Where Are We On Charter Schools?

I take a look at the charter sector in a column for U.S. News and World Report today. A lot of good, plenty of room for improvement, and some hard questions emerging:

Are charter schools – independently operated public schools – at an inflection point? While education advocates fought about Common Core and teacher evaluations charter schools continued to grow and now serve 6 percent of all American public school students. This growth, which is even more pronounced in some cities and states, is highlighting both the promise and challenges of charter schooling. 

At education conferences, among special interest groups and in the media the debate over charter schools is three to five years behind the current state of play. People are arguing about charters version 1.0 while version 2.0 unfolds around the country. The disconnect is bizarre: As public opinion about charters becomes much more favorable the historically bipartisan charter school issue is threatening to become partisan. Pundits question the sustainability of charter schools even as their numbers are poised to top 7,000, public finance in key states is becoming more equitable for charters and many of these institutions operate on public funding alone. And charter school performance is improving even as critics escalate their calls for charter moratoriums, bans or other steps to hobble the movement.

Here’s what is happening today…

You can read the entire thing here via USN’s “Report.” Tweet your inflection points to me @arotherham or tell me what’s surprised you most about charter schools.

7 Replies to “Where Are We On Charter Schools?”

  1. Ahem….

    What about Ohio, and its suspension of ACCOUNTABILITY for students test scores for the first year of attendance?

    Of course, then we the taxpayers have NO INFORMATION on attrition of the low test score students, and no way to know whether these charter schools have been productive for students AND SOCIETY.

    Hey Rotherham, if there is going to be corruption, can I at least have a PIECE OF THE ACTION?

  2. Ahem…

    The promise of improvement IGNORES:

    THe horrible, immoral opportunity cost to the students who took the chance on charters and were cheated out of their futures.

    The charter movement says,”We gotta’ do something.”

    But NO Mention of opportunity cost.

    In light of the brutal facts, most charters schools suck, what do our edu-reformers do>

    They roll out a new version: Charter 2.0

    Then they talk about the disconnect. Then they talk about how smart people embrace disruption and innovation. These two key words are sales talk for, “uuhhh…things are really messed up, and we need to run fast so we are not an easy target.”

    In the physics world, we refuse and cannot adopt the philosophy of untested and reckless innovation and disruption. In fact, we do not use those words. Those words are sales talk. They are NOT scientific.

    Rotherham: Here is an idea I think you should embrace:

    Either hold charters to the exact same standards as the publics or allow the publics the same leeway as the charters.

    If you wish to argue about choice, then are you saying:

    1. Choice, in the context of charters, is to allow ability grouping.

    2. Choice in the context of publics is to legally prohibit ability grouping

    3. Choice in the context of charters is to violate open meeting laws, and transparency regulations for taxpayer funds as well as teacher salaries, managerial overhead costs, and board member names of the CMO and their pay. Include in that list the philanthropies and their financial return on their investments.

    4. Choice in the context of charters is to refuse to divulge teacher names and test scores and to defend the confidentiality of teacher performance evaluations.

    5. Not one of the “privileges and favors” granted to charters are granted to the publics.

    I am not defending anything here other than HONESTY, the application of ONE STANDARD of performance, and TRANSPARENCY.

    Is that too much to demand from any organization that uses public funding?

  3. R:

    Why not stop charter expansion until a RIGOROUS, THOROUGH, TRANSPARENT, set of regulations are developed for charters that:


    How can it be that we have so many BAD CHARTERS and so few of them are closed.

    We have stratospheric student expulsions, academic failure, and questionable discipline practices at charters.

    Yet, these stupendous failures are NOT SHUTTERED!

    Let’s put a MORATORIUM on charter expansion until we have thorough, RIGOROUS, no-excuses, regulation for charters that close as many charters as there are failing charter students.

    R, you cannot wait. The futures of the poor children of this country right now are being destroyed by feckless, reckless, unscrupulous charter organizations.

    Man up, do the right thing. Do not wash your hands and walk away. There simply cannot be so many charters, such low charter student performance, and at the same stroke, so many charters staying open and created.

    Close the bad charters TODAY.

  4. That means you have a lot of closing to do.

    Let’s see if you walk the walk. Let see if you have a spine. Let’s see if you are doing all of this edu-reform for the RIGHT REASONS.


    There is greater treason than to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

  5. We are seeing more and more charter schools in Chicago, and a recent announcement of more layoffs in CPS.

    I believe this was predicted years ago. Quite heartbreaking.

    Thank you for the wonderful work. I am going to share your site with my readers too.

  6. While I enjoy your accurate comments bill jones, I think you are wasting your time here. Mr Rotherham has demonstrated a strong commitment to his ideology regardless of facts.
    The only purpose I find in checking his site is that he sometimes has some good links. But that is becoming less and less as Politico, Real Clear Education, Joanne Jacobs and Diane Ravitch have much better ones.

  7. One of the really tragic outcomes of the charter experiment with children, is that there were plenty of indications the experiment would fail. Had it in fact been a kind of physics experiment, there would have been no one round to witness the carnage.

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