What’s Holding Back the Growth of the Best Charter Schools?

Will high-performing charters soon show up in every city?

Not at all. There are three blunt realities that need a full airing. First, any reader looking at the photos and studying the résumés that accompany these stories can’t help but notice that the first wave of charter pioneers is nearly all white with excellent college credentials. Brown University appears to play a special role here, especially with Uncommon leaders (full disclosure: my wife and youngest daughter are Brown graduates, and my daughter works in the charter sphere).

Given that the targeted school population for charters is almost all low-income minorities, the contrast seen during school visits can be startling: black and brown students who are taught by white teachers. This is a race reality that’s rapidly shifting as charters diversify, but will it shift fast enough to avoid the pushback that’s already bubbling up around the race issue?
Next, we have to be real about where these high performers can actually take root. Their performance is tightly connected to their ability to attract talented teachers, and in a lot of cities, that just isn’t going to happen. Plus, the powerful anti-charter movement led by unions and superintendents is fully capable of blocking charters in some cities.

Finally, and probably most significantly, the top charters will be held back until hundreds of poorly performing charters get shut down.

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