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What Makes a Strong Charter School

In existence now for 22 years, the record of charter schools in terms of quality, student performance, innovation, and community impact has been mixed. With improvements to charter sector practices and policies, more of the positive potential of these taxpayer-funded schools can be realized while also addressing the key concerns they pose for students, families and communities. The NEA is committed to standing with parents, educators, and communities to:

  • Support charters driving creative solutions that nurture student needs and are committed to the long-term health of their communities; and
  • Advocate for measures to ensure that all charter schools operate in a manner that is transparent, accountable and equitable.

Here are four key features of strong charter schools:

1. Quality
A school that nurtures and grows enthusiastic and confident learners is one of the most important measures for how parents, teachers, and students evaluate charter schools. Being a charter school is not a guarantee of success any more than is being a traditional public school. Successful students need caring, experienced teachers and a rich and engaging curriculum.

2. Equity
High expectations for every student and the resources needed to be successful are what parents, teachers and students expect inside charter classrooms. That means if a student is an English language learner or has special needs, their needs are met and they're made to feel welcome. Expectations and consequences for student behavior must be openly communicated and fair for all. And charter schools must equitably enroll all groups of students instead of subtly or overtly screening out some who are less advantaged.

3. Accountability
Charter schools must operate in a manner that is accountable to the communities they serve. They need to be monitored effectively by their authorizers, the entities given the responsibility and power to oversee their operations. Charter schools must meet or exceed any student performance targets applied to all other taxpayer-funded schools, or else be subject to the same consequences as the traditional sector. They should be audited annually, with the results posted publicly.

4. Transparency
As taxpayer funded schools, charter schools need to operate openly in the ways we rightly expect of traditional public schools. Charter schools should either establish elected, instead of appointed, governing boards, or comply with the open meeting laws that include parents and the public in traditional sector decisions. They should be required to disclose the amounts and duration of large charitable contributions that provide some charter schools with short-term large resource advantages. Ownership of property purchased with taxpayer support to open charter schools should be transferred to the local school district when a charter school is closed, instead of allowing private entities to reap windfalls from these subsidies intended to benefit students.

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