I’m deeply perplexed with my colleague Andy Smarick’s recent Education Gadfly post responding to my PCSB colleagues Scott Pearson and Skip McKoy’s op-ed on the roles of charter schools and DPCS in the D.C. education landscape. Andy appears to read things into Scott’s and Skip’s piece that are not what they actually wrote, nor what I know them to believe. As a result, he draws some strange conclusions.
The irony here is that what Scott and Skip are calling for is basically what Andy previously called for in The Urban School System of the Future: A new approach to organizing public education in which traditional districts continue to operate, but as one of a variety of providers, competing with charters to serve students and held accountable for their quality. To a large extent, that’s already happening in D.C.: DCPS still serves the majority of the District’s children, but it’s no longer assumed to be the default provider of public education. Nor are charters viewed as a marginal alternative. Rather, policymakers and stakeholders in the District recognize that we have a diverse delivery system—in which parents choose among a variety of charter and DCPS options, and DCPS is the largest, but no longer the dominant, education provider.
Andy’s call for a new authorizer is particularly confusing. Authorizers have a very constrained role: To review applications for charter schools, to approve those with high-quality educational and business plans and capacity to implement them, to monitor the performance of schools once approved, and to hold those schools accountable for performance—including closing low-performing schools when necessary. Ultimately, these decisions should be based on the quality of individual applicants and schools—not an overarching “vision” for the share of a city’s schools that should be run by charters. Continue reading