Urban superintendents collaborate with charters

More than 20 urban districts have adopted a “portfolio” strategy, holding district-run and independent charter schools to the same performance standards, reports Hopes, Fears, & Reality, the Center on Reinventing Education’s 2011 charter school review.

In 16 cities, leaders have pledged to work together for student success by “creating common student enrollment systems, sharing facilities, equalizing funding, encouraging teachers and principals to share instructional strategies, and sharing responsibility for students with special needs.”

“Urban school superintendents across the country are realizing that a centrally delivered, one-size-fits-all approach simply is not viable, and that they need partnerships to bring in entrepreneurial talent and mission-driven teams,” writes editor Robin Lake.

Charters are expanding in rural areas, small towns and small states; and are serving a growing share of Hispanic and low-income students. Free-standing charter schools are growing faster than those run by charter management organizations.

Collaboration can sap charters’ ability to innovate, warn several analysts in the commentary section.

Don’t assume that practices and routines that “work” for one school will work everywhere, warns Rick Hess.

As I see it, the real power of charter schooling is that it presents “greenfield” in which new cultures and models can be established on fresh turf, rather than painfully injected into resistant, calcified systems. The closer charters start to work with existing districts, the more they seem bound to import norms, expectations, and routines from those systems.

Charter success 2.0 will require rethinking “long-held assumptions about the shape of teaching and schooling,” he writes.  “Linking charters more closely to entrenched systems threatens to make that process less likely.”