Sunday, December 16, 2012

DC Council task force comes out with charter recommendations

Included in the DC Council's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Support Act Of 2012 legislation was the following amendment:

Sec. 4052. The District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1995, approved April 26, 01996 (110 Stat. 1321; D.C. Official Code § 38-1800.01 et seq.), is amended by adding a newsection 2214a to read as follows:
Sec. 2214a. Charter schools admissions task force.
(a) There is established a task force that shall study providing a neighborhood preference in charter school admissions for the 2013-2014 school year. The task force shall consist of:
   (1) The following 5 government officials, or their designees, the:
      (A) Chairman of the Public Charter School Board;
      (B) Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia;
      (C) State Superintendent of Education;
      (D) Deputy Mayor for Education; and
      (E) Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools; and
   (2) The following nongovernment members:
      (A) Two representatives from charter support organizations;
      (B) A representative from the education department of a national research organization;
      (C) A representative from a national charter school organization;
      (D) Two charter school leaders selected by the Public Charter School Board Chair; and
      (E) A labor representative.
(b) The task force shall:
   (1) Be chaired by the Chairman of the Public Charter School Board, or his or her designee;
   (2) Meet at an agreed to location as often as determined necessary by the Chairman of the task force;
   (3) Explore the feasibility of offering a neighborhood preference in charter school admissions for the 2013-2014 school year; and
   (4) By September 1, 2012, submit a report to the Council of its findings, which shall include:
      (A) Consideration of the various ways in which a neighborhood preference can be designed, including:
         (i) The pros and cons of a weighted lottery;
         (ii) Setting aside of a certain percentage of new seats;
         (iii) A geographically limited preference; and
         (iv) A preference based on rankings in a city-wide application process;
      (B) A definition of neighborhood for the purpose of setting boundaries in admissions;
      (C) An examination of models that are being used in other jurisdictions and evaluation of their applicability to the District; and
      (D) Recommendations based on its findings.

Well, the task force has done their work, and the findings have been released.  Here's the executive summary:

The Council of the District of Columbia’s 2013 Budget Support Act of 2012 created a task force to explore the need for neighborhood preference in DC public charter school admissions. Generally, neighborhood preference allows students who live near a charter school to have preference to attend that school over students who live further away. 
The twelve-member task force included five government officials, or their designees, from the Public Charter School Board, the Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, the State Superintendent of Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, and the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools; and seven nongovernment members, including two representatives from charter support organizations, a representative from the education department of a national research organization, a representative from a national charter school organization, two charter school leaders selected by the Public Charter School Board Chair, and a labor representative. The Chair of the Public Charter School Board was specified as the task force chair in the Act. 
The task force explored the need for and feasibility of offering a neighborhood preference in charter school admissions for the 2013-14 school year. The task force considered the ways in which a neighborhood preference could be designed including:
  • The pros and cons of a weighted lottery, with preference based on neighborhood;
  • Setting aside of a certain percentage of new seats;
  • A geographically limited preference;
  • A preference based on rankings in a city-wide application process (common lottery);
  • An examination of models used in other jurisdictions and evaluation of their applicability to the
  • District; and
  • A definition of neighborhood for the purpose of setting boundaries in admissions, if necessary.
The task force met four times to evaluate neighborhood preference options and analyze related data, including enrollment data, waitlist data, a charter school leader survey, and public comment. Overall the analysis showed that the impact of neighborhood preference would not increase the number of, or access to, quality seats in DC public charter schools. In fact, the data found that there could be an adverse effect on access for students living in Wards 7 and 8, if precautions were not taken to prevent limited access to schools for Ward 7 and 8 students.  
After reviewing the available data, listening to public testimony, and discussing the implications and feasibility of a neighborhood preference system, the task force determined that charter school admissions should remain open to students across the city. The task force found no need to institute neighborhood preference for the 2013-14 school year. However, the task force does support allowing charters to voluntarily offer a time-limited preference for students in the enrollment zone of a recently closed DCPS school when a charter school would occupy that facility. In addition, the task force identified three other recommendations. One is to work to increase the number of quality seats in DC schools. The second is to make the charter school admissions process easier for families. And finally, building off the previous recommendation, charter schools should be encouraged to continue working towards creating a common lottery system for admissions, which could allow for certain choices, such as neighborhood preference. The full report details these recommendations.
The Washington Post has more.

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