Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2007

Robin J. Lake, editor
Center on Reinventing Public Education's National Charter Research Project
December 2007

Looking for a great stocking stuffer? You could do worse than this report, which offers some enlightening thoughts and findings on charter schools. Breaking from the two previous editions, which focused mostly on external pressures facing charter schools, the 2007 report "explores what is going on inside charter schools themselves." Especially interesting are the chapters on principal leadership and teacher compensation. In the first, researcher Christine Campbell interviews New Leaders for New Schools co-founder Jonathan Schnur, who discusses the challenges of finding the highly capable managers necessary for leading successful, innovative charter schools. The teacher compensation paper asks why more charters haven't experimented with performance pay. The culprits: Restrictive state laws and stale thinking from principals and teachers who hail from traditional public schools. To get around such status-quoism, the paper recommends injecting "new blood" into the movement. Another chapter tackles the question of whether charter schools are "making the most of new governance options." Again the authors conclude that, given their relative freedoms compared to traditional public schools, charters could and should be stepping farther outside the box, exploring options like teacher cooperatives, public-private partnerships, and new school board arrangements. The volume also includes a chapter on charter school safety, by CRPE honcho Paul Hill and his colleague Jon Christensen, and one on "smart charter school caps," by Education Sector's Andy Rotherham. Wrap it up, put a bow on it, and make that special someone ecstatic come Christmas morning. Get it here.

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