DC Schools Fund II finished 2015 with a number of key successes, and an eye toward even greater impact in the future. This fund was launched in 2013, and is the second DC Schools fund raised by NewSchools Venture Fund.
Since the start of Fund II, we have leveraged $25 million to support work in three areas: growing quality schools, supporting human capital, and strengthening and launching advocacy organizations and initiatives to create a stronger ecosystem for quality schools. Through these investments, we are ahead of schedule on reaching two major targets:
- Added 7,183 new, quality seats toward our goal of 7,500 seats.
- Supported the closure of 5,163 of the lowest-performing charter school seats, surpassing our goal of 5,000 low-quality seat closures.
We have also continued to work with city agencies to expand the unified school enrollment system, My School DC, and the third year of DC Equity Reports, providing comparable data to families and policy leaders on schools’ quality service to all students.
While we are proud of our progress and accomplishments so far, we are still falling short of what we want to see in student achievement. Results from last year’s new Common Core-aligned assessment show that many District of Columbia students are not on track for college or career-readiness, with only 27 percent of students in English Language Arts (ELA) and 33 percent in math performing at the college and career-ready level. We were, however, encouraged to see low-income students in D.C. Schools Fund portfolio schools perform much better (22 percent college-ready in ELA and 30 percent in math) than low-income students citywide (14 percent in both ELA and math). We are starting to close the achievement gap and are making good progress, but still have a long way to go.
Looking ahead, 2016 will be a bittersweet but very exciting time for us. DC Schools Fund II will be winding down in July, and our team is launching a new organization this summer. The aim of the new organization is to ensure all families in D.C. – especially those whose children have been historically underserved – have access to high-quality school options. With a robust investment pipeline in front of us, we are on track to meet our seat goals for the DC Fund II, and move on to our next exciting chapter.
We want to ensure that the incredible momentum for education improvement continues. We are working with our partners, funders and grantees in DC to carry on and expand this very important work in the years to come.