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Charters and District-Run Schools in D.C. Issue Joint 'Equity' Report

Education officials in the District of Columbia today released a report meant to help parents make side-by-side comparisons of the city's regular public schools and charter schools on academic and nonacademic factors such as rates of suspension and absenteeism.

The new school-by-school "equity" reports provide information on retention, discipline, academic growth, and achievement of students across the city. It's the first time that city education officials have jointly published school data in this way. The District of Columbia schools and the city's charter school board annually produce reports on the schools that they respectively govern, while the Office of the State Superintendent of Education also publishes a yearly report card.

The effort, which also included D.C.'s deputy mayor for education, was funded in part by the NewSchools Venture Fund. It represents an unusual collaboration between regular public schools and charters in a single city, where competition for students and funding can be stiff. Even though the District of Columbia public schools have lost tens of thousands of students to charter schools in recent years, the city, at least publicly, is one of the more harmonious when it comes to relationships and collaboration between the regular public schools and the charter sector.

Citywide, public and charter schools together enrolled just over 80,000 students in 2012-13. Eight percent of those students—racked up 25 days or more of unexcused absences—while 43 percent were absent without an excuse between one and  five times. Twelve percent of students citywide were suspended out-of-school for one day or more in the same academic year, while the expulsion rate across both sectors was .22 percent.

While individual school results—those that parents will be most keen to see—are published in the report, comparisons between the regular public schools and the charter sector as a whole were not provided. 

The District of Columbia's public schools began reporting school-by-school data on metrics such as suspensions in 2011, and last year, the city's charter school board  publicly released individual charters' disciplinary statistics, including expulsions and suspensions, in an effort to foster transparency.

An Education Week analysis of federal civil rights data earlier this year found that nationally, charter schools suspended students at slightly lower rates than regular public schools, and expelled at roughly the same rates. In the District of Columbia, expulsion rates have been considerably higher in charters than in the city's regular public schools, the story said. A Washington Post analysis of school data found the same.


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