Transfer charters

“Charter schools are one of the great success stories of education reform in Massachusetts,” writes James Peyser, former chair of the state board of education, in the Boston Globe.

On last spring’s MCAS, almost 75 percent of Commonwealth charter schools outperformed their host districts in English and math, with average proficiency rates that were almost 8 percentage points higher than neighboring district schools. Almost one-fifth of Commonwealth charter schools had proficiency rates that surpassed their local district average by over 20 points. Some of the highest performing charter schools are located in some of the lowest achieving school districts.

The flip side is that low-performing charter schools are supposed to lose their charters. But the state is having a hard time closing unsuccessful schools, especially when it means displacing students. Peyser suggests transferring control of low-performing schools to new operators who can demonstrate “experience and proven success.”

Recipients of these transferred charters would have an obligation to enroll all the current students who chose to stay on, but they would not be obliged to retain the staff or continue the existing educational programs.

This makes sense. Sometimes the original charter team lacks the managerial skill or the educational savvy to raise scores, but the school is good enough — compared to local district-run schools — to retain students. New charter management could make the difference.

About Joanne


  1. Oh, there are all sorts of interesting possibilities if you let go of preconceptions.

    How about a monthly, or even weekly, state proficiency test? All that nice E-rate money could be put to some worthwhile purpose and computers would finally have some valuable role in education.

    Of course, if the test is being administered by computer the results ought to be both immediately available and rendered into interesting form. Might be nice to know where your kid’s school shows up in relation to state minimums, raw ranking among all schools statewide, adjusted for income level and trends in the scores. There are other ways to slice and dice the information but these are some of my favorites.

    Not strictly related to educational efficacy but worthwhile nonetheless, daily funding. As the kids troupe in in the morning a biometric scan of some sort tallies the little tykes up and deposits a per diem into the school’s checking account. No well-scrubbed little faces? No moola.

    It’d give truancy a good deal more urgency as well as resulting in the institution of measures that cause kids to want to come to school. That would have to be policed though. Wouldn’t want schools hooking kids on heroin as a means of making sure they show up.

    One final thought: the discussion about shutting down charters is premature. When there are more charters to choose from, and perhaps more alternatives in toto, then discussions about the standards of performance make more sense.

    The idea is for parents to close down lousy charters by sending their kids elsewhere based on the easily accessible, timely and worthwhile information about how their school and all its competitors are doing. Putting the appropriate authorities in charge is how we got into this educational fix to begin with.

  2. it’s unclear that success transfers automatically nor that those seeking to scale are the successful ones. a harbinger of success is building a community organically.

    one need only look at the recent High Tech High meltdown in the Bay Area to see where that model falters.

  3. mike curtis says:

    The great advantage that sets charter schools ahead of general public ed schools is: Charter schools do not have to retain problem students. If the kids don’t follow the rules and do what is expected of them, they are bounced out (usually back to the school they left in the first place). More specifically, Special and Behavioral problem students either do not qualify for charters, or they revolt against the discipline.
    If you can’t show improvement under these conditions, you should be separated from the taxpayer’s money

  4. Sorry, not quite true.

    The difference, with regard to problem students is that in a district school the people who have to suffer the presence of problem kids don’t have the authority to boot ’em and the people who have the authority to boot ’em enjoy the luxury of not being responsible for or dealing with those problem kids.

    Also, bouncing problem kids in district schools is handled both formally, with expulsion and suspension, and informally by simply ignoring absences until they cease to be interrupted by attendance. Trouble is, the people who can invoke those solutions are largely insulated from the daily effects of the problem kid. That would tend to reduce responsiveness to the situation until it ascends to the level that can’t be ignored.