Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Positive Impact of Charters

Ed Kirby of the Walton Family Foundation comments on a new Education Next article that highlights the positive impact charters are having on traditional schools and school systems:

Dear Whitney,

Public charter schools are a positive force in the lives of now nearly two and a half million American students. Charter schools provide new educational choices to many families who have for generations been restricted to attending the one school determined by their zip code.

But what has been the effect of the charter school movement on the traditional schools and school systems? Are charter schools a force for change beyond their walls?

The answer is yes. A new study in Education Next concludes that when competitive dynamics are introduced in the form of charter schools, districts schools can and do adapt for the better.

Looking at 12 urban school districts facing charter school competition, my Walton Family Foundation colleague Marc Holley – who leads our research and evaluation team – found that much more often than not, school districts respond constructively to competition brought about by parental demand for choice schools.

Holley and his co-authors also identified six specific constructive changes urban school districts have been making in policy and practice following the introduction of parental choice, and six, less frequent ways districts have tried to obstruct choice efforts.

Last week, assessment results in Washington, D.C. – a city where 43 percent of students attend charter schools – showed that student performance in both the traditional school system and public charter schools has improved significantly. The Washington Post editorial board remarked: “public education in D.C. is on a healthy trajectory, thanks to the growth of quality charters and reforms that are taking root in the traditional system.”

Now that more constructive changes are flowing from a choice movement that is still young, imagine what further positive changes will come about for families and schools as charter schools continue to grow in popularity and impact.

Ed Kirby
Walton Family Foundation

Here’s another article that makes the same point:

An investigation by Education Next into the reaction of traditional public school districts to the spread of charter schools has found that districts are increasingly pursuing collaborative, rather than obstructive, approaches to working with charters.
The article examines traditional public school districts' reactions to charter schools in 12 cities around the country, grouped into four regions. The article's authors combed through more than 8,000 articles about traditional school districts' responses to charter school competition as well as school board meeting minutes, school district websites, and other sources of information.
The 12 cities in the article include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, District of Columbia, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Newark, N.J., New Orleans, New York City, and Phoenix. All of the chosen cities had a minimum of six percent of the student population in charter schools.
The authors of the article found at least one piece of evidence—op-eds, press releases, and other pieces of media from each city—that suggests district officials there were aware of competition from charter schools.
Of the 12 cities, eight responded to the competition from charter schools in what the article describes as a "constructive" approach. In Atlanta, for instance, district officials there embraced a collaborative grant between a traditional middle school and a charter middle school. Education officials in Detroit called on charter management organizations to step in to take over dozens of the city's most academically struggling schools.
However, some districts responded to competition from charters with an "obstructive response," said the article. Such responses included a refusal to grant charter schools access to school facilities, denying charter school applications, creating legal barriers for charters to operate, freezing or delaying payments to charters, withholding information from charters, and using regulations to restrict the availability of school choice.
This article raises an important question: Is collaboration between school districts and charters the new norm? Or does this article paint a more positive picture about such relationships than what is really happening?

Sadly though, there are many charters – disproportionately among cyber charters I believe – that are giving our movement a bad name:

Federal investigators recently unveiled a grand jury indictment of Nicholas Trombetta, the founder and former CEO of Pennsylvania's largest cyber charter school, now alleged to have stolen nearly $1 million in public money and improperly diverted a total of $8 million to avoid federal income taxes.

Continue Reading...

 Subscribe in a reader