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Changes Coming to Charters in N.Y.C., D.C., and Philadelphia

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Charter schools in three of the nation's largest school districts are facing changes in how they operate, including how they will be evaluated, how they will be authorized, and where they can operate. Read on for a roundup of news about policy changes to charter schools in New York City, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia.

• In New York City, about 100 charter school leaders sat down this past weekend for their first meeting with new Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina. Although the meeting was closed to the public, the New York Times reports that no policy was discussed. One participant said the meeting focused on topics such as how to best educate low-income students.

The relationship between charter schools and the city have been tense since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office. De Blasio was a vocal critic of charter schools throughout his campaign and has repeatedly vowed to curb the co-location policies of his predecessor Michael Bloomberg. Recently, de Blasio has threatened to halt the opening or expansion of 28 charter schools next school year, angering charter school leaders.

• In Washington, the D.C. Public Charter School Board has adopted new policies to evaluate alternative charter schools—or those that serve a student population that is at high risk for academic failure, reports The Washington Post. The board voted to define alternative charters as schools that have at least 60 percent of their student population falling into the at-risk category, which includes students who have been incarcerated, students who are pregnant or have children, students who have been expelled, and students who are homeless or in foster care, among other factors.

Evaluating the performance of such schools has been notoriously difficult—an issue that the National Association of Charter School Authorizers recently tackled in a working group and subsequent paper. 

Three schools in the nation's capital qualify under the newly defined 'alternative' label. The board will be working with those schools over the next year to create a fair evaluation system with metrics that could include change over time in test scores as well as suspension or truancy rates, says the article.

• And in Philadelphia, the school district recently revised its charter school proposal to treat charter schools differently based on how well they follow the district's rules. The proposal suggests limiting charter school expansions to high-performing schools and doing annual evaluations of each charter school instead of waiting until their five-year charter is up. Such a move aligns with recent recommendations from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the Charter School Growth Fund

The proposed charter school policy draft is open for comment from the public until March 7, 2014. It is the first phrase in a three-part effort to overhaul the way charter schools in Philadelphia are authorized and overseen.   

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