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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

July 14, 2020
Justin Trinidad, Hailly T.N. Korman
School choice was intended to expand options and equity, and it holds promise for many students with unique needs. But it is clear that no choice...
July 8, 2020
Rebecca Gifford Goldberg, Alison Fuller, Juliet Squire
Many charter schools and networks have demonstrated game-changing results for low-income students and students of color. And many are eager to extend...
June 30, 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...
June 16, 2020
Lina Bankert, Jeff Schulz, Rochelle Dalton, Alison Fuller, Liz McNamee
Postsecondary education dramatically increases the likelihood of employment and economic success. But many young people, especially those furthest...
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...

Op-Eds

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

Blog Posts

June 11, 2020
Brandon Lewis
This post is part of a series of interviews conducted for our Eight Cities project. Read all related posts here. When education...
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...