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Counterproductive Charter Rankings

The fight for true educational justice and equality for kids suffered a setback this week with the release of a much-hyped report purportedly offering a broad overview and ranking of the country’s 42 charter school laws.

Only 20 or so of the 41 states (and the District of Columbia) that provide a home to charter schools truly have the components necessary to provide the educational justice that was and is the driving force behind these schools’ creation. We know this because we’ve been studying this very issue since 1993 and have produced at an almost annual rate a comprehensive report assessing, year to year, the strength and execution of every state charter law. The Center for Education Reform’s research and analysis is based not just on reading and re-reading each law and regulation, but also on a personal, hands-on involvement with schools throughout the country, firsthand accounts and continuous discussion with both parents and leaders affected by the law, as well as with legislators who often don’t realize that a law’s plans and its implementation can vary greatly.

CER’s research and rankings – cited for over a decade by media and political leaders alike – are solid, accepted, and show that when states have great laws, they will have great schools.

If only it were so easy to ensure sound policy be adopted and grown.

On the road to educating lawmakers and promulgating strong charter laws (no simple task with legislator turnover, not to mention their susceptibility to daily outside pressure), another group has decided that a second analysis of existing laws is necessary (regardless of whether or not it might cause confusion, deter policymakers from doing the hard work required, or clash with existing best practices). And so, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has released a

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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

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