Mayor Gray has taken office with school reform efforts more prominent in District residents' minds than ever before. Empowering enthusiastic and determined educators to open new public schools independently of the school system transformed D.C.'s public education offering. From two small charter campuses 14 years ago to nearly 100 today, District public charter schools now educate nearly 40 percent of the city's public school children.

From 2007 to 2010, D.C. charter secondary schools raised students' reading proficiency from 43 to 52 percent while DCPS secondary schools raised reading proficiency from 29 to 42 percent. In the same time frame, D.C. charters increased secondary school students' math proficiency from 43 to 57 percent while DCPS increased math proficiency from 26 to 43 percent.

Charters' high-school graduation and college-acceptance rates also are much higher than in D.C. Public Schools.

Given the coverage prior to Gray's election, D.C. voters could be forgiven for thinking that Mayor Adrian Fenty was a school reform zealot while Mayor Gray was reluctant to reform, if not hostile to it.

Yet during the campaign, Gray enthusiastically championed charter school reform as he had one year earlier when Fenty targeted charter schools for steep budget cuts but left DCPS alone.

As council chairman, Gray inserted language into the 2011 Budget Support Act to help charters access surplus school buildings before they are offered to private developers. By contrast, the Fenty administration routinely frustrated charters' attempts to buy or lease school buildings from D.C.'s under-enrolled school system -- even after then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee closed 27 DCPS schools.

The first school reforms that the new administration should implement are those that Gray already supports. The D.C. School Reform Act, which established the city's charter school reform, requires that charters receive the same public funding per student as traditional public schools. The current charter school public funding deficit runs to about $5,000 per student -- an inequality Gray has pledged to reverse.

No less important, D.C. law requires that charters be offered school buildings that DCPS no longer needs. Gray's commitment to this school reform would be a welcome change from the Fenty administration's illegal defiance.

DCPS has significantly more school space than it can use. In addition to charters being offered surplus buildings, there also should be opportunities for charters to co-locate with under-enrolled city-run schools. An excess space analysis should be a priority.

The new administration also should cast a critical eye over the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Like Maryland or Virginia, D.C. needs a state office to set K-12 standards. But OSSE has grown far beyond this role, going over the head of the charter schools' regulator, the D.C. Public Charter School Board, by piling regulations on charters in violation of D.C.'s charter school law.

The thread running through the new administration's school reform agenda should be support for what makes D.C.'s school reforms work.

First is autonomy from the school system and freedom from unnecessary regulations while being held accountable for improved student performance by the charter board. Second is direct accountability to the mayor as opposed to the D.C. Board of Education.

Both bold, beneficial reforms can deliver further success for students only if they are allowed to play to their strengths. Success also requires a level playing field with equal public funding and fair access to surplus public school buildings.

We need more high-quality public schools, charter and traditional. More successful charter operators from outside the city should be given an opportunity to prove themselves, and more D.C. charters that have failed to do so should be shown the door. DCPS should be no less demanding of its teachers, principals and school operators.

Robert Cane is executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools.

Robert Cane is executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools.