Based on validated evidence, the author offers recommendations on how to make charter schools more effective in pioneering and disseminating innovations to produce widespread gains in educational achievement.

As originally envisioned, charter schools were intended to be laboratories of innovation. Offering broad flexibility in exchange for performance-based accountability, charter schools are well-positioned to test, validate, and adopt new practices in a public school environment.

This report finds that, to date, many charter schools have only partly delivered on this mission. While there are many pockets of excellence in the sector, there appears to be less innovation than originally anticipated. One possible solution to address this challenge is greater public investment in research and dissemination of charter-related education practices. Combining such research and communication with greater inducements for charter schools to adopt proven practices could produce widespread performance gains across the sector.

This report reviews the options for making charter schools more innovative and evidencebased. Highlights include the following challenges and opportunities:

  • Some Charter Schools Have Demonstrated Substantially Positive Effects on Student Achievement.
  • The Performance of Most Charter Schools Has Been Less Impressive.
  • School Choice and Existing Accountability Mechanisms Do Not Appear to Be Driving Widespread Academic Improvement in the Sector.
  • Existing Incentives for Charter Schools to Improve Student Achievement Should Be Strengthened.
  • Charter Schools Should Be Encouraged to Test and Adopt More Evidence-based Practices.

We hope this report provides actionable insights to education policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels.

Read John Kamensky's blog on the report.