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Raising Bar on Charter Law Shouldn’t Wait

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A recent Bangor Daily News editorial incorrectly uses conclusions and data from CER’s State of Charter Schools report. The quote below is about judging an individual charter school, yet is used as ammo for an argument about why lifting the charter cap in Maine shouldn’t happen.

“It remains the case that the single most effective way to evaluate whether a charter school is succeeding is to measure value-added growth over time, including how that growth, retention, and, yes, parent satisfaction compare to the same factors in the schools those students would otherwise be attending,” Allen wrote in the Center for Education Reform’s 2011 analysis of what works and doesn’t work in the realm of charter school performance accountability.

There’s judging schools, and there’s judging school laws, and the editorial unfortunately mashes the two together in its argument against changing Maine’s charter school law. Yes, “performance based accountability is the hallmark of the charter school concept”, but giving charter schools a chance to thrive depends on the quality and implementation of charter school law. Having a limit on the number of schools allowed is not an indicator of a strong charter school law. Limits stifle the chances for innovation and growth, thus stifling the potential for great schools (that can be held accountable and judged based on all the factors mentioned in the quote above!).