The Founders, Richard Whitmire’s new book on how the nation’s best charter schools were created, is being published online by The 74.
“This is the history of high-performing public charter schools — the best of the best, the top 20 percent, the game-changers,” he writes. Charters started 25 years ago in Minnesota, but “this story begins years later in California, spreads east through the unlikely collaboration of top school leaders, and stands apart for its success in guiding poor and minority children from kindergarten all the way through college graduation.”
The book is “a welcome antidote to the pernicious notion that high-performing schools for disadvantaged students are isolated flukes, dependent on a charismatic educator or the cherry-picking of bright students, writes Arne Duncan in The Atlantic. He’s never met a charter leader who claimed to be running a “miracle school,” adds Duncan.
Whitmire analyzes what’s holding back growth of the best charter schools in Education Next.
“The first wave of charter pioneers is nearly all white with excellent college credentials,” writes Whitmire. Yet their schools, often staffed largely by white teachers, target low-income “black and brown students.”
This is a race reality that’s rapidly shifting as charters diversify, but will it shift fast enough to avoid the pushback that’s already bubbling up around the race issue?
High-performing schools need to “attract talented teachers, and in a lot of cities, that just isn’t going to happen,” Whitmire adds. “Plus, the powerful anti-charter movement led by unions and superintendents is fully capable of blocking charters in some cities.”
Finally, it’s critical to shut down low-performing charters, he writes. Nobody predicted how difficult it would be to close bad charters. “As it turns out, charter parents cling to their failing schools just as closely as parents of traditional failing schools.”