Independent charter schools seek to separate themselves from large networks
Independent charter schools are launching a new organization to differentiate themselves from large charter management organizations such as KIPP, Chalkbeat reports.
At a symposium last week in Queens, Steve Zimmerman, who organized the conference and co-directs the Coalition of Community Charter Schools in New York, said the large charter school networks are focusing too much on test scores and replicating specific models, which is hurting innovation.
The new organization does not yet have a name, but it has already adopted a manifesto that calls for accountability “rooted in the development of the whole child and the needs of society,” for charters to serve as a “laboratory for all other public schools” and for “collaboration among district, charter and independent schools.”
With hashtags such as #reclaimyourmovement, the new organization seeks to provide a voice for those charter school educators, leaders and families who don’t necessarily identify with the larger networks and could help to better communicate the broad diversity of charter schools in the U.S.
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, more than two-thirds of charter schools are still independent, single-site schools. But at the symposium, Zimmerman discussed how independent charters no longer feel well represented by the Alliance because it is funded by foundations that “believe in the network model.”
Most studies on charter schools tend to focus on how students perform academically compared to peers in traditional public schools. But with the charter sector growing to more than 6,000 schools in 43 states, researchers are beginning to ask questions that go beyond test scores. Some suggest that charter operators are not being innovative enough, but it will take time to see whether an organization that sets independent charter schools apart from the more well-known networks will help to draw attention to innovative practices and models that could benefit all schools.
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