Charter school authorizers across the country act as gate keepers, making high-stakes and often contentious decisions about which charter schools are allowed to open their doors.
New research from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute could provide new warning indicators for authorizers across the country as they approve and deny charter school applications. In Three Signs That a Proposed Charter School Is at Risk of Failing analysts looked at more than 600 applications over four states. While authorizers rejected 77 percent of the initial pool of applications, one third of the schools they did approve performed poorly during their first years of operation.
After studying the approved applications, analysts identified three-risk factors that that could be significant predictors of a school’s future weak performance in its first years of operation.
- Lack of identified leadership: Charter applications that propose a self-managed school without naming a school leader.
- High risk, low dose: Charter applications that propose to serve at-risk pupils but plan to employ “low dose” academic programs that do not include sufficient academic supports, such as intensive small-group instruction or extensive individual tutoring.
- A child-centered curriculum: Charter applications that propose to deploy child-centered, inquiry-based pedagogies, such as Montessori, Waldorf, Paideia, or experiential programs.
The report also notes that when an application displayed two or more of these risk factors, the likelihood of low performance rose to 80 percent.
While there is no guarantee that a school will successfully serve its students, this research can can help authorizers and advocates make more informed decisions as they work to provide high-quality options for students and families.