Thoughts from the National Charter Schools Conference

I attended a session this morning at the National Charter Schools Conference on whether the charter movement can follow through on its accountability promise of closing low-performing charter schools. It’s a critical topic for reasons too obvious to lay out here.

Fact is that too many states (though generally not New York) haven’t been closing low-performing charter schools, and it isn’t because we are wringing our hands about interfering with parent choice.

While it is commendable for the sector to hold this session, and all the panelists were quite strong on the sector’s responsibility, I’m not sure as a movement we are actually serious enough about the topic. For instance: our sector had no problem calling on the Secretary of Education to put the full power and prestige of his office behind procuring reform measures during Race to the Top, including, of course, cap lifts and cap removals. But how often have we asked the Secretary to do the same when it comes to enacting legislation that would mandate closure if authorizers fail to do their job? How much money have we spent as a sector advocating for such legislation–or public awareness and communications campaigns that would loudly call out bad actors? The answer is not nearly enough, not even close.

For a movement that is pretty comfortable calling out districts and teachers unions for navigating to the pole star of adult interests, it seems to me that we are far too lackadaisical about letting adult interests trump what’s good for children when the rubber meets the road in our neck of the woods.

One thing is for sure: if we don’t reform, others will do the work for us, and it won’t be in a reasonable, thoughtful or helpful way.