Given the US challenge of achieving quality at scale—the combination of equity and excellence—the most important innovation of the last decade is charter networks.  Their success is undeniable.  Their lessons are clear.  Key elements include:

  • clear goals and a strong college-bound no-excuses culture;
  • data-driven instruction and performance-based employment;
  • extended learning time and personalized environments;
  • efficient support services and knowledge management; and
  • effective leadership—school, community, network

Perhaps most important, charters give us a picture of a sound governance alternative to school districts based on accountability and autonomy.    Dozens of charter management organizations have taken advantage of the opportunity to design systems of school from scratch creating strong examples of high performance organizations.  Schools shouldn’t get tenure; if they are not serving their community effectively they should be closed.  All schools should operate under a performance contract.

(National Journal response to “do charters deserve all the attention they are getting from the Obama administration”)

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.

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