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Measuring DC Charter School Performance

The DC Public Charter School Board released a new proposal to assess charter schools using test scores from children in preschool through second grade. The standardized tests in reading and math would account for 60 to 80% of a school’s score.

Ultimately, the Public Charter School Board wants to make it easier for parents to compare schools, especially since 42% of DC public school students are enrolled in charter schools. The Board already implemented similar testing and performance management for elementary and secondary schools several years ago. But DC is one of the only states that allows charter schools to offer preschool.

Jack McCarthy, president and CEO of AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation and the AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter Schools in DC, supports the new testing proposal.  “I think accountability is really just holding you to account for the promises that you made in order to accept public dollars to educate children.”

On the opposing side of the issue is Sam Chaltain, a strategic communications consultant and author of several books on education.  According to him, “The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, said that part of the problem we now have nationally is that we have inflexible accountability provisions that are becoming an obstacle to progress because they're focusing schools on a single score.” Another factor in Chaltain's dissent is that there are over 30 literacy or math assessments that charter schools can use to satisfy the requirement. But the more complex tests are likely to result in lower scores and a lower school ranking.

Sara Mead, who is a member of the DC Public Charter School Board, claims the proposal would not require additional testing for young children. Rather, it will use the scores from tests that are already administered today. She said, “This is a policy that includes a variety of different measures. It includes the math and the science measures. It includes the option for early childhood schools to use social, emotional [measures]. It also includes a valid and reliable assessment of the quality of adult-child interactions in early childhood programs.”

School ranking affects fundraising, recruitment, and access to facilities. So these scores are vitally important. It seems that all the experts agree that charter school accountability is critical, but they disagree on how it should be measured with the youngest students.

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