Charter School Leaders Issue Roadmap for Growth, Quality And Accountability
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 -- A forward-looking report for realizing the full promise of charter schools was released today by the Taskforce on Charter School Quality and Accountability, appointed in January by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (formerly the Charter School Leadership Council). Renewing the Compact provides a series of key recommendations for creating high-quality charter schools that meet growing parent demand while upholding the charter model of accountability and results.
“This is a statement grounded firmly in the experience of charter educators themselves,” said Nelson Smith president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The Task Force is composed largely of successful charter educators-leaders who have improved the life chances of thousands of young people.”
About one million children now attend 3400 charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
“When the charter model is upheld, there is a relentless focus on achievement,” said Smith, adding that the research shows charter achievement often gaining faster than that of other public schools.
“There are a number of charter schools that rank among the best public schools in the country,” said Dacia Toll, Taskforce member and co-founder of the Amistad Academy in New Haven, Conn., which has been nationally recognized for its students’ academic achievement. "To replicate success, the charter movement as a whole must deepen its commitment to excellence, continuous improvement, and our students’ success.
The report articulates seven principles of quality chartering:
-- Quality is more important than quantity. Growth is not an end in itself.
-- The primary aim of charter schools is to pursue academic achievement for all students. Non-academic goals are important but do not by themselves justify charter renewal.
-- Charter schools must achieve at high levels-not just offering something marginally better than failing neighboring schools.
-- Charter accountability must be both internal and external.
-- There is no foolproof charter model and a high priority must be placed on recurring mentoring, and evaluating those who lead and teach in charter schools.
-- Since charter schools are public schools, the students who attend them are entitled to the same level of financial support as students in other public schools.
-- Every kind of organization that supports or represents charter schools should be a force for quality.
Renewing the Compact also points to the external challenges that limit the scale and quality of charter schooling, including laws that inhibit adequate funding or allow districts to create charters in name only.
“We must redouble our efforts to remove barriers designed to distract us from our mission of providing high- quality education,” said Anita Nelam, founder of Harte Crossroads Public Schools in Columbus, Ohio, who serves as Vice-Chair of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Laws that limit our independence, or deprive our students of needed resources, must be changed.”
In addition to removing barriers, the Taskforce notes in the report that many things need to occur in order to achieve the goals of growth and quality simultaneously.
The following are some key recommendations of the Taskforce outlined in Renewing the Compact:
-- Let Evidence Drive Operations Charter schools are about outcomes. Yet the tools and capacity for data-driven decision- making are scarce, according to the report. Therefore, the Taskforce recommends that school leaders have access to a “data dashboard” of indicators that include such things as standardized test scores, academic and non-academic growth of students; and information on attendance and staff performance. This data should be used as a more comprehensive tool to improve internal operations and student achievement.
-- Build High-Quality Teacher Force The report cites recruitment and retention of achievement- driven teachers as one of the movement’s toughest challenges- and says that conventional teacher colleges are simply not prepared to fulfill this bill. The Taskforce recommends the creation of more “charter colleges” that offer innovative programs; critical support in the first years of teaching to reduce turnover; training and licensing for unconventional teachers; and a clearinghouse that would match schools and staff on a nationwide basis.
-- Build High-Quality Charter Leadership Renewing the Compact points that teacher colleges are not the right place to look for charter school leaders en masse, since charter founders and leaders need a combination of business, management and educational skills. The Taskforce suggests that universities create charter leadership programs rooted more directly within their business or nonprofit management programs. An even bolder suggestion is to create a national academy for charter school leadership that would combine world-class coursework with a national mentorship program.
-- Charter Laws Must Be About Quality The Taskforce underscores that quality charter laws are the fundamental building block for the rest of the enterprise. It says that a strong charter law is one that supports academic achievement, not just more charter schools. The Taskforce urges state legislatures and advocates to revisit charter laws to make sure they provide sufficient financial support, freedom from regulatory burdens and clarity about oversight responsibilities. The Taskforce also says that caps on charter growth do nothing to enhance quality. But, if caps remain, charter schools that have produced consistently strong performance on state accountability measures should be eligible to receive additional charters.
“The steps recommended in this report will not be easy,” said Smith. “The only response is to begin now.”
The Alliance has asked charter operators, supporters and friends to express their support of the Quality Charter Principles. To add your signature demonstrating our commitment to the charter principles, and/or for a copy of Renewing the Compact, visit http://www.PublicCharters.org.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, formerly the Charter School Leadership Council, is the leading nonprofit representing all sectors of the charter movement. It aims to increase the number of high-performing charter schools available to all families, particularly low-income and minority families who currently don’t have access to quality public schools. The organization assists state charter school associations and resource centers, and develops and advocates for improved public policies that advance the charter movement and the students it serves.
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