This article appeared in the NY Times about the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and a speech he will make this week to charter school leaders. I thought this was a good basic starting point for charter discussion. From the article:
"In an interview, Mr. Duncan said he would use the address to praise innovations made by high-quality charter schools, urge charter leaders to become more active in weeding out bad apples in their movement and invite the leaders to help out in the administration’s broad effort to remake several thousand of the nation’s worst public schools.
Since 1991, when educators founded the first charter school in Minnesota, 4,600 have opened; they now educate some 1.4 million of the nation’s 50 million public school students, according to Education Department figures. The schools are financed with taxpayer money but operate free of many curricular requirements and other regulations that apply to traditional public schools.
Mr. Duncan’s speech will come at a pivotal moment for the charter school movement. The Obama administration has been working to persuade state legislatures to lift caps on the number of charter schools."
What I have found doing research is what this latest study from Stanford University says:
"The Stanford study, by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, used student achievement data from 15 states and the District of Columbia to gauge whether students who attended charter schools had fared better than they would if they had attended a traditional public school.
“The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students,” the report says. “Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options, and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.”
However, here is Secretary Duncan's call to arms:
"But, the speech says, states should scrutinize plans for new charter schools to allow only high-quality ones to open. In exchange for the autonomy that states extend to charter schools, states should demand “absolute, unequivocal accountability,” the speech says, and close charter schools that fail to lift student achievement.
Mr. Duncan’s speech calls the Stanford report — which singles out Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas as states that have done little to hold poorly run charter schools accountable — “a wake-up call.”
“Charter authorizers need to do a better job of holding schools accountable,” the speech says. (Mr. Duncan is to note exceptions like the California Charter Schools Association, which last week announced a plan to establish and enforce academic performance standards for charter schools.)"
And that's it in a nutshell: if you are going to take public money for charters, then the states have to craft legislation that holds them to a high standard and close those that don't. Most states don't. If the feds think charters are a good thing, then have federal standards. This is the same thing that should happen with public schools - do better or face severe consequences.