Osborne & Langhorne for The 74, “Can Urban Districts Get Charter-Like Performance With Charter-Lite Schools? The Answer Lies in Autonomy”

Over the past 15 years, cities across the country have experienced rapid growth in the number of public charter schools serving their students. In states with strong charter laws and equally strong authorizers, charter schools have produced impressive students gains, especially in schools with high-minority, high-poverty populations.

According to the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) 2015 study on 41 urban regions, the academic gains made by students in charter schools increase with each year students spend at the school. Those who have spent four or more years at a charter gain the equivalent of 108 more days of learning in math and 72 more days in reading each year than their traditional public school peers. In other words, they learn about 50 percent more every year than those with similar demographics and past test scores who stayed in a district school.

Urban districts have spent a lot of time and money trying to compete with the charter sector’s formula for success — autonomy, choice, diversity of school designs, and real accountability. Recently, however, many districts have attempted to replicate parts of it instead. Districts from Boston to Denver to Los Angeles have tried to spur charter-like innovation and increase student achievement by granting school leaders more autonomy.

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