Bolster Charter Schools

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

Bolster Charter Schools


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

An estimated 62,000 students are expected to begin returning today to D.C. Public Schools, and 16,000 others are anticipated at charter schools. While there are high academic expectations for both groups, city officials should be putting more stock in charter schools.

As the agency responsible for reporting to the U.S. Department of Education, DCPS students have floundered for years. Two important pieces of federal legislation in the past decade - the 1996 law that established D.C. charter schools and the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act - prove, in their respective ways, that the educational lot of D.C. youths continues to fall short in DCPS while charter schools are using innovative ways to help students achieve.

Superintendent Clifford Janey, who is beginning his second year as schools chief, said Saturday that he doesn't want DCPS judged by the past. To be sure, his is a reasonable request. But charter schools, the option most exercised by D.C. parents, simply outshine DCPS. Indeed, educators and others around the country who advocate public-school reform and school choice have been closely watching the District's charter-school movement - and with good reason.

Take the KIPP Key Academy in Southeast. Key, a middle school with 320 students, posted the highest math scores in the city, despite the fact that its average fifth-grader comes to Key two years below grade level. Key delivers on its motto - No shortcuts, no excuses. Its alumni move ahead of many of their DCPS peers to attend Philips Exeter, Sidwell Friends and Georgetown Day private schools.

While not all D.C. charter schools can boast of such student achievements, the demand for charter schools has also meant a move away from one-size-fits-all curricula and teaching. Bilingual, special education and vocational charter schools are available, too. On Friendship Edison's Woodson Campus in Northeast, students can earn up to 60 college credits before graduating high school. At Young America Works (YAW), a charter school in Northeast that caters to ninth- and 10th-graders, smart and energetic instructors teach teens what is expected of them in the workplace. Many of the students at YAW are troubled or special needs youth who formerly struggled mightily in DCPS schools. …

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