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Volume 30, Number 6
November/December 2014

Charters and Districts (Begin to) Collaborate

Common challenges drive joint efforts at a local level


District and charter school teachers train together to become principals in Connecticut.

The teachers gathered on a Thursday afternoon at the offices of Achievement First, a charter network based in New Haven, Conn., to take part in a seminar titled “Meeting Facilitation.” Clustered in groups, and balancing sandwiches and cupcakes on their laps (it was someone’s birthday), they discussed how to run a staff meeting when not all participants agree on an issue.

All 10 teachers in the seminar are aspiring principals, but only two work for the charter network. The rest are teachers from district schools enrolled in the one-year Residency Program for School Leadership, a collaboration among Achievement First and three public school districts in Connecticut.

The idea that charter schools and district schools can team up might seem far-fetched. Historically, after all, not only have districts and charters not worked together, but they have also failed to talk nicely about, to, or with one another. In New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Illinois, Massachusetts, and elsewhere, harsh language, protests, and lawsuits have characterized the divide. Original visions of charter “laboratories” hatching and sharing innovations have often been usurped by tensions over money, facilities, which students they serve, enrollment caps, work rules, and educational approaches.

But faced with similar challenges—Common Core implementation, teacher development, leadership training, and new plans for universal enrollment (which offers parents both district and charter school options at registration)—in some cities the two sectors are now exploring the benefits of joining forces.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

S. Yatsko, E. C. Nelson, and R. Lake. District-Charter Collaboration Compacts: Interim Report. Seattle: Center for Reinventing Public Education, 2013.