The State of Charter Schools: What We Know—and What We Do Not—About Performance and Accountability
Charter schools just can’t catch a break: Assailed for over two decades by defenders of the status quo, charters now face unfounded criticism over their quality and accountability from the very groups set up to advance the reform movement. At least that’s the story Alison Consoletti tells in this latest Center for Education Reform report. Consoletti challenges claims that too many poor-performing charters continue to operate with impunity. How? By identifying every charter-school closure since the model’s inception twenty years ago—all 1,036 of them, or about 15 percent of the 6,700 charters ever in operation. She finds money problems to be the number one cause of charter closures (41 percent), with mismanagement contributing another 24 percent, and unacceptable academic performance causing 19 percent—though we know, anecdotally, that the three are often cozy bedfellows. These numbers illustrate an important aspect of how the charter sector works, but say nothing about how it should function. If 85 percent of charters were high performing, a 15 percent closure rate would be great news—unfortunately, that’s just not the case. When Consoletti notes that charters at least boast a shutter rate “dramatically higher” than the rate for conventional public schools, she holds charter schools to an embarrassingly low standard; accepting it as proof of success compromises the very dynamism that charter advocates—like Fordham—have lauded in the model from the start.
Alison Consoletti, TheState of Charter Schools: What We Know—and What We Do Not—About Performance andAccountability (Washington, D.C.: Center for Education Reform, December 2011).
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