Thursday, April 8, 2010

Colorado Aces One Section of the Race to the Top Application

Colorado's Race to the Top application scored 40 out of 40 in only one section: the section regarding charter schools!

Not surprising given that Colorado's charter school movement is known to have high performing schools as a result of slow, manageable growth. There's always been an emphasis in Colorado to push charter schools to increase student academic achievement. The Charter Schools Act has always prioritized accountability. The addition of the Charter School Institute Act in 2004 emphasized quality authorizing through the grant of exclusive chartering authority to districts who have demonstrated they were good authorizers through meeting certain criteria and CSI is statutorily mandated to be a best practice model in regard to authorizing.

What makes the Colorado charter school law strong? Our law provides for the automatic waiver of employment laws such as teacher licensing, tenure and salary schedules. Charter schools all use at-will employees and don't--at all--deal with collective bargaining agreements that bind most of the state's school districts. Further, the law provides for autonomy by granting the charter school board control over their operations, including the financial budget. Finally, another key point is that the Charter Schools Act provides a way for failing charter schools to close. In fact, more than 20 charter schools have closed since the law was originally adopted in 1993. A handful of these, about four, have closed for academic reasons.

The Center for Education Reform ranks Colorado's law as a "B."

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