Hopes, Fears and Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2009
This fifth edition of the annual National Charter Research Project series wants to know if charter schools will go mainstream. (Find 2008’s here.) Its six chapters (including one from Fordham Ohio’s Terry Ryan) look at how far charters have come (boosted in part by the current administration’s attention), how further they must go, and the “critical tests” that must be passed to get them there. For example, Ryan’s chapter focuses on the need for strong leadership in turnaround efforts, based in Fordham’s experience turning around a failing charter school it then-authorized; this is a particularly pertinent issue in light of the current administration’s call to turnaround the country’s 5,000 lowest-performing schools. Such leaders, cautions Ryan, can make or break the attempt. Other chapters consider how to create effective charter school governing boards and predict how the relationship between charters and teachers’ unions will develop in the future. (The AFT represents eighty charters nationwide.) But this report is known, in particular, for its yearly update on the charter landscape. Most noteworthy is the fact that charter enrollment increased 55 percent from 2004 to 2009, from approximately 900,000 to more than 1.4 million. But that growth has been geographically uneven; most charter schools are in cities, and some states still don’t even have charter school laws. And many states are nearing their charter caps; according to CRPE’s calculations, there is currently room for 955 more schools, 517 of which are in California. With such a broad range of topics, the report is a one-stop shop if you want to see how charters have matured in the last year. You can find the study here.
Robin Lake, Ed.
Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington at Bothell
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