Equal Opportunities for All: New Civil Rights Guidance for Charter Schools

The charter school sector is based on a simple compact: In exchange for greater autonomy in its operations, a charter school bears greater accountability for the academic progress of its students. The goal is to create environments that foster innovative and impactful approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom, and ultimately, to scale those effective approaches.

As an Administration, we are committed to supporting high-quality schools for our students, particularly for those who are most disadvantaged. President Obama’s recent proclamation regarding National Charter School Week commended the role charter schools play in advancing opportunity. While they are still relatively few in number (comprising about 6% of public schools in the U.S.), charter schools are often a major focal point of community debate regarding how best to serve our neediest students. Regardless of the specifics of those debates, charter schools are obligated to adhere to federal civil rights laws.

Today, the Department released new guidance (en español) to emphasize that the federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in education on the basis of race, color, and national origin; sex; and disability apply to all public schools — including charter schools. Although these laws extend to all operations of a charter school, including recruiting, academics, educational services and testing, school climate (including prevention of harassment), athletics and other nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, and accessible buildings and technology, this guidance focuses on admissions, educational services to children with disabilities and English learners, and disciplinary measures.

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CSP Leadership Grantee Offers the Tools to Build a Stronger Charter Sector

In November 2012, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) launched the One Million Lives Campaign with the goal of creating better school options for at least a million children in the nation’s charter schools. The campaign focuses on closing the poorest-performing schools, those charters that are failing our children, while opening even more great schools — schools that will succeed in living up to the promise of the charter school sector.

One_Million_Lives_Logo_WebAt the heart of this campaign is a set of activities funded by an OII Charter Schools Program (CSP) National Leadership Activities grant to NACSA. In the fall of 2010, NACSA initiated the Creating Quality Charter Schools through Performance Management, Replication, and Closure (PMRC) project to better address the unacceptable number of poor-performing schools that are charter schools. While the charter school sector has often led the way on accountability for performance, the systems for defining, measuring, and acting upon school quality, as well as for replicating good schools and for closing failing schools, are often lacking. The PMRC project was designed to leverage the current effective practices of authorizers successful in these areas and develop core policies and practices that can be disseminated and implemented across the nation.

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