Simply put, a charter is a contract to improve student achievement.
Our charter schools are bound by law to improve student achievement, and they have a track record of success. In 2014, 73 percent of charter schools with two years of letter grades either improved their letter grade or earned an A (A-Alt) or B (B-Alt). Also, 18 of the top 30 public schools are charter schools, according to the Arizona Department of Education.
Arizona’s primary authorizer is closing charter schools that have failed to meet legislative mandates, including academic performance measures.
School turnaround is also a reality. As Arizona grows its charter student population, the percent of those students in quality seats increased by almost 15% in the last three years, while the percentage of students in low quality seats has decreased. The Arizona Charter Schools Association has actively helped in school turnaround with its Center for Student Achievement.
Today, the Association and 34 other state-based public charter school support organizations from across the county, collectively signed the “Public Charter Schools Commitment to Quality.” Click here to view the Commitment to Quality statement.
As is a leader in the charter school movement, Arizona serves nearly 17 percent of public school students in the state. Across the country there are more than 6,700 public charter schools serving nearly three million students with nearly one million families on charter school waitlists looking for high-quality public school options. The organizations supporting the “National Public Charter Schools Commitment to Quality” represent 90 percent of charter school families nationwide and have pledged to ensure public charter schools are high-performing, fiscally-responsible options that are accessible to all families while supporting the closure of low-performing charter schools.
Arizona not only has a large and diverse charter environment, we increasingly have become more focused on quality. In 2013, the first year Arizona issued F letter grades, all five charters given an F were closed by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools. In 2014, 17 charters were rated F, and with the Association’s urging with school leaders, 11 decided to voluntarily surrender or close, and six came before the State Charter Board. Of the six F-rated schools in FY15, one showed tremendous student growth and was allowed to operate without probationary restrictions. The other five were put on strict probation.
Here is chart that reflects the changes in Arizona’s charter movement over the last three years.
We know that students who leave school prepared for college and career are more likely to earn higher wages, improve their communities, and lead healthy and productive lives. Our students and families deserve nothing less.
Eileen B. Sigmund is the President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association.