The overwhelming takeaway from today's Washington Post article about the results of the first common lottery held in the nation's capital is that there are an insufficient number of high quality seats in D.C.'s public schools. The piece includes these sobering statistics. At Two Rivers Public Charter School there were 60 openings and 2,500 students applied. At KIPP DC 6,540 kids applied for 1,100 spots. 1,947 students applied for 304 seats at AppleTree Early Learning PCS. AppleTree Institute president and CEO Jack McCarthy, who I recently interviewed, commented that "the real tragedy here is that we’ve got to have lotteries because there’s a shortage of good schools.”
A tragedy it is. This morning I counted the number of Public Charter School Board Performance Management Framework Tier 1 spots. These are seats at schools most likely to be closing the academic achievement gap. The total is an astonishing 8,035. That's out of 36,565 students currently attending charters and another 46,393 who are enrolled in DCPS. This means that out of the current 82,958 kids going to public school here 9.7 percent are attending the best educational institutions.
So after 18 years of school reform the question needs to be asked, just what do we think are we doing? We are nowhere. For all the excruciating difficult work, money, political fights, and lobbying we are helping an incredibly small proportion of our children. As more young families enter our city the problem is going to get worse.
This is an emergency that calls for drastic action. We better all come together and figure out what to do next. The current strategy is clearly not bringing the intended results.