Washington, D.C.’s charter schools are outperforming district-run schools, especially with low-income students, reports the Washington Post.
With freedom to experiment, the independent, nonprofit charters have emphasized strategies known to help poor children learn — longer school days, summer and Saturday classes, parent involvement and a cohesive, disciplined culture among staff members and students.
The district-run schools are losing students to charters; enrollment in traditional schools is down by 42 percent since 1996. More than a third of public students now attend 60 charter schools in the city.
Both systems attract primarily low-income, minority students. Children score well below the national average. But charter students are closing the gap. Test scores are significantly higher.
District school records show that charters also have better attendance and graduation rates than the regular public schools and that their teachers are more likely to fit the city’s definition of “highly qualified,” meaning that they have expertise in what they are teaching.
The more successful D.C. charters raise significant amounts of private donations, reports the Post. They also have the flexibility to use facilities funding to buy equipment such as computers and copiers.