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The fight is on over expansion of D.C.'s charter school movement

We pick up today right where we left off a couple of weeks ago with DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson complaining about the lack of coordination with her system when a new charter school is about to open. She is upset that Harmony PCS, which has a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, is set to begin operating across the street from Langley Elementary, one of her facilities that offers the same concentration for the identical school grades.

However, now Ms. Henderson's rhetoric on this subject has reached a new feverish pitch. The Washington Post's Emma Brown quotes the Chancellor as remarking, “Either we want neighborhood schools or we want cannibalism, but you can’t have both."

I frankly don't understand why she would react in this manner. A long time charter school supporter, Ms. Henderson must know that the competition for students charters provide is what has directly led to positive change in the traditional schools. Moreover, if she, together with her predecessor Michelle Rhee, have brought so much improvement to DCPS then why would she be so concerned about a charter being so close to one of her locations? Wouldn't the families in the community simply keep their kids enrolled in the neighborhood school? Does she know something we don't?

Well it didn't take long to figure out what that something is. The problem for the Chancellor is that Langley Elementary, which serves 417 students, 99 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch, scores below the D.C. average when it comes to standardized test results. The DC CAS report for the 2012 to 2013 term show a math proficiency rate of just 44 percent, 9 points under the city's mean of 53 percent. In reading the school's proficiency percentage is 46, 3 points lower than the state average.

Harmony PCS has an extremely different track record. The charter network teaches over 25,000 students on 40 campuses throughout Texas. Among Harmony's accomplishments are a 100 percent college acceptance rate and a student dropout count that numbers zero. From the school's website:

"In 2006, Harmony Science Academy Houston, our original school, received the Title 1 Distinguished School Award from the US Department of Education for outstanding performance in the categories of exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years and closing the achievement gap."

Harmony charter schools consistently score above the Texas state average in math, science, reading, and social studies.

We are all involved in school reform for the benefit of the children. Therefore, if it works out that Harmony can do academically what Langley cannot, then the perfectly appropriate action by the Chancellor, as hard as this would be, is to turn over her school to the charter.

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