Gun Control in the Wild West

What's the best way to improve a negative perception? Change the reality feeding it. That's the constructive tack being taken by the new leaders of the Arizona Charter Schools Association (ACSA) as they crack down on their state's surfeit of low-performing charters. Arizona has long been known as the "Wild West" of the charter movement, what with its laissez-faire "let anyone try it" approach to launching these schools. Some have worked brilliantly, others not. Now, thanks to the leadership of ACSA, a new data model will track student scores on the state test (AIMS) to determine growth, a vast improvement over the current snapshot evaluations of performance. This will arm the state charter board, which to date has only shut down 18 schools in the movement's 15-year history--peanuts compared to the 475 still open. But now lots of schools are coming up for renewal, providing a rare opportunity to weed out the worst performers. Rebecca Gau, the association's chief researcher (and author of several Fordham reports), explains that "the market wasn't going to take care of this." Indeed. It's refreshing to see a charter association that will. (Especially since we know some other states where this should be happening today but isn't.)

"New tests sought for Arizona's charter schools," by Pat Kossan, The Arizona Republic, April 26, 2009

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