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.
State and Federal Charter School Policy
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.
Published by The 21st Century Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute through funding from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this report reviews the unique Arizona charter school law, examines the outcomes charter schools have attained, and profiles some of the high and low points of chartering in Arizona. It analyzes the potential risks and rewards inherent in the Arizona model. It delves into some of the pressing challenges facing chartering in the state, and concludes with some recommendations for the future.
Florida is often referred to as “School Choice Central” due to its variety of public school choice options, including vouchers and tax credits, school-to-work academies, and virtual and home schools. Among all the choice options in Florida, none has reached as many children and families as charter schools. In the 2005-06 school year, there were over 300 charter schools serving about 3 percent of the state’s public school students. This report, co-authored by Bryan Hassel, Michelle Godard Terrell, and Julie Kowal, examines the outcomes of the first decade of charter schooling in the Sunshine State. Published by Education Sector, a nonpartisan education think tank, the report reviews the evolution of Florida’s charter school legislation, examines the achievements and the shortfalls of Florida’s charter schools, and offers several recommendations for improvement.
At the request of Ohio’s top government and education leaders in the summer of 2006, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools commissioned Public Impact to help create a report recommending strategies to strengthen the state’s charter school program. The report breaks its 17 recommendations into four categories: Keep the Accountability/Autonomy Promise, Strengthen Ohio’s System of Charter School Sponsors, Fund Charter Schools Fairly, and Help Open Quality Charter Schools. Recommendations include closing low-performing charter schools and holding sponsors more accountable for oversight of the growing charter movement while also helping more high-performance schools to open and succeed in Ohio. In return for stepped-up accountability, the document calls for restrictions on the formation of high-quality charters to be removed and for charter schools to receive more equitable funding. In addition to Bryan Hassel and Michelle Godard Terrell, Louann Bierlein Palmer and Peter Svahn contributed to the report.
Public Impact prepared this report for the North Carolina Blue Ribbon Commission on Charter Schools to inform the Commission on the current performance of the state’s charter schools, identify challenges the sector is facing, and provide proposals for the future direction of the state’s charter school policies. Public Impact’s report outlined a course of action to promote a stronger charter sector—including lifting the state’s charter cap, closing low-performing charter schools, and providing better support along the charter school life cycle. The Blue Ribbon Commission developed a report of recommendations for the State Board of Education to consider and included some recommendations outlined in Public Impact’s “Working the Curve.”