Charter School Path Paved with Choice, Compromise, Common Sense

I hope you had a chance to see my article “Charter School Path Paved with Choice, Compromise, Common Sense” in the current issue (February, 2014) of Phi Delta Kappan The magazine is a publication of Phi Delta Kappa International, the professional association in education, of which I’m pleased to be a member.

I write that chartering was originally envisioned to be the R & D sector of public education.  While there have been many examples of chartering innovation around the nation, particularly around teacher cooperatives and teacher autonomy, there haven’t been enough.  We need more.  The charter sector must rise to that challenge while delivering quality results.

And in that spirit of innovation, I invite both sectors of public education to address that together.  Nothing has been as difficult and contentious as the question of whether chartering is working.  The question arises often:  “Are students learning better in public charter schools than public district schools?”  Key to that question is this:  A school in itself is neither good nor bad; and students do not learn or fail to learn because a school is chartered or district-run.   Students learn when their schools engage them and when students are motivated to learn–and that depends on a school’s approach to teaching and learning.

So I answer the charter vs. district question this way.  There are great charter public schools and great district public schools.  There are low-performing charter schools and low-performing district schools.  Let’s focus in both sectors on how they define learning, how they go about learning, how their approaches are working, and how they achieve results.  If a school is working,  share lessons learned.  If a school is not working, end it.   That’s how we’ll improve public education for all.

Feel free to submit your thoughts about the article at if the spirit moves you!