Public Impact teamed up with New Schools for New Orleans to develop a guide for cities interested in dramatically growing their charter school sectors as part of an effort to turn around persistently low-performing urban school systems. This Guide builds on dozens of interviews with education and community leaders in New Orleans, insights from national experts who have supported the rebuilding efforts, and research and reporting on New Orleans’ education reforms. Centered around three key strategies: 1) strong governance and accountability, 2) building human capital pipelines to fuel the growth of schools and 3) incubating new schools and growing proven schools into networks, the Guide illustrates recommendations with vignettes of work done by bold school leaders and reformers. The Guide also looks toward long-term sustainability of this new system, exploring topics such as building community demand and support for school reforms, developing a fiscally-balanced system that doesn’t rely long-term on philanthropy, and planning ahead for the new types of challenges that face a decentralized system of schools in areas such as transportation, equitable access, and transparent system oversight.
State and Federal Charter School Policy
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.
Charter schools across the country, on average, are not enjoying the full autonomy from regulations that apply to typical district schools, autonomy that policymakers and education reformers promised as part of the charter school “bargain” of greater autonomy for strong accountability. This report, conducted for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute by Dana Brinson and Jacob Rosch, examined 100 charter contracts and 26 state charter laws to measure how much freedom charter schools have in fourteen critical areas of operations such as establishing curricula or teacher work rules. [Read more…]
Joe Ableidinger and Bryan Hassel of Public Impact interviewed leaders of five highly successful charter schools to understand how autonomy has enabled the schools to achieve outstanding results. This issue brief, prepared for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, explores seven autonomies that have made a difference in the profiled schools and that hold promise as part of broader reform strategies: freedom to develop a great team; freedom to manage teachers as professionals; freedom to change (or not change) curriculum and classroom structures; autonomy in scheduling; financial freedom; freedom from an elected board of directors; and freedom to define a unique school culture.
Ensuring the growth of successful charter schools requires special attention to a variety of challenges associated with providing high-quality specialized services to children with disabilities, such as lack of clarity about legal responsibilities, limited access to existing state support structures, and limited technical capacity to provide specialized services. This report, written by Lauren Morando Rhim for the Center on Reinventing Public Education, explores these challenges and examines potential opportunities to grow quality charter schools that have as a feature promising or innovative approaches to educating children with disabilities. Opportunities include advocacy to clarify existing laws and change laws that hinder charter schools’ efforts to develop quality special education programs, research to document how charter school operators are using their autonomy to craft potentially unique new instructional programs, and investments in building technical assistance networks and charter school infrastructures are essential. The multiple policy, research, and investment opportunities outlined can help pave the way for growing high-quality charter schools that successfully educate all children.
A coalition of Rhode Island mayors, including Cumberland’s then-Mayor Daniel McKee (now RI’s Lt. Gov.), asked Public Impact and Martin West (then at Brown University) to analyze the state of public education in the Ocean State and in the five-town region surrounding Cumberland, which is north of Providence. The resulting report paints the picture of a state where performance lags the national average, despite very high per-pupil spending. Public Impact goes on to propose a new model of school governance–Mayoral Academies–in which a mayor-led board of trustees would contract with high-quality school providers to open new, regional public schools. RI’s general assembly passed legislation to enact the new model. Public Impact then helped McKee and Michael Magee found a nonprofit to put the model into action: Rhode Island Mayor Academies (RIMA).