D.C. has become a national leader in adult charter schools.
One of the largest nonprofits that served adult learners in the District, Academy of Hope, recently converted to a charter school. These adult charter schools are a trend where D.C. finds itself a leader.
For each adult who studies at a charter school, that school receives almost $7,000 from the D.C. government. That's compared to the $800 nonprofits can receive for educating an adult.
Lecester Johnson, who heads Academy of Hope Public Charter School, remembers looking at the first payment from the charter school board.
"Essentially that first quarter payment was our entire last year’s budget. We were all in shock and awe," Johnson says. "What that money does is protect core academic programs."
But along with autonomy and funding comes accountability, says Allison Kokkoros. She’s with Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, which is in its 16th year. She says every charter school has certain goals and they are graded based on their performance.
"There are stretch goals that look at the educational gains, the GED testing pass rate, look at average daily attendance, if they're doing career training look at the percentage of students who received career certification, whether your students received employment and whether they stayed employed," Kokkoros says.
If charter schools don't meet their goals, they can be put in warning status and their charters revoked.
Terry Salinger with the American Institutes for Research says D.C. is a national leader in adult charter schools and has more than 10.
"Minneapolis has one, and they're thinking of opening another. These adult charter schools have been created by Goodwill Industries. Goodwill Industries in Austin is working to create another. Goodwill Industries in Florida could not create an adult charter school because Florida law prohibits it. California which has a very strong system of adult education is 'flirting' with charter schools, as it was explained to me," Salinger says.
D.C. is home to one of the most highly-skilled labor markets in the country, yet more than 60,000 adults who live here don't have a high school diploma.
Support for WAMU's education reporting comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.