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Accelerating Quality Colorado Charter Growth a Wise Idea, Not Just for Wonks

Are you more likely to think of policy wonks as “wild and crazy” OR as “wise”? I know, it’s a difficult call. The Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli apparently has enough optimism to lean toward the latter. His new Flypaper post, “The wise wonks’ hierarchy of charter school quality” distills the insights of the blog’s recent Charter Wonk-a-Thon participants into a grand “unified theory.”

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up. But if nothing else, the exercise gave Petrilli the opportunity to draw a big triangle (three angles, three sides!) that represents a hierarchy of which states are doing chartering right, and which — well, not so much.

You might be pleased but not surprised to know that Colorado did not land in the “Bad” or “Charter States in Name Only” category. On the other hand, you probably hope that our state had done better than the “Good” range in which we justly fall. (One could make a case that Denver or Douglas County fits the “Great” category, but not the state as a whole. There’s real room to improve.)

Though Fordham has offered up a lot of “Wonk-a-Thon” articles that you could read and digest (but only if you have more time than I suspect you do), especially check out these three:

  1. Michael Goldstein explains why Boston charters are the cream of the crop (and there’s No Excuses if you can’t figure out his leading argument)
  2. Joe Siedlecki reminds readers that “Schools educate kids; movement don’t” and that quality authorizing matters… A LOT!
  3. Kara Kerwin points out how charter success hinges on having “more”… options for parents, not to mention high-quality state laws that promote real accountability, autonomy, and funding equity

On all these points, Colorado has something to learn. The charter sector needs to be empowered to serve kids even better, which in turn should help tamp down the anti-charter mythology. And then are places like Aurora. Six years since a new charter? I can’t tell if Montessori del Mundo is on track for success, but one sure hopes so.

The momentum has shifted in the right direction, and there are a number of exciting developments starting to take place in this arena all around me. I look forward to an accelerated growth of quality Colorado charter schools in the near future. Small recent positive developments give me hope of even better to come.

Not that choice or the name “charter” are ends unto themselves, but that they can lead us down the road of innovation to excellence and maximum opportunity. Maybe that sounds wild and crazy to some non-wonks out there. But stepping back a bit, I’d say that it’s a really wise idea. Now let’s git ‘er done, Colorado!