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School Choice & Charters Opinion

Water, Water Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Drink

By Sara Mead — December 17, 2010 1 min read
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Speaking of the need to expand the supply of high-performing school options: Mark Schneider and Naomi Rubin DeVeaux have produced a sobering report on the lack of real quality school choices for kids in the District of Columbia. Families in D.C. have choice aplenty--about 70% of DC kids attend a school other than their neighborhood assigned school. But only a minority of those choices are actually good choices. And the highest performing schools, both charters and in DCPS, tend to be oversubscribed, meaning that many families that don’t get into those schools wind up choosing instead schools whose performance in poor or unknown.

There are a variety of implications here around the school choice process itself in D.C. (particularly related to the near-impossibility of getting into a good school after the entry grade). But the foremost issue is that D.C. needs to dramatically expand the supply of good schools for children and their families.

Earlier this week I wrote a bit about closing down low-performing schools. As a member of the board that authorizes charter schools in D.C., I know firsthand that we have too many poorly performing charter schools, some of which may ultimately need to get out of the business. The Public Charter School Board closed down 4 such low-performing schools in the past year alone.

But while poor performance by charter schools must not be tolerated, closing low-performing schools ultimately won’t make that much difference if we don’t also replace those schools with better performers. That’s ultimately an even bigger challenge than closing down low-performers.

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The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.