Date: 
Tuesday, July 2, 2013

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cites CRPE report on district-charter collaboration

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cited CRPE's report on district-charter collaboration in his remarks to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools 2013 "Delivering On the Dream" conference.
Here's an excerpt from his speech, The Charter Mindset Shift: From Conflict to Co-Conspirators:


Thankfully, the charter sector now has incredible opportunities to innovate and take educational solutions to scale over the next 20 years. As President Obama has said, charter schools can be "incubators of innovation."

I'll talk in a moment about three areas where I believe charter schools can and should lead innovation in the next two decades. But before I discuss that, I have a confession to make.

Honestly, I am getting tired of good news-bad news stories in education. And I am getting impatient with talking about "islands of educational excellence."

In the world of education reform, success is all too often an orphan, while failure has many fathers.

I want to flip that presumption.

I want to stop treating success as though it was a one-off, attributable to heroic teachers or charismatic principals. I want to ask instead: Why can't success be the norm?

In the future, I believe the answer to that question will depend in part on expanding meaningful partnerships between charters and traditional public schools.

The hopes of early charter advocates that successful charter schools would quickly create a tipping point in public education have clearly not materialized. As the Harvard economist Roland Fryer has pointed out, even with today's rapid rate of charter growth, "it will take more than a hundred years for high-performing charter schools to educate every student in the country."

Of course, it's not our goal for every student to be in a charter school. But Roland's point is that the benefits of high-performing charters cannot reach the majority of students who most need them unless effective innovations from charters are widely deployed both in traditional public schools and throughout the charter sector.

To make success the norm, I believe the charter sector will undergo a slow but profound shift of mindset. Charters will still be incubators of innovation. But they will no longer just be outsiders knocking at the door of the traditional school system.

To deliver on the dream, charters will become less like combatants in the battles over education and more like co-conspirators for change with traditional public schools. A new report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education discusses the real challenges to collaboration but also the progress that some cities are making in working together.

The ideological battles over charter schools certainly aren't going to end overnight. Advocates and activists will likely continue to care about whether a high-performing school is identified as a charter school or a traditional neighborhood school.

But children do not care—and neither do I. There is nothing inherently good or bad about a charter or any other school. The only thing that matters to me is if a school is a great school. The sign on the front door of that school doesn't matter to me. It doesn't matter to children. It doesn't matter to most parents.

And it doesn't even matter much to the teachers, and counselors, and support staff that work every day in charter schools.

They absolutely want their students to succeed. But they also want the children down the street at the neighborhood school to succeed. This is not some zero-sum game—the collective goal for all of us in education must be a great school for every child.

This shift toward collaboration is already underway in the charter sector.

Read the full text of Secretary Duncan's remarks.