Charters get short shrift in D.C. CAS rollout
Even though the numbers were not completely glowing, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) made sure that his Tuesday news conference on DCPS test scores kicked off at 10:30 a.m., in time for early afternoon readers online as well as the Wednesday morning papers. But test data for the city's 57 publicly financed but independently operated charter schools wasn't available until 3:30 p.m. -- late in the news day. How come?
Charter advocates say that's exactly how Fenty wants it. And under the District's peculiar school governance arrangement, Fenty controls the agency that handles test data, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. "The mayor likes to pretend that the only school reform is what he's doing with Michelle Rhee," said Barnaby Towns, spokesman for Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, the organization that speaks for much of the charter community on policy and political matters.
I asked Chad Colby, spokesman for State Superintendent Kerri Briggs, what was up. He said the Public Charter School Board "had all the data and was allowed to release at 10:30 ... I personally spoke to one charter leader who called around noon and told her they could discuss results with anyone."
In any event, Towns said that the 2010 D.C. CAS results underscore several points about charters. One is that mayoral control isn't the only form of school governance that can produce results. (Public Charter School Board members are appointed by the mayor but must be recommended by the Secretary of Education). Although DCPS scores show more overall growth in the three years under Fenty and Rhee, charters maintain a significant edge at the secondary level, exposing DCPS high schools as "the weakest link in the city's public education system," Towns said.
And while the results show DCPS and charter elementary schools performing about the same, that data includes D.C. schools in affluent Ward 3, where there are no charters.
"While the two sectors look even, charters would be ahead if you compared like with like," Towns said.
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July 14, 2010; 1:26 PM ET
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