Charter-plus-district researchers quizzed by Little Rock school panel
Excerpt from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article by Cynthia Howell:
A state-appointed committee on Little Rock area schools quizzed members of a University of Washington-based group Monday about their research on school district/charter school collaborations in other cities and how that work could be done here.
"We have worked with a number of cities across the country and we think there are some similar situations in Little Rock, south of the river, where we might be able to provide some additional insight," Jordan Posamentier, deputy policy director for the Center on Reinventing Public Education, told the Little Rock Area Public Education Stakeholder Group.
The 25-year old Center on Reinventing Public Education, which operates on philanthropic and federal grants, started when its founder, Paul Hill, found that certain magnet and parochial schools in the northeast part of the country were achieving remarkably high outcomes with high-poverty and high-minority student bodies, Posamentier said. Hill found that the schools had flexibility to manage the staff, time, program design and resources. The problem was that there were so few of the schools. Finding ways to create systems that produce additional excellent schools over time became the heart of Hill and his organization's work.
Posamentier said the center works with schools in large metropolitan areas and small suburbs on a variety of issues such as talent or funding, or on creating an array of quality school options. Some of the locations have "compacts" between traditional school districts and charter schools. Austin, Miami-Dade County, New Orleans, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Nashville and Tulsa are among the cities with collaboration compacts. Some of those cities are also "portfolio" cities, a center label that denotes a particular approach to solving problems, Posamentier said.
Sean Gill, research analyst for the Center on Reinventing Public Education, said the most typical areas of collaboration between traditional school districts and charter schools are the use of a common school accountability system, a single school enrollment system and cooperation in providing special education services to students.
Gill said that collaboration can give a school district help in providing high quality schools in all neighborhoods and exposure to charter expertise. Charter schools benefit by improved access to facilities and a reduction of political tension, as well as exposure to school district expertise. Communities benefit from more high quality school options, better services for special-need students and streamlined information about schools.