A new report finds that charter schools use the freedoms they have from traditional school district mandates to define and operate schools in innovative new ways. However, expectations about what a school “should look like,” the stress of tight and unstable budgets, and overwhelming administrative demands are powerful forces pulling charter schools back to traditional practice.
This report offers great reason for optimism that charter schools are well positioned to answer President Obama’s call for public schools to innovate. But it also cautions that traditional regulatory structures and weaknesses in capacity must be addressed if they are to fully meet the challenge of innovation.
Based on a four-year study of the teachers, leaders, and academic programs in charter schools in six states, Inside Charter Schools: Unlocking Doors to Student Success observes that “autonomy only creates the opportunity for high-quality schools, it by no means guarantees it.”
Author Betheny Gross, a researcher at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, argues that autonomy makes it possible for charter schools to: