A better, bigger, broader charter school sector—that’s what the U.S. needs to meet students’ needs in a competitive and interconnected world, this report says. Twenty-five years after the first charter law was enacted in Minnesota, the public charter school sector has helped spark significant public education improvements, particularly for urban students and students of color. But the U.S. lags behind other developed countries in student achievement, about 1 million students are on charter school waiting lists nationwide, and many student groups are still underserved by all public schools, traditional and charter. This report, co-authored by The Mind Trust and Public Impact, calls on all involved in charter schools to make the sector better, broader, and bigger in order to expand its reach and meet the students’ needs—which will require innovation that breaks the mold of most schools today. The report recommends various steps charter school operators, policymakers, city-based education organizations, and philanthropic funders may take to spur more innovation in the sector.
Help for Charter Schools
Charter schools are well positioned to serve the needs of English Learner (EL) students, but need to be aware of the legal parameters governing public education of ELs. The greater flexibility afforded to charter schools offers opportunity to develop innovative approaches to providing ELs, one of the fastest growing demographic groups among students in the United States, with a quality education. But as charter schools are still subject to all federal and some state education laws, charter schools must understand their legal obligations to EL students. This report, co-authored by Safal Partners and Public Impact for the National Charter School Resource Center, examines federal requirements under civil rights laws and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and state laws governing charter school recruitment, retention, enrollment of EL students and their accountability for EL student performance; requirements and current challenges related to EL data reporting; and whether existing laws are adequate to address the needs of this growing population of ELs in charter schools.
Though English learners (EL) are the fastest growing student demographic in the United States, public schools, including charter schools, are challenged to effectively engage EL families in a way that ensures the academic success of EL students. Research suggests that EL families’ socioeconomic status, lack of social connectivity, language barriers, differing cultural perspectives about family engagement in education, and lack of familiarity with U.S. school procedures are all factors that constrain EL families’ awareness of school options and opportunities. Given the flexibility afforded to charter schools, they are well-positioned to develop new strategies to counterbalance these challenges. This paper, co-authored by Safal Partners and Public Impact for the National Charter School Resource Center, examines practices used by some charter schools to engage EL families during recruitment, communicate with EL families with limited English proficiency, and meet the special needs of enrolled EL students and their families, and also highlights the funding mechanisms that support these strategies. Based on the approaches and practices presented, the paper identifies program, support, resource and policy issues for charter school leaders, developers, and policymakers to consider when planning strategies to enhance EL family engagement.
This case study on Phalen Leadership Academy, an Indianapolis charter school, examines the school’s approach to blended learning in its first year. Commissioned by statewide charter authorizer the Indiana Charter School Board, the case study provides lessons for potential school leaders considering similar 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.
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…]
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 organization now known as Education Cities 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.