How the charter movement is delivering results for students

Learn more about how the charter school movement is delivering results for students and the efforts that promise more opportunities for innovative schooling in every state.







A Majority of U.S. 12th Graders Lack Proficiency


Commentary on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Results
Jeanne Allen, Founder & CEO, The Center for Education Reform

(WASHINGTON D.C. 4.27.16) Today’s report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is an urgent reminder of the crisis in U.S. education, with just 37 percent of all 12th graders making the grade in reading and 25 percent in math, and achievement gaps growing among minority kids. Only seven percent of African-American students scored proficient or better in math, and 17 percent scored proficient or better in reading. For Hispanic 12th graders, 12 percent scored proficient or above in math, and 25 percent scored proficient or above in reading. The number of 12th grade students failing to demonstrate even basic levels of math and reading achievement increased from the last time the test was administered in 2013.

NAEP data combined with information on college readiness presents a clear picture on the need to improve and expand access to innovative learning opportunities:

  • White and Asian students score as many as 40 percentage points higher than Black, Hispanic and other minority students.
  • Clearly graduation rates have little relevance to achievement. Despite the U.S. graduation rate at an all-time high of 81 percent, 12th grade 2015 math and reading results reveal less than half of graduating seniors are prepared for college coursework. While 42 percent of 12th graders report being accepted to four-year colleges at the time of the NAEP assessment, research reveals 20 percent of first time students at four-year colleges require remedial coursework.
  • At the community college level, approximately 60 percent of students enroll in at least one remedial course.
  • While the dropout rate has slowed, this data doesn’t even account for those who don’t make it to 12th grade. Eighty percent of the U.S. prison population is high school drop outs. We must think creatively about how to create unique learning opportunities for students we have yet to reach.


Highly credible research studies examining student achievement gains over time provide deeper insight on actual learning gains and show that students in opportunity-based learning environments are making progress at rates much faster than traditional school students. They are also making progress in narrowing achievement gaps among minority students:

  • Using real data, over time, and accounting for numerous variations in school composition, size, longevity, and more, researchers from Vanderbilt & Georgia State find that charter high school graduates are more likely to stay in college and earn more in their adult life.
  • In Washington D.C., 90 percent of students participating in the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), serving an approximately 97 percent minority population with an average household income of less then $22,00, graduate. That’s 32 percentage points higher than D.C. public schools’ graduation rate of 58 percent. Additionally, 88 percent of D.C. voucher students who graduate go on to college.
  • In Massachusetts, charter schools do a better job of closing the achievement gap for minority and low-income students. In Boston, charter schools have twice as many African-American students with advanced scores compared to traditional public schools.
  • In California, novel thinking about providing access to arts education for low-income students resulted in boosted scores by more than double compared to other turnaround efforts.

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Amid these grim statistics, we can find hope in the fact that more and more entrepreneurs and policymakers are doing extraordinary things and breaking the mold to foster innovative learning opportunities that lead to better outcomes and results for our nation’s children. Twenty-five years ago, policymakers on both sides of the aisle in Minnesota came together to craft a novel policy, a charter school law, to allow for a new type of public school to solve the persistent problem of underachieving schools and a growing dropout problem. Today, there are more than 6,800 charter schools educating more than three million students. These schools were the first among public schools to show that innovations in teaching and learning can lead to student achievement, with results that outpace most comparable conventional schools and accomplishing this feat despite adverse funding conditions. As lawmakers enact more laws that provide children access to greater opportunities to achieve upward mobility, there is also unprecedented application of technological, teaching and system innovations being tested and applied.

This is the era in which schools find themselves, and yet the Nation’s Report Card demonstrates that the majority of schools have still not caught up with the pace of advancement sweeping other flexible schooling structures. Most students are still sitting in rows and amidst systems created when education was simpler, flatter and less homogeneous, and well before the age of labor contracts and large bureaucracies dictated the bulk of actions a school must undertake daily. To apply what works demands not only a reset on this outdated system, but meaningful measures that test and evaluate that which is working. NAEP provides only an aggregated snapshot of academic achievement across samples of students across states, and does not capture individual student progress or outcomes.

We do not have another 25 years to wait for the flexibility to apply the pathbreaking research and innovations that exist today to the schools of tomorrow. NAEP’s ongoing assessment of students does not change dramatically for better or worse year after year. While it is unwise to use NAEP scores to make speculations surrounding specific policies due to the nature of the data, we know that unleashing the power of innovation and opportunity can drive success for even the most disadvantaged students. Policymakers must free the schools. Schools must update their infrastructure to make learning more personalized in an increasingly technological and global world. And they must do so in a way that does not shut out access for those traditionally underserved by our education system. Resetting the landscape for structural change in education requires providing maximum opportunities for kids, teachers and families, and allowing flexibility for innovations to be tested and applied.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called “the Nation’s Report Card,” is designed to show students’ results over time, and has been in place since 1971. Whereas most standardized tests compare students to one another, NAEP compares them to where they should be as determined by standards adopted with widespread consultation across the education sector. Thus, it tends to be a more realistic appraisal of student performance. Over the years, this “nation’s report card” has become the barometer for assessing if U.S. students are meeting expected levels of performance.

Special Edition Newswire


Vol. 18, No. 16
April 26, 2016


PUTTING THE “I” IN EDREFORM. Resetting the landscape for structural change in education requires providing for maximum opportunities for kids, teachers and families – and the flexibility for innovations to be tested and applied. CER is leading the charge by bringing innovation into its core mission, connecting policymakers with entrepreneurs doing extraordinary things. This week we produced a series of panels at the ultimate in innovators’ events – the ASU-GSV Summit. Check out:


LEADERSHIP. The importance of great leaders in producing and advancing innovation and education was a key theme of the three-day event. Jim Collins, legendary author and business guru, challenged us to stay persistent in our daily 20-mile marches despite less-than-favorable conditions by focusing on what we can control. In the field of education opportunity, that means staying glued to the goal. Bill Gates challenged attendees to think about how we can accelerate the pace of innovation in order to have a bigger impact on students. Michael Moe, Co-Founder of Global Silicon Valley Partners and CER Board Member, stressed that the US is a great place for visionary innovators to work hard and make great things happen, and “it’s our job to ensure every person has an

equal opportunity to participate in the future.” General Stanley McChrystal, best known for his command of Joint Special Operations Command in the mid-2000s, encouraged us to “lead like gardeners,” because gardeners enable and encourage great things to grow.

ARTS IN EDUCATION. “Why is it so hard?” Malissa Shriver, Executive Director of Turnaround Arts California, asked world-renowned architect Frank Gehry about arts education, which has proven to have a profound impact on the very students who are least exposed to it: low-income children. “You are trying to change things that don’t want to change,” said Gehry. “It’s not a money problem, it’s an engagement problem,” said Malissa Shriver, Executive Director of Turnaround Arts California, noting arts turnaround schools outperformed School Improvement Grant schools by more than double, and with a fraction of the money.

PRIVATE INVESTMENT SERVES PUBLIC GOOD. When entrepreneurs are part of the effort to deliver products and services that impact learning, everyone wins. The almost 4,000 people with diverse backgrounds, interests, history and demographics gathered believe in the power of the private sector to help education solve its most pernicious problems. Unprecedented investment in technology and research to measure outcomes make for a flourishing landscape of opportunities for generations to come.

TELL THE NEXT PRESIDENT WHAT YOU THINK OF INNOVATION. While we were at the ASU-GSV Summit, we got leading innovators’ thoughts on what the next President should do to improve the conditions to let education opportunity and outcomes flourish. (And gave them a chance to swap out presidential candidates’ faces with their preferred pick!) Creepy? Maybe.  Regardless, it did the job in drawing attention to this important issue. Coming soon, a chance to lend your voice! Stay tuned!

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Anti-Charter Assaults Fail in Louisiana

Lawmakers Reject Bills That Would Have Disastrous Impact On Education Opportunity

WASHINGTON DC- Louisiana lawmakers have rejected a half-dozen bills by opponents of charter schools in the past two weeks to restrict their autonomy and growth, thanks to the work of community leaders, parents and charter school advocates.

“It was very gratifying to see our state legislators recognize the need for educational options for the children in Louisiana,” said Gene Thibodeaux, chairman of the Lake Charles Charter Academy Foundation, Inc and the Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy Foundation, Inc. “I am very proud to know that our state will not let down the tens of thousands of students who desperately need choices where traditional public schools have failed them. A child’s future should not be governed by his or her zip code. A high quality education is the right for all students, not just those with financial benefits, but every student.”

Bills designed to limit further charter schools from opening or even getting approved by third party, objective authorizers were backed by the state’s governor. Governor Edwards is the first since Katrina to oppose the creation of new public charter schools that have already transformed the state’s education system and have been a model for others. Charter leaders in the state have been surprised and saddened at the increasing opposition of policymakers to the school improvement efforts charter schools have achieved.

There are currently more than 100 charter schools in Louisiana serving approximately 75,000 students, 82.5 percent of which are economically disadvantaged.

Several bills that would’ve had disastrous impacts on educational opportunity in Louisiana flopped in committees last week. As one example, Senate Bill 170 would have banned the approval of charter schools in districts rated A or B, despite the fact that even in Louisiana’s A and B districts, there are 124 schools rated D and F. Other bills that did not make it out of committee include HB 167, which would have disallowed BESE’s authorization of new charters any year when the state lowered its spending on education. HB 879 would have prohibited all charter schools from contracting with for-profit charter management organizations.

“Amazing things can happen for kids when adults reject the status quo and come together to support them,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO of The Center for Education Reform. “The solidarity shown by so many to improve opportunities for children in the Bayou State over the years since Katrina is a true example of how an educational reform community must work together to affect positive momentum in the future.”

“The battle is not over, however,” said Allen. While House Bill (HB) 98, which would have killed independent charter oversight, was rejected last week, a similar bill, Senate Bill 260, passed 5-2 and awaits action in the Senate.

For more information, contact the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.

Statement from CER Founder & CEO on Vergara Ruling

Jeanne Allen: Decision Hurts the Education of Children

WASHINGTON, DC- Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO of The Center for Education Reform, issued the following statement on the Vergara v. State of California lawsuit ruling yesterday:

Yesterday, California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal announced that teacher tenure protections are safe for now.

This decision is not only wrong-headed and inconsistent with the very foundation of education in this country, but it’s a blow to families and students who are already being misserved by California schools. By ruling against the ability of schools and school systems to staff their organizations with those they believe best fit the needs of their students, they have in effect ruled against the education of children.

It is shocking to think that in 2016 in a global world where freedom is prized and fought for, that our government can defend a process which artificially sets parameters on who and when someone can teach based on how many years they’ve been a classroom, not on whether they are successful with their work.

We who support and value teachers trust that despite this setback, as well as the sad turn of events in the Friedrichs decision following Justice Scalia’s passing, that reason and education will prevail, despite the tyranny of the California court of appeals.

Putting the EdTech in EdReform at ASU+GSV 2016!



Fellow Innovators! Look for the CER booth on the floor and our room on the 4th floor Regatta C as the official hub for Education Innovation for the length of your stay at the 2016 ASU+GSV Summit!


Get your (CER-recommended) dose of ed-talk o2016asugsvsummit_badge_presenting_900x755n the present and future of ed-tech and innovation via action-packed panels we’ll be holding every day!


Passing The Captcha Test: Humanizing Private Ventures For Public Good
Monday, April 18,  3-4pm

For-profit companies in education have a bad rep, but is it deserved? This panel will discuss the nature of entrepreneurship and for-profit companies in education and evaluate their impact on education innovation. How can those companies be a positive source for change?

· George Saad, VP of US Operations, SABIS
· Jonathan Hage, President & CEO, Charter Schools USA
· Mary Gifford, Sr. VP, Education Policy & External Relations, K12
· Chip Hurlburt, President & CEO, National Heritage Academies

The Innovation Games – How To Incentivize Innovation In Learning
Monday, April 18,  4-5pm

The thrill of the challenge drives us all. Innovators in education are no different. We will explore how competitions in education can spark interest and lead to innovative learning. And we will evaluate the full impact of these competitions. Do they deliver?

· Liza McFadden, CEO, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
· Stuart Udell, CEO, K12
· Jose Afonso, Director, US Business Development, SABIS
· Jonathan Harber, CEO, Harber Advisors

Ground Control To Major Tom – Ed Innovation & Millennials
Tuesday, April 19,  10-11am

We’ve all heard that millennials hold the key to the future. Now if only we knew how to speak emoji. This panel will be a discussion on the role of millennials in securing the future of digital learning. Where is it going? What is its potential?

· Meg Palisoc, CEO, Synergy Academies
· Mark Greenberg, Chief Innovation Officer, Center for Education Reform
· Anthony Pienta, Director, K-12 Ed Programs, Philanthropy Roundtable
· Alison Pendergast, Chief Marketing Officer, Acrobatiq

Putting The ‘I’ In Ed Reform – A Reset Toward Innovation
Tuesday, April 19,  2-3pm

As we look back on the past 25 years of education reform, how far have we strayed from our goals? Have we kept our focus? Leaders of education innovation and reform will discuss the progress we have made and where we are going.

· Jonathan Hage, President & CEO, Charter Schools USA
· Susan Wolford, Sector Head & Managing Director, BMO Capital Markets
· Jeanne Allen, Founder & CEO, Center for Education Reform
· Edward Fields, CEO & Chairman, HotChalk
· Jim Goenner, President & CEO, National Charter Schools Institute

Election ’16 – Does Education Innovation Stand A Chance?
Wednesday, April 20,  10-11am

Experts in the policy and political arena debate the potential for innovation post November, and what we can do about it now.

· Tom VanderArk, CEO, Getting Smart
· Jeanne Allen, Founder & CEO, Center for Education Reform
· Bill Hansen, President & CEO, USA Funds
· Christina Culver, President, EdNexus Advisors
· Richard Culatta, Chief Innovation Officer, State of Rhode Island




Make sure you cast a ballot in the presidential straw poll and take the opportunity to tell it to the candidates straight. We’re conducting open-call video interviews all day to get the best and brightest thoughts (yours!) on how ed tech and innovation should look under the next administration.


School choice in elementary, secondary schools isn’t radical

John Hood
Salisbury Post
April 13, 2016

When I first advocated the idea of parental choice in elementary and secondary education, it was considered by many to be a radical notion.

It shouldn’t have been. For decades, American students and their families have been free to choose among public and private colleges. For decades, families have been able to spend government subsidies for child care and preschool at providers of their choice. Similarly, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 didn’t compel retirees, the disabled, and poor Americans to get their health care only from government employees or hospitals. Patients remained free to choose.

What was truly odd, actually, was that so many policymakers in North Carolina and other states thought K-12 education ought to be entirely different, that it ought to consist overwhelming of district-run public schools delivering services to students assigned to them by central authorities.

Fortunately, this odd idea is rapidly disappearing from the public discourse. Nearly all states now have policies that encourage choice and competition in K-12 education. Some of these choice programs consist entirely of public school options, be they magnet schools, charter schools, or some kind of open-enrollment program that allows parents to rank nearby public schools in order of preference.

Increasingly, however, state legislatures are also enacting choice programs that encompass private alternatives. In fact, most states now have at least one of these: school vouchers, tuition tax credits or deductions, educational savings accounts, and tax credits that fund privately administered voucher programs. We’re not just talking about deep-red states here. Minnesota, Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and most recently Maryland are among those that have enacted private-school choice.

Here in North Carolina, a Democratic governor, Jim Hunt, and a split-control General Assembly authorized the creation of charter schools 20 years ago. Within the past three years, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and a GOP-led legislature (with some Democratic votes) have dramatically expanded the state’s choice offerings by removing artificial caps on charter-school expansion and creating two new voucher programs providing private-school scholarships for disabled and low-income students.

Roughly speaking, about a quarter of North Carolina’s K-12 students attend a school of choice. That includes private schools, home schools, charter schools, and open-enrollment public schools. As new charter schools come online and the state’s scholarship programs enroll growing numbers of disabled and low-income students, the share accounted for by schools of choice will continue to expand.

Does that mean district-run public schools are going to disappear? Hardly. They will educate the majority of North Carolina students for the foreseeable future. Choice and competition are indispensable tools for improving education in our state, but they aren’t the only tools required to do the job. State policymakers need to build on their past K-12 initiatives by setting high academic standards, administering valid and independent assessments, giving local districts more budgetary and managerial flexibility, training teachers and principals more effectively, and reforming teacher compensation so that we attract and retain excellent talent.

School choice has been a contentious issue for a long time. I’ve heard just about every argument one could make against the idea, and I’ve employed just about every argument one could make in favor of it. Over time, I would submit, the “ayes” have prevailed. The chances are now extremely remote that some future governor or legislature will shut down North Carolina’s charter schools or defund its scholarship programs and march all their students back into an assigned-school monopoly model for delivering education. It would be wrong. And it would be highly unpopular.

The notion of parents choosing the schools that best meet the needs of their children, from among a wide range of options, is no longer a radical one. Of course, it was always the privilege of wealthy families who could afford either to pay private-school tuition or to relocate to a desirable school-assignment zone. Now the mainstream view is that all deserve a choice.

John Hood is chairman of the John Locke Foundation and an author.

Newswire: April 12, 2016


PUTTING THE EDTECH IN EDREFORM, the team of the nation’s premier education opportunity organization, CER, will be joining ASU+GSV Summit attendees April 18-20. The standout conference with its unique focus on technology, innovation, and education will be ground zero for major advances in the effort to improve economic outcomes for all Americans, particularly our youth. We’ll be taking a straw poll on innovation for the Presidential election, conducting presentations, and reporting to our followers via email and social media updates, as well as live-streaming all of our sessions! Look for an update from us early next week!

dont-break-lawL.A. CHARTER BUCKS. The Los Angeles Unified School District must pay Ivy Academia Entrepreneurial Charter School $7.1 million dollars for breaking the law. California’s B-rated charter school law says districts must provide equivalent facilities to charter schools, however districts aren’t fond of following the requirement, making it unfairly tougher for charter schools to do their job. In the case of Ivy, the arbitrator noted that “the district’s failure to comply with the law harmed children attending the charter during those years because it forced the school to use some money intended for educational programs to lease a building.”

MILE HIGH ACHIEVEMENT. In Denver, CO, school choice is lifting student achievement. In a ten-year time frame, students scoring at or above grade level in reading, math, and writing increased 15 percentage points. During that span of time, Denver added about 38 more charter schools, bringing the total to 39 percent of Mile High City students enrolled in either a charter school or an innovation school, which is a district-run school granted slightly more autonomy than a traditional public school. When districts employ a portfolio strategy, giving parents multiple excellent education options, it creates a ripple effect, putting pressure on other schools to do more and do it better.

MDcharterInfographicMARYLAND CHARTERS. Evidence that Maryland’s F-rated charter school law needs fixing abounds. Frederick Charter Classical Academy has been in a legal battle  trying to obtain transportation funding it feels it’s owed, since Maryland law requires charter students be funded in a “commensurate” manner and at the same level as traditional public schools. Meanwhile, there are arguments in Frederick to make teacher salaries more competitive. But what’s missing from this conversation is the realization that if Maryland’s charter law were improved to allow schools to take hold of their own operations and staffing, charter schools could be part of the solution and allow teachers more access to funds, not less.

PHANTOM CAP LIFT. Last week, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation masquerading as a solution to lifting the cap on public charter schools in Massachusetts. The reality is this legislation actually boils down to a moratorium on new charters and gives districts greater ability to veto their creation. As this bill masquerading as pro-charter school heads to the House for debate, it’s time to put the pressure on policymakers to put kids first. Learn more about the #LiftTheCap effort, an advocacy effort that is a national model, here.

ED TECH INNOVATION OF THE WEEK. Learn online the smarter way with Smartly, an interactive web and mobile app for the everyday learner from Pedago offering free online business courses and then helping you match with top employers worldwide. And, it’s completely free. Check it out here.

(Have an ed tech innovation that advances student, educator or parent power? Send it to

Massachusetts’ Charter School Law Must Improve!

“It’s not an experiment anymore. It’s not a demonstration. It’s not a what-if. After 20 years, we have overwhelming evidence . . . of kids, parents, families who have found what they were looking for in the charter school movement here in the Commonwealth of Mass.” -Gov. Charlie Baker

Despite some of the best charter school networks coming from Massachusetts, the Bay State’s C-rated charter school law must be improved to allow current schools to grow and new schools to open.

Boston, and other traditionally low-performing districts, have reached the charter school cap, meaning that no new schools will be able to open in places that need choice the most until the law is amended. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates there are 34,000 students on charter school wait lists.2015-11-18-Charter-Rally-01-1-780x439


Take Action

  1. 1. Add your name to stand with families who want fair access to public charter schools.
  2. 2. Fill out this form to volunteer in the fight to lift the cap on charter schools.
  3. 3. Were you or someone you know stuck on a wait list? Tell Great Schools MA your story here.


Facts, Resources, and Updates

Facts on Massachusetts Charter Schools

For a wealth of data and information on Massachusetts charter schools, visit

Massachusetts ranks 30th in the nation on CER’s Parent Power Index. Improving the charter school law is a critical component in improving the fundamental power parents have over their children’s education.

For more information on Massachusetts’ C-rated charter school law, click here.

Latest News & Updates:

Statement on Passage by the Massachusetts State Senate of Damaging Charter School Bill, 4.8.2016
Effort to Expand Educational Opportunity in Massachusetts is National Model, 4.8.2016
Charter School Supporters Bulk As Senate Passes Education Bill 22-13, 4.7.2016
Council President Chris Anderson’s Statement on Senate Charter School Legislation, 4.7.2016
Senate Approves Phantom Charter Cap Lift, 4.7.2016
List of Senate Amendments SB 2203, 4.7.2016
Those concerned about race and equity should champion charter schools, Boston Globe Letter to the Editor, 4.6.2016
More Than 80 Latino Leaders – Joined by Governor Charlie Baker -­‐ Call on State Legislature to Lift the Cap, 3.8.16
Public Information Campaign Launches To Set Record Straight About Public Charter Schools In Massachusetts, 2.12.16
A Leader’s Choice, 1.26.16

For more information on charter schools nationwide, see facts about charter schools and charter school achievement. More research on charter schools can be found here.


Education Next: School choice, charters propel student achievement in Denver

To better meet the needs of unique students, Denver Public Schools is expanding choice and offering school leaders increased autonomy. In a new article for Education Next, David Osborne, director of the project on Reinventing America’s Schools at the Progressive Policy Institute, finds that Denver’s strategy has produced impressive gains in student achievement.

In the spring of 2007, less than 39 percent of students graduated on time, but by the spring of 2015, 65 percent graduated on time. Between 2004 and 2014, the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level in reading, writing, and math increased from 33 to 48, far faster than the state average. DPS has more than doubled the number of students taking and passing Advanced Placement courses, and black students now take advanced math classes at the same rate as whites (Hispanic students lag by only 1 percentage point). In Denver 1 in 7 low-income students enrolled in college in 2014, compared to 1 in 20 in the rest of the state.

Osborne attributes increases in student achievement to expanding school choice and charters, as well as an equitable school choice system. Of Denver’s 223 schools, 55 are charter schools, up from 17 in 2005. In addition to charter schools, students can enroll at one of 38 innovation schools, district-operated schools pioneering new school models with more autonomy than traditional district schools. Together, DPS charter and innovation schools educate 39 percent of DPS students.

DPS’s new SchoolChoice enrollment system minimizes favoritism, fosters integration, and increases demand for high quality schools by using the same process to place students in most schools, including charters and district-operated schools. In the first three years using the system, 95 percent of students were placed in one of their top five choices.