Survey: charter school closure rates dropping
Are we doing enough to ensure that the charter schools we open today won’t be the ones we’ll be closing later? Some may argue, as Andy Rotherham did in the fall, that we need to embrace risk-taking and consider that establishing great charter schools means occasionally creating bad ones. Taking the safe route too often welcomes mediocrity. But that might make greater sense if charter school authorizers were adopting best practices in the first place.
Taking the safe route too often welcomes mediocrity.
Many are not, as a report released today by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers makes evident. And widely varying practices means that too many authorizers aren’t making the right decisions to keep good schools open and bad schools closed, NACSA president and CEO Greg Richmond said.
Just 6.2 percent of the nation’s charter schools up for renewal in 2010-11 were closed, down from 8.8 percent the year before and 12.6 percent in 2008-09, according to the report. While the association attributes the decline to any number of factors – stronger policies regulating charter oversight, better quality among charters, or even political pressure to keep bad schools open – it believes that trend is heading in the wrong direction. “Our experience suggests that authorizing agencies should be closing more, rather than fewer, poor-performing schools,” Richmond said in a written statement.
Authorizers with a larger portfolio of schools are more likely to implement what the association identifies as “essential practices,” but size doesn’t always matter. Nonprofits represent the smallest percentage of those that oversee charter schools, but they employed the highest average number of essential practices, according to the survey. And, incidentally, they closed more schools on average than other types of authorizers, including school districts, colleges and universities, or independent chartering boards.
The association is careful not to identify a “best” application or closure rate, but our expectations for charter schools have heightened in the last few years as more and more networks like KIPP enter the market. Scrutiny of a charter school application on the front end does not require avoiding all risks, but it does demand that we’re asking the right questions before we take the plunge. Rotherham is right to say that the price of innovation and progress is the creation of some lemons. But until we adopt the right benchmarks at the beginning, we should be less patient about living with them.
Category: Charters & Choice
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About the Editor
Director, Program on Parental Choice
Adam Emerson is the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s school choice czar, directing the Institute’s policy program on parental choice and editing the Choice Words blog. He coordinates the Institute’s school choice-related research projects, policy analyses and commentaries on issues that include charter schools and public school choice along with school vouchers, homeschooling and digital learning.
May 16, 2013
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