By DC Charter School Alliance Founding Executive Director Shannon Hodge
Last fall, the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board confirmed that they will be re-envisioning the charter application and grade expansion rubric and evaluation process, and as a result will not be accepting applications for new local education agencies (LEAs) or grade expansion requests for the upcoming year. Partly driven by uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and significant changes planned for DCPCSB’s accountability framework, the pause is intended to ensure that quality options continue to be available to DC families.
Our movement has always been driven by the belief that every student deserves to choose a high-quality public school and receive a great public education –– and DC isn’t there yet. Increasing the number of available charter school seats and continuing to adopt innovative models of education are important avenues in achieving that goal. However, in the short-term, as schools continue to face myriad challenges with COVID-19, we believe it is appropriate to pause efforts to bring new schools into the District so that we can focus on ensuring existing schools have the necessary resources to meet the needs of the students they currently serve.
That’s why we’re supportive of the DCPCSB’s strategy to forgo charter school applications for the upcoming year. But I want to be clear that this decision needs to be temporary while the city navigates the challenging terrain that is public education during a pandemic –– not permanent. This will be the first time in the 25-year history of DC charter schools that the application process is interrupted. But this is also the first time we’ve had to contend with an extraordinary event interrupting public education like a pandemic. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
Charter schools are nimble, innovative, and responsive at their core, and each of them has different models to create unique and responsive learning environments for their students. Those principles have been on full display as charter schools weather the challenges brought by the pandemic to continue providing students a high-quality education.
That’s why we’re supportive of such an extraordinary measure –– because charter schools, by design, are responsive to their communities’ needs. Right now, our community as a whole needs to focus all our energies on getting to the other side of this pandemic, and that means putting all our resources into existing schools to serve our students. For the past 25 years, DC has been a place where innovation and excellence in public education has thrived, and the public charter sector will continue to lead on this front.