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ERIC Number: ED570145
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 56
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
A Tale of Two Systems: Education Reform in Washington D.C.
Osborne, David
Progressive Policy Institute
An important contest is taking place in Washington, D.C.--a race between two vehicles designed to carry children into the future with the habits and skills they need to live productive, meaningful lives. The older of the two, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), uses a "unified governance model" that emerged more than a century ago, in which the district operates all but one of its 113 schools and employs all their staff, with central control and most policies applied equally to most schools. Since 2007, when Michelle Rhee became chancellor, DCPS leaders have pursued the most aggressive reform effort of any unified urban district in America. Racing against them--and carrying 44 percent of D.C. public school students--is a very different vehicle, designed and built largely in this century. This model does not own or operate any schools. Instead, it contracts with 62 independent organizations--all of them nonprofits--to operate 115 schools. It negotiates contracts with operators, lets parents choose their schools, shuts down those that repeatedly fail to achieve their performance goals, and replicates those that are most effective. We know these as charter schools, authorized by the Public Charter School Board (PCSB), which Congress legislated into existence in 1996. Like DCPS, the Charter Board is a leader in its field, considered by experts one of the best authorizers in the nation. Under both models, student performance is improving. Comparisons are tricky, because their demographics are different. DCPS students are not as poor: 75 percent qualify for a free or reduced price lunch, compared to 82 percent in charter schools. The two systems are discussed and compared in this document.
Progressive Policy Institute. 600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE Suite 400, Washington, DC 20003. Tel: 202-547-0001; Fax: 202-544-5014; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Walton Family Foundation; Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Authoring Institution: Progressive Policy Institute
Identifiers - Location: District of Columbia
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: National Assessment of Educational Progress