When D.C. charters schools fail

Thursday, July 8, 2010

IF THERE has been any criticism of the board that oversees the District's flourishing charter school movement, it is that it has been too tolerant of underperforming schools. So it is encouraging that the board has decided to take action against schools where students are foundering. Such toughness will help ensure that only the best-quality schools are offered to D.C. parents who are in search of educational alternatives for their children.

Two schools, Children's Studio and the Academy for Learning through the Arts, voluntarily relinquished their charters when it became clear that the D.C. Public Charter School Board was getting ready to yank them. A third school, the Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers (KIMA), faces revocation proceedings following last week's unanimous vote by the board. Earlier this year, the board rescinded the charter of one other school.

Shutting a school is never to be celebrated; it's disruptive to students and their parents. It is clear, though, that the board had no choice but to move against schools not serving student interests. Consider, for example, that the two schools relinquishing their charters had fewer than a third of their students able to score proficient on the city's standardized math exams. KIMA, according to a report prepared for the board, suffers from a 30 percent truancy rate, lacks basic supplies and is without a coherent curriculum. The school will have a chance to challenge the findings before the board makes its final decision.

Given the 57 charters on 99 campuses and the highly individualized character of each school, there are bound to be wide differences among them. Indeed, those differences are the lifeblood of the charter movement. But the board is right to insist that when it comes to quality, every school must meet its standards.

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