K-8 Charter Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap and Supporting Charter School Excellence Through Quality Authorizing

Innovations in Education Series
U.S. Department of Education
September 2007Innovations in Education Series
U.S. Department of Education
June 2007

These two reports examine what makes the nation's best charter schools and charter authorizers so good at what they do. The first report profiles seven high-quality charter schools, and identifies 8 common practices at which they excel. In-depth discussions of each practice and individual school profiles offer concrete examples of how schools implement such policies. The heralded Amistad Academy, for instance, requires its students to demonstrate the "REACH" values: respect, enthusiasm, achievement, citizenship, and hard work. The Integrational School in Cleveland closely monitors student reading progress against set benchmarks and sends home clear and detailed report cards. The report on charter authorizing takes the same approach, picking eight exemplars of high-quality authorizing and highlighting six common practices central to their success. These authorizers 1) build strong organizations with talented staffs; 2) recruit qualified faculty and school leaders; 3) employ rigorous criteria for evaluating charter applicants; 4) provide intensive support to new school operators; 5) provide meaningful and transparent long-term oversight; and 6) hold schools accountable for meeting performance goals. Again, detailed examinations of the practices and individual authorizers further illuminate what it takes to do authorizing right. As the charter movement wakes up to the importance of quality authorizing, the models explored here will be ever more valuable for new entrants to the field. Read the schools report here and the authorizing report here.

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