Last week, education and charter school leaders met in Washington, D.C. for the 2013 National Charter School Conference, where Arne Duncan provided a powerful call to action for charters to continue to innovate and find even more ways to support students, particularly those who have historically been overlooked.
“[The charter school movement has]shown that you can provide choice for families and parents where no choice previously existed,” said Duncan. “So to fully deliver on the dream, charter schools must do more to take innovation to scale and continue to tackle the very toughest educational challenges.”
Citing the results of the most recent Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study, Duncan underlined that charter schools are making a difference, and are most impactful when states are careful about authorizing charters and disciplined in closing weak operators with low-quality charter schools. When leaders make these difficult, but rewarding choices, we see that children flourish – especially children from underserved and disadvantaged backgrounds.
“High-performing charters have irrefutably demonstrated that low-income children can and do achieve at high levels,” said Duncan. “[Charter schools] have helped debunk the insidious myth that poverty is somehow destiny and that schools don’t really matter much.”
Duncan’s speech reiterated what we in Washington State know – that providing a high-quality education for our children requires hard work, formidable leadership, strong legislation, engaged policymakers and the support from parents and communities who want better for their children’s education.
“The bottom line is that the charter school brand has to stand for quality, accountability, cost-efficiency, and transparency,” said Duncan.
As we look forward to the next few years and the opening of the first charter schools in Washington state, it’s crucial that we take Secretary Duncan’s words to heart. If we want charters to lead the way in providing innovative, effective and collaborative learning environments for our children, we must be, as President Obama has said, “incubators of innovation.”