Yet, while experts and advocates are encouraged as charters grow in size and number in urban areas, some are cautious. They say quality is as important as quantity when it comes to charter schools, which are publicly funded and semiautonomous. Oftentimes, they say, local school boards, the very entities set up to authorize charter schools - as is Virginia’s case - meddle by getting involved in the day-to-day management of charters.
“The most successful charter schools … have important common qualities,” Mr. Braunlich says. “Among them are high expectations, extra time for students, effective (and multiple) assessment tests and a strong faculty and team spirit.
“But these successful qualities flourish best in places where there is a strong balance between offering schools a high level of school autonomy and freedom and demanding strong accountability systems for student performance. … Forcing restrictions on charter schools that limit the level of innovation and flexibility those schools can use tend* to result in failure. And focusing on inputs rather than student outcomes puts the emphasis on the wrong end of student learning.
“Learning how quality public charter schools operate - and how effective charter authorizers genuinely supervise, rather than manage, those schools - is an important step in revamping Virginia’s charter school law and offering new opportunities for educationally at-risk students.”
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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