Originally conceived as laboratories of innovation, charter schools often create their own academic curriculum, talent management processes, professional development curriculum, and other specific programming to attract and retain students. Charter and district schools offer different curricular options for students, with a focus on STEM, college preparation, the arts, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs, and more. Charter schools and districts can partner to share leadership development programs, college preparation curriculum, and curricular materials that have been successful. Partnering can increase access for students to a curriculum focus that interests them.
Example: Grand Prairie ISD and Uplift Schools operate two schools out of one building, increasing options for students in the neighborhood and area. Uplift Lee offers an IB curriculum, allowing students and families access to an additional option in their neighborhood. Teachers and administrators from both schools work together and learn from each other, and the schools share resources like the library, cafeteria, and electives.
Turning around low-performing schools+-
When district schools have underperformed, high-performing charter schools can step in to work with districts to turn around performance. While previous iterations of this model may have been forced, more district and charter leaders are collaborating around the goal of increased performance at persistently struggling schools.
Example: Newark Public Schools and Uncommon Schools charter network have partnered to turn around some of the lowest-performing schools in the district. Knowing that the charter operator had lengthy waiting lists and was in need of buildings to expand, district leaders agreed to turn over an elementary school to the network, with the condition that any student that wanted to stay, could. The turnaround worked – by year two the school outperformed affluent districts across the state. This success led to a sustained partnership and allowed the two sectors to continue to partner on other efforts, including Uncommon Schools sharing their literacy curriculum and leading professional development for district teachers.
Serving specific populations of students+-
Many charter schools are designed to support a specific population of students or to teach in a distinct style. These schools have worked to refine their curriculum and instructional strategies, and partnering can help expand this work to more students. Some charter schools have been designed to serve students with emotional and behavioral challenges or addictions. Others work with students who have non-traditional schedules, such as athletes or teen parents. Charter schools and districts can partner to serve more of these populations of students, either through specialized programs within district schools or through partnership schools.
Example: STEM Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Nashville, Tennessee, partners with Metro Nashville Public Schools to serve district students through the Nashville Newcomer Academy. This program serves 100 students new to the country with the goal of advancing academic achievement and social integration of new arrival students and bolstering the instructional capacity in schools serving English learners. STEM Prep was chosen to be the new site of the Newcomer Academy because of its strong track record of getting English Language Learner students reading at grade level. Through this partnership, the district has leveraged the specific expertise built up at STEM Prep and expanded its impact to support more students from across the city.
Replicating high-performing schools+-
Many high-performing charter schools lack the capacity to scale their efforts. Charter schools often spend significant time and money securing facilities for operations, which can slow the expansion of high-quality schools. Collaborating with districts can allow charters to gain access to needed facilities, while the expansion allows the district and its students access to more high-quality seats.
Example: Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) is one of Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) highest performing charter school networks. With a 100% college acceptance rate and high academic performance ratings on the district’s evaluation framework, DSST has brought high-quality seats to underserved neighborhoods across the city. DPS has recognized and rewarded that work with a contract that will expand DSST to 22 schools on 11 campuses, serving a quarter of Denver’s middle school and high school students.
Partnerships in Texas
Partnerships approved for 2018-2019 school year+-
Texas districts currently operating a partnership+-
Texas districts exploring partnership opportunities+-
Better Together: Ensuring Quality District Schools in Times of Charter Growth and Declining Enrollment+-
This report, written by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, draws on the insights of school district superintendents, charter school leaders, researchers, and other education advocates as they reflect on the promise and challenges of building stable partnerships between district and charter school leaders.
District-Charter Collaboration: A User’s Guide+-
Is Détente Possible? District-Charter School Relations in Four Cities+-
This report from The Fordham Institute and Public Impact explores how the charter and district sectors interact through the lens of five cities, four of which serve as in-depth case studies, to build collaborative relationships. The authors find that collaboration varies from city to city and is influenced by distinct local constraints.