Charter schools are public schools, often started by educators and parents dissatisfied with regular schools, writes the Washington Post‘s Jay Mathews. They are typically independent of many district rules. President Obama has been telling charter authorizers, mostly city, state and university boards, to get rid of stinkers. The nonprofit Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) also has been urging the D.C. charter school board in that direction, and may succeed if Ideal closes. Did it have to take so long? I don’t think so. Two years ago Ideal was clearly a loser, but as often happens, unjustifiable optimism intruded. Thomas Nida, then chairman of the D.C. charter school board, told me his board had not had enough time to turn Ideal around. His board, independent of the D.C. school system, had just assumed responsibility for Ideal and several other charters. They had previously been authorized and supervised by the D.C. school board, which never liked dealing with charter schools and was not good at it. I understand why public-spirited people like Nida didn’t want to dump Ideal too quickly, but they were wrong to entertain false hopes when the school’s awkward rhythms and low expectations were pretty much set…

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