As we’ve written previously, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) recently published a study that looked at charter schools in 26 states across the country, comparing students’ gains in academic achievement with their peers in district schools.
One compelling finding was the impact that strong authorization has on student achievement. CREDO’s study found that those states that took the initiative to hold authorizers accountable and implement charter schools through a thoughtful, skilled process saw greater gains than those with weaker performance expectations and authorizers.
The study also confirmed that states must be committed to closing down schools that don’t perform well. According to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NASCA), “one-third of the improvement in charter school performance in this study was caused by the closure of 8 percent of the schools that were in CREDO’s 2009 study.”
These findings reaffirm what we in Washington already know – it takes hard work, accountability, and skilled leadership to create and sustain high-quality charter schools that ensure the success of all students. Not just anybody can lead and open a charter school, and not just any school district or organization can be an authorizer. We need dedicated people who understand their communities and are committed to improving student success.
That’s one reason why the Association created the inaugural Washington State Charter Leader Cohort, a group of three committed, trailblazing school leaders who will apply to lead high-quality public charter schools for underserved students in Washington state.
There is even more good news for Washington state. Our law was modeled after the best practices in other states and research like this CREDO study. That means we have a strong authorization process and a commitment to hold charter schools accountable. In fact, every charter school will have annual performance reviews to evaluate their success in improving student outcomes. Schools not meeting these accountability standards can be closed.
Our law also focuses on serving those students who currently struggle in school. CREDO’s study confirms that disadvantaged students—including low-income students, students from communities of color, and English-language learners—benefit most from charter schools.
Because of these efforts, Washington’s law was rated as the third strongest by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. We’ve heard from parents and communities across the state that they want additional public school options for their families. It is reassuring to know that Washington state is approaching this work right. In the end, it means more students will be set up for success in school.