Inside Urban Charter Schools

Katherine K. Merseth et al.
Harvard Education Press
January 2009

With 4,000 diverse charter schools scattered across the land and with critics, opponents, and analysts leveling forests to publish criticisms of charter schooling as a failed experiment, it's refreshing and heartening to find another thoughtful analysis of successful charters. (Of course, David Whitman's analysis came first.) The Harvard ed school's Kay Merseth, with a platoon of research helpers and fueled by a federal research grant, spent a lot of time examining five high-performing (urban) charters in the Boston metro area to see what makes them tick--and what they have in common. The resulting book is first rate--insightful case studies of individual schools followed by analytic chapters on "cross-school themes." Perhaps unsurprisingly, these themes include school culture, leadership, personnel, "structures and systems," and curriculum and instruction. It's no cookbook or instruction manual; it doesn't tell you how to create a successful charter from scratch much less how to turn around those that are lacking. But it lucidly describes, depicts, and explains the crucial elements that these five schools have put into place that very likely account for their success. You can order a copy here.

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