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Charter Schools Experience Growth Nationwide
posted by: Cindy Omlin | November 16, 2012, 09:45 PM   

Although charter schools have only come to fruition in the past twenty years, they are now the fastest-growing sector of American public education.

In the 2011–2012 school year, charter-run institutions rose by nearly 200,000 students. Charter schools boast of having more than 2 million students, about 5 percent of public school students.

The number of charter school students has ballooned in cities like New Orleans, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Mo., and Flint, Mich. -- the five districts with the highest percentage of charter school students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter School's report.

Currently, 25 school districts have 20 percent or more of their students in charter schools -- up from just six districts in the school year 2005-2006. More than 100 school districts have 10 percent of their students enrolled in charter schools. "What surprised me most were the cities and towns that don't often get mentioned with regards to charter schools," said Nina Rees, the president of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "The numbers are trending our way."

Currently 42 percent of charter schools are managed by education management organization (EMOs). Some criticize this fact, saying they have stepped away from their original purpose, as small, innovative pilot schools that gain flexibility by avoiding bureaucratic hindrances like district-imposed curricula and unionized teachers. 

"Instead of having more niche, innovative schools, we're seeing larger and larger schools," said Gary Miron, a professor at Western Michigan University. "This is being driven by the private EMOs, who continue to grab a larger portion of the market share." Miron anticipates that within a few years, half of charter students will attend the bigger schools.

Other critics of charter schools argue that they monopolize public school funds. Rees said, "Unfortunately, a lot of school districts still view charter schools as a threat to their economy and power when, in fact, we see it as an opportunity for them to bring out-of-the-box thinking to education." 

Despite these criticisms, it is obvious that charter schools are receiving increased support, a fact demonstrated by charter schools’ recent victories in Georgia and Washington. Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute said that the recent elections show that charter schools are no longer viewed as politically toxic.  

Most will admit that charter schools are not a magic silver bullet for education reform. Like any school they need to be well run, effective and sustainable over time. Like other schools, they need good teachers and an administration that work to support students and professionalism. 

What do you think about the rise in charter schools? 
Comment below.

Originally posted by Alix at AAE.

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