As Charters Face Growing Opposition, NewSchools Summit Makes Its Case
By Tony Wan May 14, 2019
for the past 21 years its organizer, the Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit known as NewSchools Venture Fund, has also put millions of dollars into novel schools in public districts
Charter schools operate with public funding, and sometimes philanthropic support, but are managed by an outside organization that is independent from local district oversight. In California, they are run by nonprofit organizations with self-elected boards. (For-profit charters are outlawed.)
Their supporters and operators—who make up the vast majority of the 1,300-plus attendees at this year’s Summit—say the model offers the flexibility needed to introduce, test and adopt new curriculum, tools and pedagogical approaches that could better serve students, particularly in low-income and minority communities.
Rocketship Education was an early showcase for blended learning, where students rotate between working on computers and in small groups with teachers. Summit Public Schools, a network of charters that now claims a nationwide footprint, promotes project-based learning assisted by an online learning platform.
But charters have also attracted an increasingly vocal opposition, who charge them with funneling students, teachers and funds from traditional district schools. Aside from raising teacher salaries, a sticking point in the recent California teachers’ strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland has been stopping the growth of charter schools.
Detractors can point to fully-virtual charters, run by for-profit companies, that have been fined for misleading claims and graduating students at rates far below those at traditional schools. At the same time, research suggests that students attending charter schools in urban regions outperform their peers in traditional school settings.
While the first decade of this century saw double-digit percentage increase in the number of such schools, it has almost entirely plateaued (at 1 percent growth) in the 2017-2018 school year, according to data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
more on charter schools in this IMS blog