AASA magazine publishes charter school series, featuring article by ex-Kentucky education leader

From AASA’s The School Administrator

The Charter Movement – Learning from Each Other By adhering to five guiding principles, some charters and traditional public schools have moved from contentious dealings to collaborative opportunities

by VICKI L. PHILLIPS

If you ask a 4th grader, “Tell me about your school,” she’ll tell you about her teachers, her classes, her friends. One thing she won’t tell you about — and won’t care about — is whether her school is run by a charter or by a school district. And that’s as it should be because the ultimate measure of our schools isn’t governance, it’s quality.

The idea behind public charter schools was to develop flexible models of public schools and to incubate innovative ideas that then could be shared with the district’s public schools. Today, almost 20 years since the first public charter school opened its doors in Minnesota, we still do not see consistent, productive collaboration and shared innovation between charter schools and district schools.

The prevailing district-charter dynamic is characterized by mistrust and missed opportunities. In many cases, there’s a zero-sum mindset. Rather than competing to provide the best education opportunities, schools are struggling to control funding, facilities and often innovative ideas.

We need to move away from this adversarial approach where one is either for or against charter schools in a holistic sense, without distinguishing between high-performing and not high-performing charters. If the goal is to provide every student with a great school and great teachers, then districts need to focus on replicating the best school models, regardless of their governance structure.

Click here to read the full article and access the magazine series on the charter school movement School Administrator.

Vicki Phillips is director of Education, College Ready in the U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Wash. Phillips earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in school psychology from Western Kentucky University. She worked in the Kentucky Department of Education, served as a superintendent in Oregon and Pennsylvania and was the chief state education officer for Pennsylvania.

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