In general, virtual charter schools have had poor outcomes. But when we scanned the field for virtual charter schools with positive learning results, we found a few. What can others learn from them to make virtual school success the rule, not the exception? This report highlights the experience of two nonselective virtual charter schools making online schooling work for their students—Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA) and New Hampshire’s Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS).
Scaling Up Quality
Charter growth may be slowing across the country, but IDEA Public Schools remains committed to bringing its proven model to as many students as possible. This case study breaks down how IDEA overcomes the barriers to growth that stop so many of its peers by applying many of the same strategies that private companies use to expand and thrive. As a result, IDEA has built the systems necessary to replicate with consistency and efficiency year after year, while meetings its talent, facilities, and funding needs to the benefit of its 45,000 students and counting.
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.
Could adoption of judicious policies and practices in the charter sector create a million more excellent opportunities for students over the next decade? This report, prepared by Public Impact for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the Charter School Growth Fund, makes recommendations that legislators, authorizers, and state education agencies can use to build a policy environment that will substantially increase the prevalence and impact of high-quality charter schools. The recommendations support four strategies to promote quality in the sector: differentiating charter operators based on performance, building system capacity to cultivate and support high-performing schools and networks, facilitating replication of high performers and accelerating closure of low performers.
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.
Stand-alone charter schools are among the most innovative and successful schools around. But can they serve as the basis for a sustainable, large-scale movement for change in education? Or are they likely to remain the exception rather than the rule? What kinds of institutions are needed to support the scale-up of successful models? This article in Education Next tackles these questions.