforts with compelling graphs to portray school performance metrics, funding inequalities, and the need for access to surplus school buildings. 

These graphs proved so effective that we created interactive online dashboards displaying comparative school performance data for our website, in order to provide constant access for families, policymakers, and other stakeholders. 

We also helped charter support organizations in six other states to create similar dashboards, and have  and are now a nationally respected source for innovation in data use within the charter community.  We continue to redesign our online dashboards to incorporate new information.

Click here to learn more.

First Annual DC Data Summit

FOCUS co-hosts the first Annual DC Data Summit

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First Annual DC Data Summit

In 2010, FOCUS co-hosted the first annual DC Data Summit with partners New Leaders and the Achievement Network (ANet) for teachers, administrators, and data managers across the city. 

The Data Summit creates a space for schools to share strategies and best practices for using data to drive instructional decision-making at all levels. 

Since its inception, it has included both charter schools and DCPS schools, and it remains an opportunity for collaboration and dissemination of best practices across the city.

Click here to learn more.

OSSE take-over of Pre-K education blocked

FOCUS blocks OSSE take-over of Pre-K education

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OSSE take-over of Pre-K education blocked

OSSE attempted to mandate stringent regulations for pre-k education programs, in direct conflict with the Congressional School Reform Act that grants exclusive control of their curriculum and daily operations to DC's public charter schools.

Lawsuit against Two Rivers PCS dismissed

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Two Rivers PCS

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Lawsuit against Two Rivers PCS dismissed

The 2006 lawsuit was completely dismissed.

PCSB improves charter school agreement

PCSB improves charter school agreement in response to FOCUS’s suggestions

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PCSB improves charter school agreement

FOCUS worked to ensure that the charter school agreement schools sign with the Public Charter School Board is not in conflict with the School Reform Act.

40% attend charters

40% of public school students in DC now attend charters

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40% attend charters

31,562 students attend a DC public charter school, which is more than 40% of all DC public school students.

Click here to learn more.

Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS

Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS opens

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Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS

The Inspired Teaching Demonstration School's standards-based curriculum is centered around the belief that children are inherently good and have an innate desire to learn; that every child can be successful in school; and that children's energy, unique talents, and individuality are assets, not obstacles. Active, hands-on experiential learning will be primary. They believe every student possesses the ability to think critically, learn and understand information, and solve complex problems, and that students should spend time in school engaged primarily in these kinds of activities. Young people will learn to read and write and achieve at high levels without having to surrender their intellectual curiosity and passion for learning.

Click here to learn more about Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS

Click here to learn more about the Center for Inspired Teaching

Mundo Verde PCS

Mundo Verde PCS opens

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Mundo Verde PCS

At Mundo Verde, they seek to create a diverse, nurturing environment that fosters social and emotional development as well as academic excellence. They motivate life-long learning by empowering students to explore, learn, and think. Mundo Verde embraces an educational model known as Expeditionary Learning that has proved successful in Washington's most sought-after public charter schools. They are the only school in the District to also focus on environmental sustainability and bilingual education.

Click here to learn more about Mundo Verde PCS

Richard Wright PCS

Richard Wright PCS for Journalism & Media Arts opens

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Richard Wright PCS

Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts is a unique high school offering students, beginning with grade 8, an opportunity to explore high school while focusing on their areas of interest within journalism and media arts. Their educational focus is to create great writers, journalists and productive citizens. Their commitment to education will empower students to become creative, innovative thinkers regardless of their ethnicity, socioeconomic status or gender.

Click here to learn more about Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts

Shining Stars Montessori Academy PCS

Shining Stars Montessori Academy PCS opens

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Shining Stars Montessori Academy PCS

Shining Stars Montessori Academy's mission is to offer quality Montessori education infused with culturally inclusive principles to guide children to develop to their fullest potential. Shining Stars Montessori Academy serves children in grades PreK-3 through 5.

Click here to learn more about Shining Stars Montessori Academy PCS

Special education funds

FOCUS defeats Mayor Gray’s attempt to dictate spending of special education funds

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Special education funds

FOCUS defeats Mayor Gray’s attempt to dictate spending of special education funds

Mayor Gray's proposed legislation would have dictated how DC's public charter schools spend money on special education, in direct conflict with the Congressional School Reform Act, which grants exclusive control over personnel and operations to DC's public charter schools.

 

BASIS Washington DC PCS

BASIS Washington DC PCS opens

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BASIS Washington DC PCS

BASIS Washington DC provides an unparalleled, enriching community where students work hard to pursue genuine understanding. The culture-plus-curriculum building blocks are conducive to instilling in students a lifelong love and respect for knowledge, to understanding the importance of hard work and self-reliance as a path toward success, and to the discovery of individual strengths to be able to invent, design, and apply.

Click here to learn more about BASIS Washington DC PCS

Creative Minds PCS

Creative Minds PCS opens

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Creative Minds International PCS

The goal of Creative Minds International Public Charter School is to offer students a rigorous education plan that provides them with the skills required for successful participation in a global society. This goal is accomplished through a highly-engaging program based on an international, project- and arts-based curriculum that includes foreign language instruction as well as standards-based literacy and mathematics.

Click here to learn more about Creative Minds International PCS

DC Scholars PCS

DC Scholars PCS opens

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DC Scholars PCS

To prepare Scholars for success in college and beyond, DC Scholars PCS not only delivers rigorous instruction, but also serves as a community of joy where students thrive. Operating under a code of excellence, they engage their families and the surrounding community so their students learn from excellent leaders and teachers, experience a strong culture and receive effective instruction. DC Scholars Public Charter School is part of the Scholar Academies network of high-quality public schools.

Click here to learn more about DC Scholars PCS

LAYC Career Academy PCS

LAYC Career Academy PCS opens

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LAYC Career Academy PCS

Using positive youth development principles that foster self-awareness, self-confidence, problem-solving skills, and resilience critical to future success, LAYC Career Academy provides young people between the ages of 16 and 24 with skills necessary to attain a GED certificate, career training in high-growth occupations, college-credit classes, and preparation for success in college and careers.

Click here to learn more about LAYC Career Academy PCS

Neighborhood preference

Task Force advises against neighborhood preference for charters

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Neighborhood preference

"The Neighborhood Preference Task Force advised against implementing a neighborhood preference for charter school enrollment.

The 12-member task force included five government officials (or their designees) from the Public Charter School Board, the Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, the State Superintendent of Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, and the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools; and seven nongovernment members, including two representatives from charter support organizations (incl. Robert Cane, FOCUS), a representative from the education department of a national research organization, a representative from a national charter school organization, two charter school leaders selected by the Public Charter School Board Chair, and a labor representative.

The task force met four times to evaluate neighborhood preference options and analyze related data. Overall the analysis showed that the impact of neighborhood preference would not increase the number of, or access to, quality seats in DC public charter schools. In fact, the data found that there could be an adverse effect on access for certain students. As a result, after reviewing the available data, listening to public testimony, and discussing the implications and feasibility of a neighborhood preference system, they determined that charter school admissions should remain open to students across the city. The task force found no need to institute neighborhood preference for the 2013-14 school year."

Open access to charter data prevented

FOCUS defends charters against OSSE attempt to gain open access to their data

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Open access to charter data prevented

FOCUS defends charters against the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (OSSE) attempt to gain open access to their data.

OSSE attempted to require public charter schools to give OSSE open access to their data, above and beyond federal reporting requirements, which would have been a compliance burden as well as a possible privacy issue.

Community College Preparatory Academy PCS

Community College Preparatory Academy PCS opens

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Community College Preparatory Academy PCS

Community College Preparatory Academy(CC Prep) rests on the belief that an exciting and supportive learning environment that is responsive to all students’ learning needs will yield high performance outcomes. CC Prep aims to provide the education and skills development that will empower and prepare under-credited adults for post-secondary education success, viable employment and lifelong learning. CC Prep accepts DC residents who are aged 18 or older. They actively recruit those adults who wish to improve their chances of success in post-secondary education and the District’s knowledge-based economy.

Click here to learn more about Community College Prep PCS

Ingenuity Prep PCS

Ingenuity Prep PCS opens

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Ingenuity Prep PCS

Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School prepares students to succeed in college and beyond as impactful civic leaders. With more learning time and increased efficiency in its model, Ingenuity Prep offers an educational program that prepares students for mastery of 1) rigorous core content and 2) a broader set of 21st century civic leadership competencies. Located in Southeast Washington, D.C., Ingenuity Prep is committed to preparing students to succeed in college and beyond as impactful civic leaders.  In this work, the school aspires to become one of the highest-performing schools in the country.

Click here to learn more about Ingenuity Prep PCS

Sela PCS

Sela PCS opens

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Sela PCS

Sela PCS is the first Hebrew Language Immersion Public Charter School in the District of Columbia. It is also the only Hebrew Language Charter School in the United States where children will learn all subjects in both English and Hebrew. Sela PCS has an innovative learning culture and will continue to innovate.

Click here to learn more about Sela PCS

Somerset Prep DC PCS

Somerset Academy PCS opens

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Somerset Academy PCS

The mission of Somerset Prep DC Public Charter School is to provide an individualized, academically rigorous, and engaging curriculum that focuses on the ever-changing needs of their learners. Their educational process encompasses the partnership between school, family, and community, in order to develop a life-long love of learning. At Somerset Prep DC Public Charter School they strive to develop students in grades 6 -12 who are self assured, well-rounded, and prepared for future success.

Click here to learn more about Somerset Prep DC PCS

Uniform per-student funding laws

Study finds that DC consistently fails to comply with uniform per-student funding laws

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Uniform per-student funding laws

A study commissioned by the Deputy Mayor for Education (based on a recommendation from the DC Public Education Finance Reform Committee) found that public charter schools are consistently underfunded, in direct contrast to the uniform per-student funding laws, and recommended changes to ensure equitable local funding for DCPS and the public charter schools.

Academy of Hope PCS

Academy of Hope PCS opens

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Academy of Hope PCS

Academy of Hope is an adult public charter school in Washington D.C., offering excellence in adult education since 1985. Their mission is to provide high quality education and services that change lives and improve their communities. At Academy of Hope, students become part of a learning community where everyone is valued, adds value and is both a teacher and a learner. Their curriculum is experiential and focuses on life skills, which means that students can immediately begin applying what they’re learning to their own lives—and reap the benefits.

Click here to learn more about Academy of Hope PCS

DC International PCS

DC International PCS opens

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DC International PCS

DC International School inspires inquiring, engaged, knowledgeable and caring secondary students who are multi-lingual, culturally competent, and committed to proactively creating a socially just and sustainable world. Five Immersion Charter Schools in Washington, DC have partnered to pursue the creation of the District of Columbia International School: DC Bilingual Public Charter School, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School, Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School, and Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School. DCI will eventually serve approximately 1400 students in the 6th through 12th grades.

Click here to learn more about DC International PCS

Democracy Prep Congress Heights PCS

Democracy Prep Congress Heights PCS opens

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Democracy Prep Congress Heights PCS

With doors opened in the 2014-15 school year, Democracy Prep Public Schools operates the newly-named Democracy Prep Congress Heights PCS. Democracy Prep Public Schools is a growing network of free, open-enrollment, high-performing, public charter schools. They are committed to preparing students for success in college and lives of active citizenship.

Click here to learn more about Democracy Prep Congress Heights PCS

Harmony DC PCS

Harmony DC PCS opens

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Harmony DC PCS

The mission of Harmony School of Excellence-DC is to prepare students for higher learning in a safe, caring, and collaborative atmosphere through a quality learner-centered educational program with a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Harmony aims to develop responsive, productive, and civic-minded youth by inspiring them to follow their dreams while making the world a better place for themselves and others. Harmony is focused on core knowledge and essential skills so that children may achieve the mastery upon which further learning will be built. The purpose of Harmony is to foster productive attitudes toward work, family, and community. When students have a positive attitude toward school, their perception of “school” transforms.

Click here to learn more about Harmony DC PCS

Lee Montessori PCS

Lee Montessori PCS opens

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Lee Montessori PCS

Lee Montessori Public Charter School implements a highly structured, child-centered approach to education. Students receive individualized or small-group academic lessons in multi-age classrooms taught by highly trained instructors. At Lee Montessori, children are encouraged to work independently with hands-on manipulative materials that help them to make discoveries in mathematics, language, science, geography, geometry, art, and music. Their vision is to create a peaceful, multi-age learning environment for public preschool- and elementary-aged children that fosters the physical, social, emotional, and academic growth of students that will be committed to lifelong learners.

Click here to learn more about Lee Montessori PCS

DC ranked # 1

DC ranked best charter school climate in the National Alliance’s report

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DC ranked # 1

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools unveiled a new report that ranked the “health” of the charter school movement in 26 states, including the District of Columbia. The report focuses on key factors such as growth, quality, and innovation that are essential to ensuring a strong public charter school movement.

The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: A State-by-State Analysis is a companion to the National Alliance’s annual ranking of state charter school laws. This new annual report utilizes 11 different indicators to measure how a state’s charter schools are performing, innovating, and growing.

In the first-ever rankings, Washington, D.C. and Louisiana topped the list while Nevada and Oregon found themselves at the bottom.

Click here to read more

Equitable funding of PCSs lawsuit

FOCUS & others file a lawsuit in federal court for equitable funding of PCSs

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Equitable funding of PCSs lawsuit

In 2014, the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, Eagle Academy Public Charter School, and Washington Latin Public Charter School filed suit in federal court, asking that the D.C. government be directed to comply with the legal mandate that public charter school students receive the same amount of funding as their peers in the traditional public school system. The defendants in the suit are the mayor and chief financial officer, in their official capacities. District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), which is not involved financially with public charter schools, is not a defendant in the suit. FOCUS, which provides advocacy and other support to D.C.'s public charter schools, is coordinating the legal team that prepared the complaint. The plaintiffs request that the court require D.C. to follow the law, which requires equal funding regardless of type of public school. The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages, but rather funding equity between the sectors moving forward. The plaintiffs were supported by the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the Center for Education Reform, FOCUS, and the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, who filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Click here to learn more.

Robert Cane retires

Robert Cane retires from role as E.D., becoming a Senior Adviser to FOCUS

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Robert Cane retires

After 16 years as Executive Director, Robert Cane retired and was replaced by Irene Holtzman.

In 2017 FOCUS inducted Robert Cane into the DC Charter Hall of Fame.

Irene Holtzman new E.D.

FOCUS welcomes Irene Holtzman as new E.D.

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Irene Holtzman new E.D.

Irene Holtzman is the Executive Director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS). Prior to joining FOCUS as Executive Director, Irene was Policy Director and Senior Advisor at KIPP DC. Previous to her work in KIPP DC’s central office, Irene was a 6th grade teacher at Gage-Eckington Elementary School in DCPS and a 5th grade science teacher at KIPP DC KEY Academy. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park, was a 2015 Education Policy Fellow and 2016 Senior Education Policy Fellow through the Institute for Educational Leadership, and is in the Leadership of Greater Washington Class of 2018.

 

45% attend charters

45% of public school students in DC now attend charters

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45% attend charters

38,905 students attend a DC public charter school, which is 45% of all DC public school students.

Click here to learn more.

The Children’s Guild PCS

The Children’s Guild PCS opens

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The Children’s Guild PCS

Focusing on the unique needs of every child, The Children's Guild PCS offers a personalized learning environment that develops caring, committed and contributing young people for community. The culture of the school is reinforced throughout the school goals, curriculum, environment and systems. At the heart is the student centered approach to teaching and learning where the principles are guided by the way they Think, Act, Care and Reflect.

Click here to learn more about The Children's Guild PCS

Kingsman Academy PCS

Kingsman Academy PCS opens

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Kingsman Academy PCS

Recognizing the District of Columbia's need for a school that serves students at risk of dropping out of school, Kingsman Academy welcomes all students, especially those who are over-aged and under-credited, have attendance problems, or have behavioral or emotional challenges in grades 6 through 12.

The mission of Kingsman Academy is to provide an individualized and rigorous education in a supportive environment in order to prepare scholars for post-secondary success and responsible citizenship.

Kingsman Academy offers individualized instruction and additional resources for all students, rich special education services, a strong multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), a school-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program, and numerous co-curricular and extracurricular programs.

Click here to learn more about Kingsman Academy PCS

Monument Academy PCS

Monument Academy PCS opens

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Monument Academy PCS

Monument Academy is a weekday boarding school for students in Washington, DC.

Their mission is to provide students, particularly those who have had or might have contact with the foster care system, with the requisite academic, social, emotional, and life skills to be successful in college, career, and community, and to create an outstanding school that attracts, supports, and retains exceptional and caring people. 

Click here to learn more about Monument Academy PCS

Washington Global PCS

Washington Global PCS opens

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Washington Global PCS

Washington Global Public Charter School is a community school open to all middle school students in Washington, DC. Their main goal is to develop their students into enterprising and competitive global citizens. They provide a world class education by using a rigorous, internationally-based academic and cultural curriculum. Their program includes project-based learning, service-learning, technology, and foreign language.

Click here to learn more about Washington Global PCS

Bridge to Success

FOCUS takes on Bridge to Success Program

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Bridge to Success, a program of the National Center for Children and Families, works with local school systems to help thousands of low-income students in the DC area get basic essentials they need to get the education they deserve. FOCUS serves as the local partner for DC charter schools.  

Bridge to Success offers resources for students by providing:

  • Eye exams and glasses
  • New coats and shoes
  • School uniforms
  • Personal care items
  • Food (via Safeway giftcards)

Testimonials:

School Uniforms, Coats, Shoes:
“I had one student in particular who was able to get two new pairs of shoes and a new coat and he was so excited when he came back to school showing myself, the students and staff his brand new coat and shoes. His smile I will never forget. His mother had tears in her eyes because otherwise she would not have been able to afford to buy him new shoes and a winter coat.” - Chelante Mitchell, School Social Worker, AppleTree PCS

A student who received a Burlington Coat Factory gift card had a significant boost in self-confidence when she was able to wear her brand new, non hand-me-down coat to school. She wore it with pride and also shared positive feelings regarding her mother being able to buy it for her.” –Briana Barnes, School Social Worker, Bridges PCS

“A male student was not coming to school due to lack of uniforms…Through the Bridge to Success program, he received one uniform and a payless gift card. Upon receiving the items, school staff saw a shift in his confidence and attitude.” - Cortney Wiggins-Mayfield, Family Support Coordinator, Early Childhood Academy PCS
 
Groceries and Personal Care Items:
“The materials obtained through Bridge to Success more directly improve confidence/reduce stress of parents, which of course translates to students in numerous ways. Safeway cards are by far and away the most desired and can provide incredible relief to families. It provides autonomy is choice as opposed to meal bags and allows folks to feel ease in that area of basic needs at least for a bit.” -Teresa Zegarelli, Social Worker. KIPP DC PCS

Eye Exams and Glasses:
“One of our students required glasses. Unfortunately, the student's family does not have health insurance… As a result of the student not having glasses, the student's confidence decreases, poor-decision making skills increased, and student's participation in lessons became obsolete. Bridge to Success supported this family by acquiring two pairs of glasses, one for home and one for school, which enabled the student to successfully access the curriculum, improve his participation and confidence, in addition to improving his grades…” - Bennisha Lucas, Student Support Coordinator, Mundo Verde PCS

 

 

Celebrating 20 years

Celebrating 20 years of Public Charter Schools in the District

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Celebrating 20 years

FOCUS celebrates 20 years of public charter schools in the District at our annual gala and on social media. Celebrating the hard work of thousands of dedicated people in the charter school sector and the positive impact they are having on DC children.

DC ranked # 1

For the 2nd year, the National Alliance ranks DC #1 charter school climate

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DC ranked # 1

The Health of the Charter Public School Movement: A State-by-State Analysis ranks Washington D.C. in the number one spot, followed by Indiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Florida, Arizona, Rhode Island, Colorado and Missouri. At the bottom of the list are Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Utah and Oregon.

The report finds that states with higher rankings are strong in many of the following areas: they have a large percentage of students in charter schools, strong rates of new schools opening and they serve a significant amount of historically underserved students. They also measure high on innovation – meaning they have a diverse array of school models, and on quality – meaning their charter schools are showing strong academic gains.

Click here to read more

The DC Charter Hall of Fame

The DC Charter Hall of Fame is created

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The DC Charter Hall of Fame is created.

FOCUS recognizes three key individuals who have contributed so much to DC's healthy charter sector by inducting them into the newly-created DC Charter Hall of Fame:

Sonia Gutierrez, President Emeritus and Founder of the Carlos Rosario International PCS, who has spent more than 44 years as a champion for adult immigrant students;

Donald L. Hense, Founder and Chairman of Friendship PCS, whose vision and relentless insistence on excellence has led to thousands of District students achieving academic success; and

Malcolm (Mike) Peabody, FOCUS's founder (also known as the grandfather of DC charter schools), whose leadership and vision in creating FOCUS and guiding its growth and influence in supporting DC's thriving public charter school movement resulted in close to 40,000 (in SY 2015/16) charter school students citywide.

Click here to learn more

SOAR Act reauthorization

FOCUS leading the way for SOAR Act reauthorization

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SOAR Act reauthorization

FOCUS is working with Congress to ensure that the SOAR Act is reauthorized for at least three years. SOAR provides much-needed funding to DC's charter school sector as well as to DCPS and the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Funds from SOAR support improved school performance and educational outcomes and provide facility funding in order to increase the number of high-quality public charter school seats in the District of Columbia.
 

Breakthrough Montessori PCS

Breakthrough Montessori PCS opens

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Breakthrough Montessori PCS

Breakthrough Montessori's mission is to provide families in Washington, DC with a fully implemented public Montessori program that enables children to develop within themselves the power to shape their lives and the world around them.

Guided by the pillars of development, prevention and community, Breakthrough Montessori seeks to graduate students with the academic and social skills necessary to excel in their future schools, complete post-secondary education, and build rewarding careers and vocations. 

Click here to learn more about Breakthrough Montessori PCS

Goodwill Excel Center PCS

Goodwill Excel Center PCS opens

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Goodwill Excel Center PCS

The Goodwill Excel Center is a unique, tuition-free adult charter high school that awards industry recognized certifications and high school diplomas, not GEDs, to adult learners in the District.

The first of its kind in the District, the Excel Center responds to the fact that life commitments, and circumstances can often stop people from continuing their high school education. We do this by offering access to transportation assistance, child care and flexible class schedules.

Click here to learn more about the Goodwill Excel Center PCS

Rocketship PCS

Rocketship PCS opens

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Rocketship PCS

Rocketship opened its first elementary school, Rocketship Rise Academy, in Ward 8 on August 22, 2016. The school will grow to serve students through 5th grade by 2019. In Fall 2017, Rocketship opened its second school East of the River in Ward 7, Rocketship Legacy Prep.

Rocketship schools are free, public elementary schools that are committed to putting every student on the path to college. Students at Rocketship schools make remarkable progress every year. In a single school year, Rocketeers (that's what we call our students) achieve a year and a half of growth in math and reading. Their focus on personalized learning and parent engagement allows them to meet the unique needs of each and every student they serve.

Click here to learn more about Rocketship PCS

Washington Leadership Academy PCS

Washington Leadership Academy PCS opens

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Washington Leadership Academy PCS

Washington Leadership Academy PCS is an open-enrollment public charter high school in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Washington Leadership Academy PCS combines best practices in teaching and learning, with the latest in educational technology to create an unparalleled high school experience. Students will graduate from Washington Leadership Academy PCS prepared for college, career, and lives of public leadership. 

Click here to learn more about Washington Leadership Academy PCS

DC Charter School Conference

FOCUS hosts the first annual DC Charter School Conference

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The first-ever DC Charter School Conference, hosted by FOCUS on Thursday, February 16th, 2017, brought together almost 400 public charter school leaders, administrators, board members, and other stakeholders. 55 LEAs were represented at the conference in discussions surrounding advocacy, communications, data, development, diversity, governance, leadership, and operations.

Conference participants spent the day:

  • Learning from 69 inspiring speakers about issues facing DC’s public charter schools.
  • Sharing innovations and best practices throughout 37 interactive workshops.
  • Inspiring each other to engage in advocacy that strengthens our movement.  
  • Connecting our strengths to achieve the goal of quality public school choices for all DC families.

Click here to learn more

The DC Charter Hall of Fame

The DC Charter Hall of Fame

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FOCUS recognizes three key individuals who have contributed to the DC's thriving public charter school sector:

Robert Cane, first Executive Director of FOCUS, who spent 16 years building the organization into what it is today and dedicated his time to fighting on behalf of DC's public charter schools.

Cassandra Pinkney (1948 - 2016), Founder and Executive Director of Eagle Academy Public Charter School, whose legacy as an educational visionary lives on through the students, alumni, and staff of Eagle Academy.

Irasema Salcido, Founder of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools, whose 30-year career as an educator culminated in the creation of Chavez Schools, which have provided quality educational opportunities to thousands of District youth.

Click here to learn more

Malcolm “Mike” Peabody recognized nationally

Malcolm “Mike” Peabody recognized by the National Alliance

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Malcolm “Mike” Peabody, Founder and Board Member Emeritus of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) was honored by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as a 2017 inductee to its Hall of Fame. The Charter School Hall of Fame recognizes individuals and organizations for their innovation, long-term commitment, and pioneering efforts in the growth of charter schools.

Mike Peabody has been a pioneer in Washington, D.C.’s school reform landscape for more than three decades.  Among his most notable contributions was founding Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) in 1996. FOCUS quickly became one of the most visible and aggressive voices in the city’s burgeoning charter school movement in the District, advocating for equal funding and fair access to city-owned buildings. Today, DC is one of the largest urban charter sectors with nearly 50 percent of public school students attending a charter public school. It has been designated the healthiest charter school movement in the country by the National Alliance for two years in a row.

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Sustainable Futures PCS

Sustainable Futures PCS opens

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Sustainable Futures PCS

Sustainable Futures is a public charter school in Washington DC with a mission to create a community of learners that reengages disconnected youth and those who have struggled in traditional school settings by providing them with a comprehensive, challenging, personalized education that prepares them to lead purposeful, productive, sustainable lives.

Click here to learn more about Sustainable Futures PCS