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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 23, 2019
Phillip Burgoyne-Allen, Katrina Boone, Juliet Squire , Jennifer O’Neal Schiess
Every day, America’s fleet of roughly 480,000 school buses transports about a third of students to and from school. This fleet is more than twice the...
May 22, 2019
Kelly Robson, Jennifer O’Neal Schiess, Justin Trinidad
Any movement serious about improving outcomes for underserved young people must include the South. It is the fastest-growing region in the country...
May 15, 2019
Alex Spurrier
Many of California’s urban public schools, both traditional and charter, have seen dramatic changes in enrollment during the past two decades. These...
May 15, 2019
Max Marchitello, Jennifer O’Neal Schiess
Tight budgets are a reality for many school districts across California, leading some to believe that a growing charter sector is squeezing the...
January 22, 2019
Ashley LiBetti, Phillip Burgoyne-Allen, Brandon Lewis, Kirsten Schmitz
Charter schools currently serve 3 million students in more than 7,000 schools across 44 states and Washington, D.C. And their reach continues to grow...

Op-Eds

September 11, 2019
Despite substantial diversity in the schools’ models and contexts in which they operate, there are three common factors that seem to facilitate rural...
March 19, 2017
Ashley LiBetti Mitchel talked about her Education Next article in the Winter 2017 issue on pre-K programs at charter schools in the U.S. 
November 30, 2016
Charter schools can benefit from teachers unionizing.

Blog Posts

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...
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...