An Aug. 9 Metro article on standardized test scores from D.C. public charter schools may have left the impression that all four campuses of Friendship-Edison schools were in need of improvement for repeatedly failing to make adequate yearly progress. One campus, Friendship-Edison Woodson Collegiate Academy, was listed as in need of improvement. The other three campuses made adequate yearly progress. (Published 8/12/2005)
Only eight of 31 charter school campuses under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Public Charter School Board made adequate yearly progress as required by federal law, according to data to be released today.
Although eight of the charter board's schools achieved adequate progress on the Stanford 9 achievement test this spring, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act, 10 schools failed. The other 13 campuses were not obligated under federal law to report adequate yearly progress because fewer than 40 students were tested in several categories.
Twelve of 31 charter school campuses -- including Friendship-Edison, Maya Angelou and Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy -- failed to meet academic benchmarks for two or three consecutive years. In comparison, 81 of the city's approximately 145 traditional public schools were in the same category.
Under federal law, those schools, classified as "in need of improvement," are required to offer their students free tutorial services and the option of transferring within the city. Traditional public schools that fail to meet academic benchmarks for three years are subject to having principals and some teachers replaced. But that penalty does not kick in until the fifth year for charter schools.
"We look at the schools on an individual basis, and we look to see progress over time -- not a snapshot," said charter board spokeswoman Nona Mitchell Richardson.
"The students coming to us have different levels of success," she added. "Many of our schools target students who have not been successful in traditional public schools."
Officials from the D.C. Board of Education, the city's second chartering agency, did not return telephone calls yesterday seeking comment on when test data on their 16 charter schools would be released.
The test results focused attention on the academic component of the fast-growing charter schools, which have been touted as an alternative to the failing traditional public schools. Enrollment in charter schools since 1997 has reached about 15,000, a number that is expected to increase by about 1,000 in the fall, when 11 new schools are to open. Eight others have won initial approval for fall 2006.
In the past five years, when charter schools grew the most, enrollment in traditional public schools dropped from 68,000 to 62,000.
But critics of charter schools say the test data prove that the independently run schools are no better than traditional public schools and need more scrutiny.
"We are crushing our neighborhood schools at the expense of an experiment that is failing," said Gina Arlotto, president and co-founder of Save Our Schools, an organization that has filed suit alleging that traditional public schools are inadequately funded because of charter schools. "What we have in D.C. is complete chaos now."
Richardson said charter schools that consistently fail to meet academic benchmarks can have their charters revoked.
Parents from the schools in need of improvement have the option of transferring to other charter schools, she said, but few have done so.
One reason, she said, is that few slots are available. Many of the higher-performing schools, such as KIPP Academy and Capital City, have waiting lists, she said.
The charter school board, she said, is using a grant to help the schools develop a plan to boost student performance.