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UW Deserves to Authorize More Charter Schools

Your editorial, “Reject move toward independent charter schools,” attempts to convey the misconception that charter schools authorized by public universities would be void of any oversight, when it’s actually this type of system that produces schools of the highest quality and accountability for students most in need of other options.

Public universities have proven to be exceptional authorizers, combining the infrastructure of existing higher-education institutions and bringing a very high degree of public and legislative scrutiny to K-12 education — not to mention, a compelling interest in improving the pipeline for their students.

By contrast, the research shows that many local districts have proven not to be up to the task of properly holding charters accountable.

Institutions in the University of Wisconsin System have already proven to be excellent contributors to boosting student achievement. A longitudinal study of charter students attending UW-Milwaukee authorized schools showed significantly more success in reading and math compared to comparable students in Milwaukee Public Schools. Those students that entered their UW-Milwaukee charters at the lowest achievement levels received the biggest gains and benefits from independently authorized charters.

Success of varying public schools is not a zero-sum game, but it can become one for students who may not have the opportunity to succeed in traditional environments, whether for reasons of staying motivated, learning methods or special needs. The ultimate goal of charter schools is to improve student outcomes, which ends up having a ripple effect of growth that becomes evident in nearby traditional schools.

Allowing additional UW System campuses to become charter school authorizers allows Wisconsin to build on its legacy of choice and accountability providing all parents and students the quality options they deserve.

Jeanne Allen,

president emeritus and Senior Fellow, The Center for Education Reform