Charter School Autonomy: A Half-Broken Promise

What can teacher-powered schools, where teams of teachers secure collective autonomy to make the decisions influencing school success, learn from prior school autonomy efforts? A lot!

In this 2011 Fordham Institute study, authors Jacob L. Rosch and Dana Brinson of Public Impact find that the typical charter school in America today lacks the autonomy it needs to succeed, once state, authorizer, and other impositions are considered. Though the average state earns an encouraging B+ for the freedom its charter law confers upon schools, individual state grades in this sphere range from A to F. Authorizer contracts add another layer of restrictions that, on average, drop schools’ autonomy grade to B-. (Federal policy and other state and local statutes likely push it down further.) School districts are particularly restrictive authorizers.

Teacher-powered teams should ask themselves how they can avoid such restrictions in their own autonomy arrangements, charter or not. Can they work to secure waivers or other arrangements that free them from restrictive elements?

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