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ERIC Number: ED528431
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jan
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Strengthening the Civic Mission of Charter Schools. A Report of the AEI Program on American Citizenship
Lake, Robin; Miller, Cheryl
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Charter schools provide an intriguing opportunity to rethink the role of public schools in preparing students to become informed and engaged participants in the American political system. As public schools of choice, charter schools are freed from many rules and regulations that can inhibit innovation and improvement. They can readily adopt best practices in civic education and encourage (or even mandate) extracurricular activities to enhance civic learning. With their decentralized approach to administration, they can allow parents and students a far greater role in school governance than they would have in traditional public schools. While many charter leaders see civic education as a priority, many admit that, in practice, they cannot give it as much attention as they would like. In addition, charters appear to diverge widely in their basic philosophies and priorities when it comes to defining civic education. In this paper, the authors focus on a select group of charter schools that have tried to make civic education, broadly understood, a priority. The schools highlighted in this paper do not represent the full spectrum of charter schools across the country. What they do provide is an opportunity to understand what happens when individuals encourage schools to innovate, experiment, and adopt clear priorities on behalf of their students. This paper offers these suggestions: (1) Charter schools that have made citizenship their core mission need to be studied, examined, and emulated--just as individuals do for successful practices and pedagogy in reading and math. Particular attention should be paid to ways that these schools track and measure their performance; (2) Charter funders have an important role to play in elevating civic learning as an education priority and encouraging charter schools to embrace their civic mission; (3) Charter school authorizers should ask themselves how can they encourage and support charter schools in developing appropriate metrics to track and measure civic outcomes; (4) More attention should be paid to helping charter schools with weaker civic missions, particularly those that serve disadvantaged students; (5) Charter advocates should encourage charters to focus not just on math and reading scores, but also to take seriously their civic mission. But just as individuals cannot let academic achievement overshadow civic education, a school's strong civic mission cannot replace rigorous academic performance; and (6) School district and charter school leaders should share ideas and models for improving civic education across sectors and sharing professional development. (Contains 50 notes.)
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1150 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-862-5800; Fax: 202-862-7177; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; Koret Foundation
Authoring Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research