Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Charter Schools: A Solution to Turning Around Low-Performing Schools?

Charter schools are an increasingly relevant and controversial subject in the discussion about improving failing school systems. In a recent article released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), charter schools are applauded for their ability to promote strong turnaround collaborations, offer students a range of educational options and foster innovation through competition among public schools. The report discusses an eight-state RAND study that found that charter school students are 7 to 15 percent more likely to graduate and earn a high school diploma than are traditional public high school students.

While charter schools seem to be a current f
ocus in educational reform, reports like the one published by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that charter schools can be detrimental to the public education system through funding shortages from the competition of resources and appropriations, lack of oversight and accountability, and poorly managed systems by inexperienced administrators. This report cites these issues as the reason many charter schools are receiving low scores on statewide tests. In addition, it argues that charter schools leave the majority of underserved students in their same, low-performing schools rather than investing in turning around traditional schools.

As suggested by the CAP article, the debate about charter schools is intensifying as more schools and districts are looking at this model for turning around low-performing institutions. Although there is no broad consensus about the results of charter schools, it remains important for policymakers to understand the range of school turnaround mechanisms, as success varies depending on the unique characteristics of schools and communities. Thus, academic achievement depends on the support of the community and the context of the charter itself, among many other factors.

For more information on improving K-3 academic success, turning around low-performing high schools and other strategies to promote high school completion, visit

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