The English Embrace Charter-School-Like Academies — and Learn the Free Market Is No Substitute for a Quality Authorizer
by Phoebe Cribb, Summer Intern
New Orleans is the first major U.S. city to convert all its traditional public schools to public charter schools. Now imagine an entire country moving in this direction. That is exactly what England has done.
Academy and free schools, England’s equivalent of charter schools, currently educate more than half of all public school students, far more than the 6 percent of U.S. public school students who attend charters. In just nine years, England’s conservative government has pushed academy and free school numbers from 200 to more than 8,600, representing a third of all primary schools (grades 0-5) and 76 percent of all high schools (grades 6-10). (After grade 10, English students choose to remain in full-time education for two more years or enter into employment or vocational training.)
Since 2016, the government has required public schools rated “inadequate” to become academies. Unfortunately, it created only eight authorizers to hold the explosion of autonomous schools accountable for performance, and they have been overwhelmed by the numbers, leaving England’s academy sector with uneven performance. The English have learned the same lesson we have on this side of the pond: The key to quality charter schools is quality authorizing.