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Dc Pcsb Case Study

The DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), in partnership with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the research group FSG, released “Transforming Public Education in the Nation’s Capital,” a case study highlighting DC’s strong, effective charter school authorizer practices. “When it comes to school quality and better outcomes for kids, authorizing matters—a lot,” the report states.

As a leading charter authorizer, PCSB fosters quality education opportunities for students by approving new schools, overseeing schools in operation, and revoking school charters if the school fails to meet its performance goals. As the charter sector grows, stronger authorizers are increasingly important. 

The case study is an important contribution to a relatively new field, examining how one successful charter authorizer is advancing student achievement and increasing the number of high-quality charter seats available. The study outlines PCSB’s authorizing strategies and tactics that policymakers, other authorizers and traditional school districts can adopt, adapt and build on in order to strengthen their practices. The study was based on data and more than 40 interviews with PCSB staff, Board members, school leaders and national education experts.

Roughly 18 years ago, Washington, DC launched an experiment in public education when it opened its first five public charter schools. Today more than 38,000 students, or 45 percent of public school students, attend one of the 112 public charter schools in DC. Students are performing better and schools are meeting higher standards. 

PCSB’s paramount mission is to create a network of outstanding public charter schools in Washington, DC, offering families quality and diverse educational choices.  As PCSB’s Executive Director Scott Pearson explains in the case study “developing a quality charter school sector is everything to us. This determines whether the life trajectories of Washington, DC’s children will be improved by our schools.”

To achieve this goal, PCSB employs a set of complementary strategies:

  • Close of underperforming schools, with a commitment to ensuring the students are able to attend high-quality schools the following year

  • Authorize new, high-quality schools

  • Expand of proven high-quality schools, either through higher enrollment ceilings or approval of new campuses

  • Facilitate of takeovers of low-performing schools by high-performing schools.

“PCSB is a national exemplar in charter school authorizing, as evidenced by the number of students attending high-performing schools,” Joe Siedlecki, Program and Policy Officer at the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.  “Any stakeholder can learn from PCSB.”

As Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) -- which is having its annual conference this week in Miami -- states in the case study: “We have seen again and again that authorizers have a tremendous impact on the overall quality of a charter sector in a city or state.”

Read the executive summary, the entire case study and appendices below. 


Washington, D.C. —For the ninth straight year, students attending DC public charter schools are performing above the District average in math and reading on the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) tests, according to data released today by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.  The data released also shows that the percentage of DC public charter school students considered proficient on DC CAS has continued to increase.  

Overall, public charter school students scored 59.6 percent in math and 53.4 percent in reading, up by 1.0 and 0.4 percentage points, respectively. Public charter school proficiency rates climbed every year of the DC CAS in five of seven wards with public charter schools.  By comparison, the state proficiency averages for math and reading were 53 and 49.5 percent.

“This is good news for families in the District of Columbia and shows that students have a tremendous array of outstanding choices of places to learn,” said Scott Pearson, PCSB Executive Director. “For the ninth straight year, students attending a public charter school continue to exceed the District’s proficiency average in math and reading – that’s more than 20 percentage points higher than 2006.  The DC CAS shows the progress and the quality of public charter school programs.” Pearson also praised the hard work of charter leaders across the District.

The growth in student proficiency is occurring across subgroups. Since the DC CAS was first administered in 2006, overall proficiency rates have grown among African American students from 35 to 54 percent, and among Hispanic students from 36 to 56 percent. In that same period, economically disadvantaged students grew in proficiency from 34 percent to 53 percent, English language learners grew from 21 percent to 44 percent, and special education students from 14 percent to 26 percent.

The ten public charter schools that saw the greatest one-year gains were (in order of overall growth): 

1.     Hope Community PCS – Lamond (up 17.5 points)

2.     Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy – Capitol Hill (up 17.1 points)

3.     Friendship PCS – Collegiate Academy (up 13.2 points)

4.     DC Prep PCS – Benning Elementary (up 13.2 points)

5.     Center City PCS – Shaw (up 11.6 points)

6.     Richard Wright PCS for Journalism and Media (up 10.2 points)

7.     St. Coletta Special Education PCS (up 8.3 points)

8.     Center City PCS – Congress Heights (up 7.9 points)

9.     Capital City PCS – Lower School (up 7.0 points)

10.  Community Academy PCS – CAPCS Online (up 6.8 points)

The ten public charter schools whose students scored highest on DC CAS were (in order of overall proficiency):

1.     St. Coletta Special Education PCS (87.9 percent)

2.     DC Prep PCS – Edgewood Middle (86.3 percent)

3.     KIPP DC – College Preparatory PCS (83.2 percent)

4.     BASIS DC PCS (82.9 percent)

5.     DC Prep PCS – Benning Middle (81.1 percent)

6.     KIPP DC – KEY Academy PCS (80.0 percent)

7.     Washington Latin PCS – Middle School (77.9 percent)

8.     Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS (77.1 percent)

9.     DC Prep PCS – Edgewood Elementary (75.4 percent)

10.  Washington Yu Ying PCS (74.9 percent)

Five of the ten lowest performing public charter schools were closed or relinquished their charter at the end of the 2013-14 school year:  Booker T. Washington PCS, Imagine Southeast PCS, Community Academy PCS – Amos 3, Maya Angelou – Evans Middle School, and Hospitality High PCS. 

Today’s event is held at one of two schools Scholar Academies operates in the District--DC Scholars Stanton Elementary School and DC Scholars PCS. Students at DC Scholars PCS scored 70.2 percent proficient in math and 47.4 percent in reading. 

For a list of school-by-school scores, click here. 

DC Public Charter School Highlights

Center City PCS’ Shaw and Congress Heights campuses have made impressive gains in student proficiency in math and reading, increasing 11.6 percentage points overall at the Shaw campus and 7.9 percentage points at the Congress Heights campus. The improvements are attributed to an intensive, comprehensive and multifaceted program launched a few years ago. 

DC Prep PCS’ Edgewood Middle and Benning Middle campuses showed impressive results in reading and math, with 86.3 percent of students proficient overall at Edgewood Middle and 81.1 percent at Benning Middle.  The academic results are a reflection of DC Prep PCS’ talented faculty and educational model that is built on rigorous academics and character development.

At Richard Wright PCS for Journalism and Media, student achievement has grown significantly this year, increasing by 13.2 and 7.2 percentage points in math and reading, respectively. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Marco Clark, Ph.D. attributes the gains to key instructional changes.  Teachers and school leaders helped students by developing individual reading plans for each student and requiring summer school for new and rising 10th grade students.

KIPP DC’s College Prep PCS and KEY Academy PCS can boast impressive test scores. At KIPP DC – College Preparatory PCS, 94.5 and 71 percent of students were proficient in math and reading. Principal Jessica Cunningham attributes these scores to the teachers, who require their students to work hard to meet high academic standards.  At KIPP DC – KEY Academy PCS, the rates were 86.9 and 73.1 percent in math and reading.  KEY Academy’s approach is to hire teachers and provide them with the resources so they can become master teachers. 

At Friendship PCS – Collegiate Academy reading and math scores improved 13 percentage points. Principal Peggy Jones attributes the success to collaboration among teachers on lesson plans and data to expanded instructional coaching. 

Imagine Hope Community PCS – Lamond students made significant and impressive gains.  They showed double-digit growth in math and reading, up 19.6 and 15.4 percent, respectively.

At Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy – Capitol Hill, students also showed substantial growth from last year,increasing by 17.1 percentage points overall. Their unique public policy program weaves the Common Core with an additional emphasis on critical thinking and logic skills.  

Washington Latin PCS – Middle School continues to exceed the state average year after year on the city’s standardized test. Diana Smith, the school’s principal, attributes the success to small classes in all subjects (average of 16 students), homogenous math classes, and after school tutorials.

Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS’ curriculum and instruction are designed to prepare students for the rigor of a college education. DC CAS results showed 84.4 and 69.8 percent of students tested proficient in math and reading. The school’s benchmark assessment program makes it possible for teachers to use data to differentiate instruction, measure mastery, and modify teaching plans as necessary. 

Entering its third academic year, BASIS DC PCS made impressive progress the last two years.  This year students’ scored 82.9 percent overall, an increase of 3.8 percentage points from last year.  The school focuses on establishing a deep knowledge base for students to master the foundations of language, math, and science.