Friday, October 25, 2013

Three Members of U.S. Equity and Excellence Commission Issue Separate Statement on Charters

David G. Sciarra, James E. Ryan and Randi Weingarten just issued a Compendium Paper to the U.S. Deptarment of Education's Equity and Excellence Commission, which issued its report this past spring.  All three were part of the Commission itself.  Their paper speaks solely to charter schools.  They write:
The number of charter schools is increasing, with growing debate about their proper place in state public education systems. To ensure equity and excellence in those systems, states must create a policy environment built on the expectation that charters will be fully accountable to the public, and operate effectively and equitably in the communities they serve. After all, the states have the responsibility to ensure students the quality education they must have to succeed and are legally entitled to receive, regardless of how the state allows its local schools to be governed. 
In response, they recommend:

• Encouraging innovation, such as giving priority to multi-district charters that seek to serve a socio-economically and racially diverse student body, or that address the needs English language learners or students at-risk of dropping out 

• Ensuring that charter schools are not impeding access, through means explicit or subtle, to any and all students who are eligible to enroll, including very low income students, English language learners, and students with disabilities.

 • Requiring public transparency in the lottery process; in maintaining waiting lists and documenting transfers and attrition; in adhering to state and federal due process in student discipline matters; and by disclosure of annual budgets, including funds and other support received from private sources.

Their full statement is available after the jump.

Statement on Charter Schools

By David G. Sciarra, James E. Ryan and Randi Weingarten

 

This Report contains a brief discussion on "Charter Schools and Choice," noting the growth of these schools in recent years. The Report calls on states to "monitor the performance" of charters and to undertake research to "understand the effects of charters on equity and access."

 

As states authorize more charter schools and those schools enroll greater numbers of students, especially in high poverty communities, concerns have arisen over their effectiveness and impact on the equitable delivery of high quality public education to all students in the communities in which they are located. As this Report correctly notes, the limited research available shows many charter schools perform on assessments at the same level or below district-run schools, and some charters rank among the states' persistently lowest performing schools. Data is also beginning to show that charter schools do not always serve students comparable to those enrolled in district schools, particularly the very poor and those at-risk of academic failure, students with disabilities, and those learning English. In addition, financial mismanagement and irregularities among charters is becoming a recurring problem in many states. For example, in New Jersey since 1996, nearly one-third of all authorized charter schools have surrendered their charters or had their charters revoked, mostly due to mismanagement.

 

Also, because many states require charter authorizers to perform only perfunctory evaluations, little is known about what works -- and what doesn't -- in charter schools.

Lessons learned about both how successful practices might help improve public education and how to avoid or correct unsuccessful practices are lost. And charters are not required, typically, to disclose contributions, grants, and other support from private and foundation sources, giving some select charters a distinct advantage over other charters and district schools and again depriving the public of knowledge crucial to assessing the performance of charter schools.

 

There is wide variation in how states authorize, regulate and hold charters accountable for academic and fiscal performance. Reform of those laws is essential -- and urgently needed -- to make certain that these schools operate equitably, effectively, and with full accountability to communities they serve. States, through their charter laws, must ensure charter schools make a solid contribution to the overall improvement of public education in their host districts -- for every student, including those with diverse needs, and not just for those attending charters.

Among the basic areas most in need of state policy reform include:

• Encouraging innovation, such as giving priority to multi-district charters that seek to serve a socio-economically and racially diverse student body, or that address the needs English language learners or students at-risk of dropping out

 

• Ensuring that charter schools are not impeding access, through means explicit or subtle, to any and all students who are eligible to enroll, including very low income students, English language learners, and students with disabilities.

 

• Requiring public transparency in the lottery process; in maintaining waiting lists and documenting transfers and attrition; in adhering to state and federal due process in student discipline matters; and by disclosure of annual budgets, including funds and other support received from private sources.

 

• Evaluating the academic and fiscal performance of charters on an ongoing basis, and funding independent, quality research on charter programs, practices and performance

 

• Establishing local education collaborations between districts and charters to facilitate community-wide efforts to improve performance and accountability, strengthen professional development, and collect and disseminate data and research, especially in high poverty communities where both district and charter schools are in dire need of high quality technical assistance and support

 

The number of charter schools is increasing, with growing debate about their proper place in state public education systems. To ensure equity and excellence in those systems, states must create a policy environment built on the expectation that charters will be fully accountable to the public, and operate effectively and equitably in the communities they serve. After all, the states have the responsibility to ensure students the quality education they must have to succeed and are legally entitled to receive, regardless of how the state allows its local schools to be governed.

 

 

 

• Evaluating the academic and fiscal performance of charters on an ongoing basis, and funding independent, quality research on charter programs, practices and performance

 

• Establishing local education collaborations between districts and charters to facilitate community-wide efforts to improve performance and accountability, strengthen professional development, and collect and disseminate data and research, especially in high poverty communities where both district and charter schools are in dire need of high quality technical assistance and support

 

 

 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/education_law/2013/10/three-members-of-us-equity-and-excellence-commission-issue-separate-statement-on-charters.html

Charters and Vouchers, Equity in education, Federal policy, Studies and Reports | Permalink

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