Report from 1st Independent Charter School Symposium


TLC attended the nation’s first conference exclusively for independently run (i.e. not managed by a Charter Management Organization or Education Management Organization) charter schools – the 2017 Independent Charter School Symposium. It was also a pleasure to moderate the “Charter Authorization: Road to Greatness or Mediocrity?” on the role of authorizers in the charter school sector and whether authorizers are stifling innovation.

Here are some lessons learned, and ideas generated by, the thoughtful conversations and attendees:

  • When considering multiple measures of success, authorizers should first consider a school’s unique mission and vision and the school’s efficacy in meeting its mission and vision.
  • Authorizer trustees should be more familiar with the schools they oversee rather than relying exclusively on their staff/liaisons to understand those schools … especially if closure is a possibility.
  • When an authorizer publishes a school report, the school should publish its own corollary letter or report to tell its side of the story.
  • Charter schools spend much more time, resources and funds on below-grade-level students than on high achieving students.
  • Elementary school students’ reading levels, after an early childhood spent on digital devices rather than in the pages of books, could be severely maleffected. If it weren’t for a move toward universal pre-K early elementary grades would have severely suffered.
  • There’s a school model in Denver and L.A., Girls Athletic Leadership School, that bases many of its core academic classes in body movement and athletics. As far as we know these are the only schools of this kind – a truly innovative model!
  • Despite recent national trends to the contrary democracy does indeed exist … Day 2 of the Symposium included a New England style Townhall in which the attendees caucussed and reached consensus to launch a national group/organization to advocate for the needs of independent charter schools.  This is in direct response to other national advocacy organizations which Symposium attendees contend cater almost exclusively to the needs of large Charter Management Organizations. Here’s the agreed upon resolution: