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Charter Closure Report Clarification

A longtime debate surrounding charter schools is whether or not those that are not working – for whatever reason – are closed. Our new report, which provides the first-ever national analysis of charter school closures, finds a movement very much accountable for its contract and commitment to quality educational options.

Since 1992, 15 percent, or 1,036, of the approximately 6,700 charter schools ever opened have been closed for five primary reasons – financial (41.7 percent), mismanagement (24 percent), academic (18.6 percent), district obstacles (6.3 percent) and facilities (4.6 percent). There are 500 additional charter schools that have been consolidated back into the district or received a charter but were unable to open.

This level of analysis and transparency is critical for the public to understand that poorly performing or problematic charter schools are being closed. And that charter schools are working. Knowing what happens to charter schools that fail is critical, but one must be careful in making assumptions with data that does away with the full context.

Huffington Posts’ Joy Resmovits took the initiative to explore and report on the number of academic closures within the full universe of charters ever opened to make the case that charter schools are rarely closed for academic performance. However, this type of analysis takes the report findings out of context and maligns the high-level of accountability currently in place.

Our report found that the majority of charter schools close for financial or operational deficiencies and do so within the first five years of the school’s existence. Academic closures usually take longer because it takes the whole charter term to gather enough sound data and make proper comparisons.

This is a good sign. One cannot expect charter schools that face financial or mismanagement issues to achieve high levels of academic success. These issues present themselves much sooner and give authorizers the tools to close schools long before we can see what happens academically. In essence, authorizers can nip it in the bud.

The correlation between strong charter school laws, accountability and effective charter schools cannot be emphasized enough. Independent authorizers have full control over how they evaluate charter schools and have their own staff and funding streams. This enables them to create streamlined, effective tools to manage their portfolio of charter schools and close those that are not living up to their contract.

These facts reveal not only that charters are successful, but also that accountability for results is alive and well in a way that is unique to these public schools.