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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

August 11, 2020
When EightCities.org first launched in 2018, it documented the stories of leaders in school systems across the country working to drive rapid...
August 5, 2020
Bill Durbin, Sherri Geng, Jeff Schulz
With school opening just weeks away in many parts of the country, leaders need a detailed level of support — and a plan — to start the school year in...
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 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...

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

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...
August 7, 2020
Hailly Korman
Nearly every district in the country uses the term “alternative” to describe a broad swath of schools, including those that serve students...