Charter opponents have long claimed that charter schools siphon resources away from the traditional public school system. The ideological motivation for this line of reasoning is clear when touted by teachers unions and their friends: i.e., calling charters parasitic unless they conform to traditional school practices, including mandatory unionization, makes that bias obvious.

But what impact do charter schools actually have on traditional public schools and the students who remain there? Are such loaded accusations deserved? Or might the presence of charters improve student outcomes through competition or as effective charter practices spill over into district schools?  

Recent research from Temple University professor Sarah Cordes sheds needed light on this question. Cordes examined the impact of charter schools in close proximity to, or even co-located with, traditional public schools (TPS) in New York City over a fourteen-year time span. Her analysis departed from previous research examining charter effects at the district level or across a much-wider radius (up to 10 miles, versus Cordes’ one-mile radius), and was also the first peer-reviewed study of the academic impacts of co-location. Data came from 900,000 students in grades three through five. The study design (a difference-in-differences model) was similar to...

Tina Long, Dennis Tiede, and Ben Lindquist

Over the last twenty-six years, a growing number of entrepreneurial educators have begun reinventing public education by starting thousands of public charter schools. These new schools have helped school districts nationwide—who authorize four out of every five charter schools—build the capacity to serve the most heterogeneous cross-section of learners in the world. As the school-age population continues to diversify in rural, suburban, and urban communities alike, more excellent public education options are badly needed. What will it take to create these distinctive, high quality options? 

Combined, the three of us have started ten new public charter schools in three regions of the country— the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and the Mid-South. These schools have been authorized by such public agencies as the Reynolds School District in East Portland, the Chicago Board of Education, and the Arkansas State Board of Education. At least seven of the ten schools have opened in the highest poverty neighborhoods in their respective metropolitan areas. Through our experiences, we have learned—sometimes the hard way—how best to engineer a strong school startup.

Here are six of the twelve school startup lessons that we agree are key to success (click here to read the other six):


Kevin D. Besnoy

In 2015, two agencies (Mathematica Policy Institute and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes) published separate findings about the impact of online charter schools on students’ academic growth. The purpose of both reports was twofold: first, to inform local education agencies and policy makers about the growth of the online charter school movement, and second, to engage the general public in an in-depth discussion about the role that online schools should have in K–12 education. In short, both publications report disappointing academic growth for students enrolled in online schools. While they did not address the growth of gifted students enrolled in those schools, their findings must be further researched through robust empirical studies.

Most gifted students enrolled in public schools who are taking online classes are not classified as full-time virtual students, meaning that they are attending a traditional brick-and-mortar school and taking two or less online classes. This hybrid approach is a viable option for gifted programs unable to hire teachers with specialized expertise, too few gifted students identified in the school to justify a teacher for advanced classes, or programs looking to offer a curriculum that meets gifted students’ needs. Whatever the reason for leveraging online classes...

By Elliot Regenstein

Education reformers are committed to educational opportunities that provide upward mobility for the children who need it most. Early learning has been shown to improve long-term student outcomes, especially for the most vulnerable, so it should be a key component of that strategy—but it won’t be if we don’t even know which kids are having which early learning experiences, let alone what long-term effects those experiences are having. For states to effectively manage high-quality early learning requires data, and accordingly a comprehensive education reform agenda should include advocating for states to build and utilize better early childhood data systems.

Reformers know that high quality doesn’t happen automatically at any level of education. And just as in K–12, in early learning good information is key to great teaching and measuring impacts. So, education reformers, can you answer the following questions about early learning in your state?

  • Are there kids enrolled in both Head Start and state preschool? And how many of those kids are also enrolled in a child care program?
  • How does enrolling in more than one of those programs impact long-term outcomes?
  • Many states are measuring the quality of early learning programs, including Head Start, preschool, and child care—which
  • ...

Peter Greene, the author of the aptly named “Curmudgucation” blog, had a post the other day lambasting a classroom management system which, assuming he’s representing it accurately, rates kindergarteners’ behavior on a spectrum from “Democracy” and “Cooperation/Compliance” down to “Bullying” and “Bossing” and—the lowest level—”Anarchy.” The post was vintage Greene, who works in mockery and derision the way Matisse worked in oils.

In the midst of his takedown, however, came an observation that stopped me in my tracks: “Here's the thing to remember about discipline systems at school—every one of them codifies somebody's value system, sets in rules and regulations judgments like ‘being compliant is good’ or ‘a good student is one who questions authority,’” Greene wrote. “When a system codifies love of compliance (and can't distinguish between compliance and cooperation) and negative labeling of any sort of age-appropriate behavior (five year olds running! zounds!!), my eyebrows go up.”

Mine too, but not for the same reasons as Greene, one of the blogosphere’s staunchest defenders of traditional public schools. A thirty-five-year veteran teacher, he’s also a deeply informed and tireless critic of reform. So it’s no small irony that in shaking his fist at the education idiocy du jour...

Last month, The Economist ran a terrific combination feature and editorial on educational technology and how, properly deployed, it can transform the old Prussian model of schooling that most of the world has followed since the eighteenth century.

It seems that fascination with the potential of technology to improve education has been around at least since psychologist Sidney Pressey devised a “teaching machine” in 1928 that he expected to liberate students and teachers from “educational drudgery.” It “had a paper drum displaying multiple-choice questions. Pressing the right key moved the drum on,” with candy used to incentivize kids to keep going.

B.F. Skinner, the behavioral psychologist famous for “Skinner boxes,” created his own version of teaching machines in the 1950’s but, after a brief fad, everyone went back to the Prussian model.

Today, despite a rough start for full-time virtual schooling, we’re pumped about the potential of technology to boost education—excited by promising models of blended learning, thrilled by the soaring example of the Khan Academy, and encouraged by the big bucks (from Zuckerberg et al.) going into the personalizing of primary-secondary education.

That’s in the United States. The Economist astutely points out that technology can be...

Confronted with the paradox of a simultaneous rise in high school graduation and college remediation rates, researchers from The Alliance for Excellent Education examined diploma pathways across the country for evidence as to how well they match college or career expectations. They found that far too many students leave high school with diplomas that do not signal preparedness for what comes next.

The Alliance’s new report looked at all fifty states and the District of Columbia and found that there were 98 different pathways to diplomas for the Class of 2014. Slightly less than half were deemed sufficient to prepare students for college or careers (CCR diploma pathways). While college and career ready can be defined in a number of ways, the Alliance’s criteria for a CCR diploma are: 1) Any pathway that requires students to complete four years of grade-level ELA, three years of math through Algebra II or Integrated Math III; and 2) Any pathways promulgated by state institutions of higher education that fully align with admissions requirements into those institutions. All of their analyses follow from these requisites.

The most frequent reason for a rating of “non-CCR” for a diploma pathway was a mismatch between...

A new report from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) evaluates recent charter school performance in Texas. The study compares the math and reading growth for charter students and their traditional public school peers in the Lone Star State from 2011–2015. The report also examines the effects of a 2014 Texas law ushering in stricter charter regulations. These results build on CREDO’s 2015 evaluation of Texas charters.

At the time of the study, Texas had 659 charters with available data on more than 280,000 students. Those pupils were matched to peers from nearby traditional public schools (TPS) based on race/ethnicity, grade level, prior academic achievement, free and reduced lunch eligibility, English proficiency, and special education designation. The study examined growth rather than proficiency, looking at the overall health of charter performance, in addition to how well the charter sector is affecting the performance of Texas’ most vulnerable student populations.

The results are positive, with charter school students seeing improvement in reading by .03 standard deviations (SD), which CREDO equates to an additional seventeen days of learning, when compared with their TPS peers. As for math, there were not significant differences between the scores of charter and TPS...

Terry Ryan

My Polish-born wife (whose father was used as forced labor by the Nazis) and I watched in horror. We saw American neo-Nazi’s and their allies from the KKK and other white hate groups recreate a scene out of the Nuremburg Rallies with their tiki torches and slick choreography on the campus of the University of Virginia. My wife asked me, “Do they know nothing about the history they are portraying and praising?”

The history of Nazis and their destruction of Europe was made real to me when I lived and worked in Poland in the early and mid-1990s as a teacher and education reformer. My mentor was the former Solidarity leader and Vice-Minister of Education Wiktor Kulerski. Wiktor’s father was a Polish statesman who served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, was a member of the National Council of the Polish Republic, and the Secretary of the Presidium and Commission of Foreign Affairs. He served as personal secretary to Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, the Polish Prime Minister in exile in France and then England during the Second World War. Poland suffered under the horrors of Nazism longer than any other country and lost six million citizens; about 22 percent of its prewar population....

Andrew Lewis

Across our nation, hundreds of thousands of children are attending a public charter school that provides full time virtual learning for their students.

For many students, this virtual model works in providing an appropriate and meaningful option in public K–12 education. Some children, for example, suffer from conditions that prevent effective and efficient learning, whether physical or social, making this setting a valuable one. There are countless reasons that make a virtual setting a good fit for a student.

But far too many children across the nation are not succeeding in their virtual charter schools, and there are many reasons why. They include the belief that a full-time online setting is just not how any child should be educated, as well as observations that we have not done enough to support virtual education to make it meaningful. Yet the most profound reason virtual schools are failing is that online education is a square-peg-in-a-round-hole scenario; they’re simply inappropriate as public charter schools.

Federal law demands that charter schools must take all students. Charter schools cannot turn away a student so long as there is an opening for the child. If there are more applicants than there are spaces, there is a...