A recent article in U.S. News and World Report highlighted the importance of charter-district collaboration and encouraged the incoming Trump administration to make it a priority. The next day, the Washington Post reported on a new effort funded by the Walton Family Foundation that supports both charter schools and district schools in D.C.
Beginning this month, 10 D.C. Public Schools principals and 10 charter school principals will immerse themselves in a graduate training program that will teach them how to navigate the complexities of running an urban school. The principals will learn how to better develop teacher talent, change school culture and respond to crisis situations.
The program, based at Georgetown University, has been around since 2013 but previously was offered only to D.C. Public Schools employees. It has now opened up to charter school principals.
It will bring principals from the two sectors into the same room—a rarity, since they often are seen as competing. Traditional school advocates argue that the charters strip neighborhood schools of resources and are not held to the same standards to educate the hardest-to-serve students, while charter school advocates say their schools offer District families a necessary alternative to neighborhood schools and more control over their children’s education. Charters are popular in the District, enrolling nearly half of the D.C.’s public school students.
With nearly 7000 charter schools serving nearly three million children in hundreds of school districts across America, opportunities for collaboration are everywhere. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the federal government have both supported charter-district collaboration with grants, and even teachers unions have been more receptive to charter schools when it leads to sharing of ideas and best practices.
Charter-district collaboration could also go a long way to meeting the challenge issued by outgoing Education Secretary John King in a piece he wrote for Education Week calling for an end to the education reform wars.
As King put it, “Let’s set aside the false debate between allowing public charter schools and supporting traditional public schools. Our primary concern shouldn’t be the management structure of schools; it should be whether they serve all students well.”