- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2015


The D.C. Public Charter School Board was scheduled Thursday morning to vote on whether to revoke the charter of the Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School. The board met but decided to delay its vote until a Feb. 19 meeting.

The board made a wise move.

Revoking the Dorothy Height charter, one of the oldest and largest charter schools in the nation’s capital, would displace thousands of students.

Moreover, hundreds of families are on a waiting to attend the Height school. The lottery deadline for registering for pre-K through eighth grade is set for March 2, but the deadline for high school registration already has passed.

Notwithstanding the chief reason that the Height school is even being threatened with closure, there are other school-choice academic considerations that parents must weigh.

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D.C. has the worst graduation rate in the nation.

The federal government released new data Thursday that show the national high school graduation ticked upward to 81 percent, which is quasi-good news.

A parochial snapshot, however, reveals that the D.C. rate was 62 percent, Virginia was 84 and Maryland was 85. By comparison, the best in the nation was Iowa’s 90 percent.

That the D.C. rate is on the bottom rung is embarrassing. To learn that traditional and charter school authorities operate in terms of school bureaucracies instead of return on investment (ROI) is mind boggling.

For example, Height is being threatened with closure because of financial improprieties among the people and organizations that run the charter school.

When was the last time D.C. officials took an eraser and wiped the board clean of the people and organizations responsible for the low return on investment for high school graduates?

Another exemplary example is the backward-thinking of authorities who would place several thousand students in academic jeopardy by closing Height.

Revoking the Height charter would hurt about 1,600 students at already at Height, and another 800 or so on the waiting list. When you add the thousands who would be impacted as “new receiving schools,” the numbers become two-, three-, perhaps four times more.

Bureaucracies — and more pointedly, D.C.-based bureaucracies — cannot handle such student, teacher and transportation turnovers and adjustments inside of six months, when the 2015-16 school year begins.

Friendship Public Charter Schools, another of the city’s oldest and largest charter groups, has been proposed as a takeover option.

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, announced the proposal Wednesday, the eve of the scheduled vote (and for that he deserves a tip of the hat).

As I wrote earlier this week, children and their families must not be thrown under the bus. The Height situation is so unlike the Little League problem in Chicago, where kids won the U.S. championship on the field only to have it yanked from their grasp because of illegal shenanigans by adults.

The Friendship charter has the wherewithal and success stories to come to the aid of Dorothy Height’s children.

Surely, somebody needs to step up on their behalf.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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