In one of the nation’s largest school districts, Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, far too many students—especially particularly poor and minority students—lack access to a high-quality school. But recent improvements to the state’s charter policy create an opening for Clark County to use charter schools to transform educational options for all students, especially those who need them most. This report for Opportunity 180 shows why Clark County needs high-quality school options: A largely middling spectrum of school options tends to better serve students in wealthier neighborhoods, while poor and minority students in “quality school deserts” have fewer and poorer options. This report outlines what students and residents have to gain by improving school quality and lays out the steps policymakers and practitioners can take to overcome resource challenges that impede the growth of high-quality charters. As the report concludes, Clark County will need to create the will that drives ongoing commitment to change policies, then provide the resources needed to grow high-quality charter schools and transform education for all students.
Restarts in Failing Schools
Authorizers and support organizations can use the School Restart Authorization Process Guide and related database to increase the success and sustainability of restart interventions in low-performing schools, with step-by-step guidance for designing or refining the restart process. The guide’s recommendations are based on the experiences of authorizers, school operators, education support organizations, and community leaders with experience in restarts nationwide. The process guide is complemented by the Restart Authorizer Resource database, with searchable tools and resources collected from authorizers and support organizations. These resources offer practical examples of the materials that support each step of the restart process. The restart process guide and authorizer resources are available at www.schoolrestarts.org.
From 2010 to 2015, Tennessee’s charter sector grew from 29 schools serving 5,500 students to 98 schools and 29,000 students, including 24 multi-school networks operating in the state. This report describes how the convergence of favorable policy conditions, political leadership, and public-private grants accelerated the growth of high-quality charter schools committed to underserved communities in Memphis and Nashville. The report also examines strategies that the Tennessee Charter School Incubator and the Charter School Growth Fund used to identify and develop promising new school leaders and to start and expand high-performing charter organizations. The Tennessee story provides a lesson for education leaders in how to create the conditions conducive to growing a high-quality charter sector.
Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) was modeled on Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD) but has forged its own path that offers useful insights for other states. The ASD has focused its effort on Memphis, which has the state’s highest concentration of low-performing schools. The ASD has collaborated with high-performing charter operators to conduct school turnarounds in neighborhood schools; collaborated with philanthropic leaders to build a sustainable educator talent pipeline for the bottom 5 percent of the state’s schools; engaged neighborhood communities in the process of matching charter operators to schools selected into the ASD; and influenced district-led turnaround efforts. This case study, commissioned by New Schools for New Orleans and the Achievement School District, examines how these and other ASD’s strategies have resulted in a state turnaround school district distinct from the RSD.
Marking the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this report describes the transformation of public education in New Orleans and considers needed improvements for the next decade to create an excellent system of public schools in New Orleans. The report highlights how the shift to a decentralized system of public charter schools combined with a relentless effort to replace failing schools has produced remarkable gains in student academic achievement and fundamentally changed the role of government in education, the local labor market for educators, and the relationship between New Orleans communities and schools. The report also considers how the pace and magnitude of change presented many challenges to parents, educators, and community members, and discusses what needs to happen next to propel the city to even higher levels of achievement.
After several unsuccessful turnaround efforts and years of chronic low performance at Cameron Middle School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) decided to try something different to dramatically improve student outcomes: gradually convert operation of the school from the district to a charter management organization. This 2014 report for MNPS tells the story behind the conversion, evaluates its successes and challenges, and extracts lessons learned for MNPS and other districts working to build their capacity to better support their lowest performing schools.
The report, prepared by Daniela Doyle and Tim Field for NewSchools Venture Fund, explores a variation on school closure where a charter school’s operator and governance (board) changes, while the school continues to serve the same students — charter school “restarts.” The report examines how charter restarts fit within the larger context of charter school quality and accountability and describes how restarts have played out at five charter schools. It concludes with a series of recommendations for board members and charter authorizers interested in pursuing a restart strategy.