Featured Charter School Resources
This review of 25 school quality rating systems, written by Public Impact for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, reveals clear trends that may help rating system designers and users think about optimal system designs. The rating systems inventoried include some from state departments of education, large public school districts, charter associations and authorizers, and private news and advocacy organizations. Among the trends found were: the inclusion of student growth; the expansion of college- and career-readiness measures; an exploration of new ways to focus attention on the lowest-performing students; an interest in valid measures of student engagement; simplified reporting formats to categorize school quality; and an increase in data transparency and public accessibility. The review foresees a stronger system for evaluating quality across states following the adoption of Common Core-aligned assessments.
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.
Searching for Excellence: A Five-City, Cross-State Comparison of Charter School Quality sheds light on charter performance in Albany, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, and Indianapolis. The study, conducted jointly by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Public Impact, found that charter schools in these five cities outperformed their home districts’ schools, which had similar levels of student poverty. Though schools statewide had significantly lower levels of poverty than the charters (and urban districts), the study also compared charter performance to the higher standard of average statewide performance. Charters in all five cities trailed the state overall—often by a wide margin. Within each district, quality varied widely, with very high-performing charter schools and dismal ones. But a simulation shows how the charter sectors could improve under an aggressive charter closure and replication policy. In Cleveland, for example, if the bottom 10 percent of performers were closed while the top performers expanded by an equal percentage, citywide charter school performance would substantially outperform the home district, and perform on par with all statewide public schools in five years.
The Tennessee Charter School Incubator aims to establish a solid foundation of college-prep charter schools in Memphis and Nashville, and spur education reforms across the state. This first annual report, prepared by Public Impact, looks at the three schools its first fellows launched—already among the highest-performing charters in the state—and the newest schools and fellows.
This webinar, hosted by the National Charter School Resource Center, explores blended learning in charter schools, and explains how online and traditional teaching methods can be combined to improve student performance while making schools more efficient. Heather Staker of the Innosight Institute presents a variety of blended learning models, examining classrooms arrangements, schedules, student-teacher ratios, and the impact on school budgets. Lucy Steiner of Public Impact explains how blended learning, which is a key component of Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture initiative, can help excellent teachers reach more students, for more pay – within available budgets and without increasing class sizes.
This report from Public Impact for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools evaluates the charter school sector’s progress on the goals of growth and quality since the 2005 release of Renewing the Compact, a position statement for the charter school sector. The report recommends bold actions to capitalize on the sector’s successes while confronting persistent challenges. By acting on the report’s recommendations now, critical stakeholders can build a breakthrough sector and create a results-driven culture, which will improve the impact of charter schools on student outcomes and the education system.
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.
The supply of seats in the nation’s best charter schools is not growing rapidly enough to serve the millions of low-income children who need better schools. Based on lessons from the fastest growing organizations in other sectors, this report for the Progressive Policy Institute provides breakthrough solutions for growing the best charter schools and charter management organizations. With specific advice for charter sector leaders, policymakers and philanthropists, Going Exponential offers strategies that could enable every child living in poverty to have access to schools as good as today’s top ten percent charter schools by 2025. Recommendations address the major barriers limiting growth of the sector’s best, such as scarcity of excellent school leaders, funding for growth, and motivation of charter leaders to grow while maintaining excellence.
This issue brief for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers deals with the unique challenges of authorizing blended charter schools, which combine digital learning with instruction at supervised brick-and-mortar locations. Authorizing blended charter schools requires a mix of application review and oversight methods applicable to typical brick-and-mortar charter schools and full-time online charter schools. This brief begins with an explanation of the variety of blended charter school models, followed by a brief discussion of key issues for authorizer awareness and consideration in the blended school context, with attention to both initial approval and ongoing oversight. It then provides more specific guidance on evaluating proposals for blended charter schools. Finally, the brief provides general recommendations for overseeing and evaluating blended charter schools.
High-performing charter schools have shown that disadvantaged students can achieve at high levels. Unfortunately, too few of these schools exist today, severely limiting access among the highest-need students. Charter school incubation – recruiting, selecting, training, and supporting promising leaders as they launch new schools – is a crucial strategy for increasing the number of high-performing charter schools in cities across the country. This policy brief, released by the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust) and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, explores current experience with charter incubation and the local policies and funding needed to create and sustain healthy markets for successful incubators.
[pdf] Charter incubation is the process of intentionally building the supply of high-quality schools and charter management organizations by recruiting, selecting, training, and supporting promising leaders as they launch new charter schools. This white paper identifies and analyzes four critical focus areas for charter incubators: attracting and developing effective school or CMO leaders; partnering strategically to help leaders open and operate high-quality charter schools and CMOs; championing school leaders in the community; and coordinating advocacy to support new charter leaders. The authors distilled these four areas from research and discussions with members of the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust), an initiative of Indianapolis-based education reform organization The Mind Trust . The white paper discusses these focus areas and presents innovative responses by CEE-Trust members to the challenges of charter incubation in each area. This white paper is part of a three-piece series continuing the discussion from a National Charter School Resource Center / U.S. Department of Education conference exploring emerging city-based movements that embrace high-quality charters as an integral component of their reform strategy. On September 21, 2011, Joe Ableidinger joined Ethan Gray, vice president of The Mind Trust and director of CEE-Trust, to offer a webinar based on the white paper, Expanding the Supply of High-Quality Charter Schools: Innovations in Incubation, available through the National Charter School Resource Center at http://www.charterschoolcenter.org/webinar/expanding-supply-high-quality-charter-schools-innovations-incubation.
This webinar explores charter school incubation, a promising strategy for intentionally accelerating the growth of high-quality charter schools by recruiting, selecting, training, and supporting promising leaders as they launch new schools. Presenters discuss the need for incubation, the promise of incubation, and some of the early evidence from established incubators. They introduce Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust), an initiative of Indianapolis-based education reform organization The Mind Trust, and discuss the work that CEE-Trust members have been doing to incubate new high-quality charter schools. The webinar then details four critical focus areas for charter incubators as described in the companion white paper, Incubating High-Quality Charter Schools: Innovations in City-Based Organizations, and innovative approaches taken by CEE-Trust members in each focus area. Finally, presenters discuss five major policies that policymakers can address to support charter incubation, and how changes in these areas would help incubators.
This white paper highlights six indicators of a robust talent pipeline so that charter supporters of all kinds—including charter school leaders, talent providers, charter support organizations, philanthropies, and politicians—can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their own efforts. It also shows through the examples of Indianapolis and New Orleans how charter supporters have been able to grow the supply of effective charter school teachers and leaders by focusing on these indicators. This white paper is part of a three-piece series continuing the discussion from a National Charter School Resource Center / U.S. Department of Education conference exploring emerging city-based movements that embrace high-quality charters as an integral component of their reform strategy.
[pdf] Drawing on lessons learned from cities trying to kick-start a new charter market, as well as from some of the most developed markets in the country, this white paper offers guidance for philanthropies on how to invest wisely as part of a city-based strategy. It also identifies potentially high-yield investments in the charter sector. This white paper is part of a three-piece series continuing the discussion from a National Charter School Resource Center / U.S. Department of Education conference exploring emerging city-based movements that embrace high-quality charters as an integral component of their reform strategy.
Commissioned by Baptist Community Ministries (BCM) in 2010, this report examines how philanthropic organizations in four American cities—Albany, N.Y.; Denver, Colo.; Harlem, N.Y.; and Houston, Tex.—have affected the charter sector. This scan includes information about how a select number of philanthropic organizations in each city developed their investment strategies, made investment decisions, and evaluated the impact their investments are having on public education. Read more…
[pdf] Charter schooling remains one of the nation’s most promising efforts to produce more excellent public schools, especially for low-income and minority students. Almost 20 years after the first charter school law was passed, however, questions in the sector largely focus now on quality and expansion: How can we help take the best of the charter sector to scale, while at the same time maintaining high standards of quality? Drawing upon the experience of many of the sector’s most active funders, Public Impact prepared this guidebook for The Philanthropy Roundtable to offer a menu of strategies that donors can use to support a high-quality charter school sector, including:
- Building a robust supply of high-quality new schools;
- Priming the teacher and leader pipeline;
- Addressing critical operations challenges;
- Defining and improving quality; and
- Forging charter-friendly public policies.
The guidebook examines these five priorities by describing how current funders are addressing them, providing suggestions for new donors and exploring the next phase of philanthropic support in the charter sector. Excerpts from the report (pdf) also appear in the spring 2009 issue of Philanthropy Magazine.
[pdf] 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.
The authors found that while, nationally, charter schools experience an average level of autonomy in the B- grade range, some states and charter school authorizers confer broad autonomy on charter schools—earning an A—while other state charter laws and authorizer contracts earned an F for the heavy restrictions they placed on schools. As education leaders across the country push for greater charter school accountability—urging rightly to close low-performing schools—this report asks, “Are charter schools enjoying the autonomy side of the bargain?” and finds the answer is ‘no’ in too many schools across the country.
[pdf] 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.
States create the environment in which charter school authorizing happens. As a result, state policymakers are in a strong position to influence charter school quality by laying the groundwork for good authorizing. Public Impact organized and edited this series of brief “policy guides” for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers designed to help state policymakers meet this challenge.
Each installment tackles a different policy issue facing states, including: multiple charter authorizers, authorizer funding, the charter application process, appeals, contracts, performance accountability, replicating successful schools, and “starting fresh” in previously failing schools. The briefs provide background, walk policymakers through key questions and consideration, and conclude with a set of recommendations. Beyond Public Impact’s organizing and editing role, Senior Consultant Lauren Morando Rhim also authored two of the briefs, on replicating successful charter schools and “starting fresh.”
In a follow-up to a 2005 report showing that charter schools are significantly under-funded compared to district schools, the authors find that little changed over four years, and charter schools receive nearly 20 percent less funding per pupil than district schools. The report, created in collaboration with researchers Meagan Batdorff, Larry Maloney, and Jay May, examines FY 2006-07 data from 24 states and Washington, DC in the most comprehensive analysis of charter funding to date. While Public Impact did not carry out the data-gathering for this edition, the firm’s Daniela Doyle led the writing of the cross-state analysis.
[pdf] Case study, conducted for Seton Education Partners, explores the 2009 effort by Miami Archdiocesan leaders, parish priests, charter school operators, and charter support organizations to open eight charter schools in former Catholic school facilities. Quick, coordinated action created public charter options for the former Catholic school students and others seeking alternatives to traditional district schools while preventing the closure of several Catholic parishes. Report provides several early lessons for other dioceses considering this option.