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Public charter schools, at its simplest, can be thought of in mathematical terms — flexibility under state education law + autonomy of decision making by the governing body of the school + the highest accountability in public K-12 education = increased student achievement.
The equation is simple, but the reality of the equation is brutally complicated. The difficulties for those attempting quality reforms through chartering are made more challenging by district leaders and state policymakers, as well as many charter schools that sign up for the charter promise and then want to look the other way when accountability comes into play. The first part of the charter school promise is intended to free up charter schools from bureaucracies that often thwart innovation in the classroom or at the school level. The broad flexibility that is supposed to be afforded is far too often a mirage. State and local policies, rules, and guidance continue to undermine the flexibility to innovate, making many charter schools across the country nothing more than a charter school in name only.
Too many charter school boards do not provide a level of quality governance and oversight necessary for the charter school to operate satisfactorily. Charter schools must do a better job of instilling strong governance through committed community members with varying backgrounds if the charter is to fulfill its promise.
The last part of the charter equation we all must better understand is accountability. If a charter school is not living up to its obligations, it runs the risk of closure, the highest accountability in public K-12 education. To increase standards across the United States, we must start holding charter authorizers accountable. Policies must hold charter authorizers accountable similar to how we hold an individual charter school accountable.
Read the full article about charter schools accountability by Andrew Lewis at The 74.