Charter Schools at the Crossroads

Charter Schools at the Crossroads Predicaments, Paradoxes, Possibilities

Chester E. Finn, Jr., Bruno V. Manno, and Brandon L. Wright
paper, 280 Pages
Pub. Date: October 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-977-8
Price: $34.00

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Charter Schools at the Crossroads offers a frank and nuanced analysis of the successes and shortcomings of the charter movement, and outlines possible directions for the future. Few observers present at the creation of the first charter schools a quarter-century ago could have predicted how rapidly this movement would spread or how thoroughly it would come to dominate the education reform agenda. And few recent debates in education have been as highly charged as those over charter schools’ roles, responsibilities, and results.


Finn, Manno, and Wright balance objectivity and a critical eye with the context and nuance only insiders can bring. The result is a terrific analysis of one of the most dynamic school reforms in American history and important ideas on where chartering may go next. — Andrew Rotherham, cofounder and partner, Bellwether Education Partners

Readers will find here perhaps unexpected challenges to the orthodoxy of both proponents and opponents of this institutional innovation, now a second sector of public education. Chartering, the authors write, is here to stay, and needs to be both improved and extended. How far to try to impose order on this dynamic and disorderly sector, they leave you to decide. — Ted Kolderie, cofounder and senior fellow, Education | Evolving

With the charter movement in its adolescence, Finn, Manno, and Wright give us a wise, balanced assessment of its strengths and accomplishments to date, and the challenges it must overcome as it moves into young adulthood. Although clearly charter proponents, the authors are highly credible tour guides as they lead us through the complex tangle of policy, regulatory, governance, and funding issues that charter schools must negotiate. — Robert Schwartz, senior research fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Charter Schools at the Crossroads constitutes a perfect anchor text for a full overview of this major sector of American schooling.  — David Steiner, Education Next

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About the Authors

Chester E. Finn is distinguished senior fellow and president emeritus at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. His previous positions include Professor of Education and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, counsel to the US ambassador to India, legislative director for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Assistant US Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement. He has also been on the research staffs of the Brookings Institution, the Hudson Institute, and the Manhattan Institute and has taught high school social studies in Massachusetts. Author, coauthor, or editor of more than twenty books, he published his most recent book, Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students (coauthored with Brandon L. Wright), in 2015. He has written more than four hundred articles in a wide array of scholarly and popular publications. Finn is a regular contributor to Fordham’s Education Gadfly Weekly, a contributing editor of Education Next, and a contributor to such online outlets as, Politico, and He serves on the boards of the National Council on Teacher Quality, the Core Knowledge Foundation, and the Maryland State Board of Education and has spoken at hundreds of conferences and symposia across the United States and in many other countries. He is the recipient of awards from the Educational Press Association of America, the National Association for Gifted Children, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the Education Writers Association. Finn holds three degrees from Harvard University and an honorary doctorate from Colgate University.

Bruno V. Manno is senior advisor for K–12 Education with the Walton Family Foundation. His previous positions include Senior Program Associate for Education with the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Senior Fellow in the Education Policy Studies Program at the Hudson Institute; Executive Director of the congressionally created National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education; the Director of Planning for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement; and the Assistant Secretary of Education for Policy and Planning in the US Department of Education. He is also the author, coauthor, or editor of seven books and has written more than two hundred articles in such publications as Education Next, National Affairs, Education Week, The Public Interest, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, Journal of School Choice, and Wilson Quarterly. He is a former member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, a past member and chair of the Presidential Scholars Commission, a former chair of the boards of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and Education Sector, and a past board member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute, The Mind Trust, and Grantmakers for Education. He holds two degrees from the University of Dayton (BA and MA) and a PhD from Boston College. Manno undertook postdoctoral studies, which included appointments as Visiting Senior Lecturer at Catholic Teachers College in Sydney, Australia (now the Catholic University of Australia), Visiting Research Associate at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and Visiting Lecturer at the Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership at the University of San Francisco.

Brandon L. Wright is the editorial director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He is the coauthor (with Chester E. Finn, Jr.) of the book Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students. His writing has appeared in places like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Newsweek, Education Next, Education Week, and National Review. He holds a Juris Doctor from American University Washington College of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Table of Contents


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