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Catholic To Charter School Conversion: One Year Later

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Seven Catholic Schools in D.C. converted to charter schools a year ago because of growing costs and declining enrollment.

Andy Smarick, with the Thomas B. Fordam Institute, who studied the conversion process says the greatest benefit is that the schools remained open. Smarick says one school closed because of under-enrollment. But at each of the other schools, the student population increased by almost 30 percent; one almost doubled in size.

There was also more funding available. Smarick says per pupil spending in the former Catholic schools was less than $5,000. At the new public charter schools that amount was more than $11,000, which meant more money for teacher salaries, books and supplies.

But the conversion was not without challenges. "The students who were coming in, they were often much lower performing than students had been previously, on average they were poorer and they had more special needs," says Smarick. "Both special education numbers went up as did the number of English language learners."

The schools hired Spanish speaking teachers, a special education director and provided additional teacher training.

Kavitha Cardoza reports...

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