Independent Charter Schools Elevate Their Status

Students dressed in uniforms standing in military-straight lines under a dangling line of college pennants. An ethos of “no excuses” for low academic achievement.

That, perhaps, is the most popular notion of what makes a charter school. And that’s because a relatively small number of charter networks—KIPP, Success Academy, and YES Prep to name a few—dominate the sector in ways that over the last decade or so have shaped the national debates and policy agendas around charters.

But that dominance, say some charter school supporters, has to change.

To do that, a group of independent charter schools and some founders of the 25-year-old charter movement are organizing efforts to muscle their way back into the spotlight. An inaugural national gathering of leaders in independent charters is on tap next month in New York, and its organizers are hoping the event will spawn a new national organization to represent their specific interests.

But the bigger, more important challenge for independent charters, supporters say, will be to shift the public perception of the “franchise” charter school model that they argue is undermining the sector and get back to the movement’s roots: creating innovative schools that serve as education laboratories.

“We believe that the ideas are on our side,” said Steve Zimmerman, the co-director of the Coalition of Community Charter Schools. “If the choice is just between a poor-performing district school, and a no-excuses charter school, that’s a false choice. Our schools offer real choices.”   Read the article>

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