What’s in a name? A lot, it seems, judging from one group’s decision to give itself a new moniker: the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
One key reason for the change was to emphasize the “public” in charter schools, said Nelson Smith, the president of the Washington-based group formerly called the Charter School Leadership Council. Charter advocates often lament that many people don’t realize the nation’s estimated 3,400 charter schools are, in fact, public schools.
The alliance, which seeks to advance the charter movement nationwide, also has issued a statement of principles and suggestions to ensure quality and accountability for the publicly financed but largely autonomous schools. The first of seven principles states: “Quality is more important than quantity. Growth is not an end in itself.”
A task force consisting mostly of local charter school leaders crafted the August document for the group.
“We want to make sure that the charter community speaks very powerfully on behalf of quality,” said Mr. Smith in a conference call with reporters this month.
Critics of charter schools contend that they haven’t delivered on their promise to produce higher student achievement than regular public schools.
Among other principles, the alliance says:
• Charter schools must achieve at high levels, not just marginally better than failing neighborhood schools.
• Charter accountability must be both internal and external.
• Students in such schools are entitled to the same level of financial support as those in other public schools.
The alliance offers dozens of recommendations. They range from creating a “gold standard” system to highlight high-quality charters, to ensuring that state laws allow multicampus charters, to considering the creation of a “national academy for charter school leadership” akin to the U.S. Army’s West Point.