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Charter Schools

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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Public charter schools provide parents with choices by untethering their child’s school from their home address. Charter schools also provide dynamic mechanisms for school innovation and evolution, as new schools rethink instructional delivery and seek to meet students’ needs and families’ preferences. Nationally, approximately 6,700 charter schools serve nearly 3 million children — or 6 percent of all U.S. public school students. In urban areas such as Washington, D.C., Newark, New Orleans, Denver, Miami, and Los Angeles, charters serve an even larger share of students. Research shows that many urban charter schools significantly outperform similar district-run schools, yet a significant number of charter schools underperform compared to traditional district schools. As the charter school sector grows, new opportunities and challenges emerge.

In our work, Bellwether seeks to foster the development of high-performing and continuously improving schools, including charter schools. This work takes many forms and bridges our strategy and policy work.

As consultants, we help education entrepreneurs and charter network leaders develop and implement plans to improve and grow, and advise city-based nonprofits that support school operators or advocate on behalf of the charter sector. As policy analysts, we research state and federal statutes and regulations to help create policy environments that foster the creation of high-quality charter schools and the closure of low-performing ones. And we provide analyses and insights to guide foundations that invest in the sector. Our on-the-ground work influences our policy work, making it stronger and more responsive to realities in the field.

The content below reflects our work on this issue:

Publications

May 14, 2020
Tresha Francis Ward, Stephanie Spangler
In April, we released a four-phase strategic planning tool to support the COVID-19 education response, providing a framework for leaders responding...
April 13, 2020
In March 2020, the U.S. Congress passed a series of three laws intended to strengthen the capacity of federal, state, and local governments and...
April 7, 2020
Tresha Ward, Stephanie Spangler, Katie Rouse, Eleisha Nelson-Reed
The past few weeks have been uniquely challenging for education and nonprofit leaders across the country as they navigate the unfolding coronavirus...
September 10, 2019
Kelly Robson, Brandon Lewis, Juliet Squire
When rural charter schools succeed, what conditions enable their results? Local Roots Take the Lead is a new website from Bellwether Education...
August 27, 2019
Phillip Burgoyne-Allen, Bonnie O’Keefe, Jennifer O’Neal Schiess
Today, more states and districts are attempting to address segregation and inequity among schools by expanding families’ ability to choose from a...

Op-Eds

February 19, 2020
Andrew J. Rotherham
The Hill -- Thousands of low-income Black and Hispanic parents relying on charter schools are on thin political ice as the conservative-liberal...
February 3, 2020
The Hill -- The polarized rhetoric about charter schools obscures the work both “sides” ought to be doing to better serve all kids.
January 23, 2020
The 74 -- Communities across the country are embroiled in charter school battles, from a D.C. debate about charters, data and transparency to the...

Blog Posts

April 15, 2020
Sara Mead
It’s now been about a month since U.S. public schools began closing in response to the novel coronavirus. During that time charter school...
April 10, 2020
Tanya Paperny
Yesterday we hosted a robust webinar conversation about what’s been happening on the ground in American schools and what school leaders...
March 19, 2020
Sara Mead
Why do Bernie Sanders and some of his primary rivals think it’s good for government to fund community-based, nonprofit organizations to...