School of Education News

UW-Madison’s Mead co-authors report on advancing equity in charter schools

March 14, 2019

UW-Madison’s Julie Mead recently co-authored a report with the University of Connecticut's Preston Green titled, “Advancing Intentional Equity in Charter Schools.”

Mead is the School of Education’s association dean for education and is a professor with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis

Charter schools, first implemented in the 1990s, have grown to account for 6 percent of the total number of students enrolled in public schools across the country. 

Although states do not always specifically declare that charter schools are public, federal law considers them a specialized form of public school, and therefore must ensure that they serve all segments of the public that funds them. The authors argue that because of this charter schools should only have a place in education if they further equal educational opportunity. 

While state legislatures may relieve charter schools from compliance with state rules that bind other public schools, they can’t exempt charter schools from federal law. 

Mead and Green argue that charter schools that are able to break the demographic imbalance do not happen by chance: “Simply put, equity requires intention.” They suggest that equity should be designed into the charter school proposal process, the charter school contract, annual oversight of charter school performance, and the periodic consideration of charter renewal. 

They conclude the report by writing: "Charter schools can and should play a role in realizing our longstanding national commitment to equal educational opportunity. Doing so will require dedication and attention from policymakers at all levels and throughout each stage of the charter school authorization cycle and with a particular focus on planning, oversight, and complaint procedures as a comprehensive strategy to achieve intentional equity."

Read the whole report — which was part of The Century Foundation’s project on charter school diversity, and funded by The Walton Family Foundation — here.

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