According to my stressed-out-looking Education Policy Center friends, we are fast approaching the 20th anniversary of Colorado officially approving charter schools as a means of public school choice. At the time, we were the third state to do so (after Minnesota and California). Today, 42 states have some form of a charter school law. As being one of the pioneers, it’s great to see Colorado’s charter law today ranks among the strongest nationwide.
Not far behind us was Arizona, where charters became law of the land in 1994. Yesterday the Goldwater Institute’s Jonathan Butcher took the opportunity to explain why lawmakers in his state should continue to preserve charter freedoms while also pointing out improvements the state could make to ensure equity. Butcher’s accompanying new report also provides a detailed picture of the growth made in Arizona’s charter sector and the results their students have achieved.
In some ways, it kind of reminds me of Colorado’s latest report on the state of charter schools. Trying to get to the bottom of a discussion like this is not easy. Just being a charter school guarantees nothing of success. The big picture is mixed but tends positive. The overall beneficial effect of chartering through competition and innovation represents modest improvements delivered more efficiently.
The recent national report on KIPP charter school effects provides one example. More recently, the Boston Globe reports on a new study documenting the success of charters in the northeastern city. Though some with an anti-charter agenda have misled to try to persuade people to shut the movement down, the documented results keep telling a different story.
What else can I say? Charters aren’t an end but definitely a helpful means to an end. Set schools free; reward those that succeed; help those that struggle; sanction those that fail. Continuing to grow after 20 years, there can be no doubt charter schools have become a well established part of Colorado’s education landscape.