The controversy swirling around Crossroads Charter High School in Charlotte, NC nicely crystallizes some vexing issues related to charter school accountability. The school is, according to a recent news story “mired in disarray” — with low test scores, racial tension, even a student sit-in. Should the state close it? There’s a pretty strong case to do so. NC has reached its cap on the number of charters (100). So Crossroads is taking up a slot that could be offered another school with more promise. The case against: the school serves a tough population, with large numbers of former dropouts and kids with criminal convictions. Would these kids really be better off without this school?
This situation is actually fairly common — there’s a clear need for a given type of school option, but the school set up to meet it isn’t getting the job done. Policymakers seem to face a no-win situation: keep a bad school open, or throw a bunch of troubled kids back on the street? But here’s one way around the resulting dilemma: instead of just closing the school, why not issue a request-for-proposals inviting providers to tackle the obvious need with a new design and new leadership? This approach shifts the focus from the existing school to the kids — which is where it should be.
–Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact