In-School Experiences
Accountability for Charter Schools

  Research Tells Us...

Public schools have an uneven record of serving students disadvantaged by poverty and by racial and linguistic minority status. Charter schools, which are often presented as a better alternative, however, have no better a record. On average, they produce gains similar to those of comparable neighborhood schools, with the best producing real gains and the weakest setting kids further back.


Research suggests that among both types of schools, a combination of outside-of-school factors, schools’ resources and structures, and laws that govern their operation, transparency, and responsiveness to the communities they serve are key factors in their strength or weakness, and not their status as charter versus other.

We Need a Broader, Bolder Approach

Ensuring good governance of all schools benefits students, especially vulnerable ones. Such systems help ensure wise use of taxpayer dollars, avoid incentives for schools to push out students who might drag down test score averages, and boost family and community engagement in the school. They also encourage innovation by schools, and collaboration so that schools learn from one another, rather than competing for scarce resources.
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BBA blogs on maximizing the benefits of charter schools

These blogs from BBA leaders and allies illustrate a range of issues related to charter school accountability, growth, and operation and offer suggestions to improve policies. Pedro Noguera offers insightful and hopeful commentary on proposed …


Charter schools and diversity

One particular concern is the potential for charter schools to exacerbate already-high levels of segregation. But as the Century Foundation’s 2012 report, Diverse Charter Schools, notes, smart policies can incentivize socioeconomically and racially integrated …


2014 Annenberg report, Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight

A 2014 report by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight, pulls together both examples and data, finding that poor oversight limits academic …


Emerging trends in charter schools

The recent, rapid growth of the charter school sector has made it difficult for governments to keep pace, resulting in some emerging trends. Several recent newspaper articles depict instances of fraud and abuse, due in large …


Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) Evaluation of Charter Schools

Because charter schools, like regular district schools, vary so much, it is very difficult to compare their impacts in valid ways. The most widespread study of charter schools across the US, which employs statistical techniques …

An In-Depth Look at a Broader, Bolder Approach to Accountability for Charter Schools

The failure of many public schools to serve disadvantaged students well, together with facets of the standards-and-accountability movement, has fueled the rapid growth of the charter school sector. Charter schools enroll an increasing share of the student body in major urban districts, and in a few, they will soon serve more students than district schools. (In New Orleans and Detroit, they already do.) While the best-run charter schools boost student outcomes, those that are poorly managed do a disservice to students. The bulk of research finds that charters, on average, may confer negligible advantage for the students they target, compared to the neighborhood public schools those students would otherwise attend. Moreover, as the sector has grown in size and policy influence, advocates have advanced laws at both the federal and state levels that limit many charter schools’ accountability, transparency, and responsiveness to the communities they serve, notwithstanding their receipt of a growing share of tax dollars.

Policy solution: A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education establishes a framework of oversight that helps the students and communities charters serve to reap the kinds of benefits currently enjoyed by only some. As is already true of the best-run charter schools, all public schools – including charters – should be governed democratically and with full transparency, including an accounting of both public and private funds, to reduce conflicts of interest. Ensuring that all schools serve diverse student needs and curtailing the “push-out” of students who are harder to teach, whose families are more difficult to engage, and whose test scores will drag down the school average, would better serve disadvantaged communities. Perhaps most fundamental, strengthening the collaboration between district and charter schools and their governing bodies would fulfill Albert Shanker’s original vision for charters – as laboratories to test innovative ways to serve an increasingly diverse student body and disseminate those that work – and reduce the potential, as is happening in some districts, for charters to weaken the traditional public school system.

BBA does not support voucher programs, because the private schools they fund are not held accountable for the public dollars they use.

BBA Policy Areas

Out-of-School Experiences

Establishing an even educational playing field so that all children enter kindergarten prepared to learn and thrive requires supports for children, their parents, and their caregivers from birth. And ensuring equal opportunities to learn requires support for children’s physical and mental health. A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education advances enriching experiences with nurturing, knowledgeable adults throughout the day and all year, in order to promote children’s strong cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral development.


Early Childhood Education

Afterschool and Summer Activities

Physical and Mental Health


In-School Experiences

Schools and educators serving students with higher needs need the resources to do so effectively. A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education advances policies that establish strong standards and curriculum in all schools and ensure sufficient funding for high-needs schools to reach them. BBA promotes supports-based accountability systems focused on improving instruction and strategies to desegregate schools and deconcentrate poverty within them, so that educators and students have a strong context in which to teach and learn.


Equitable Funding

Holistic, Supports-Based Accountability Systems

Teacher and Principal Quality

Accountability for Charter Schools

School-Community Connections

Effective, sustainable school improvement efforts merge research-based evidence of effective ways to mitigate the impacts of poverty with community input regarding the district’s unique assets and needs. A Broader, Bolder Approach highlights the need for key community voices – including educators, parents, students, and faith and business leaders – to be at the center of developing and implementing education reforms.


Addressing Race, Segregation, and Concentrated Poverty

Using Community Input to Inform School Improvement