A response to Robin Lake’s article “Is charter school growth flat-lining?”, originally published 2/17/17 in The Lens.
Robin Lake recently noted that the growth in charter school openings has slowed to less than 2 percent annually. “Things could start rebounding,” she wrote, “but it seems to me that the days of easy, unfettered charter growth may be gone, at least for the near future. It’s time for honest conversations about what that means, especially given the demand and need for more high-quality choices.”
Robin is right about the trend but I want to challenge her explanation. I see four reasons why growth has slowed but am optimistic that, if we take the necessary steps, we can move into a period of dynamic expansion.
Reason #1: Innovation is unwelcome
At the outset, charters were a new frontier in public education. Educators who launched them could try out bold innovations in mission and vision, school culture, governance, management, human capital, marketing, curriculum, instruction, technology and assessment.
As the charter sector has matured, however, the space to innovate has shrunk. State laws and rules now force charters to mimic districts in many ways. Onerous state and federal compliance requirements force conformity. Authorizers...