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August 28, 2014 10:29 AM What Makes Charter Schools Work?

By Conor Williams

As politically polarizing as charter schools can be, doubts about their efficacy are being steadily put to rest. There’s increasing evidence that they can drive impressive academic gains for students—especially in the presence of strong accountability regulations. But because of the polarized politics surrounding them, charter schools are often misrepresented and misunderstood. So I’ve written a piece for The Daily Beast about what makes charters distinct—and how that can help them succeed:

There’s a clear theory of action here, and it responds to a pretty incontrovertible diagnosis: American public education is chaotic. Our schools operate in an extraordinarily dense, disorganized regulatory environment. They work within district, state, and federal systems that prescribe various programs and data reporting, all of which are often at cross purposes. Some funding streams run directly from the Feds to local districts. Others run through states on their way to classrooms. At its best, the education “system” is about as organized as a pinball machine.

[Meanwhile,] charter administrators can hire the teachers they want—they’re not assigned personnel from the district, or forced to choose from a pool. They can dismiss ineffective instructors quickly if necessary. If their students need lots of remedial instruction, the school can extend the school day, the school week, or the school year. If the curricula seem to focus on skills that students have already mastered, they can scrap it in favor of other materials. And then, if the school’s model works, it can be expanded; if it doesn’t, the school can be shut down relatively rapidly.

Click here to read the rest!

[Cross-posted at Ed Central]

Conor Williams is a Senior Researcher in the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation. Find him on Twitter: @ConorPWilliams

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