The attempt in Ohio to close underperforming charter schools raises a very difficult question: When should charter schools be closed?
One of the pillars of the charter school philosophy is that if charter schools don't succeed, they close. This same "perform or close" notion is embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act requirement to convert failing Title I schools to charter schools or else completely reconstitute them.
Last week the League of Charter Schools unveiled their new Quality Standards and notified charter schools the League supports closing charter schools that don't perform academically. This is controversial even amongst the League's board. In fact, one board member is the principal of a school possibly facing closure/reconsitution by both federal and League standards. Does the League board have the commitment to these Quality Standards ideals if it means closing one of their own?
Approximately ten charter schools have already closed in Colorado. All but one of these closed for financial reasons. The Center for Discovery Learning in Jeffco had its charter revoked for academic reasons and then was taken over by the district and currently operates as a district option school.
Where should the line be drawn? When should a charter school be closed? I've seen poor-performing charter schools that with some guidance have overcome dismal test scores and I've seen others that refuse assistance. What if an authorizer wants to close a charter school that is doing everything possible with a challenging student population, but doesn't get enough time to show it's efforts will be successful over time?
This is an issue in Colorado. We're sure to hear more about this dilemma as both charter and noncharter schools face sanctions or get their charters revoked for failing to educate students.