Friday, June 29, 2012

Improving Charter School Accountability: The Challenge of Closing Failing Schools

From the beginning, the charter concept was to give schools more autonomy—freedom to hire and fire their staffs and control their own budgets and curriculum—while still holding them accountable for performance. No charter would be allowed to fail its students year after year, as traditional public schools are often permitted to do. If their students were not learning, they would close.

This promise has not always been fulfilled. Hundreds of school districts have authorized charters then failed to invest in oversight. Even some statewide authorizers report that they have insufficient data to make merit-based renewal and revocation decisions.

In its first 10 years, the charter community focused mostly on quantity: getting charters open. Over the past ten years, it has focused increasingly on charter school quality. Today, it is time to open a third frontier: authorizer quality. The key to quality in the charter sector is quality authorizing.

In this report the author discusses why it is so important that authorizers close failing charters, reviews the facts about charter and authorizer performance, examines why some authorizers fail to close underperforming charters, and proposes solutions to these problems.

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