September 2014

Governance structures ​​for charter school​s​ are designed to provide a​ higher level of autonomy​​ ​than that of traditional public schools, creating the potential ​for innovations​ that improve students' educational opportunities and outcomes. But autonomy ​by itself does not guarantee excellence. While there are many excellent charter schools, research has shown that charters, on average, do no better or worse than traditional public schools​. And additional autonomy without adequate accountability and transparency can allow fraud, waste, and inattention to equity.

An increasing concern is that state laws and charter authorizing standards have not kept up with the explosive expansion of charter schools. In the last two decades, charters have grown to some 2.5 million students attending more than 6,000 schools, and a burgeoning market of management services, vendors, policy shops, and advocacy organizations.

AISR produced a report in 2014 with standards and policy recommendations for charter accountability that are consistent with our mission of equity for traditionally underserved students, guided by the concerns expressed in conversations with community groups and educators, and informed by a study of existing charter authorization standards such as those of The National Association of Charter School Authorizers. The standards and recommendations are designed to ensure that there is a level playing field between traditional public schools and public charter schools and that charters are fully transparent and accountable to the communities they serve.


Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight

Whose Schools? An Examination of Charter School Governance in Massachusetts


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. Vimeo.

RELATED: Questions for Richard Gray: How can charter schools be improved?
By Courtney Coelho, Brown University (2014)

Charter Standards

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

In the News

Can Teachers Unions Bargain for Better -- or Fewer -- Charter Schools?
The American Prospect 10/18/16

Reflections on Charter Accountability as Election Day Approaches
Annenberg Institute for School Reform 10/5/16

When Public Schools Go Private
The American Prospect 9/28/16

Nashville schools delays rules directed at charters
The Tennessean 7/21/16

Can charters and district schools be partners in public education?
New Bedford Standard Times 3/12/16

Thinking Big: How to Expand Democratic Schools
Education Week 1/7/16

When Charters Go Union 
American Prospect: Summer 2015

Nashville Metro Public School Board Approves Charter School Resolution Based on Annenberg Institute Accountability Report
AISR  5/1/15

Testimony Before the Connecticut Education Committee: Charter School Modernization And Reform Bill
Connecticut Education Association 2/25/15

Are Charters Smarter?
Register-Herald  2/1/15

Annenberg Institute Proposes New Rules for Charter Schools
Diane Ravitch blog 10/22/14

Charter School Accountability Standards: Nurturing Innovation without Damaging Public Trust
AISR 10/16/14

Charter School Accountability Standards: Nurturing Innovation without Damaging Public Trust
Brown University 10/15/14

Was the ‘original bargain’ with charter schools a raw deal?
Washington Post 10/6/14 

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies
Salon 10/2/14

Report critical of charter school oversight
EdSource 9/18/14

Charter School Laws Due for a Tune-Up, Report Says
Education Week 9/17/14

Charter School Law & Authorizer Practices Need Upgrades & Strengthening to Address Rapid Growth & Expansion
AISR (9/17/15)