Op-ed: Will district schools embrace charter-like reforms?

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This op-ed appeared in CommonWealth magazine.

LONG BEFORE MORE than $40 million was spent last year making the cases for and against charter public school expansion, I was skeptical about using a statewide ballot initiative to decide the question. I believe ballot initiatives are best reserved for instances where the Legislature is flouting public opinion, and that wasn’t so with Massachusetts charters, which were created and then increased several times via legislation. But now that the voters have spoken, the Commonwealth must pursue ways to incorporate the reforms into traditional public schools that have made Massachusetts charters so successful.

The rejection of more charter schools at the ballot box means it could be a decade before we see the kind of growth Massachusetts charter supporters have sought. In the aftermath of Question 2 it is to be hoped that traditional public schools will perceive charters as less threatening rivals and perhaps be more willing to entertain applications of some of the techniques charters have effectively deployed.

After all, charters don’t operate in secret; we know what makes them thrive – school autonomy and accountability. With charter school expansion slowed over the next few years it is incumbent upon traditional public school leaders to consider embracing charter-style reforms. There is precedent for this, albeit limited. Read more…