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The Alabama Voter 
Summer 2010 Edition
Published July 19, 2010

Charter Schools: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by Laura Hill, Director

was the title of the presentation given by Lynne Patrick, Ed.D, Instructional Leadership Program Coordinator/Associate Professor/Clinical Supervisor at Auburn University. Patrick’s professional experience includes serving as director of the Renaissance Advantage Charter School—an urban K-6 school in West Philadelphia.

The first charter law was passed in Minnesota in 1991. Today 40 states and the District of Columbia have implemented charter schools in some form. On average 300 to 400 new charters open each year. Nationwide, three percent of students attend a charter school. The data on these students show:
• 62% of charter students are non-white (vs. 47% in traditional public schools)
• 48% of charter students quality for free and reduced price lunch (vs. 45% in traditional public schools)
• 56% in cities, 25% in suburbs, 6% in towns, and 14% in rural areas

Patrick also addressed some of the myths surrounding charter schools. First, charters are open to all students who want to attend; if more students enroll than there are seats available, schools must conduct lotteries to fill seats. They cannot teach religion, charge tuition, or have admission requirements. And they must meet state standards, take state tests, and participate in state accountability systems.

Researchers have looked at common practices of five highly effective charter schools. These practices included autonomy for teachers, hiring teachers from non-traditional sources, schools deciding what will be taught in the classrooms and how.

As for the ugly side of charter schools, she mentioned instances of mismanagement of funds, missed opportunities to apply for federal grants (facilities funding), and poorly managed faculty/staff resulting in not meeting goals and loss of charter.

Source: Free to Lead: Autonomy in Highly Successful Charter Schools. Issue Brief by Joe Ableidinger and Bryan C. Hassel of Public Interest. Published by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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