New Report from Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform Cites
Charter Schools' Lack of Access, Transparency & Accountability
AISR Principal Associate
(office) 212.328.9258 or (cell) 347.410.2749
PROVIDENCE –A new report on charter schools from Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) recommends changes to state charter legislation and charter authorizer standards that would reduce student inequities and achieve complete transparency and accountability to the communities served.
“It is time to revisit and tune-up state charter laws and authorizer practices to allow the best features of chartering to flourish while weeding out the practices and loopholes that have cost states and taxpayers so much in both dollars and public trust,” notes the report, titled “Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight,” issued today.
The report is the result of a two-year study by grassroots organizers and education leaders nationwide who, under the auspices of AISR and Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER), examined the impact of rapid charter expansion on parents, students and communities.
“The group found some common concerns: Uneven academic performance; practices that pushed or kept students out of charter schools; overly harsh discipline policies; funding patterns that destabilized traditional schools; and a lack of representative governance, transparency, and adequate oversight, leading to potential conflicts of interests and instances of fraud and other problems,” the report stated.
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in 2013-14, there were 2.57 million students enrolled in over 6,000 public charter schools nationwide; in contrast, there were 1.29 million students enrolled in 2007-08. All but eight states have enacted legislation allowing charters. The report notes that nearly 2,000 new charter schools have opened during the past five years.
AISR director of community organizing and engagement Richard Gray reflects on the effect of the expansion of charters on the accountability and availability of high-quality schools for all children.
“State charter laws, regulations and oversight have not stayed abreast with the rapid growth of the charter school sector,” said Richard Gray, director of AISR’s Community Organizing & Engagement practice. “While most charter operators diligently work to meet their students’ needs, the lack of effective oversight means there is no guarantee of academic innovation or excellence – which was the charter school’s original intent – and too many cases of fraud and abuse, and far too little attention to equity.”
The report advances seven standards, followed by detailed recommendations to state legislatures, charter authorizers and other policy makers tasked with charter oversight. The standards include:
- Traditional school districts and charter schools should collaborate to ensure a coordinated approach that serves all children
- School governance should be representative and transparent
- Charter schools should ensure equal access to interested students and prohibit practices that discourage enrollment or disproportionately push-out enrolled students
- Charter school discipline policy should be fair and transparent
- All students deserve equitable and adequate school facilities. Districts and charter schools should collaborate to ensure facility arrangements do not disadvantage students in either sector
- Online charter schools should be better regulated for quality, transparency and the protection of student data
- Monitoring and oversight of charter schools are critical to protect the public interest; they should be strong and fully state funded
“The common-sense recommendations outlined in this report are meant to ensure that there is a level playing field between traditional public schools and public charter schools, and charters are fully transparent and accountable to the communities they serve,” adds Gray. “Furthermore, charter authorizers are required and empowered to monitor compliance with all laws and regulations guiding charter schooling. Most importantly, charters should serve an equitable cross section of students and provide the supports necessary to help all students achieve.”
# # #
Communities for Public Education Reform is a national funding initiative that supports community-driven efforts working to guarantee educational excellence, equity, and opportunity for every child in low-income communities of color.