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As charter schools enter their third decade, research in this key sector remains overwhelmingly contradictory and confused. Many studies are narrowly focused; some do not meet the standards for high-quality academic research. In this definitive work, Wohlstetter and her colleagues isolate and distill the high-quality research on charter schools to identify the contextual and operational factors that influence these schools’ performances.
The authors examine the track record of the charter sector in light of the wide range of goals set for these schools in state authorizing legislation—at the classroom level, the level of the school community, and system-wide. In particular, they show how the evolution of the charter movement has shaped research questions and findings.
By highlighting what we know about the conditions for success in charter schools, the authors make a significant contribution to current debates in policy and practice, both within the charter sector and in the larger landscape of public education.
Choices and Challenges serves a broad audience—scholars, practitioners, and the general public—that follows education issues. It offers valuable guidance for policy makers concerning charter issues, but does not presume to recommend what decisions should be made. I know I will find it an invaluable resource in my role as a state official. — From the foreword by Michael W. Kirst, president, California State Board of Education, and professor emeritus, education and business administration, Stanford University
A thoughtful and concise overview of the critical issues facing the charter sector. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in research on charters, while raising the right set of questions for taking the research to the next level. — Nina Rees, president and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Unlike the partial and partisan literature that dominates this field, Wohlstetter and her colleagues take a dispassionate look at what we do and don’t know about the nature and performance of charter schools. They point to the complexity and diversity of charter schools and stress the need to take this into account when evaluating the sector’s successes and failures. We urgently need similarly nonpartisan reviews of the research evidence on other recent reforms in the U.S. and other countries. — Geoff Whitty, professor, director emeritus, Institute of Education, University of London