Half-Truths Mask Reality of Charter Accountability -- and Hurt Our Kids

Since 2011, the state Department of Education has increased focus on the charter-school authorization, oversight, and renewal processes to ensure a high-quality charter-school sector. Detractors will tout the fact that public charter schools do close when they do not meet performance expectations, while in the same breath, decry that public charter schools are not accountable. The simple fact that public charter schools have been closed -- many of which were opened before 2011 -- proves that there are strict accountability measures in place ensuring student success and fiscal and operational compliance. If the high-stakes performance measures imposed on charter schools were imposed on traditional public schools, the public-school landscape would be very different.

The Office of Charter Schools examines the operations of public charters in accordance with the binding contract that each school signs with the DOE. This contract is aligned to the Charter School Performance Framework, a framework that sets very high and very specific standards for student outcomes, which includes a focus on curriculum, planning, organizational capacity, and financial stability. None of which is exclusive of the additional requirements made in each individual charter agreement according to the school’s mission and educational philosophy. Charter schools are also subject to a DOE review process that supersedes any accountability measure for traditional public schools in both scope and breadth.

Public charter schools operate with the knowledge that their charters will be revoked and the school will be shut down if they lack annual fiscal compliance or fail the thorough renewal processes (four years initially and every five years thereafter) and ongoing monitoring each year. Charter schools understand that if their performance does not meet expectations, parents will pull their kids and the DOE will shut them down. This not only produces a high-quality sector, it ensures that the public dollars allocated to public charter schools are working for parents and taxpayers -- with academic success, high school graduation rates, and university acceptance as the ultimate return on investment for students, their families, and their larger communities.

New Jersey public charter schools are highly accountable and far more exposed to real consequences for any failures. The opportunity for expansion of high-quality seats in some of our state’s highest-need districts is critical to ensure a promising future for every child.

Instead of attacking the success of public-school students attending charters, and making claims that truly do not address the complex realities of funding, accountability, and student outcomes, we must come together and focus on what’s at stake for all children: their education. For anyone questioning the success, authenticity, or mission and merits of our state’s 87 public charter schools, we invite you to visit several of our schools: meet the staff, engage the students, learn more about the extensive review and oversight systems, and understand what’s at stake. Only then can you make an informed decision.

 

Nicole Cole is president and CEO of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association.

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