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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

September 22, 2020
Ashley LiBetti, Lynne Graziano, Jennifer O’Neal Schiess
COVID-19 has altered education as we know it, and no one school has found the perfect approach to distance learning. Every school struggles with the...
September 8, 2020
Ashley LiBetti, Jennifer O'Neal Schiess, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
Great charter school authorizers believe in the charter school promise and relentlessly pursue excellence to give every child an educational option...
September 2, 2020
Ashley LiBetti, Juliet Squire, Justin Trinidad, Amy Chen Kulesa, Rebecca Gifford Goldberg
One of the greatest promises of the charter school movement has been the potential to create diverse school models to meet the varied needs of...
August 27, 2020
Kelly Robson, Juliet Squire, Indira Dammu
Over the last 25 years, the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) has invested nearly $5.3 billion into the charter school sector, directing funds...
August 25, 2020
Alex Spurrier, Chad Aldeman, Jennifer O'Neal Schiess, Andrew J. Rotherham
For nearly two decades, state and federal policymakers have built standards-based accountability systems as a way to improve educational outcomes and...

Op-Eds

September 9, 2020
Some Democrats and Republicans have an unlikely alliance these days around one thing: their sudden rejection of the federal Charter Schools Program (...
July 14, 2020
Just as schools receive charters to run independently of districts, teachers could receive charters to run classrooms independently of schools. In...
July 8, 2020
To ensure that students aren’t left behind as schools continue educating during a pandemic, policymakers must ensure that accountability systems are...

Blog Posts

October 13, 2020
Juliet Squire and Rebecca Gifford Goldberg
Since March, school funding experts have sought to understand how the economic turmoil coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic would affect...
September 30, 2020
Cara Jackson
As applicants anxiously await the results of the FY2020 Charter School Program (CSP) State Entities grant competition, we want to offer...
September 9, 2020
Ashley LiBetti
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told states not to expect a waiver on state assessments this year. Some in education...