At the heart of the charter school concept is the idea that schools, like all organizations, are most effective when they have the flexibility necessary to be captains of their destiny and when there is real accountability for failure. When charter schools are given autonomy over their time, people, and money, with it comes great responsibility. Part of that responsibility is the possibility of closure. We know that there are many charter schools that welcome accountability and that use their flexibility to accomplish amazing things for their students. We also know that many of the most successful charters are succeeding with students who others say face obstacles that no school can overcome.
Too often, though, charter schools that fail to achieve are allowed to continue failing year after year. Meanwhile, too few promising new schools are allowed to open, and too few great schools are allowed to grow. Changing that reality is the goal of NACSA’s One Million Lives campaign. We want to close a thousand of the lowest performing charters while at the same time working to open thousands more promising new ones.
Our success depends not only on the tireless efforts of thousands of fearless and relentless parents, teachers, and school leaders, but also on bold advocacy and strong authorizing. This week we saw examples of both. Yesterday, the California Charter Schools Association called for the closure of six charter schools across the state that have failed to the association’s bar for quality. And today, the Texas Education Agency announced its intention to close six charters it says have failed to meet expectations. Both organizations support the growth more great charter schools, and both should be applauded for their willingness to take a stand for quality.
Closing schools is never easy. But if we’re serious about giving schools the autonomy they need to successful and about holding schools accountable for how well they serve their students, we have to be willing to take action when they fail.