Today’s USA Today offers two views on charter school accountability but unfortunately both sides overstate their case. USA Today overplays the problems of a few charter schools (though the paper correctly notes that in this business a few bad anecdotes are all it takes to discredit something). Conversely, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform blames everything in sight for these problems except the two most obvious culprits (a) not everyone who has sought to start a charter school has been competent to do so; and (b) some state laws and policies do not foster effective oversight which only compounds problem (a). Yet as we argued yesterday overall charter schooling has been a success, particularly for disadvantaged students.
For a look at a state doing it right, Eduwonk recommends this new PPI report on charter schooling in Minnesota. Jon Schroeder describes the history and status quo of charter schooling there as well as lessons for Minnesota and for the nation. Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter school law in 1991 and the law subsequently won prestigious Innovations in Government Award from Harvard University. Now the state is pushing the envelope by innovating with new charter school authorizing arrangements and other reforms.
Schroeder’s study is the second in a series. Look for reports on Arizona, New York City, Indianapolis, Ohio, and Texas later this year.
Afterthought: Speaking of accountability, this Christian Science Monitor story brings the opportunities and challenges of “virtual” or online charter schools into sharp relief (and the politics too but you have to read between the lines for that!). Ignore the inflammatory headline; it’s a useful story to read.