Christopher A. Lubienski and Peter C. Weitzel, eds., The Charter School Experiment: Expectations, Evidence, and Implications (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2010).
This edited volume seeks to summarize the performance of the charter school movement thus far. You won't be surprised to learn that the results are mixed. Charters have given families more choices, but parents don't always make wise ones. Charters, overall, deliver academic results similar to their district counterparts, but outcomes depend greatly on location and student demographic. And competition from charters has brought improved performance in some local district schools, but not very many. The volume, which begins with a history of the charter school movement, dissects the implications of these realities for the movement's future. Since its creation, public policy around charter schools has mutated and matured. The three original goals of the charter movement - access, innovation, and competition - may not be as relevant today as they once were. Stepping back and assessing charter policy, charter schools, and intra-school practices, the editors conclude with a few worthwhile considerations as the charter school experiment enters its third decade. They ask whether these schools have moved away from one monolithic model to incorporate many school types, and they push for a re-examination of the role of charters: Should they be creating a better school system, or simply better students? There's still work to be done on the charter front. But, from this mixed review, we choose to see the glass half full.