May 21

In his May 18 Local Opinions commentary, “One city, but two school systems,” Aaron Hanna argued that the District is ill-served by the lack of planning coordination between the District’s traditional public schools and its large number of charter schools.

The charter school sector has indeed grown rapidly and now serves 44 percent of the District’s students. This growth has tremendously benefited the city, producing schools that serve the full range of D.C. students and substantially higher academic results than those of traditional schools. The choices these schools offer are wildly popular, with more than 7,000 students on wait lists.

Mr. Hanna suggested that such growth has not been a “spur to excellence,” but D.C. Public Schools officials admit that competition from charter schools spurred the turnaround that has made the district the fastest-improving major school district in the country.

Yes, there is room for better communication and information-sharing as each sector — DCPS and charter schools — makes decisions. But protecting a traditional school is no reason to keep a great charter school from opening its doors.

Scott Pearson, Washington

The writer is executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board.

Aaron Hanna raised an important point: The District has too few high-quality public school seats. But to ask how D.C. Public Schools can afford to invest in a new middle school in Ward 4 if public charter schools compete for the same students misunderstands the power of parental choice to create quality public schools, rather than relying on a failed monopoly to do so.

Far from hindering meaningful reform of DCPS, autonomous charters created the climate in which two reforming school chancellors have been appointed to run the traditional public schools, leading to improvements in test scores and graduation rates.

Ramona H. Edelin, Washington

The writer is executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools.