For the next three years, the agency that oversees the District’s public charter schools will implement a strategic road map designed to improve the academic experiences of students from marginalized communities and strengthen collaboration between public charter schools, students and families.
As part of this strategic roadmap, the D.C. Public Charter School Board [DC PCSB] won’t open new public charter schools until 2024. Board members will also work in conjunction with school leaders and community members to revamp the standards that determine public charter schools’ effectiveness and whether they open.
“My team wanted to make sure our accountability framework was an accurate reflection of what leaders were doing in schools and nuanced enough to give a good understanding of how a school contributes to outcomes broadly,” said DC PCSB Executive Director Dr. Michelle J. Walker-Davis.
“The strongest feedback was [making] sure you’re paying attention to the growth of the students,” she continued. “How do we make sure this accurately portrays schools and gives opportunities for schools that are doing well in seeing students grow?”
DC PCSB’s process to collect community feedback continues conversations that took place throughout the pandemic.
In regard to public charter school expansion and changes to the accountability framework, Walker-Davis said she and her staff will focus on further analyzing the progress of specific student groups and closely assessing what parents across the city are expressing about their needs.
PCSB uses its current accountability framework, known as Performance Management Framework (PMF), to evaluate the progress of and produce school quality reports for each public charter school under its purview.
In the years preceding the pandemic, amid a string of closures, teachers and community members often criticized the PMF for failing to consider students’ progress and the conditions that students and teachers overcame to improve pupils’ academic standing.
Unlike in years past, school quality reports released during the pandemic didn’t place public charter schools in first, second, or third tiers, with the first tier being the highest. DC PCSB made this decision amid reports of depression among students quarantined at home.
During the pandemic, some public charter schools provided in-person instruction shaped by D.C. Health guidelines and community feedback.
In advance of the full return to in-person this year, many public charter school leaders endeavored to shape academic procedures and safety protocols, including vaccine mandates for teachers and staff members. Conversations about equity also affected how public charter schools revamped academic programming.
At Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School for instance, administrators said they gave each student a laptop to keep at home while using the technology available in the building. They also considered issues of discipline and how to make their grading scale more restorative.
As Executive Director Raymond Weeden explained to The Informer, the pandemic pushed school leaders to collaborate on how to better integrate technology to accommodate teachers, and particularly students, with various needs.
Those discussions, Weeden said, also applied to the PMF. He credited the DC PCSB for listening to public charter school leaders from communities in which students have varying needs and situations where young people have seen academic progress, even if incremental.
“In terms of accountability, what’s been pushed is really thinking about how different schools and communities impact outcomes,” Weeden told The Informer.
“It’s not giving people a pass but thinking about the population of students and families,” he said. “If there’s a school with a population of at-risk students, how are they serving those students? That’s important because each child matters.”