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ERIC Number: ED519943
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Feb
Pages: 36
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 31
Inside Charter Schools: Unlocking Doors to Student Success
Gross, Betheny
Center on Reinventing Public Education
As the charter movement matures and plays a growing role in education reform, educators need to know about the organizational dynamics autonomy creates, the people who end up working in autonomous schools, and the academic programs they choose to employ. That information is critical to helping the charter school sector grow and mature effectively, as well as helping policymakers understand how school autonomy can best be used as a tool for improving student achievement. Over the last four years, the Inside Charter Schools initiative at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has examined how charter schools differentiate themselves from traditional public schools to attract students and families and how they recruit and manage their staff. In this effort, CRPE researchers saw first hand the promise and potential pitfalls of school autonomy. The research shows that allowing schools to develop their own mission, granting them freedom over their budgets and personnel, and holding them accountable for performance can have valuable effects in schools and for the educational system more broadly. The freedom given to charter schools can lead to new programs serving diverse needs, to higher expectations for low-income and minority students, to more school-focused professional norms for teachers and leaders, and to new ways to hire teacher and leader talent in schools. Autonomy unlocks many doors, but new challenges lie behind them. Autonomy shifts responsibility to teachers and administrators in hope of encouraging local ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Lifting contractual mandates for teachers and creating smaller organizations that operate independent of a large district structure elevates the importance of teamwork and relationships in schools. Trust becomes an essential component in a school's success and viability. Some doors--though unlocked--go unopened. Expectations about what a school "should look like," the stress of tight and unstable and overwhelming administrative demands are powerful forces pulling charter schools back to traditional practice. As the charter school movement has matured, achieving more consistent quality has garnered increased attention from advocates and opponents alike. This is an appropriate evolution of the charter movement. As CRPE's research makes clear, autonomy only creates the opportunity for high-quality schools; it by no means guarantees it. Yet the push for more consistent quality could easily lead charters to employ conventional, and seemingly safe, methods and avoid exploring promising but unproven practices. This is the final report from the four-year Inside Charter Schools initiative. (Contains 53 footnotes.)
Center on Reinventing Public Education. University of Washington Bothell Box 358200, Seattle, WA 98195. Tel: 206-685-2214; Fax: 206-221-7402; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: University of Washington, Center on Reinventing Public Education