Charter school advocates promised that charter schools would improve achievement, or, at the very least attain the same level of achievement with fewer resources because of increased efficiency. Part of the promise was that charter schools that did not improve achievement would be shut down. Whereas public schools were felt to be held accountable through compliance, charters would be held accountability through performance. After over a decade of charters, the improved achievement promise has gone largely unrealized. In fact, many evaluations have found charters underperforming matched regular public schools. Despite this lack of improved achievement, few charters have been shut down for academic reasons, 0.6 of one percent, by one estimate. Yet charters continue to grow in popularity and are actively promoted and funded by the current administration. The reasons for continued support in the face of low performance are discussed.
The logic of school choice presumes that given the opportunity, parents will choose "better" schools for their children. But is every school a "real" option for all parents? Through the introduction of the concept of choice sets, this commentary considers some of the social and historical factors which shape the set of schools from which parents actually choose.
After visiting a "successful" charter school in Washington DC, I question why policy makers are so pleased with schools for minority children that focus exclusively on test-prep and strict discipline, comparing this to the rich educational offerings in suburban public schools. I argue that creating racially and socio-economically integrated schools, for all of its challenges and shortcomings, at least has the advantage of equalizing opportunity and derailing efforts to create an educational system that has one objective and one set of rules for poor minority kids, and a vast wealth of options and opportunities for everyone else.
“Education Savings Accounts” (choice vouchers) are the latest iteration of school voucher proposals and are touted by free market advocates as the future of school choice policies and a vehicle for education reform. In Arizona, where the state legislature has passed choice vouchers on two occasions, the policy discussion has been framed as a conflict between parental choice and bureaucratic mandates and the courts have sided in favor of parental choice. More correctly, the public policy discussion should be framed as a matter of competing parental choices; the choice to divert public funds away from public schools and the “constitutionally-supported” choice to send students to public schools. In setting priorities to resolve this conflict in an environment of scarce resources, I argue that the next available public school dollar must go toward meeting the constitutional mandate to fully maintain public schools on behalf of those parents who have chosen for their students to attend them before allowing other parents to divert public funds away from public schools. Alternately, if the legislature wants to hold true to their commitment to provide parents with the option to divert public funds away from public schools, a policy option with some legal precedent, then it must first maintain its public schools on behalf of the parents who have chosen for their students to attend them. This latter solution has the potential side benefit of achieving the education reform that advocates covet - maybe in a properly maintained public school system, there will no longer be anymore failing schools or underserved students.
This commentary offers a classification of twelve different approaches that charter schools use to structure their student enrollment. These practices impact the likelihood of students enrolling with a given set of characteristics, be it higher (or lower) test scores, students with ‘expensive’ disabilities, English learners, students of color, or students in poverty.
This commentary briefly highlights two illustrative legal cases involving charter schools. Although these controversies could have arisen in traditional public schools, we believe that these legal controversies could have been easily avoided in charter schools had the school leader been legally literate.
This article examines two Arizona-based charter school organizations, well known for their high academic rankings locally and nationally. In response to President Obama's May 5th through May 11th 2013 “National Charter Schools Week” proclamation, and his call for the nation's support of highly performing charter schools, the author analyzes the schools' demographic profiles, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Common Core of Data (CCD), and the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). The author also explores current public discourses surrounding the two charter school organizations. The findings are relevant and timely in light of Obama’s call to extend and replicate successful charter schools throughout the United States, because the results problematize the definition and nuances of charter school “success” by considering the study’s schools in relation to their underrepresentation of disadvantaged students. Based on evidence discovered in the study, the author provides relevant policy questions and suggestions for local, state, and federal education policymakers.
Charter schools were originally proposed as vehicles to give teachers more leadership opportunities; however, the sector has evolved to focus on empowering management over teachers, and today just 7% of charter schools are unionized. This commentary piece explores what lessons can be drawn from the experiences of charter schools, both positive and negative, and how to run schools and structure the teaching profession to build and retain strong teachers. A subset of charter schools are pioneering new avenues for empowering teachers that could be adopted in other public school settings.