Paul has legitimate concerns about the “backfill” issue (whether charter schools should be required to take students mid-year or after traditional entry grades), concerns that are grounded in his research with Gail Foster and Tamar Gendler at RAND back in the 80s. High Schools with Character is one of the best things I’ve read about the importance of school-level coherency and is foundational reading at CRPE. Paul is worried that by asking the most effective, “high-output” charter high schools to backfill, they will begin to look like traditional comprehensive high schools, compromising high standards and the learning opportunities for high-achieving students.
We at CRPE have always believed that the real promise of chartering rests on the ability of the school to act as a focused, results-oriented organization. A school should be able to define a clear vision of the skills, character, and competencies of its graduates, and it should be able to define how instruction, culture, and resources are aligned in support of producing those kinds of graduates. It is essential that everyone in the school community—teachers, students, parents, and even the cafeteria staff—is on board with that plan. Focus and coherency are especially important at the high school level, where student interests, skills, and behaviors can vary dramatically. Trying to respond to those diverse needs led us to where we are today, with comprehensive high schools that often produce award-winning football teams and jazz bands but struggle to ensure that every student leaves on a path to success.