Greene, Forster, and Winters (2003) report that charter schools typically serve disadvantaged populations. "The targeting of charter schools to disadvantaged populations I so common that many people have come to believe, incorrectly, that all charter schools serve disadvantaged students." (2003) One reason for this is that the "procedures by which new charter schools are created often encourage such targeting." (Greene, Forster, and Winters, 2003) Greene, Forster, and Winters reports case studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, one of which included 91 schools and states conclusions that "charter schools are held accountable for their performance...resource limitations are the biggest obstacles facing charter schools." (2003) in another study involving 150 schools and 60 authorizing agencies the U.S. Department of Education states findings that: "...charters learn quickly the best way to satisfy their various constituents is to focus on quality instruction." (Greene, Forster, and Winters, 2003) Findings also include the fact that "new types of charter authorizers learn more quickly than do local school districts to break habits of accountability based on process compliance rather than on performance and outcomes." (Greene, Forster, and Winters, 2003) Green, Forster, and Winters state conclusion in a study of charter schools in eleven states including those of Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, state findings that "very large variations from state to state existing targeting charter schools." The results "showed a positive effect from charter schools" (Greene, Forster, and Winters, 2003) of a statistically significant nature. Charter schools are found to have positive effects on test scores. The work of Finn and Vanourek (2005) entitled: "Lessons from the U.S. Experience with Charter Schools" states: "Public charter schools offer today's most dramatic example of mobilizing the private sector on behalf of public education in the United States. The charter movement is a dynamic example of how an essential government function that has been recycled with few fundamental changes for well over a century can be reconceived to accommodate entrepreneurial initiative, private-sector investment, competitive forces, the profit motive, performance contracting, franchising, and more -- all within the context of public funding, standards, and oversight." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) the ten components of Charter Schools include those as follows: (1) Site-based governance; (2) Deregulation; (3) Entrepreneurial talent; (4) Experimentation; (5) Choice; (6) competition; (7) evaluation; (8) accountability; (9) Deployment; and (10) renewal. (Finn and Vanourek,
Academic performance of charter schools is assessed and reported by Hassell (2005) reporting a meta-analysis of 44 major studies, released which is stated to draw conclusions which state that in terms of the diversity of outcomes that results vary widely from school to school with "...some charters at the top in their communities, others at the bottom, and many in the middle. Of the 26 studies seeking to appraise changes in student performance over time...12 found charters with larger overall gains than district schools, four found larger gains in certain categories, and six found comparable gains. Most studies indicate that charter school's performance improves over time." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) Other accomplishments of charter schools include seven significant accomplishments as follows: (1) Providing new opportunities for struggling students; (2) Creating high levels of parent involvement and community support; (3) Fostering educational innovation; (4) encouraging entrepreneurialism; (5) Leveraging private capital; (6) Boosting efficiency; and (7) Deploying Market forces. (Finn and Vanourek, 2005)
V. SOLUTIONS for IMPROVEMENT
Challenges noted in the work of Finn and Vanourek include those relating to: (1) Facilities; (2) Funding; (3) Political Oppression; (4) quality control; (5) Supply shortfalls; and (6) public understanding. (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) the charter school is responsible for locating and financing their own facilities out of operating budgets and unlike district schools, the charter schools do not have access to special capital funds. In terms of funding, there is a large discrepancy between funding in most states of district and charter schools leaving the carter schools struggling to attract necessary resources to operate quality programs and support growth. Political opposition of charter schools is well funded and determined and many time led by teacher unions resulting in ensuring low funding for charter schools. Because of the uneven quality of charter schools poor authorizing has left many charter schools impotent to compete effectively and yet without the political will necessary to close the failing schools. The supply of charter schools is not nearly large enough to fulfill the demand. Finally, lacks in public understanding of what Charter schools have to offer leaves the debates surrounding charter schools left to be waged "primarily in editorial board rooms and legislative corridors, not in living rooms and civic organizations." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) Solutions for improvement include requirements of leadership. "Without strong leadership, individual charter schools and the charter movement will falter. For chartering to succeed, schools need strong principled leadership and competent, talented staff, as well as political champions who create the space within which success is possible." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) Quality is a strong issue in charter school educational provisions as well as is 'dual accountability' in which market pressures "within a framework of public oversight" makes available a "powerful engine for reform." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) it is necessary to level the playing field and place dependence on rules that are fair and treatment that is equitable. The Charter School has a great opportunity to use new technologies in the educational process. Charter schools must "maintain their relevance" and may do so by continuing to "operate on the cutting edge." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) Productivity is another area for focus in Charter Schools because "to survive and prosper, business must continually improve their processes to become more efficient." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) to this end the vision of the Charter School will likely need alteration as the vision of the Charter School "will be felt not only in the communities directly affected by it but in the power of the ideas undergirding it to pervade the entire education system." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005) Vision and ideas are "drivers of the charter movement, whose impact may turn out to be disproportionate to its size in part because of the power of the ideas behind it: that a public school need not be run by a government bureaucracy, that members of a community can come together and create and run their own public school; that families should be able to choose their children's school; that the money for public schooling belongs to the child, not the system; that all schools can't be all things to all children; and that schools that fail to provide an adequate education to children should have their licenses revoked." (Finn and Vanourek, 2005)
SUMMARY and CONCLUSION
The Charter School initiative is one that has realized success in terms of academic performance of students and in driving community collaborative efforts forward however, all Charter Schools do not show success at the same levels and yet this is as expected due to the variation of the population of students served by Charter Schools and specifically due to the fact that many Charter Populations serve primarily at-risk students. Because of this is it difficult if not impossible to accurately gauge the success of students in academic terms across the wide array of Charter Schools in operation in the United States. The vision, mission, values, and goals of the organization should be a continuously growing and emerging area of school governance that allows enough structural flexibility to conform to the population the school provides the provision of education to and geared toward meeting that population of student's specific needs and requirements in improving academic outcomes for students.
Elmore, Richard F. (2000) Building a New Structure for School Leadership. Albert Shanker Institute Winter 2000.
Charter School Basics (1998) the Charter School Roadmap, September 1998. Online available at http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Roadmap/ch1.html
Greene, Jay P.; Forster, Greg; and Winters, Marcus a. (2003) Apples to Apples: An Evaluation of Charter Schools Serving General Student Populations. Equation Working Paper. Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. July 2003. No. 1. Online available at http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/ewp_01.htm#01