District Schools? Charter Schools? There’s a Third Way — Autonomous Schools That Work Like In-District Charters | Bellwether Education Partners Skip to main content

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With permission from Democracy Prep Public School

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District Schools? Charter Schools? There’s a Third Way — Autonomous Schools That Work Like In-District Charters

Mary K. Wells

Communities across the country are embroiled in charter school battles, from a D.C. debate about charters, data and transparency to the latest round of Chicago teacher strikes. These debates almost always devolve into the familiar charter-versus-district narrative that paints a false choice between the two school models.

There’s a third way. Districts can offer schools autonomy, with the same freedoms that charters enjoy, like choosing what curriculum to use and how to train teachers, while remaining in the district and utilizing central office support for facilities, operations, finance and human resources. In exchange for this freedom, these schools often enter into a contract with their district, pledging to achieve strong student outcomes.