Wake Ed

Wake Education Partnership analyzes the role of charter schools in Wake County

Wake County isn’t seeing the full benefit of charter schools or the Wake County Public School System, according to a special report from the Wake Education Partnership.

The Wake Education Partnership looked at the history of charter schools in a special edition of its In Context e-newsletter that was released Thursday. The report notes how when charters were approved in 1996 they were supposed to serve as sources of innovation that could be applied to all public schools.

The goal was to see if the charter schools, freed of certain rules and policies, could produce academic gains among its students. If so, then those same burdensome rules could then be removed from traditional classrooms so all public schools could have more freedom.

“It didn’t really work out that way for a number of reasons,” the report notes. “The political debate, for starters, has overshadowed much of the academic discussion. Charters also must pay for their own buildings and transportation, which often leaves them short of the money they would need to be truly innovative. And traditional schools are still saddled with as many rules and policies as ever, leaving them little time or inclination to learn from their colleagues in charter schools.

The result is a number of good individual charter schools in Wake, but no practical way to replicate them – and no real incentives to get the two groups working together.”

Despite the lack of collaboration, the WEP says that “quality charters will likely be a permanent part of that public education landscape.” But the “huge majority” of students will continue to be in the traditional public schools.

The report says a statewide structure that encourages collaboration is needed so both sets of schools can reach the goals created for them in 1996.

“The tendency to present charters as a competitive alternative to traditional schools – rather than of a complementary piece of public education – has frustrated the potential of the movement,” the report notes. “And that leaves charter schools at a crossroads in Wake. They are firmly rooted with an undetermined future. Unless both types of public schools can learn from one another, Wake County as a whole isn’t likely to see the full benefit of either.”