Our charters are especially good

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Our charters are different. Massachusetts staked out non-ideological ground in creating the charter school approval and accountability processes. We did not just say to all comers — Oh, you want to start a charter, sure. After all, charters are public schools and they use public dollars. With this thinking in mind, Massachusetts developed a thorough vetting and planning process for applicants. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (once upon the Department of Education) works to ensure that any proposal advanced by the Commissioner to the Board of Education is one worthy of consideration. Only a handful get past in any one year. This year only one was approved (ahem, with some unfortunate strings attached).

We also close down charters that fail to meet the terms of their charters. The unfortunate result of this can be and often is that when the charter is closed, the kids have no option but to go back into a district school which is doing even worse on the achievement front. That said, it is a necessary process. (We would just like the district schools held to the same standard.)

What is the result of the strong approval and accountability process? From the Massachusetts Charter School Association come this message:

Massachusetts charters have taken 6 out of 21 national awards in this year’s Effective Practices Incentive Community (EPIC) competition. Here’s the story from State House News…below the story is the press release from EPIC. Congrats to all!

Congrats, indeed. More:

Massachusetts is home to six of the 21 schools that will be announced Thursday morning as winners of national awards. The schools were among 144 competing for awards from EPIC, the Effective Practice Incentive Community grant program run by New Leaders for New Schools and funded in part by the U.S. Dept of Education. The awards, based upon gains students make from one year to the next, are on the way to MATCH, Boston Prep Charter, now a grade 6-10 school; Boston Collegiate Charter; Community Day Charter of Lawrence; Prospect Hill Academy of Somerville; and Roxbury Prep Charter. MATCH won a gold medal for the second straight year and is the only high school to win a gold. Staff at the schools in 2007-2008 who stayed on this year will receive bonuses.

From the EPIC press release:

New Leaders for New Schools developed the EPIC initiative in order to identify and learn from schools with significant student achievement gains. Schools were selected using a value-added model.