Necessity, Not Nicety: Research Praises Charter & District Collaboration
January 27, 2017

The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released a report this week, Bridging the District-Charter Divide to Help More Students Succeed. The report takes a deep-dive into the collaboration or “cooperation” between school districts and charter schools. The report details how roughly a dozen districts are using cooperation to inform decisions that address systemic challenges. It concludes that some states have seen real, tangible improvements due to collaboration between charters and districts.

After six years of research, key findings of the report include:

  • In cities with large charter school student populations, cross-sector coordination is a necessity, not a nicety, as charters risk being marginalized and districts lose opportunities for innovation.
  • Despite the urgent need, cooperation is too often treated as a time-limited, forced marriage rather than a sustained effort and long-term relationship, so as leaders in the area change, partnerships are lost.
  • Some cooperation efforts are simply not worth the effort. While shared professional development has limited success, shared advocacy has been impactful.
  • The cities logging serious progress are addressing chronic challenges and common goals for improving quality and equity, rather than getting mired in a litany of short-term tasks. Strong leadership with clear vision can ensure the big issues stay top of mind.
  • Top officials must commit to cooperation and ensure that their entire organization follows suit.

The report includes recommendations for district and charter leaders, state education agencies, and funders to better support the often difficult, politically divisive work of cooperation.

Education leaders can use this report to create a dialogue between charter schools and districts in their community. Please reach out if you are interested in connecting with other advocates that have helped start this conversation.

Tanzi West Barbour

Tanzi is PIE Network's Senior Director, Communications, Charters, and Choice

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