This is worth more than a glance. You can see the impact or lack thereof, of a Gates Foundation program to improve collaboration between districts and charters. The evaluation of this effort gives specific examples based on 23 District charter collaborations formed across the nation since 2011. The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) report cited what was and was not accomplished and why.
Some cities have a lot of charters. Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver and San Diego have at least 15%. How well do the public and corporate charter segments work together?
A 2016 Mathematica Study found that most districts felt that charters had an unfair advantage. In a review of seven cities with strong collaboration efforts, those interviewed stated that charters served a higher achieving students with fewer second language children as well as fewer children with disabilities. Charters expelled students with discipline problems. Districts also commented on union rules on work hours that made it difficult for them to engage in cross sector professional development.
The report concluded that the current system of district and charter authorization can create quality school deserts leaving parents without adequate transportation in areas with struggling schools no options. Even when ‘high quality’ charters are available, there is no consistent data to indicate that they improve academic achievement.
The conclusions of the CRPE study were:
- Common enrollment systems did improve compliance with equitable student enrollment. These district managed systems involved: common enrollment forms, timelines, centralized lottery and student assignment in Denver, New Orleans, and Washington D.C.
- After a series of failed reform efforts to improve the worst schools, Philadelphia turned to non-profit charter management rather than for-profit charters. The new charter system retained local zones and provided community input on charter selection.
- New Orleans provided funding incentives to higher quality charters to enroll students with disabilities, created a charter-run professional development program for teachers working with students with disabilities, and created a centralized expulsion system to make expulsions more fair.
- The success of co-locations of charters housed in the same building with district schools is generally due to ‘luck’. In Los Angeles and New York City, they have created major political backlash and produce little academic benefit. After three years, the Houston area co-location experiment after three raised serious questions whether it is worth the minimal payoff, especially in academic gains.
- Structured professional development programs have not produced learning gains. Shared training programs for principals are considered worthwhile in Hartford, Connecticut.
- If meaningful collaboration is to occur, there must be apples to apples comparisons of charter and district schools.
In Florida, Miami-Dade and Duval Counties signed collaboration compacts in 2014. The State provided planning grants and selected the district proposals for the $665,000 CRPE grants.
Each year the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools brings together legislators, public school and charter leaders to discuss collaboration efforts. Topics this year included teacher shortages, streamlining data collection, and state and federal funding for ESE students.