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Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2011

Charter schools are public schools. Historically, however, the relationship between school districts and charters has been nonexistent at best, antagonistic at worst. The 6th annual edition of Hopes, Fears, & Reality provides a clear roadmap for school districts and charter schools interested in working together to improve education options.

The report is timely. More than 20 urban districts have adopted what is known as a “portfolio” strategy, where district-run and independent charter schools are treated equally and held to the same performance standards. In 16 cities to date, leaders have signed public compacts committing to put aside differences and work together for student success. These cities are creating common student enrollment systems, sharing facilities, equalizing funding, encouraging teachers and principals to share instructional strategies, and sharing responsibility for students with special needs.

This report explains the risks and technical challenges behind charter-district collaboration and provides powerful examples of how they can be overcome. It includes chapters that explore how to help parents navigate district-wide choice systems, how to create city-wide enrollment systems that take charter schools into account, and how district and charter schools can together provide better options for students with special needs. It also tells the stories of how the school district and charters came to share financial resources and facilities in Denver, and how one organization has begun to train and incubate school leaders to build a strong leadership supply in the Southeast region of the U.S. The report also provides new facts about the nation’s more than 5,000 charter schools and their students.

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