The State of Charter Schools: What We Know—and What We Do Not—About Performance and Accountability

Charter schools just can’t catch a break: Assailed for over
two decades by defenders of the status quo, charters now face unfounded
criticism over their quality and accountability from the very groups set up to
advance the reform movement. At least that’s the story Alison Consoletti tells
in this latest Center for Education Reform report. Consoletti challenges claims
that too
many poor-performing charters continue to operate with impunity
. How? By
identifying every charter-school closure since the model’s inception twenty
years ago—all 1,036 of them, or about 15 percent of the 6,700 charters ever in
operation. She finds money problems to be the number one cause of charter
closures (41 percent), with mismanagement contributing another 24 percent, and
unacceptable academic performance causing 19 percent—though we know,
anecdotally, that the three are often cozy bedfellows. These numbers illustrate
an important aspect of how the charter sector works, but say nothing about how
it should function. If 85 percent of
charters were high performing, a 15 percent closure rate would be great
news—unfortunately, that’s just not the case. When Consoletti notes that
charters at least boast a shutter rate “dramatically higher” than the rate for
conventional public schools, she holds charter schools to an embarrassingly low
standard; accepting it as proof of success compromises the very dynamism that
charter advocates—like Fordham—have lauded in the model from the start.

Alison Consoletti, TheState of Charter Schools: What We Know—and What We Do Not—About Performance andAccountability (Washington, D.C.: Center for Education Reform, December
2011).

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