Have charter schools grown too fast?

Mar 15, 2013 by

After two decades of offering educational choice to families, leaders of the charter-school movement in California are touting accomplishments but also calling for higher standards in light of some underperforming and mismanaged schools.

“If you were to look anywhere in the landscape to find the most exciting things happening right now, you’d look at charters,” Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said during the group’s annual conference this week in downtown San Diego.

The event drew educators from Chula Vista and Escondido to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

San Diego was also the host city for the inaugural statewide charter-school conference in 1993 — the year legislation was signed to allow the first 31 charter campuses to open in California. There are now 1,065 charter schools serving more than 484,000 students in the Golden State.

The once-small convention also has grown: About 3,000 people came to the convention center this week to attend workshops, hear speeches from nationally known speakers, browse vendors’ offerings and network over four days.

Wallace said San Diego County has been particularly receptive to charter schools, most notably within the San Diego Unified School District, which was praised by the association for providing multi-year facilities agreements while most districts opt for year-to-year contracts.

Charter-school students represent 8 percent of all students in the state. San Diego is above average at 15 percent, while Oakland and Chico are at 25 percent.

The rapid growth was actually a bit unchecked, Wallace said, and the association vows to become a better steward of the movement.

“I think the biggest pitfall we’ve had in California or anywhere in the country is that you have to hold charter schools accountable for strong results academically,” he said. “We have been too permissive in (perpetuating) schools that are consistently underperforming.”

The association last year called for the closure of 10 charter schools in the state, including Nubia Leadership Academy in San Diego, which remains open. About half of the targeted schools did close.

While the bulk of this week’s convention focused on trends, methodology, technology and day-to-day operations, some sessions dealt with challenges and hard-learned lessons that charters have experienced in the past two decades.

One such workshop was “Read the Fine Print: Lessons Learned in Charter School Bond Issuance,” presented by Escondido Charter School District President Dennis Snyder.

Willow Harrington, managing director of school development for the statewide charter association, led a session about the application procedures for charter schools. The past few years have seen refinements to the petition process for new charter schools, she said, and more changes may be coming.

Organizers of each proposed charter must present to a public school district viable operation plans and a petition showing community support for their envisioned school.

Sometimes those petitions are rejected. That was the case for Oxford Preparatory Academy last year when it tried to open charter schools in Oceanside and Carlsbad. The school is scheduled to go before the county Board of Education this month to appeal Carlsbad Unified School District’s denial.

via Have charter schools grown too fast? Page 1 of 2 | UTSanDiego.com.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.